One of the more memorable reactions to my news that I was intending to move from my lifelong home in New Jersey to Albuquerque, New Mexico was that of my boss, Steve Linde. “Why would you want to move to a place Bugs Bunny makes fun of all the time in his cartoons” he asked incredulously. Of course he was referring to the innumerable times the same gag was used whenever the ‘wascally wabbit’ got lost as he tunneled his way to Pismo Beach or other exotic locale. Bugs must have had a terrible sense of direction… and a short memory to boot as he continually made the same mistake time and time again… “I knew I shoulda made that left toin at Albakoikey!” he’d invariably end up grousing as he consulted his map.
While I had heard that shtick countless times before, it had never occurred to me to wonder why it was always Albuquerque. Once I moved out here and eventually contemplated the conundrum, I just figured the writers simply thought the name was funny to begin with (true enough) and Bug’s ‘Flatbush’ accent only made it sound sillier. Of course, once you have a comical gag that works so well and tends to get reliable laughs, why not use it over and over, right Doc? It was only recently during one of my rambling internet Google-searches regarding Albuquerque that I finally stumbled across the real reason.
Apparently in a documentary that was made of the history of Warner Bros. animation studios, it was revealed that Bugs Bunny's wrong turn in Albuquerque was a reference to an actual experience with a rather confusing traffic junction in the city… most likely where I-25 and I-40 meet. Several of the cartoonists' colleagues got lost on their way from somewhere in the southeast to Hollywood and after unsuccessfully navigating the Gordian knot of the baffling intersection, found themselves stranded somewhere out in the New Mexico boonies. Not particularly difficult to do actually as 98% of this vast state qualifies as ‘the boonies’. Venture more than twenty miles outside of any New Mexico city and you’re officially in the middle of nowhere. Anyway, it was a memorable enough road trip to eventually inspire an inside joke that ultimately resulted in Bugs‘ knack for ending up in the oddest places all due to that fateful left turn he repeatedly neglected to make.
Goodness knows, making a simple wrong turn at or in Albu-Quirky can, to this very day, land you in some of the oddest places you’ll ever find yourself. Some of the strangest places we’ve been and the weirdest things we’ve seen have been discovered through sheer serendipity as the result of a missed turn. You just never know what you’re going to find around the bend off the beaten track, but it’s helpful to keep a camera handy at all times to document the kooky treasures you might find along the way. Those photos will also serve as indisputable proof the next time you try and relate the tale of what you saw to an unbelieving friend.
We’ve come across the most picturesque of small towns for which the word ‘quaint’ seemed custom-made. Tiny burgs so small they don’t even have a single stop sign, let alone a traffic light. They seem to be caught in a time warp, nearly unchanged from the days of their founding during the great frontier expansion. Quite a few are well on the way to becoming ghost towns, if the ratio of abandoned buildings to those few still inhabited is any judge.
Occasionally we will deliberately make a whimsical decision on the spur of the moment to turn down a strange lonely-looking stretch of road simply to satisfy our curiosity regarding the name of a town. Not far from Albuquerque, just off the busy interstate of Route 40, we happened to spot a sign for Lost Horizon and we just couldn’t resist. After a long trek down the narrow lane leading off into the desert, we found the tiny community of a few dozen houses at the dead end. The town only had two streets… Lost Horizon Blvd. the road that led to it, and a semi-circular offshoot from it, Lost Horizon Loop. Not surprisingly, the town bore no resemblance at all to its exotic literary namesake yet we felt the name was oddly appropriate, since most casual travelers would have to be lost in order to find it… and it really wasn’t worth finding once one did.
Similarly, we once detoured off our planed route one day when we saw a sign indicating the turn-off for Ponderosa. Again, the actual place looked nothing like anything we recalled seeing on Bonanza, but we did discover they had the tiniest post office we had ever come across, being no larger than a small backyard storage shed or child’s playhouse. Big Hoss Cartwright would have had a devil of a time getting through the door to pick up the mail!
Maybe that’s why Bugs keeps right on missing that left turn. He may not get to where he was going, but then again, it’s so much more fun to see where he’ll end up this time. So toss aside the map, turn off the GPS, ’cause right turn or left, it really doesn’t matter. There’s Albu-Quirky straight ahead, so whichever direction you choose, just sit back and enjoy the ride!