Our stop in Albuquerque had been my big secret surprise for Pete since I started planning the trip.
As I was plotting our route, my sister told me about a hot air balloon festival that happened every year around the time of our drive: The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.
I looked it up and the stars aligned - it was taking place exactly when we were passing through! We would be getting to Albuquerque Tuesday night, and Wednesday morning there was a mass ascension of the balloons at dawn. A once-in-a-lifetime experience...but it would require us to wake up at 4am to get to the festival grounds (see very dark photos below).
Now I had managed to keep the Fiesta a secret from Pete for months (I love surprising him, which is funny because he hates surprises)... until the day before the event when a stranger spilled the beans while we were wine tasting in Sedona.
A fellow road-tripper, he asked where we were headed next. Pete said, "Albuquerque, New Mexico" and the sweet gentleman said, "Oh! For the hot air balloon festival?? I heard that's spectacular!"
Pete just looked up at me with a huge, excited smile.