Santa Fe

New Mexico Book Settings: Albuquerque

Gadgets was set primary in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico. This blog post showcases Albuquerque Old Town. 

Spanish explorers first arrived in Albuquerque in 1540 under the leadership of Francisco Vázquez de Coronado, but it wasn’t until 1706 that King Philip of Spain gave permission to establish a villa (city) on the banks of the Rio Grande. The colonists chose a spot near the great river, which provided irrigation for their crops and wood from the bosque. Then-governor Francisco Cuervo y Valdés named the newly established villa in honor of the Duke of Alburquerque in Spain. Over the centuries, the first r was dropped from the city’s name.

Being religious people, the Spanish settlers immediately erected an adobe chapel, the anchor of the plaza in Albuquerque’s Old Town. Surrounding the chapel were adobe homes, clustered close together for protection. Due to unseasonably heavy rains, the chapel collapsed in 1792 and was rebuilt, enlarged, and remodeled several times over the years, and today, San Felipe de Neri Church stands in this location. This is the church Paco and Bullet visited in Gadgets.

In 1979, I attended my first Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Up at 3:00 a.m., I layered on clothes, packed my camera gear into a day pack, and got an early start on the traffic and crowds of fiesta-goers. Shivering in the predawn, I snuggled into my turtleneck and drew my hoodie tighter around my head before I scarfed down a breakfast burrito and polished it off with hot coffee. Minutes before Dawn Patrol, I slung my new Nikon over my shoulder, hoisted the day pack on my back, and roamed the launch field, snapping, rewinding, snapping, and rewinding, rapping off one frame after another. I made a note to equip my Nikon with an autowind motor drive. But at that time my attention was on the sky and mass ascension.

Flashback to 1972, when the fiesta started as a gathering of thirteen balloons and twenty thousand spectators in the parking lot of the Coronado Shopping Center. It has since mushroomed into the largest hot air balloon event in the world. At this year’s forty-fifth annual fiesta, six hundred balloons will paint the turquoise New Mexico sky a kaleidoscope of colors. To accommodate the tens of thousands of guests, balloonists, and balloons, the nine-day fiesta is now held at a permanent site called Balloon Fiesta Park.

Stuck in traffic as I left the fairgrounds, I knew it wouldn’t be my last fiesta, and who knows, maybe I would top the five hundred photos I had taken that day. In Gadgets the reader can see the event through Darcy’s eyes. To learn more about the fiesta–http://www.balloonfiesta.com.

And for the artist in all of us, I thought you might enjoy these photos taken during my jaunt through Old Town. Note the bright colors in the courtyard of the photo of the doorway.

An excerpt from Gadgets 

Darcy parked her 4Runner in a visitor’s spot and doublechecked the address Randolph had given her. The right address, so she climbed out, pleased by the modern design of the building, from the pink granite to the expanses of turquoise glass banded by chrome to the purple pipe railings on the wraparound balconies. A far cry from the original Colton Aerospace, once housed in an old warehouse in a rundown section of town near the airport.

The building and location for Colton Aerospace was inspired by Sun Healthcare Corporation Campus in Albuquerque’s Journal Center. These photos are from the architect’s website. The campus was designed by FBT Architects and has panoramic views of the Sandia Mountains. https://fbtarch.com/

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A Southwest Glossary: Flora, Fauna, and Miscellaneous

Sangre de Cristo Mountains looking north toward Colorado


The cholla is a tree-like cactus with a woody short trunk and upright candelabra-like branches. The plant grows to a height of seven feet and is as wide as it is tall. The cholla is widespread throughout the Southwest and prefers gravelly, sandy soil in elevations of 2000 to 7000 feet. In summer, the tree sets forth showy magenta blooms. In its native habitat the cholla is considered a weedy pest, infesting rangelands and forming dense thickets on overgrazed lands.


Big Sagebrush/Big Sage/Sage
Big Sagebrush, also called big sage, or simply sage,is a silvery-grey evergreen shrub with strongly aromatic foliage. The pungent odor is especially fragrant when brushed against or after a good rain. The rugged, perennial shrub grows to a height of seven feet and bears inconspicuous flowers in late summer. One mature plant may produce as many as a million seeds.

Chamisa is a silver-blue deciduous shrub about three to five feet tall and wide, and is in the sunflower family. It has pungent yellow flowers in late summer and early fall.



Blue Grama
Blue grama, a warm-season grass, is native to the High Plains and a good alternative to water-thirsty lawns. It is easy to establish, cold hardy, pest- and disease-free, and tolerant of poor soils. The grass is low growing, although most of us would not consider one to one and a half feet tall as low growing, at least not for a lawn. The blades are thin and the texture of the grass fine, but the look can be a bit wild if left unmowed. I started our small blue grama lawn with plugs, and within two seasons we had a nice, tight stand of turf. Ironically, we had some good rains during the monsoons of 2015 and 2016 and had to install a gutter to divert the excess water from drenching our lawn. Too much water and you can rot your blue grama. Photo: High Country Gardens, Santa Fe, New Mexico. We purchased our blue grama plugs from them. It will be another season before we have a full lawn.

Jackrabbits vs Jackalopes
Jackrabbits are not rabbits but hares. They have taller hind legs and longer ears than a rabbit, while a jackalope is a mythical animal of North American folklore described as a jackrabbit with antelope horns. I’ve seen plenty of jackrabbits, some the size of small dogs, scampering across the desert Southwest, but have yet to see a jackalope. Of course, I say this in jest, as there is no such thing as a jackalope . . . or is there? I can attest to the fact that the only jackalopes I have ever seen were in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. Check them out here: http://jackalope.com.

The Taos Hum: All this talk about fictitious jackalopes is a good segue into another phenomenon, the Taos Hum, an elusive, low-frequency humming noise first reported around 1990. Only about 2 percent of the general population are “hearers,” those who claim to detect the hum. Theories as to the cause/source abound. Read more: http://www.livescience.com/43519-taos-hum.html and http://strangesounds.org/2014/09/taos-hum-elusive-hum-taos-new-mexico.html.


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