I’ve posted a photo album with 554 of the approximately 2,600 photos I took during my time in Albuquerque at the Balloon Fiesta. The Balloon Fiesta website has lots of great information. I suggest that if you attend the event, sign up and volunteer in some capacity it makes the event more fun. There were professional photographers at the Balloon Fiesta, their photos are fantastic. It looks like currently only one photographer has posted photos, check back later on to see if there are others.
Friday, October 3rd, the day before the Balloon Fiesta opens, Scott and his crew which includes me, went to the Alice King Community School and we inflated the balloon and had it tethered so that the children could come over and watch the process and to see the balloon up close and talk with Scott, get their pictures taken, and get a balloon card. It was great to see the children’s faces watching the balloon. When Scott needed to burn the propane, he warned the children so they wouldn’t be afraid of the loud sound the burners make.
A few weeks before the Balloon Fiesta begins Scott and his crew and probably other balloon pilots get together with the mounted police and they burn the propane so that the horses get used to the loud sounds of the propane burners so that they don’t get spooked or upset during the Balloon Fiesta.
At my first Balloon Fiesta in 2011, I met David who is one of the Launch Directors called Zebras. I saw him in 2012, and again this year. In fact, his camper was parked next to mine in the RV park. This year David was the Launch Director for Scott’s section of the field. Many Zebra’s really get into the dress code and have Zebra items they either wear or attach to their uniforms.
I have been really enjoying my time at the Balloon Fiesta. I’m getting to meet many new people, make new friends, and visit with friends from previous years. In the mornings I crew for my friend Scott on his balloon Big Blue. Then, if he doesn’t need me to go on chase crew I volunteer at the Balloon Discovery Center. If he needs me for chase crew, I get in the truck and ride with his fiance Keralyn and others that are on chase crew and we all keep an eye on the balloon so we can hopefully get to where he will land before he does, or at least very soon after.
My friends Mary and Denny who I also met in 2011 and stay in touch with crew on No Worries and now Norman the Dragon. I also met the crews and/or owners for the green frog, scuba diver, whale, the bees, and many more special shapes.
Saturday, I noticed that my auxiliary batteries didn’t stay charged for very long. I found out by experiencing a check light on my fridge when I woke up at 4 a.m., along with the beeping of my carbon dioxide detector. Also, when I turned my lights on they were very dim. I ran the generator for about half hour before I had to catch the bus to the balloon field. Later in the day, I called Phil the RV repair man that is here to work on campers that need repairs. In 2012, he replaced my leaky and faulty water pump. Phil tested the auxiliary batteries and said they are not good any more, they are 3 years old. I had them replaced in 2011 when I was in Washington state. Instead of me having to drive around town to find batteries at 7:30 p.m., one of my neighbor campers Ronnie took me. We went to Walmart and they didn’t have the proper kind so we went to Costco and got there about 20 minutes before they closed. Phil installed the new batteries and I ran the generator to charge them fully. Thankfully, that did the trick, all is well at the moment. Update, a few days later… the batteries still were not holding the full charge, so Phil installed a new converter for me. We are hoping this solves the problem.
I was talking with Ronnie as we drove to get batteries. It turns out that about 39 years ago he lost his left leg in a railroad accident. It changed his life and he started a business many years ago making artificial limbs for people and animals. He is also very involved with animal rescue organizations all over the country. It was very interesting talking with him and learning about all he does to help people and animals.
Phil and Ann are people I met on my first visit to Balloon Fiesta in 2011. Over the past few years we are becoming friends. I’m glad they are here and we are getting to visit and exchange stories about life experiences. Their cat Wiley got sick the other day and it turns out he had pancreatitis, sadly, he passed away Saturday night. The RV Escapees Club wrote a nice story about Ann and Phil. Here are the 4 pages of the article.
Sunday afternoon Robert Mirabal performed on the stage. I have known Robert for many years, I’ve heard him perform at several Native American flute festivals. You can read more about Robert in my November 2013 story about the Native Rhythms Flute Festival. I uploaded some audio clips of his performance in my Balloon Fiesta album, they are at the end of the album.
A few balloons away from our balloon was the Wonder balloon. It brought back memories of childhood when I used to get small individual loaves of Wonder bread. Amanda who is in charge of the Wonder balloon is really nice, she gave me two bags of Wonder balloon pins to give out. I loved watching the expressions on people’s faces when I gave them a pin. For children, they loved having a pin, especially if it was their first pin or if they are experiencing Balloon Fiesta for the first time. For the adults, many said they remember Wonder bread from their childhood like I did.
After we inflated the balloon on Tuesday, October 7th, Scott handed me a form to sign, and he asked me to sign it, unless I don’t want to go up in the balloon. I said I would love to go up in the balloon and I signed the form without hesitation. I love going up in the hot air balloon, and Scott is such a great pilot that almost all of his landings are pretty gentle. Liz and I joined Scott on this flight. We flew about 45 minutes on our ride. I was so grateful and I loved every second of the ride. I took lots of pictures from setting up the balloon through packing it after the flight.
