Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Breaking Bad Albuquerque Self Guided Tour 2014

So, I discovered the wonder that is Netflix this summer. 

Yes, that makes me about a decade behind the times and a little like saying, "Look at this newfangled thing called a computer I just got!" but there it is.

I had ignored Sam's continued persistence that I should really check out certain series, mostly because I wasn't keen on watching television on a laptop, and because, I know me, and another distraction is like volunteering for another hole in my head. 

But when Nick was here in May for Sam's graduation, I finally got him to sit down and set up the Xbox that gets rarely played. It was a Christmas gift to Bob two year ago and it mainly gathering dust next to the television. That was the beginning of the end. 

I started with Orange is the New Black. It's only two seasons long, and I finished it inside a week. Working from home, I can binge like nobody's business.

Since Sam had seen it already, there wasn't anything stopping from just letting those suckers play through. 

After that, I picked up Mad Men. I'd watched a few episodes with Sam over last Thanksgiving and always enjoy a good period drama, so I started from the first and somehow, in a few weeks, was finished with all six seasons available. Since the series is still going, now I have to wait months and months for Season 7 to hit Netflix. 

It was around that time that Sam, who hadn't made it through all of Mad Men, started to talk about finding a series we could start and finish together. 

We settled on Breaking Bad. It's five seasons, and the whole series is done, so there'd be nothing left hanging. Since her schedule is just three classes, we'd have lots of time to watch before Bob arrived home at night. 

By Season 3, however, things had gone south. Bob would come in from work and catch a bit of what was going on and suddenly, it was a show he wanted to keep up with. No more bingeing during the day. Sam kept going out in the evening with her friends, so she gave up and said she'd watch on her own. 

After that, we went through House of Cards (two seasons) and Sam and I picked up Lost from the beginning and she abandoned me by Season 3 to finish it on my own. (Yay! No waiting around for other people!)

But of all the series, Breaking Bad stood out as one I would happily watch again. The character arc/work of Bryan Cranston . . .  just incredible. By the center of the series, you realize you really despise who he's become, but you cannot stop watching. 

In late July, when I was spending a day with Marci and Ren before they headed home for Texas, I mentioned the series. Ren had seen it, but said he didn't think Marci would get into it. I spent a little time lobbying her to give it a try, especially since we would be in Albuquerque in October and so much of the show is built around the feel of the city in the desert that I wanted to check out some of the locations while we were there. 

I checked back with her in September and, sure enough, she admitted to very late nights watching the show. She finished the series the day before we left. I re-watched the last three episodes that day, too.

There are a number of outlets in the city that will take you on a tour, some even in the Bounder RV featured in the show. But the costs of these things per person?  $15 in gas for all three of us versus $180+ and no control over the places/time.  I think I'll do it myself.

I mapped out the locations and dumped a few that didn't seem very amenable to photographs. I really wanted to check out the Tohajiilee Indian Reservation where many of the scenes were filmed, but an hour and half's drive one way into the desert just wasn't in the cards. (When you watch the episode where Walter White speeds off to the original place they began, in terror that all his money is going up in flames, you see him race out of the city and onto the reservation in what seems like a half an hour's drive, at most.)

When the morning balloon session was finishing up, we were starving and decided to go straight to Rebel Donuts first, even though it was out of the order of the places I'd mapped on the tour. 

We got there around 9:30 to an almost empty place and each of us had a Blue Sky donut and one other choice (mine was a New Mexican chocolate with a hint of heat, Sam went for the "Homer" decorated like the Simpson's iconic donut). 

Once we were carb-ed up, we were ready to hit the city.

Sam pointed out it was hard to blend in with me wearing the Walter White/Heisenberg hat and RV shirt, but I said that was kind of the point. 

So we set off on the tour, selecting the spot furthest out and working our way back into the different quadrants of the city.

If you aren't going out to Tohajiilee, that will be the Twisters, aka Los Pollos Hermanos, used in the series. (4257 Isleta Boulevard Southwest Albuquerque, NM 87105)

My greatest regret of our tour is that we were about 10 minutes off to catch the Breaking Bad Bounder RV parked in the lot. We'd already left and were deep into construction traffic when they turned past us on the way here.

