|Mon, 28 Sep: We're here!!!
A very short 21 miles took us from the San Felipe Pueblo Casino/Truck Stop to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta RV Park. Bob rolled wheels about twenty past eleven and we pulled up to the registration booth a few minutes before noon. We took I 25 south most of the way except for the mile of city streets to the RV parking area. Carpe did remarkably well for a short drove with fuel economy in excess of 7½ mpg.
We got checked in with no problems, stopped long enough to top up our fresh water tank, and then got escorted to the Escapee Boomers parking area. We are parked facing a designated balloon landing field so, hopefully, we may see some of the balloons land right in front of us.
We got set up and immediately drove to Costco for lunch and some long overdue shopping. We also asked the folks at the tire shop to look at the car's tires. They'll need replacement soon but we'll be OK to continue toward Casa Grande and have it done there.
Back home we visited with our fellow Balloon Fiesta partipants at an informal Happy Hour and then headed to Taco Cabaña for dinner. We got introduced to this Texas-based chain by Carmen and Domingo Davila and were delighted to learn that there is a store just a few miles from the RV parking field.
We have tomorrow and Wednesday mostly free before the "work" begins. The fiesta officially begins Saturday, 03 Oct., but we have training and orientation to complete before we'll be allowed to crew. We'll be reporting on that as the week unfolds.
Friday, 02 Sep: We get "hands on" training...
This morning our alarm clock did its thing at 0530. Yes, there is an 0530 in the morning. Since retiring we'd tried to forget that fact, but here we were getting out of our wonderful bed at way "dark o'clock" in the A.M.
We got dressed, packed our bags, and were on the road before six. And we weren't the only ones, the RV area was a stream of vehicles heading out. Why you ask? Because today was Albuquerque Aloft, a program in which pilots and their crews go to elementary schools and set up the balloons for the youngsters. We tagged along with Pi, a balloon owned by a Canadian couple. They generously offered hands-on training for those of us who do not yet have a pilot in town.
We met at the school about 0630 and at first light we started unloading the pickup. First came the envelope in a big bag. Then the gondola (basket), and finally the gasoline-powered fan for cold inflation. We were shown how to connect the envelope to the basket, connect the propane lines to the tanks, and position the fan.
Once all was ready the fan was started and the envelope inflate. Once there was sufficient air the pilot fired up the burners and heated the air. Miraculously, in accordance with the laws of physics, the balloon started to rise. The kids were suitably impressed, ooohhing and aaahing appropriately.
Then the pilot pulled the dump valves at the top of the envelope and the balloon started settling to the ground. Reversing the process we got the balloon folded, packed, and back on the truck. By 0830 we were enjoying breakfast at Taco Cabaña and then back home.
The rest of the day is free. Tomorrow is the opening of the Fiesta with a dawn "Mass Ascension", all 500 or so balloons taking off in three waves. We don't know yet if our pilot will be here or if we'll crew for someone else. Either way, we have our crew passes (unlimited access to the launch field) so we can pretty much do what works for us. Stay tuned..
Sat, 03 Oct: Opening day!
Today is the first official day of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. We were up well before dawn (0500) and out of the coach by a quarter past. The shuttle buses started at 0400 so we flagged one down for the ride to the launch field. That is the way to go as traffic was backed up for miles and the shuttles had a priority lane so we were at the gates in no time. We flashed our crew passes and attempted to find our assigned launch site in the dark.
We found our launch site and stood around waiting for our pilot. He never showed and we have not heard from him so we're assuming he's a no-show and we're without a balloon to crew. That is a mixed bag as it means we don't have any obligation to be on the launch field to crew. The down side is it precludes any chances of getting a balloon ride.
But, all is not lost. We were in the middle of the launch field and near the select group of balloons taking part in the "Dawn Patrol". The Dawn Patrol consists of properly light equipped balloons that take off before sunrise. Watching them inflate and take off in the dark was amazing. We got some pretty good pix of them and encourage you to peruse the images on this posting.
As the sun rose balloonists and their crews began laying out and getting their balloons ready to launch. At 0700 the "Balloon of the Day" took off with a huge American Flag flying below the basket and the National Anthem was sung. Then the first wave of the Mass Ascension began. As soon as one balloon took off another crew would pull into that launch site and get set up to launch theirs. Wave after wave for almost two hours.
Since we had no crew responsibilities we caught the shuttle back to the coach and watched the balloons from the comfort of our lawn chairs. Eventually the balloons started to land and since we faced a landing area we watched as several balloons approached right over Carpe's roof and on to the field. Now we know why we were asked not to deploy flag poles or high antennae.