The direction of our flight took us over the RV park where my camper is located. I searched and found my camper. My camper is on the right in the center photo below, to my left is Erin and Joe’s camper, and to the left of that is Mary and Denny’s camper. To the right of my camper is David’s camper.
We had a great flight, and Scott found a street he wanted to land in. Thankfully, Paul and Keralyn got there ahead of us and they caught the drop line… Outstanding catch. We landed in the street between two walls and sidewalks. I didn’t realize it at the time I took the pictures as we were landing, but in one of the pictures below is the shadow of our balloon just before we landed.
For some of the landings during the Balloon Fiesta event we landed in dirt fields, other times we landed on paved or grassy surfaces. We all liked landing on grass or on a road better than the dirt with brush and stickers. One of the days we landed on a dirt road, our clothes sure got full of dust. My navy blue pants and red jacket looked almost beige.
When I wasn’t crewing, I worked at the Balloon Discovery Center Tent, sponsored by 7 Eleven. They gave out Slurpee’s and candy. In our tent there were exhibits and banners explaining various aspects of balloons, such as size, shapes, types, crewing, and also a flight simulator where people could stand in a basket and virtually fly and land a balloon. There was also an craft area where children could color paper hot air balloons, an activity booklet, or decorate one with stickers and take the item home with them. One of the exhibits in the Balloon Discovery Tent is a banner of the Smokey the Bear balloon. It shows the dimensions of various parts of the balloon.
NASA also shared our tent space and they had many exhibits about various aspects of space flight and related items.
Over the 3 years that I have crewed and volunteered, and that Scott has answered my questions and explained various aspects of ballooning, weather, etc. I have found that when I volunteer in the tent that I am able to answer lots of questions that visitors ask and I can also explain what I have learned from hands on experience. It definitely makes it more interesting for me and I’m sure for the visitors. When they ask what they should see or do, I know what I find interesting and I recommend things to them, such as going to the pilot briefing at 6:15 a.m. Pilot’s briefing is very interesting. This is where the pilots receive information on the wind conditions, wind speeds at various levels, and the weather conditions. It’s also announced what pilots have done something outstanding that they are recognized for, or what pilots have done something they shouldn’t like fly too low over the field. It is a good feeling when I’m asked how the pilot changes flight direction that I can explain it, the same goes for other questions. If I don’t know the answer, I try to find it out for the person, or if no one is available to provide an answer, I ask Scott and then I have the knowledge the next time I’m asked.
Between crewing and volunteering for the morning and afternoon shifts, I tried to get a nap of an hour or two before reporting back to my volunteer station. I had about 3 days where the pain was a bit too intense, so I just took it easy and didn’t volunteer the afternoon shift on one day. There were 5 days of spectacular fireworks. Every evening of fireworks was a different fireworks show. They had the most unusual fireworks that I have ever seen. Some nights I watched from the field, other nights I watched from my camper. Thanks to Mary and Denny, and Roy, I got to watch NCIS and NCIS NO, and NCIS LA at their campers.
This year the temperatures were mild compared to previous years when I was there. The coldest morning the temperatures were in the low 50s and it warmed up to the 70s and maybe 80 degrees. In 2011 and 2012 there were days when it was in the low 30s and we had frost on our shoes. This was a pleasant change.
There are many side stories about my time at the Balloon Fiesta. I want to share some of these stories with you, however, they are not in any particular order. As a volunteer we are served breakfast beginning at 4:30 a.m., yes really. I was at the balloon field before 5:00 a.m. every morning. Our usual breakfast was either a breakfast burrito or eggs, sausage, and a roll. One morning I only ate a little so I took a burrito with me to eat later. I wasn’t very hungry, and I was busy crewing and volunteering so after my shift was over about 11:00 a.m. and I was walking to get the bus back to the campground, I stopped at one of the food vendors who sells burritos and asked him if he thought the burrito I got at 5:00 a.m. was still good to eat. He asked to see it, and when I gave it to him he handed it to one of his workers and told him to throw it away and give me a fresh, hot breakfast burrito. I told him it wasn’t necessary and I didn’t expect him to give me one. He said he knew that, and that’s why he did, and he didn’t want me to take a chance on getting sick. I thanked him and went on my way back to the RV park.
When I got back to my camper, I ate part of the burrito before taking a nap before my next shift. The next morning I went by the burrito booth and thanked them, I found out by asking that the man’s name is Bryan. We talked a while and got to share our stories a bit. Every time I walked by his booth, I stopped and said hello to Bryan and his crew. I also bought a burrito the next day and then the last morning of the Balloon Fiesta I stopped by their booth and bought some tortillas they were selling because they had so many extras. I gave several packages away to people in the RV park, and Bryan told his staff to give me an extra burrito and pack of tortillas for me since I have a long trip ahead of me. I offered to pay for the entire purchase, but he insisted on giving me some food at no cost. I thanked Bryan and the guys again and made my way to the camper.
