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Biking Bad: Pedaling Past Breaking Bad Filming Sites in Albuquerque

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Jesse’s home, Walt’s car wash and Tuco’s hideout among many locations for fans of iconic TV show to visit in New Mexico

The Arizona Republic/USA Today.com — July 11, 2021

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The temperature hovered near 100 degrees as we biked past seedy motels, drug dens, dive bars and abandoned warehouses.

biking bad

Guide Brad Frye explains some of the plot twists that took place in the house where Jesse Pinkman’s character lived during the filming of Breaking Bad

It’s the most fun I’ve had on a two-wheeler in years.

Our group of eight – including guide Brad Frye – was on the “Biking Bad” tour through downtown Albuquerque to see a dozen sites where the iconic television series “Breaking Bad” was filmed.

The show, which originally aired on AMC from 2008-13 and can now be seen on Netflix, won 16 Emmys and is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most critically acclaimed TV show of all time.

“Breaking Bad” told the story of Albuquerque high-school chemistry teacher Walter White – played by Bryan Cranston – who was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  To secure his family’s financial future before he died, White partnered with a former student – Jesse Pinkman — to build a crystal-methamphetamine empire.

True, the three-hour, 10-mile tour took us past some of the less attractive parts of Albuquerque’s downtown.  Frye, who has been leading “Biking Bad” tours six years for Routes Bicycle Tours & Rentals and binge-watched the show three times, described the tour as an up-close look at the city’s “gritty Western charm.”

But we also pedaled past beautiful tree-lined residential neighborhoods with homes dating back more than a century and saw the progress of an ongoing downtown multimillion-dollar revitalization project.  It’s led to the opening of upscale bars, theaters and art galleries along Albuquerque’s Central Avenue corridor – the historic Route 66.

Albuquerque sunset

View of an Albuquerque sunset from the Sandia Mountains. The city has become a popular filming location for movies and television programs

Albuquerque’s sunny climate, wide-open desert spaces with expansive views of the Sandia Mountains just east of the city, cultural diversity and generous tax incentives, have made it a popular filming location for movies and TV shows.  No production has elevated the city’s visibility more than “Breaking Bad.”

“We definitely saw an uptick in tourism as a result of that show,” said Brenna Moore, communications manager for Visit Albuquerque, the city’s tourism board.  “It raised the awareness of the city, particularly in international markets.”

“Breaking Bad” finished its run eight years ago. A popular spinoff called “Better Call Saul” – telling the story of Walter’s ethically challenged attorney Saul Goodman – is still being filmed in Albuquerque.

Most of the prominent “Breaking Bad” filming locations can be seen on the bike tour, although there were a few others – including Walter White’s house in the eastern part of the city – that require a car ride.

Here are my favorite “Breaking Bad” sites:

Jesse Pinkman’s house

Pinkman house

The Biking Bad tour stops at the house where the character Jesse Pinkman’s parents lived. Built in 1909, the home is listed in the National Register of Historic Places

Bad things happened inside this stately, two-story Spanish Colonial home on a quiet residential street just a few blocks from downtown Albuquerque.  Built in 1920, the 3,600-square foot house went on the market in 2015 for $1.6 million.  “Meth lab not included,” noted the listing agent for Coldwell Banker in a tongue-in-cheek press release.

Jesse’s fictional parents lived in an even older home just a few blocks away.  Mr. and Mrs. Pinkman’s house dates to 1909 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The Candy Lady store

This shop in Old Town is a must-see for “Breaking Bad” aficionados who want to experience the dark humor that helped make the show so enthralling.

Owner Debbie Ball — “the candy lady” — first became well-known in Albuquerque when she started making X-rated cakes and candies in the 1980s.  When “Breaking Bad” started production, she was approached by the show’s prop master to whip up a sugary concoction that looked like methamphetamine.

“The sex was good until the drugs started,” she joked about the evolution of her candy store.

Ball produced 150 pounds of blue-tinted rock candy that was used in the show’s first three seasons.  Today, she says 20-30 percent of her sales are from “Breaking Bad” memorabilia, including packets of blue rock candy.

Meth lady

Debbie Ball, owner of The Candy Lady store, made the simulated blue meth used during the production of “Breaking Bad”

I ingested some while I channeled my inner Skinny Pete and Badger, two of the show’s meth-dealing characters.

I didn’t get high, but I did get a tummy ache.

Walter White’s house and car wash

“Breaking Bad” diehards know the address by heart – 308 Negra Arroyo Lane.  Of course, that wasn’t the real address of the White residence, a modest three-bedroom ranch located in a section of town known as Northeast Heights.

Many of the show’s most dramatic – and amusing – scenes were filmed here.  One of the most memorable is the episode from season three in which Walt – upset that his wife Skyler wouldn’t let him dine with the family — tossed a pizza onto the roof.  The pizza stuck.

Numerous fans have since tried to replicate Walt’s feat in a twisted sort of pilgrimage.  It’s gotten so bad that the homeowner erected fencing around the entire property to keep pizza-slinging fans away.  There are also red cones on the street in front of the house to prevent gawkers from parking too close.

It is a private residence, so if you decide to visit, don’t linger.  I took a photo from a block away and quickly departed.  The homeowner was sitting in the front yard and it was clear she wasn’t keen on having company.  Hard to blame her.

Walter White house house

Breaking Bad’s Walter White character and his family lived in this house located in the Northeast Heights section of Albuquerque

Fans of the show know that in the first season Walt worked part-time at a local car wash to help make ends meet.  Later in the series, he and Skyler bought the car wash as a front to launder millions of dollars of meth money.

That business, known as A-1 Car Wash (“have an A-1 day!” was a frequent line in the show) is a five-minute drive from the White residence.  It’s now called Mister Car Wash, part of a Tucson-based chain that owns more than 300 car washes in 21 states.

Restaurants, hangouts and seedy motels

Our “Biking Bad” tour took us to several downtown eateries that were used as filming sites. Java Joe’s, which drug-dealer Tuco used as his hangout, is worth seeing for the colorful mural painted on the east side of the building.

The Dog House drive-in was a popular filming location during the series and the place where Jesse gave away his cash to a homeless man.  The restaurant’s retro neon sign with a tail-wagging dog is fun to see after dark.

Walt and Lydia frequently met at The Grove Café on Central Avenue, a popular breakfast spot.  It’s also the place where Walt poisoned Lydia with ricin-laced Stevia.

“People like to make the joke, ‘Be careful of the Stevia at the Grove,’” said General Manager Andrew LoBue, adding that the restaurant’s multiple appearances on the show “helped put us on the map.”

Java Joe's

Java Joe’s in downtown Albuquerque, which was used as the filming site for Tuco’s hangout

Just down the block from the Grove is the Crossroads Motel.  The low-end lodge was used as a drug den and a spot for other illicit activities during the filming of the show.  From the looks of it today, the Crossroads was perfectly cast.

Los Pollos Hermanos, which drug kingpin Gus Fring used as a base of operations, is really a fast-food restaurant called Twisters.  It’s about a 20-minute drive south of downtown Albuquerque.

Seemingly, every restaurant and hotel in the city has some sort of connection to “Breaking Bad.”  We stayed downtown at the Hotel Andaluz, named after a region in Spain called Andalusia.  When it opened in 1939, it was the first building in New Mexico with air conditioning.

The Andaluz hosted “Breaking Bad’s” wrap party for the cast and crew at the completion of the show’s fifth and final season.

Website for more info:
Visit Albuquerque

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