Saturday, October 22, 2016

Balloon Wrap Up

For a little clarification of our fabulous parking situation at the Balloon Fiesta, I shamelessly stole Donna's aerial view off her Facebook page.  For an account of their crewing experience, see Donna and Bob's blog here.

As you can see, we were lined up around an open field which was used by some of the balloons as a landing field.  Because we were over at the launch field both of the previous mornings, we never saw them fly overhead or land.  The third morning, as we were preparing to leave, we thought we might see some action.

Little did we know it was the day of a contest involving that same field.  The balloons were challenged to drop something (I should have found out what) onto a target in the middle of the open field.

I headed to the south end to watch them come from the launch field across Alameda.  At first it looked like all the balloons were headed straight to the field.

But alas, that fickle breeze shifted all of them slightly to the east.

Moving round to that side, I watched as they all passed over the main section of the RV parking.
The dog balloon in the upper left did drop their object and I saw some ribbons falling.  I spoke to a spectator in the northeast corner and she said it fell on the hitch of the trailer next to her.  Good thing it didn’t bop her on the head.

The one that came closest to where we were parked on the west side was this one that landed (I think just temporarily) in the canal behind us.  Our rig is second from the left.

 After all the morning excitement, we hitched up and continued our southwestward trek home.  We passed the Very Large Array (VLA) in Socorro County, New Mexico.  We didn’t stop this time, but it is a fascinating place reminiscent of the movie Contact.

 It’s a radio astronomy observatory with twenty-seven 25-meter antennae positioned on a Y-shaped track.  Each leg of the Y is 21 km or 13 miles long and the antennae are moved to different distances along the track.  The first time we visited, the units were very close together.  This time it looked like they were using all 13 miles of each leg.  You can barely see the next dish in line.

We stopped in Datil Well campground, where we saw this interesting historical sign.  Although it doesn't say it on this sign, they drove cattle along this route until 1971 and the CCC had built the local wells in the 1930s.  Somehow I don’t think of cattle drives as being that recent.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

More Balloons

Our second day at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta began a bit later.  We were still up before dawn, but took the shuttle bus as it was getting light.  It was a spectacular day as far as artistic clouds.

I really liked this balloon of balloons.

But it was special shapes day and the wind was iffy.  At one point there was a gust that did some damage and the special shapes balloons never took off.

I had to laugh.  It looked like some giant kid's pile of toys.

We wandered over to the chain saw competition.  The contestants had 90 minutes to complete their entry.  I know you can't really see this heron but I didn't want to use a flash and cause an accident.

This fire engine serves as a chase car.

It was fun to see all the balloons up close, but I was a little disappointed that they didn't take off.  On our way off the field, we laughed at the number of crew members for the Wells Fargo wagon balloon seen here.

Here it is deflated with the massive crew.  I wonder if they're all employees and were given the day off with pay.

We came back for the evening festivities and got to see the chain saw carvings from the second competition.  These took hours to make.  The bear won second place.

And this very unique oak leaf/acorn chair won the competition.

But for the reason we returned . . .  The Escapee Boomers traditionally crew for some of the balloons.  This involves getting up way too early, but we were offered the chance to help with the Special Shapes Glow on Thursday evening.  The glow involves inflating the balloons and our job would be to hold one in place.  Although I did picture us hanging on to the outside of the basket as it rises into the air, they assured me that wouldn't happen.  LOL

We helped with Annie the Lady Bug.

It's hard to imagine that big balloon is packed in this bag, but you see how many people it took to carry it.

Next came the basket.  Here the burners are being attached.

We spread out the balloon with her cute face up.

The untrained help (us and another couple) held the opening as a giant fan blew air to inflate the balloon.

And then the propane flames heated the air to lift the balloon to vertical.

Then our main job kicked in and we held the basket in place for about 15 minutes.  (Ron was holding for both of us while I took the picture.)

I have to say that the special shapes don't make as nice of a showing as the traditional balloons because they don't really show up well.  For instance, you can't see the car running through this auto repair one.

Once again, I didn't get a picture of our lady bug.  I didn't want to leave Ron holding it that long.

The Glow was followed by pretty impressive fireworks.  Here's a terrible picture of them.

I have to say it was a lot harder to get that giant balloon back INTO the bag.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Balloons Galore

This year we decided to stop in Albuquerque for the spectacular International Balloon Fiesta.  Ron had never seen it and it had been years since I was willing to brave the morning launch traffic.  Luckily our friends Bob and Donna told us that the Escapee Boomers reserve 50 RV parking spots near the launch field and, since we are Escapees, for a mere $45 a night we could join them.  We called Judy who still had a couple of spaces and couldn't have been nicer to us last minute RVers.  I couldn't believe our luck which I think was because she had some cancellations.

This year the fiesta ran from October 1-9, but I checked the online schedule and we decided to arrive Tuesday and leave on Friday.  As I'm sure I've mentioned, I am not a morning person, but on Wednesday, we were up and on our way before dawn.  We started to walk to the field, which, although technically just across Alameda Boulevard, is actually about a mile away, but a very cheerful shuttle bus driver stopped to pick us up.

Wednesday morning is the Flight of the Nations Mass Ascension which begins with balloons from each participating country carrying their country's flag.

On Thursday and Friday, the special shapes balloons are showcased, but there were plenty to see during the mass ascension also.  I was amazed by this triple bird balloon.

I was calling this guy the Hamburglar, but I found out later that it's Conair.

This one just made me hungry.

I don't know if the cow is the largest since many of the special shapes are huge, but check out the size of her hoofs compared to the spectators.  It takes a long time to fill up.

But finally she took off.

Yoda and Darth Vader were more of a normal balloon size.

Being on the field with all the balloons is an amazing experience.

The phenomenon known as the Albuquerque Box was working perfectly that day.  The balloons take off and drift to the south.  Then they go up into a different air stream and head back north.  We saw the same balloons multiple times.

Some of the special shapes seemed to miss their window of opportunity and never did take off.  At first we wondered what this was.

But when we moved around, the astronaut was obvious.  He even has a reflection of the earth on his face shield.

The hugging bear and elephant were super sized also.

And who wouldn't love this sweet giraffe?

In the afternoon we visited Albuquerque's Old Town where we saw everything balloon related.

That evening, after enjoying a potluck with the Boomers, we admired the sunset on the Sandia Mountains out our front window.

We heard that sandia means watermelon in Spanish and the name comes from their color at sunset.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Tent Rocks

From our new spot at Cochiti Lake, another wonderful Corps of Engineers campground, we had to visit my favorite national monument.  Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks NM is just a perfect place (sorry, Carol.)  By the number of people who were there with us, I guess it's no longer a secret.

There's a perfect 3-mile round trip hike that takes you to the top of the mesa that Ron is inspecting.

Soon we were in among the cool rock formations,

And into a slot canyon.

After the slot canyon, we could see the rocks towering overhead.

But the best part is the climb among the aptly named 'tent rocks.'

Partway up, we stopped to look back.  (It had nothing to do with us being out of breath.)

We were so bad at taking a selfie, somebody took pity on us and took it for us.  I guess that means it's no longer a selfie.

We made it to the top.

It's interesting how you can see the tent rocks forming.

Here's the view out the other direction.  Maybe you can see the people at the end of the trail on the point in the upper right corner.

Like I said, one of my favorite places.

Back at the RV, I had to snap a picture of our view out the front window.  What a spot!

Love those Corps of Engineers parks.