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From Albuquerque to Arizona

This story begins with me sitting in a meeting at work last Monday. Typically I am expected to represent at the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in our city, but this year it was phrased as a question “do you want to do the parade?” to which I said I could if we needed staff, but if we were covered I had something else I’d like to be doing instead. As soon as I heard “that’s fine, we’ve got it covered” then I started putting a spontaneous plan in place for my suddenly free weekend. Albuquerque, here I come!

There are several states that have significantly fewer opportunities for playing laser tag than others and as near as I can tell it appears to me that New Mexico may only have two sites in the entire state, both of which are within 20 minutes of each other in Albuquerque. So I started making flight arrangements to get me out to the south west for a really quick weekend trip…fly down on Saturday, return on Sunday. I know that sounds crazy (and that’s only where we begin the story), but to make my goal of hitting all 50 states on my timeline there are only a finite number of free weekends in my schedule so I had to make the most of this opportunity.

I left Syracuse early in the morning, caught a connecting flight in Chicago and arrived in Albuquerque early in the afternoon. I picked up my rental car and headed for the Hinkle Family Fun Center. I know I didn’t even see the full place because I started to park by one building and then noticed a sign indicating laser tag was in another building altogether.

When I got to the counter I purchased my game pass and then was pleasantly surprised. The staff member turned around, picked up a tray of bags of popcorn and offered me one. Wow! What a nice touch. I’ve not experienced a greeting like that at any other center I have visited.

I then moved on to the waiting area for my mission pass to be called.

And once in the vesting room I noticed a group of guys who were strategizing and ready to win. I smiled and suited up.

It was Zone Helios and I was ready to burn off some energy from all the time sitting on the airplane. We went in and I found myself in a sharp looking arena. The walls were definitely Creative Works, but they looked newer. Everything in the place looked new, bright and vivid.

The arena went lengthwise, but I’d say the majority of the game was only played out in half of it.

And those guys figured me out fast. They did not look at me as competition at first, but that game got intense fast. I was on the red team, but the more experienced players had congregated on blue. We gave each other a good game. And we put on a pretty decent show for the spectators in the observation room.

My card didn’t register my name on the screen, however I took first with this group and took a bit of enjoyment hearing the surprised reaction of the second place player who had been the king of the game until I showed up. Then I went to the snack bar to get some food and a souvenir to take back.

And before long I was on the road again headed for my second stop in Albuquerque, the Main Event for some Delta Strike.

I have been to other Main Event locations and they are all very similar to one another and very corporate. However, this one will forever be my favorite because of an awesome employee named Fiona who made it possible for me to experience this site.

OK, remember I said the craziness of this story was just beginning? Well, after doing some research on the flights I realized there was a very viable option for me to fly to Phoenix later this same day (yep, you read that right) if I could just time out my visits to these two tag sites early enough. On paper this plan looked entirely possible, but it hedged on being able to get to the tag sites, play right away and then drive back to the airport within a relatively short window of time. However, if I could do it I just might be able to visit Stratum this trip, which has been on my bucket list for a long time and yet every other time I’ve flown through Phoenix the timing did not work out. I was determined to get there on this visit and it all depended on being able to play as early as possible upon arriving at Main Event. This is where I tell you why Fiona was so awesome and they should reward her for excellent customer service.

When I got inside Main Event I told the greeters I wanted to play some laser tag. They told me it would be over an hour before I could get into a game because they were fully sold out and actually had a waiting list. I heaved a sigh and explained that I am a blogger from New York who had flown all this way to play at their site and hoped that there might be something they could do. They spoke to a manager who had me visit the registration desk. I plead my case and was told they could help me and get me into a game at 3:45. I said thank you so much, bought my ticket and got in line. However, I had been in three time zones (and about to cross over to my fourth) by that point in the trip so my head was not processing the facts…namely that it was actually 2:45 in New Mexico at that moment. So as the line started moving I handed my 3:45 pass to Fiona who informed me this was the sold out 2:45 game and I explained to her why it was so important that I play tag now or I wouldn’t be able to make my flight and she said “hang on a moment, we’ll make it work.” After getting the briefing video started for the others she pulled an orange VIP pack off the wall and handed it to me.

I’m not sure if these are for game master use or just what they hand to birthday kids, but it didn’t matter. She miraculously came up with an extra pack in this full game to allow me to play and for that I am incredibly appreciative.

We entered the arena which was two levels and even though it had a few Tron hallmarks left it also had some artistic structures throughout and had a bright look and an open feel. Almost everyone rushed to the top level.

I played as Megatron and walked out of there with the high score.

Actually, it’s more accurate to say I RAN out of there, hoping that I had allowed ample time to return my rental car and get back through security im time to catch my next flight. I had a great time and am so glad that I got to play at these sites in New Mexico. I’m equally glad that all the pieces fell right into place and I made it to the airport in time to board a flight to Phoenix and include a bonus adventure as part of this spontaneous weekend getaway. Arizona, here I come!

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