A final mention of the special shape balloons. About a dozen of the balloons that flew this morning were "shapes"; including Smokey Bear, Flying Pigs, Fish, Keystone Kops, a Lady Bug, and some other cute critters we still haven't identified. Later in the week there will be an exclusive flight of special shapes and we're looking forward to seeing that.
The evening's events included a "glow", where the balloons are standing yet tethered. The pilots fire their burners to create a Chinese lantern effect. A fireworks show was visible from the RV park so we sat in our lawn chairs and grabbed some pix (posted).
So, what happens now? We're unsure what we'll do other than enjoy what we can. At least we have an unlimited free entry pass for the duration of the Fiesta. Check back often as we'll update this post as new pix are taken and events develop. Stay tuned...
Sun, 04 Oct: A lazy, cloudy morning...
We did not set our alarm clock, a nice treat. We were up about 0630 and turned on the local radio station that provides Fiesta updates. The dawn patrol and the mass ascension were both on hold due to, of all things, calm winds! Usually high winds are the show stopper, but if winds are too calm the balloons just bunch up.
We got our tea brewed and Sandi started on breakfast. About 0800 they finally got the green flag and started launching. Sure enough, there was little movement of the balloons other than vertical. What little wind there was was easterly, toward Sandia Mountains. So, the majority of those that launched headed east and most landed within a few miles of the launch field.
In addition, the heavy clouds made photography problematic so we don't have any of those spectacular images of the sunlit balloon against a cobalt New Mexico sky to offer. We do, however, have some cute shapes we shot with our 300mm telephotos. Enjoy.
Today's forecast is for cloudy and rain so we'll be at home. We'll probably have to run the generator to make up for lack of solar charging, which means we'll have 120v AC to run the microwave/convection oven for dinner. A rare treat when boondocking...
Tues, 06 Oct: Two great balloon viewing days...
Yesterday, Monday, dawned cloudy with showers. The Mass Ascension was wonderful and many of the balloons landed in the landing area directly in front of us. It was great to sit on our chairs with cameras and watch the show. We continue to laud our good fortune at not having a balloon to crew.
After the roads opened at ten we left the RV park to run errands. We picked up a small propane tank we ordered, visited Wal*Mart, Costco (which included lunch), and the Post Office. Then a stop at a propane dealer to have the new tank purged and filled. Then back home before the traffic barricades go back up and we wouldn't be able to get into the RV park.
Today dawned sunny and bright. Today's Mass Ascension outdid yesterday's despite a bit of a north wind at ground level. More shapes were flying and several landed right in front us, including Darth Vader, a cow, and some other critters. The brisk breeze made for some rough landings. We don't think we'd care to fly in one of these after watching them land. Sandi says she wants to fly in something that can be steered and has brakes.
Thu, 08 Oct: A fun morning...
Today was a fun days. The morning Mass Ascension featured shapes, balloons that weren't "balloon shaped". There were whales, turtles, teddy bears, Darth Vader (and Yoda too!) While the weather could have been better, we did get some good shots. We've posted 20+ images.
Yesterday we ran some errands, most notably laundry. It had been more than two weeks since our last laundry event so our bags were bulging. After laundry was finished we treated ourselves to lunch at Taco Cabaña. This was our third visit... We really enjoy exploring their menu and haven't found anything that wasn't A1.
Last evening's dinner was lamb chops that Bob cooked on the grill. This is the first test of our new LP bottle and adaptor and it worked just fine. We're eating pretty high on the ole' hog out here in Balloonberg.
After this morning's Mass Ascension we had breakfast an then Bob went to the Post Office to pick up our mail. As soon as he got back the Honey Wagon showed up so he got to supervise that chore. We'd gone twelve days since our last tank dump and we still had plenty of capacity. We're still good on fresh water but we might add some today to ensure we'll have enough for the duration of our stay.
The rest of the day is free, except for the ever present computer stuff. It is overcast and rainy so we'll try to keep our power usage to a minimum till we get our batteries charged.
Sat, 10 Oct: "W*O*W!!!
This morning's Mass Ascension was the acme of the Fiesta. More than 500 balloons, 100+ of them shapes, rose into a cloudless cobalt sky. The gentle wind blew them toward us and many landed right in front of the coach, and even a few landed on the road behind the coach.
We shot well over 100 pix and have posted as many as space allows. We'll have to find another place to put them, but for now enjoy.