With our stomachs full we left Cortez, Colorado, at just roughly after 8am. This was going to be the last long haul to ABQ, NM. We could finally feel our destination getting closer every time we looked at the map, just further south of Albuquerque and we were there.
For so long this place had only existed to us from where we sat in our little cave in the world, it could only be explored through movies the internet and our imagination; Trinity.
To us ‘Trinity’s’ one of the top 3 most significant historical places for Mankind in the world and it was getting closer. It felt strange to know that we were not even a day away from seeing and standing in one of the most significant places on earth. A place where the greatest minds in the world for that time had come together to create the most destructive and feared weapon on earth… the Atomic Bomb.
Before we left on this expedition I remember telling people my brother and I were planning a roadtrip through America to visit the Trinity Site. Reactions were curious with some ‘ohhh’ and ‘ahhh’s’ in response to the Trinity name. Inquisitively people asked what was Trinity? When told it was where the world’s first nuclear device ever successfully detonated the interest in their eyes slowly tightened up, followed by a slight bit of revulsion and the response of… ‘why would you go there!?’
I can understand how it would seem semi-morbid or strange when telling people with excitement that you are going to see where they detonated the first nuclear bomb… once they know what Trinity is the person no longer hear’s us explaining why we’re going. In their minds we’ve been negatively evaluated and all they hear is… “fuck yeah… and we’re gonna see where the U.S Military vaporised everything within a 2,000+ radius, turned that surface of the desert into radioactive glass so the bomb could be used on innocent people.” That’s not how we view it at all.
If that wasn’t uncomfortable enough then you should’ve seen and heard their reactions when we told them that we had already traveled to Hiroshima. When we explained visiting ‘Trinity’ ties in these two places it’s like they wanted to vomit all over us in disgust. It usually ends with a wince and a “Why can’t you go to Disneyland or a resort instead?”
When we finally made it to Albuquerque it was on a Friday around 3pm. The temperature was perfect and the sun was shining; come to think of it, the sun had been shining everyday throughout the drive. The first thing you noticed about ABQ is how nice and extremely spacious the city is laid out. Another thing the storefronts and businesses are all very colorful which makes them stand out from one another. There’s a very cool, distinct, Mexican vibe / and Southern Americana culture that influences the architecture and atmosphere of which you can taste and feel. That *in your face* colonized ‘mini-plaza’ presence that you get in suburbia isn’t felt here in Albuquerque, at least in the areas that we were in. It’s a city that we could definitely consider living in.
As soon as we got into Albuquerque the first thing we did was head straight for Walter White’s house. It was nearing sunset after the long drive down but we figured we had to try and get at least one location from Breaking Bad out of the way. We knew that the most important of all the locations would be the family home.
When drove down the street a slightly noticeable eerie feeling came over us. It was eerie because being the devoted fans we are, we saw the residence of Walter White as more than just a ‘household’ for the average American family. It was a house that represented something deeper than that…the Whites residence was the box under the wrapping paper of the American Dream. The Walter White / Breaking Bad story goes to show the American Dream can be attained, but what you get at the price of attaining it is the surprise that you must be ready for.
As a fan of the show – it’s something to see before you – as you pull up to the house of W.W. It was very cool to be standing in front of one of the most iconic houses in America. Before we set up the camera to begin filming we did take into account that we needed to respect the neighborhood and the residents that live there. Considering the simple Google search returned the exact address for the actual home of Walter White, we knew that they must get a lot of visitors… and they do.
We parked the car about 3o meters down a street that intersects with the home. Just like the thousands of other annoying fans who want a photo in front of the house we set up our camera across the street and after a few moments the most unexpected thing happened… the garage door to Walter White’s home began to open. You can only imagine to our disbelief as we stood there motionless in the permeating sound of the garage door motor echoing loudly through the quiet neighborhood – grinding clicking, grinding clicking and finally it stops; silence. From out of the shadows a silhouette walks onto the sun blasted driveway. Standing there shading her eyes from the sun with her hand was the owner of the house, who asked in a very polite greeting, “What’re you guy’s doing… filming a Tv show?” Her question echoed though the eerily, dead-quiet neighborhood totally putting us on the spot. We thought we were being punk’d…
Fran, the owner of the house was extremely sweet and very inviting. She was more than happy and gracious enough to take time out of her day to let us interview her for our video. It wasn’t like we were the only ones to pay homage to this location. She pointed out how she’s had people from all over the world: Russia, China, the Middle East you name it they have visited her home so two guy’s with a camera from Vancouver, BC isn’t really that earth shattering. Visiting here certainly was an experience and a pleasure to be able to talk with Fran and stand before an iconic Tv location. It is something we will never forget. Thank you, Fran.
After we said our goodbyes Fran was nice enough to provide us with directions to the A1 Car Wash that Walter purchased to launder his money through. The sun was setting in Albuquerque and we knew we had just enough time to scratch off one more ‘BB’ location. We had gotten alot done in this one day: drove into ABQ, found Walter’s home and unexpectedly interviewed the owner of the house. What more could you ask for?