You know how you look heavier on television? The locations also look a LOT bigger on television. Maybe it's the lens, but everything felt smaller in person.

All we needed was an Aztec and a GPS tracker to make the parking lot shot authentic.

(Seriously, there's a real opening for someone to get a few tan Aztecs and rent them out on an hourly basis for this kind of tour!)

Gus Fring's Joint

Bob got to meet Giancarlo Esposito in August and was saying what a very nice man he was, smiling and joking, but as soon as they posed for the boxcutter photo (clips are above in the video), he dropped into that dead killer stare. Bob has the photo and the signed box cutter in a shadow box on display in his room.

We tried a booth shot, but the angle wasn't great. We also didn't get our stone-faced Mexican hitmen looks anywhere close, either.

After Los Pollos, we made our way into Old Town and found a spot to park that wasn't exorbitant ($1.00 for a half hour, done on the honor system where you just slide your cash into the parking # slot)

Marci found a saint hidden in a tree along the walk to the Candy Lady.
24 Romero Street Northwest Albuquerque, NM 87104

The Candy Lady made the Blue Meth props for the show and now has a lot of Breaking Bad memorabilia, as well as $1 bags of the blue stuff available for sale in her shop. They have a Walter White inside for photo-ops, although I pointed out to him he was wearing the wrong shoes. I told him he could find the Walter White desert boots at if he really want to step up his game. Really, the shoes are important.  

From Old Town, we hit up the Dog House, but didn't get to enjoy it's green and pink neon since it was the middle of the day. 1216 Central Ave NW Albuquerque, NM 87102

And just around the corner from there is Jesse's house. The current owners are not thrilled that their residence is a popular location for fans, so we just rolled by and shot a couple from the window.
16th St SW Albuquerque, NM 87104

Tuco's Hideout from Season 2 is really a coffee joint not far away. 906 Park Ave SW, Albuquerque, NM 87102

Crossroads Motel was way smaller than it seems on the screen, and the signs up indicate they want you to park and come inside to pay to take a photo. Uh, no thanks. Just a drive-by will do, and another shot from the freeway flying past. 1001 Central Avenue NE Albuquerque, NM 87106

Jesse and Jane's duplex was right around the corner. 323 Terrace St SE Albuquerque, NM 87106

and so was the bug car, whose plates were personalized "Cootie"

Between crossing areas, we spotted the Civic Plaza, which I hadn't put on our list, but hey, there it was, right in front of us!

1 Civic Plz NW, Albuquerque, NM 87102

Next stop: the Octopus (A1) Car Wash location 9516 Snow  Heights Circle N.E. Albuquerque, New Mexico 87112. 

I really wished we'd gone inside this one.

We headed up and out to Hank and Marie's house, which, of course, they would never be able to afford on a DEA agent and radiologist tech's combined salaries, unless Hank was doing his own drug business on the side.

Cumbre Del Sur Ct NE, Albuquerque, NM 87111

And not too far off is the John Robert Dam, where the cleaner picks up Walt and Saul (and tries to get Jessie) to be whisked away to a new identity.

Juan Tabo Blvd NE

Saul Goodman's office is in the most bland shopping center you can imagine. I stuck the blow up Statue of Liberty on top because it felt naked without it.
9800 Montgomery Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87111

Following that, it was the mecca of all Breaking Bad tours: Walt and Skylar's house. 3828 Piermont Dr NE Albuquerque, NM 87111

And yes, the lady who lives here has had many pizzas thrown at her roof.

She was in her garage, watching folks when we were there.

Finally, getting hungry and hot, we ended the tour with the Vacuum Store.
2714 4th St NW
I so wish I could find a clip when Saul arrives and says, "It really is a Vacuum store! I thought it was, you know, just a metaphor!"

Sadly, it did not make any of the top ten lists. 

(don't watch if you haven't finished the series!!)

That evening at the Festival, Marci and I each decided we needed this pin to commemorate.

(the turquoise balloon was from last year's inaugural trip)