Tuesday, April 9, 2019

New Mexico Road Trip: Morning Star Bed & Breakfast and Sandia Peak Tramway #WGTravel #newmexico #roadtrip

Michael and I recently enjoyed a leisurely weeklong road trip from San Antonio to New Mexico. The debate over the benefits of car road trips versus plane trips is one travelers often debate. Both modes of transportation offer travelers distinct advantages. Key benefits of road trips include time to really enjoy views of scenic landscapes, flexibility to take short side trips whenever an opportunity presents itself, and the ability visit more than one city/state during a single trip. During our New Mexico road trip, we visited West Texas and three distinctly different areas of New Mexico over eight days! I can't wait to share the best food, sites, and attractions we enjoyed along our route...starting with an overnight visit to Albuquerque and the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway.

Albuquerque is ideally situated in North Central New Mexico, located just over an hour from Santa Fe. This location makes it convenient to visit both cities in one trip. A great resource for planning a trip to Albuquerque is Visit Albuquerque, the city's official tourism office. Their website provides a wealth of information about things to see and do in the city, so be sure to check out their website when planning your visit to Albuquerque! We only had an evening to spend in the area this trip, and Visit Albuquerque helped us locate a fabulous bed and breakfast and restaurant to feature. 

We arrived at the charming Morning Star Bed & Breakfast -- located just north of Albuquerque in the town of Corrales -- just before sunset. We drove through the gate at the entrance of the property and parked in front of Morning Star's traditional New Mexico-style adobe home. The spacious grounds of the property were so peaceful There are tons of large cottonwood trees on the grounds, and the back yard features a large backyard pool. Innkeepers John and Carrol Casburn warmly greeted us in Morning Star's large courtyard entryway. After a full day of driving, Morning Star was definitely a peaceful oasis to recharge!
Carrol is an interior designer who beautifully decorated every room at Morning Star. John is a fabulous cook who bakes goodies for guests to enjoy in the inn's large kitchen...and he also cooks hearty, delicious breakfast for guests each morning. We honestly felt like guests in their private home instead of customers, because John and Carrol were so welcoming. Carrol showed us to our large suite, which featured a full private bath and a comfortable King bed. As this video shows, Morning Star -- including our room -- was gorgeous! I especially loved the Georgia O'Keefe framed prints hung in the hallway.

After we settled in our room and rested for a bit, it was time for dinner at El Pinto. Open since 1962, El Pinto is one of Albuquerque's most iconic restaurants. The menu features flavorful New Mexico cuisine. We were very curious to taste a variety of New Mexico-style menu items to see how it differs from the Tex Mex we're used to at home. New Mexican cuisine incorporates elements of both traditional Mexican and Native American cuisine, with a focus on the state's spicy red and green chile peppers. The end result may be slightly different...but it's totally delicious! We started our meal with drinks and El Pinto Chile con Queso, which has been served at the White House! The dip featured melty cheese and chopped fresh green chiles. It was spicy and cheesy...a great start to our meal. We also tried El Pinto's famous Red Chile Ribs -- named by Food Network as #3 ribs in the U.S. Baby back ribs are marinated in spicy red chile and slowly baked until they're fall-off-the-bone tender. They were definitely spicy...and so good.
For our entrees, we opted for combination plates. Michael selected the Ribeye & Enchilada plate, which featured a perfectly grilled ribeye steak, a red chile beef enchilada, fried potatoes, and pinto beans. I opted for Combination Plate #1, which included a rolled taco, pork tamale, red chile cheese enchilada, meaty chile con carne, and pinto beans. This strategy was a perfect way to sample a variety of menu items -- all spicy and expertly cooked. One difference we both noticed: the texture of our pinto beans was somewhere between the soup-like borracho beans and smooth refried beans we typically see in Texas. We were very impressed with our food, which was spicy without being too spicy.
Before we bid farewell to El Pinto, we shared a duo of desserts: sopapillas with honey, and a perfectly creamy flan. The sopapillas arrived at our table hot, with a golden flaky exterior and a fluffy interior. Simply add a drizzle of honey inside and enjoy! The flan was rich and perfectly creamy. This dessert duo was a perfect ending to a fabulous meal. El Pinto is huge -- with seating for more than 1,200 hungry diners. There are outdoor patios, and several indoor dining rooms. If you're looking for authentic New Mexican food in Albuquerque, El Pinto is a delicious choice!

