National Senior Games in Albuquerque, NM provided good competition and entertainment in an environment that was welcoming for athletes and spectators. I went to participate in swimming and triathlon, but also enjoyed watching athletes compete in a number of different sports. Additionally, my wife and I had a great time experiencing the culture and cuisine of New Mexico. As expected, the caffeinatedathlete sampled the wares of several coffee shops during our nine-day trip.
This post is an overview of the trip as several topics are worthy of individual posts. So, I have divided the content along subject lines rather than chronologically. We drove; due in part to the amount of gear I take for a triathlon. It took the better part of two days to cover the 1,000 plus miles each way. But there was joy in the journey with safe travels, good food and comfortable accommodations.
We had a surprisingly good lunch at the Angus Branch in Mt. Vernon, MO. The buffet featured a fresh salad bar, variety of meats, vegetables and desserts. The emphasis was on home cooked, freshly prepared foods. Service, selection and quality were all well above our expectations. The local eatery was a pleasant first meal on the road.
Meeting my aunt for coffee in Tulsa was a highlight of the trip west. We hadn’t seen Marcia in several years so it was great to catch up on things in each other’s lives. She and her friend Jim met us at Nordaggios, a coffee shop near Oral Roberts University. It was a great mid-afternoon break after several hours of driving. The coffee helped fuel us on past Oklahoma City before feeling the need to stop.
We chose a Braum’s in El Reno, OK for a quick bite. Easy interstate access, quick food and the cheapest gasoline of our entire trip were highlights of this stop. Braum’s is a regional dairy with retail shops that combine burgers, ice cream and convenience store in one operation. The restaurant and store lean heavily on the family’s ice cream and dairy history. A free upgrade of our fountain drink to a milkshake was a nice perk to this stop. While this was a fast-food, chain restaurant, it was a new regional experience for us.
I had selected Clinton, OK as a potential stopping place for our first night on the road. We were able to push just a bit further west to Elk City, OK before shutting down for day one. The Hampton Inn was quite nice. Its location gave me easy access to a decent country road for an early morning bike ride and short run before breakfast. We were able to stop by a local coffee shop on our way out of town. In a refurbished downtown building, Major Bean proved to be an enjoyable early diversion from our trip. The shop was unique, the coffee was good and we got a brief glimpse into the history of this stop along the famous Route 66.
Scenery changes along the journey were subtle in developing, but geography differences were quite apparent at our first rest stop in Texas. I’m not sure which was more memorable, the overlook of the vast open plain, or the signs warning of rattlesnakes. Vega, TX was our next opportunity for local dining at the Hickory Inn Café. While the exterior was unimpressive, the young people preparing food and serving guests were first-rate. Our sandwiches were tasty and filling, leaving us too full to try their impressive-looking desserts.
Soon we were back on the road with the Albuquerque Drury Inn as our destination. Our reservations at this property proved to be a good choice. While it wasn’t close to the event venues we frequented, it did provide easy access to the major transportation arteries leading to these facilities. The Drury offered a comfortable room with mini-fridge and microwave. Breakfast in the morning along with food and beverages each evening were complementary to hotel guests. The spacious lobby and helpful, positive employees helped make the stay enjoyable. Other senior athletes chose this property as well which added to the national scope of the event. I talked with a golfer from North Carolina, bowlers from Ohio and a sprinter who made the finals in 50, 100, and 200-meter dashes. There was a softball team from Louisiana and other athletes sharing the hotel.
My age group was scheduled to swim the afternoon sessions Sunday through Wednesday. With the mornings free, we took the opportunity to watch athletes compete in Track and Field, Volleyball, Badminton, Archery and Shuffleboard. It was great to watch the level of commitment and athleticism displayed as people competed for the top prizes in their events.
Swimming went well as I had one or two events each day. I talked with several people I’ve met at other events. I was able to earn a couple ribbons and set some new personal records. Competition was stiff as should be expected at a national event.
We had a couple free days between swimming and the triathlon. This gave us the chance to tour Albuquerque, enjoying the aquarium and botanical garden before walking through old town. We spent the last couple days in Santa Fe as it was a bit closer to the Cochiti area where the triathlon was held. A slight change in accommodations turned out to be one of the best ‘change on the fly’ decisions of the trip. We ended up further from our destination but in a most comfortable townhouse-style suite at the Santa Fe Homewood Suites. It was a relaxing finish to our time in New Mexico.
Santa Fe was enjoyable as we ventured to local restaurants and coffee shops. The Georgia O’Keefe museum was a nice tribute to the artist whose work and life were influenced by time she spent in the area. Walking around the bustling old town area was easy and enjoyable. It was nice to have plenty of discretionary time as we packed the van for an early triathlon and long trip home.
I wasn’t expecting a June triathlon in New Mexico to start with 64-degree air and 68-degree water temperatures. Fortunately, the race director had done a great job on communicating expected conditions in advance of the event. The race was well-managed and the location was one of the most scenic I have experienced. No problems and a decent finish made for a successful event in my opinion.
Cochiti Lake provided campground showers and local volunteers provided an excellent post-race meal including a freshly grilled burger. These two added features made it easy for us to point our van east following the awards ceremony. We made it just past Oklahoma City before shutting down for the night. The final hours of the second day of driving made us realize just how taxing a thousand-mile drive can be. But it was nice to be home after an excellent trip to the land of enchantment for the National Senior Games.