Click on the first picture to open the gallery in full size and scroll through them. We went at the perfect time – it was just cool enough that the hike back up, while not easy, was also not unbearably hot. I had water and Gatorade chews for both of us in my backpack which was completely consumed by the time we got back to the top. Any warmer and I would have had to pack more and probably stop more often on the climb back. Perfect way to get a quick taste of this Natural Wonder!
Day 3 of our Spring Break Road Trip was the primary reason for traveling – a group tour at the University of New Mexico at 9am Friday and then a lunch meeting with the Lobos’ Rugby coach and some players.
UNM was the only school Alex ever considered in the US. By sheer stroke of luck we stumbled on it at a college fair in 10th grade and when the recruiter mentioned he could apply without writing an essay well, you can imagine that my math and science guy who loathes language classes was thrilled! Plus, we were told that even with a 2.5 GPA he would be accepted nearly instantly and with a decent ACT or SAT score, he would qualify for a scholarship granting him in state tuition rates (close to a $16k value per year). As a D1 NCAA sports school, he also knew it would provide him with the extra-curricular sports involvement and atmosphere he would crave. Combine that stroke of luck with his recent participation in Rugby and all of a sudden he is lined up to be able to play a sport in college! UNM Rugby had been relegated to club status the last year or two due to some previous year’s with a sketchy/corrupt coaching situation. However, timing being what it is, starting next year the new coach who we met will be bringing the club back to full D1 status. So – while we always though he might angle to play football in school – it turns out rugby will be his sports outlet. Coach Coco played while in college at Arizona and is clearly taking pride in cleaning up the program in Albuquerque. He’s a former scrum-half – also known as the 9 in rugby which is the position Alex has been playing. After watching some film that our high school club coach sent out, he was giving Alex pointers right there at lunch!
Wait – got ahead of myself. Anyway, Alex was accepted quickly, did get the instate scholarship and as soon as we knew going to Sweden for undergrad classes was not going to pan out, I scheduled this visit just to be sure he didn’t hate it.
He didn’t :)
Yes, the rugby connection helps a ton, but it was really a great 2 hour tour conducted by a current student. We saw a classroom which was surprisingly small. There are large lecture halls but apparently those are only used for a few general freshman classes. Most of the courses are taught in smaller groups. There’s free, pretty decent wireless internet everywhere on campus and tons of beautiful areas to gather, nap, study, nap, eat, nap…etc. Students can borrow laptops and tablets if they don’t have their own. They can print papers and homework to about 5 different printer centers on campus for a small fee, but our tour guide said his parents put $10 on his printing account and he didn’t even use the whole balance in a full year. So it is very high tech and it seems as if a student ID gains you just tons of access to services on campus. Of course there is a full service medical/dental office, but there is also a hospital a block away. The dorms looked great. They are pretty basic rooms of course, but again with the wireless and also cable TV service on site. Laundry facilities are free and huge in each building. There are security services on campus 24/7 to escort students around anytime they feel nervous about walking around at night alone. It’s a large campus, but also entirely walkable as we proved by walking from one end to the other twice while we were there!
It’s a high tech, modern campus that is over 100 years old set in a community that is deeply influenced by Native American culture. It’s just beautiful out there. It’s also dry, windy, and up in altitude at 5000 ft. above sea level. That’s something we both felt after even just a day. That’s something HE will have to adjust to quickly as a rugby player!
Our next step is to head out again for freshman orientation right after he graduates high school. That’s when we get him enrolled formally for Fall classes and also get those financial aid options laid out for a way to pay for the reduced tuition/room/food. It’s still going to kick our wholly unprepared bank accounts without help – but it can be done. I actually believe it’s OK to use student loans. Establish credit history and have the student feel some responsibility towards paying back for his education. It won’t be a horrendous amount and given that he’s going to major in the computer sciences, his hiring and earning potential is one of the highest.
All in all, it was a very positive visit. I guess I will be putting that UNM sticker on the back of my car :-)
The visit on campus was great. The only pics I took were on the student square where they had the real life mascot for the school, Zorro out and about (they are the Lobos) and there was a booth for a Hawks Aloft group with actual birds of prey out! Right up my alley :) A female kestrel, Great Horned Owl & tiny Screech Owl.
A longer post on the campus visit will have to wait until I am at a proper keyboard. What is important is that he liked it and we finished the scholarship acceptance & housing application process. I can put the UNM sticker on my car :)
Thursday April 10th we drove into the Grand Canyon south rim park and hiked down 1.5 miles into the canyon. Those pics on the main camera will come later. Here’s the only phone pic from the top of the trail – yes, we kept saying we felt like we were in a post card:
We spent 5 hours hiking & driving around & eating lunch, then it was back on the road the last 350 miles to Albuquerque. Lost an hour driving into Mtn time zone in NM. Felt just thrashed in the high altitude overall. Grabbed yet another less than health meal & soaked our tired muscles in the hotel hot tub. Much nicer facilities there thank heavens!
Wed, April 9th. Rolling into Arizona & the town outside the Grand Canyon. 500+ miles in 8 ish hours. One lunch stop & one gas/bathroom stop. Thank heavens for a rental car with satellite radio. Stand up comedy by Louis CK got us laughing so hard we couldn’t breathe and kept us sand the last 2 hours.
Crossing Colorado River in AZ
Our not quite luxury motel in Valle, AZ