Balloon Ride at Fiesta!

Albuquerque Travel Blog

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Today was the exciting "special shapes balloons" day at the Fiesta!  We'd seen some of them earlier in the week, but today enjoyed more:  an eagle, train, castle, etc.  Very exciting!

Sadly we had to bid farewall to Linda and Armando this morning as they headed out.  It's no fun getting left behind on another's journey and too- we miss them.

After breakfast, we decided to help balloons land on the corner field by the RV area.  After donning our leather gloves, we helped a balloon land and then played ballast and chatted until their chase crew arrived. 

It turned out that they were planning to fly again and after some of their crew got out of the basket, they still needed one person to go in the balloon... so they asked me!  I jumped right into that basket and the kids got to ride with the chase crew!  We flew at 2400 feet for about 20 miles south past the field! 

It was very beautiful, but a bit scary too.  There are no seatbelts, no harnesses, nothing to keep you from falling out should the balloon lurch or tip.  The basket only comes up as high as the waist or hip, so it is very sobering when gazing down as from an airplane.  I don't think I'll let the kids (nor myself) ride in a balloon untethered until safety devices are invented.  Why are people not clipped in with harnesses?

I'd flown in a balloon in college, but this was the first time since then.  I admit that it felt a lot like flying in a small single-engine plane... until landing.  It was rather frustrating that the pilot cannot control left or right movement.  You go where the wind blows you. 

Now, the wind often blows in a "box" formation in Albuquerque.  That means that at different elevations, you fly in different directions, IF the box "is working."  When you're coming in for a landing, you have to get the basket down near ground-level to make sure there are no fences, horses, trees, rivers, etc in the way of the landing, for a potential basket hop and for balloon deflation.  Also, you have to insure that your chase crew can get to you to help you out of there.

We had a few moments of landing anxiety when the chosen landing location was deemed inappropriate and we had to liftoff again.  But eventually our pilot made a beautiful, smooth landing on a levee near a creek and fence.  Our chase crew was terrific and were there within minutes (we cannot get out until they arrive as we're ballast) to help us hop the tethered balloon over the creek and fence and into a field where a Texan allowed us to pack up the balloon in his dirt field.  That was fortunate. 

Apparently yesterday they landed on the Native American Reservation and a man there chose to be unkind and refuse them gate access, so the crew had to pack out the basket and balloon for a quarter mile to the road- not a good example of humanity, but certainly a deterent to future landings in that location.

So the flight, landing, and balloon pack up were all very exciting and we rode back with the chase crew of 3 vehicles (lots of help for this team) -they asked us to join them at the field for "initiation" for new balloonists.  We begged our way out of the crew vehicle at the RV park with a promise to visit their tailgating party later- we really wanted to see Marti and Charlie before they left today -but unfortunately we had long missed their departure.

After a long break in the RV to unload the camera, change clothes, get bikes, etc, we went to the field to make a drink donation to the tailgating party.  Let's just say that the discussion of my "initiation" without any informed consent made us all wary.  Then Charles shared his alarm with me when he overheard them discuss mixing things into a drink for "the 3 newbies."   (There were 2 other women there on a first flight with the team).

Perhaps it was nothing, but sitting around (in front of the kids) awaiting extensive pressure to drink a beverage of dubious content is not my idea of exemplary parenting.  I'm fine being sprayed with champagne, saying the balloonists prayer, and learning the history of ballooning, but drinking a concoction can cross the line into dangerous, not to mention simply irresponsible.

We'd been at the tailgating party only for a minute. but with that info, we bid them "thanks for the wonderful ride" and made a quick exit.  Our intial concern heightened when they became overly concerned with our leaving and made a point of notifying the pilot.  I quickly repeated my previous thanks and goodbye to him and jogged off down the long field.  Unsettlingly, he followed us down the field for a great distance as we continued to wave goodbye and jog away. 

Finally, when we thought the game was over and he was no longer following us, he intercepted us (near a police car, to which I was heading by that time) by using his chase vehicle to catch up with us.   I made it clear, as nicely as I could, that I wasn't drinking anything.  He assured me that he only wanted to give me a balloon pin.  Huh?  Was it necessary to chase us for half a mile for a collector's pin?  Why leave a fun tailgating party to do that?  It made little sense to me- we were glad we'd left when we did.  That situation still doesn't smell right to me.

This experience contained good lessons for the kids:  how to get out of an uncomfortable situation, trusting your instincts, not bowing to peer pressure, and insisting on giving informed consent before you agree to do anything, particularly involving "initiation."  Adult peer pressure definitely exists.  No thanks.  Besides, how can we expect our kids to leave tough situations if we cannot find the courage?

So today involved a fabulous flight followed by a rather unsettling situation.

We felt better afterward sitting with Terry and Karen at the Honda-sponsored Ben & Jerry's ice cream party.  We listened to all the generator qualities while thinking that Ned could've really used one of these generators after Hurricane Ike.  They were nowhere to be found then!  We were quite impressed with their portable, quiet generators.  (An aside:  did you know Honda is opening a Jet plant in Burlington, NC in the next 2 years?  The airplane will use about 1/3 of the fuel of comparable planes).  They had many prizes to hand out and we had a good time relaxing at a table in the sun.

Afterward, the kids and I visited the Balloon Museum, which was great fun.  In particular, we enjoyed the computer games and balloon simulator where we each attempted to land our hot air balloon on a target.  The games were complicated and compelling.  Great fun and terrific museum!  (Just $9 total entry for us all).

We were happy to return to our Lazy Daze RV group and visit, have dinner, blow bubbles with Debbie and Kate.  They are big kids and were just waiting for my kids to return so they could play!  Andy kindly came over to help solder and re-run the lines for Ciao Baby's door intercom.  His terrific job resulted in much cheering and playing with the intercom.  That is a nice safety device so we don't have to open the door or a window to talk to someone outside.

We ran off to the Special Shapes Glodeo this evening.  It was a perfect temperature as the sunset reflected off the Balloon Museum and over the field.  We cheered as we walked among hundreds of interesting, tethered balloons.  Spontaneously and randomly they would fire the propane and light up the balloon in the darkening night.  Then the announcer would "count down" and everyone would shout 5-4-3-2-1-GLOW! and all the balloons would simultaneously light up!  That was completely thrilling!  I took as many pictures of as many balloons as I could before they darkened again.  After about half an hour for us of wandering, all at once the Zebras blew their whistles and within minutes the balloons were all deflated. 

There were SO MANY people walking with us among the balloons tonight!  So many trying to get in that the Glodeo was over and people were still trying to drive INTO Fiesta Park.  We felt sad for them being stuck in traffic on such a beautiful occasion.  But there was more to enjoy...

Fireworks!  As we started biking back (have I mentioned how wonderful the bikes are for Fiesta?), the fireworks started and we stopped to throw ourselves in the cool, soft grass near the Balloon Museum, mesmerized by some of the most spectacular fireworks offered anywhere in the nation. Terrific seats and great company with Lisa and Steve, Beth and Brad- completely spontaneous and fun gathering!  Too, Marti and Charlie called then to say goodbye- they made it to Petrified Forest tonight on their long trek back to Seattle.  We miss them so much already!

After biking the rest of the way to the RV area (grateful we're nearby!), the kids went to bed while I visited with our friends. 

It was a busy, exciting day!


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photo by: vances