Friday, October 11, 2013

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

This is the second time we have been to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta and we love it just as much, if not more, this time.  We made a contact with Mike Liberti, a pilot we meet here the last time and crewed for in Arizona, so we were more comfortable knowing what we were expected to do.  Our week got off to a slow start when the Friday event, Albuquerque Aloft, where they go to local schools was canceled because of weather.  While many pilots flew on Saturday, Mike chose not to because the winds were not to his liking.  We worked every day from Sunday to Wednesday and got a much needed day off on Thursday because of high winds.  We slept until 8AM.  Knowing Mike also meant we both got to fly.  It was just as great this time as the first time.  He is really good about giving his crew members the chance to fly.
The few pictures I put on this entry can't begin to show what a great and colorful event this is so I made a web album with all the pictures that are in this collage.  Here is a link to that album.
We are with the Escapees Boomers so there were several gatherings and of course a lot of food.  They also had an auction to raise money for Escapees CARE.  Thanks to Don and Sharon for coordinating this years gathering.
We also got together with some Class of 07 mates who are at the fiesta or drove in for the potluck.  Here are Cathy, Leland, Nanc, Jim T, Linda, Ron, Bobbie, Jim C and Marty.  It was great getting caught up with all of them. 
A few of us went to dinner one evening for a great Mexican meal and conversation.  Top are Nanc, Cathy, Leland, Linda and Ron.  Bottom from left to right are Lois and Bob, who we met at Betty's on our first visit there in 08 and Bill and Pat, friends of Leland and Cathy.
Here are a few pictures of our typical day at fiesta.  We are out of bed by 5AM.  Because Mike is staying in the RV park he picks us up and rides us to the launch field by 6AM.  Mike then attends the morning pilots meeting and the crew waits for his return to swing into action.  Left are Judy, Nanc, T (Mike's wife) and Mike.  Right are Lois, Luke and Bob.  As you can see the mornings can be quite chilly.
When given the word the crew gets the basket and envelope (balloon) out of the trailer.  Top, Mike connects and tests the burners.  After the crown is velcroed into place a big fan fills the envelope with cold air while Bob holds the crown line.  Next Mike fires up the burners to put hot air into the balloon causing it to stand up.  The crew holds the basket on the ground.  Bottom is looking down at take-off, Mike in flight and finally the landing were the whole thing must be torn down and packed back into the trailer. 
Doug, Nanc and Mike at lift-off.  I think she likes it.
Mike's balloon, Morning Star, floating into the air along with a few other balloons.
Balloons on the launch field in various states of readiness.  The ones lying down are filled with cold air from the fan while the ones that are upright on the ground are waiting for the OK to launch.
After the launch the chase crew makes an important stop before setting off after their balloon.  It is really something to see 550 balloons floating in the air and 550 chase vehicles racing after them all over the city.  Some days the flights are short while others can last over an hour.  One day Mike landed in a field near a house and we could see him, but could not figure out how to get to him.  We told him we were at the Home Depot and a man from the neighborhood drove there to meet us and lead us through the maze of streets where Morning Star had landed.  People tend to be very nice and balloonists get this kind of treatment most of the time.
The mass ascension is a sight to see.  Nanc said if someone is depressed they should come to Balloon Fiesta to have their spirits lifted.  It sure will put a smile on your face.  Here is a short video I shot of the launch.   It really shows the famous Albuquerque "box" with balloons at different altitudes moving in different directions.
Mike and Sherri with Nanc and her new friend.  The last time we were here Nanc wanted one of these to ride in the driver's seat of the CRV when we are towing it. The Sharps were nice enough to buy her one.  Mike and Sherri loved the Balloon Fiesta.  It had everything Sherri needed to keep her excited; crowds, colorful balloons, great food and, her favorite thing, fireworks.  They headed out on Monday but had to change their plans because of the idiots in Washington.  What a shame that their once in a lifetime trip was not everything it could have been.
One of the greatest sights is looking down on the launch field from above.  It is a beautiful perspective that few get to experience, THANKS MIKE!!!!!!!!!!
The day I flew there was a perfect box.  As soon as we took off we floated toward the RV park.  We then went higher and flew back over the launch field and saw the balloons below getting set to fly. 
The butterfly and hummingbird are just two of many special shapes. 
Looking straight down at two balloons below us.  What an incredible view.
The shadow of Morning Star racing across the ground.  There is so little feeling of movement that at one point I said to Mike, look how fast that balloon is raising, only to be told it was not coming up, we were going down, WOW.
After we dropped down we were blown back across the now empty launch field that was being prepared for a competition.  The balloonists try to drop a sack on a specific target on the field.  If it had not been a competition day we could have landed very near the spot where we took off.  How cool is that.
You never know where you might see a balloon.  If we wanted to just be spectators, we could have stayed in the rig and watched them land in our front yard.  Nanc and I both landed on the field in front of the RV.
All these balloons came down right in front of our house.
A lesson from the fiesta. Never leave your backpack alone.  Mike Sharp and I watched as the police cleared people out of the way and cordoned off the area around this backpack.  We don't know why they did not ask us to leave. Then, just as the bomb squad set their computer over the suspicious thing, a guy came running up yelling, "It's mine, it's mine".  They made him open it and allow them to inspect it before they let him take it with him.
Now that we have had a rest day we are looking forward to the last three days of the fiesta.  We think it is so cool and we never get tired of seeing all those beautiful balloons ascending into the sky.  What a sight!!!!  YOU CAN'T DO ANYTHING BUT SMILE!  If you haven't already, make sure you put the Balloon Fiesta on you to do list.  You won't be disappointed.    


Doing It On the Road(Part II) said...

What a great post!

Bobbie and Jim said...

Wonderful, wonderful post, Jim!!! Gorgeous did good!

Diane said...

Great pictures - :-) Have a wonderful time.