Saturday, October 8, 2011

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

A bucket list event for us since we went on the road has been the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. At Betty's last spring Jim and Bobby told us the way to go was with the Escapees Boomers so we immediately made our reservations. The advantage of being with the Boomers is that they have great contacts to get everyone a crew pass which gains you admission to all events so the only cost we had was for camping. That was a bit of an issue as it is dry camping and we had never gone 12 days, but it has been working out just fine.We arrived on Wednesday, three days before the fiesta started, so we could get acquainted with the other Boomers (here at the first happy hour) and attend crew training. Here, Cool Judy our host (she and husband Luke live in Cool, CA) brings us all up to speed on the upcoming events. We all went to the orientation video and had a safety talk by pilot Mike Liberti. We ended up crewing for Mike's son, Daniel, on his balloon, Morning Wood. Our first hands on training event was to be Albuquerque Aloft on Friday. This is a neat experience where balloonists go to schools all over the city and launch from there as all the kids watch. Unfortunately, the weather (to windy) did not cooperate so we did not do much that day except meet our pilot, Daniel and crew chief, Jess.The fiesta's official start was early Saturday morning. Yes we were up and at it by 5:15 AM every flying day:( Our first sight of a balloon launch was the Dawn Patrol, a few balloons that launch before sunrise to check out the winds aloft. Albuquerque is a great ballooning location because of the “box” which means the winds blow in different directions at different elevations so they can drift in different directions at different altitudes.Here is our first real crewing experience at the mass ascension. The burners are attached to the wicker basket and tested and the envelope (balloon) is laid out on the ground. Then the pilot and crew chief attach the lines from the balloon to the basket as Marcia looks on. Then Boomer Terry uses the fan to fill the balloon with cool air. The pilot, Daniel, goes inside the top of the balloon to attach the crown with Velcro. This will be pulled out on landing to deflate the balloon. As the pilot uses the burners to heat the air the balloon begins to rise with someone holding the crown line to keep it from rising to fast. When the balloon is upright ALL crew members have “weight on” the basket to hold it on the ground. Next is “hands on” so the buoyancy can be checked. Finally the balloon is in the air along with several hundred others. The crew then stows all the equipment in the trailer and the chase is on.This is the scene as the balloons launch in well orchestrated order. The colors and shapes are just fantasticHere are Daniel's Morning Wood and Mike's Morning Star in the air.As we watched all the balloons above us Jess told us to make sure we kept an eye on Morning Wood. Yeah Right!! This part of the crew, Dwayne, Vickie, Marcia, Nanc, Linda and I were transported to Terry's truck in the back of the trailer so for the first few minutes we saw nothing. When we were in the truck Vickie, who is not a morning person, took a nap. Then we stopped to see if we could find Morning Wood among all the balloons. We found Daniel and raced to the landing site. We had a couple of false stops as he was searching for a good spot. After he landed he kept the balloon inflated until we arrived and spread a tarp so it could be pulled gently to the ground. There are no pics of this as it was ALL hands on deck. The deflated envelope is then stuffed into the bag and then along with the basket is put into the trailer.Next we learned that balloonists know how to party and have a great time after the flight. Mike (not Liberti) had a huge parachute to use as a tent and it was a real group effort to get it up, but we made it. Marcia and Nanc fit right in with the Mardi Gras theme that included gumbo and king cake. T & Mike had a ride in the Model T and Mary & David (who had us to their home for a party the night before) just carried on. Part of the ballooning tradition is the first flight initiation that Creighton and Cory got to “enjoy”. Being part of the chase crew has been a great way to get the feel of this wonderful balloon culture, BUT, we are still really hoping we get to fly.Another big event is the Special Shapes Rodeo where the balloons are every size and unusual shape you can imagine. They did not fly this day because of the iffy weather but it was neat to see only shaped balloons on the field. We helped Chris Liberti with the Shamrock that was really hard to control in the wind.The Twilight Twinkle Glow is another magical event where the tethered balloons just use the burners to make the balloons glow. These were followed with a great fireworks show.

UPDATE!!!! We did get in the air today so more Balloon Fiesta will follow.

1 comment:

Jim and Bobbie said...

Oh, we are so happy you got to fly and that you are both enjoying the fiesta! It is wonderful, isn't it!