We made our way back to Morning Star, a quick 15-minute drive from the restaurant. We arrived to find a home-baked apple pie waiting in the kitchen -- along with an invitation to cut ourselves a slice if we became hungry later in the evening. After we showered and put on our pajamas, we made our way to the kitchen for a quick midnight snack -- perfectly baked and ready to enjoy!

After enjoying our snack, we headed to bed for some much-needed sleep. Carrol's beautiful decorations included lots of soothing touches, including a bedside essential oil diffuser that also played relaxing music. It's no wonder we slept like babies that night! The next morning, we awoke to find John in the large kitchen whipping up a delicious gourmet breakfast. We took our seats at the dining table and enjoyed juice and coffee while our breakfast was plated and served.
Our breakfast included crispy breakfast potatoes, homemade biscuits and gravy, bacon, and over easy eggs served over guacamole on crispy tostadas -- with a side of sour cream and salsa. We enjoyed this hearty breakfasts with John and Carrol, who are long-term residents of Corrales. The breakfast was delicious and filling. Look how gorgeous those egg tostadas are up close:

Before we knew it, breakfast was over...and Carrol gave us a tour of the grounds. We loved the treehouse and the backyard corral -- complete with friendly goats! We were joined on our outdoor morning walk by John and Carrol's friendly pup.
After our walk around the grounds, it was time for us to say goodbye to Morning Star Bed & Breakfast and make our way to Santa Fe. We bid John and Carrol goodbye, loaded our luggage into our rental, and hit the road. Next time we're in the area, we definitely plan to spend time exploring Albuquerque proper more fully. 

En route to Santa Fe, we had planned a side trip to ride the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway. The tramway is located east of Albuquerque in the Sandia Foothills. Multi-person trams go up cables to the observation deck that located 10,378 feet on top of Sandia Peak in the Cibola National Forest. From that vantage point, we saw 11,000-mile panoramic views of New Mexico's Rio Grande Valley. The trip takes approximately 15 minutes each way, so allow at least an hour to ride up to the observation deck, enjoy the amazing views, snap a few pictures, and make the trip back to the loading/unloading area -- including a small gift shop.
This video shows how our experience riding the Sandia Peak Aerial was structured from start to end -- it was such a memorable experience! The ticketing process is easy, the line to board the trams moves quickly, the trams are comfortable, and the views above and below are absolutely breathtaking.

I can honestly say I'm terribly afraid of heights, and I had zero issues whatsoever riding the Sandia Peak Tramway. The ride was smooth, the tram had plenty of room to sit or stand, and the views going up and coming down were breathtaking. The Sandia Peak Tramway is open 9:00 AM - 8:00 PM daily (5:00 - 8:00 Tuesdays) thru Memorial Day. Summer Hours between Memorial Day and Labor Day are 9:00 AM - 9:00 PM daily. Tickets can be purchased at the facility, and prices vary depending on age, military service, etc. I highly suggest a visit to the Sandia Peak Tramway when visiting Albuquerque or Santa Fe. From Sandia Peak Tramway, we drove an hour to Santa Fe -- our home base for the next four days. More to come on our Santa Fe adventures, so stay tuned...

Disclosure: Morning Star Bed & Breakfast provided us with a one-night stay, El Pinto hosted our dinner, and Sandia Peak Tramway provided a pair of tram tickets to facilitate inclusion in this article. Special thanks to Visit Albuquerque for their assistance with planning this portion of our road trip. All opinions shared are solely my own.

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