Unfortunately, by the time we arrived the car wash was closed and all we were able to do was walk up to the building and peer through the windows. Inside you could see memorabilia from the show displayed along the walls… autographed cast posters, t-shirts, keychains and such. All we could do was take a couple photos and walk away with a cool memory. Regrettably, Johnny walked away with a broken phone screen. In his attempt to frame a shot of the car wash he accidentally dropped his Samsung Galaxy – it landed face down with a distinct ‘breaking’ sound… when he turned his phone around the glass was shattered.
What a way to end the day.
If you asked us to recommend a clean and convenient hotel located within the city that is in close proximity to everything, for a fair bang for the buck that includes a strong and consistent wifi connection with friendly staff, we would recommend the The Knights Inn. This hotel is within a block and an half of walking distance from the Cross Roads Motel. Because of that we were able to scratch off our 3rd Breaking Bad locations in 6hrs. Not too bad.
After we’d unloaded all our camera gear and settled into our hotel room we asked the clerk behind the desk to recommend us a place to eat. It was 8pm and we were starving. Funnily enough we had mentioned earlier on that we’d just visited Walt’s house and A1 Car Wash, so he pointed out that we could also visit another BB location for dinner -Twisters – Twisters – Burgers and Burritos which was the stand in for Los Pollos Hermanos.
I don’t know if it’s an American ‘thing’ but the staff at Twisters (Los Pollos Hermanos) were very engaging and friendly. If there’s something American’s have perfected… it’s charm. Now, a lot of people would probably think ‘what fucking planet are we from’ but everywhere we went across America – we had encountered extremely friendly and engaging Americans. For instance when we walked into Twisters and the staff saw our camera, they were not at all on the defensive nor were they looking at us sideways. They gave us a loud and friendly welcome. Before we film inside any establishment we always ask for permission but they noticed our camera and were like… “It’s okay, you can film in here.”
I can’t understand how they ever get used to people coming in to film the place due to its pop-culture popularity, but the staff’s friendliness and engaging attitude makes the visit worth it. They pointed out a flimsy spiral coil binder where people from all over the world have signed and left messages for Breaking Bad. It’s an impressive catalog of signatures, famous quotes from the show, artistic drawings and personal heartfelt notes.
They showed us the tables where all the major scenes were filmed. If you are a fan of the show you could actually figure out which ones they were. It was pretty cool to be standing there and another ‘BB’ location to chalk off the list… #4 – Los Pollos Hermanos.
THE FOLLOWING MORNING
The same clerk who was finishing up his night shift was happy to know that we got to visit Los Pollos. When I asked if he could recommend a joint that serves a hearty breakfast he wisely recommended the Denny’s where Walter had his last meal on his 52nd birthday. What do you think we did…
Before heading out of the ABQ Johnny wanted to try and find a fighter’s gym. He knew of one such well known camp, Johnny is an avid MMA fan he follows a lot of the big names and knows about some of the up-and-coming fighters.
ABQ is home to one of the world’s most respected MMA training camps, known to all professional mixed martial arts fighters – was the original Jackson WinkelJohn Mixed Martial Arts Academy on 5505 Acoma Dr. located in the industrial part of the city headed up by Coaches Mike Winkeljohn and Greg Jackson. The number of pro-fighters that come through their doors is astounding no other camp has had such success. It’s a fight academy where Champions are made; made in the USA.
As of this blog post the new gym they’ve built is a night and day comparison to the old lair – Jackson Wink MMA.
We got to briefly visit this Lion’s Lair through a chance meeting with one of their team fighters Phil Hawes who was parking his car in the lot at the time. Johnny went up and introduced himself and Phil was kind enough to chat but then did the unimaginable American gesture… he invited us into the gym! Those damn kind hearted American folk.
Here’s a cool note, as we entered we were greeted by a very fit, tall, blonde woman and a large inquisitive dog. The girl unlocked the door greets us with a smile and a nice friendly hello, how ya doing? She held the door open with the large dog in her other ripped arm and says don’t be afraid she’s friendly. I asked her if it was alright if we could look around. ‘Sure you can, have a look around’, a few chuckles about the dog shared and then I was inside.
As we make our way in there off to the side I see inconspicuously Coach Jackson in the hallway warming up with sit-ups before class. Some of the fighters say hello I look at the facility which is very modest and not what you’d expect. This is base camp to many of the top UFC fighters in the world and we were inside, it was hilarious and awesome. Thank you to Phil the fighter who brought us in. And for those who wanted to know who that polite pretty blonde girl was that greeted us at the door… Yes you’re right it was Holly Holm the one who defeated Rousey and shocked the world.
Thank you ABQ for the memories and incredible hospitality. We can’t wait to go back.