I have a friend named Carol Anderson who is a single woman traveler like me. In fact, she has been an inspiration to me since 2011 when I first found her online. I met Carol in 2012 when we were both at the Balloon Fiesta at the same time. Carol is an extraordinary woman and a truly gifted writer. She has had a website many more years than I have. I found her website when I was checking to see if anyone had carolsadventures when I decided that’s what I wanted to use. It turns out her website is similar to the one I wanted to use and I wrote and asked if she minded me using carolsadventures, she was gracious and said it was okay with her, that’s how we met. Check out Carol’s website and stories. Carol volunteered as a Greeter this year at the Balloon Fiesta, so on the mornings she worked I stopped by the gate where she was stationed to say hello and visit for a while before I reported to crew for Scott.
There are many tents lined along the midway. Many are food vendors, and there are also lots selling various items like jewelry, pins, shirts and merchandise, chairs, etc. Other tents are of places to visit, state police, casinos, and civic organizations. A few days into the Balloon Fiesta I saw a large tent that said Jelly Belly. I had to stop and check it out. They had a wheel to spin for a treat, which was usually small packages of Jelly Belly’s. I started talking to one of the men, his name is Todd, he’s on the right in the above photo. I told him how I’ve been buying many 4 pound containers of Jelly Belly’s at Costco and I eat a lot of them while reading, and doing jigsaw puzzles, and I also give the containers as gifts. I also mentioned that I eat them to get rid of the bad taste my pain medicine leaves in my mouth because it’s bitter. Todd was extremely kind and he put handfuls of the small Jelly Belly packages in my tote bag so I could keep them in my pocketbook or pockets to have for when they are needed, and for me to share with others. I really appreciate his kindness.
One day when I got back to my camper at about 11:30 a.m., I took a nap and woke suddenly and knew I had to get to the Balloon Fiesta office, I thought it was so I could use their wifi to upload my photos and create a story. When I got to the kitchen to set up my computer there was a woman there eating lunch and a man at the soda machine. He offered to buy a soda for the woman and me. I declined at first, but he insisted. After he sat down with us we started talking. He looked really tired and he said that about a month ago he was diagnosed with cancer and that he is on pills as a form of chemotherapy. It’s zapping his strength and causing him not to feel well along with other symptoms. I knew then that God woke me up and told me to go to the Balloon Fiesta office for a reason. The timing was perfect, a few minutes either way and our paths would not have crossed. I shared parts of my life story and journey with cancer and what I’m going through now with him and I gave him my contact information. He also has a strong belief in God and a positive attitude. I’m so grateful that we were able to talk and share our stories with each other. I know that having someone to share with that has been where I am or going through what I have been through helped me and I have a strong feeling that by sharing together it gave him hope and encouragement. I also loaded some of my peaceful relaxing music and the healing meditation on a flash drive for him. I hope he uses it and finds the peace that it brings to me. Please keep him and his family and friends in your prayers. I told him that I would ask my friends to keep him in their prayers and he said that would be fine.
It rained a few times during the Balloon Fiesta and twice there were full arc rainbows. There were a few afternoons where the sunset was beautiful colors. Geico had a booth on the midway and I had my picture taken with the Geico lizard. One of the mornings when I arrived at the field, I looked at the moon and noticed there was an eclipse and the moon was a reddish color. Other people were looking at the moon too, when it wasn’t trying to go behind clouds. I was told it was called a blood moon and that it was also an eclipse and a rare sight to see. I don’t have a picture because I didn’t think it would come out good in a photo.
On Saturday afternoon I connected with my friends Barbara and Eileen who live near me in Florida and are on a trip with a tour company. They are visiting several National Parks in southwestern states and their first stop was the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. It was nice to see them and spend some time together.
Once again, I was the unofficial crew photographer, I always give Scott a flash drive with all of the pictures I take at Balloon Fiesta and I make sure I take lots of pictures of his balloon being inflated and packed and I try to also get his crew and family in the pictures too. In between, I take pictures of balloons inflating and lifting off of the field. Since we are on the far north side of the field, I don’t get pictures of balloons in mid field or to the south. Now that I am an experienced crew hand I know a bit more about how to help without being told, and what to watch out for as the balloon is inflating or landing. I also learned to always have my gloves handy.
I took way too many photos to post in my album, so I selected pictures I thought would be the most interesting to look at. I took almost 2,600 pictures during my 2 weeks at the Balloon Fiesta event, this photo album contains many of the pictures. This includes the 9 days of the actual Balloon Fiesta, the Balloon Museum album contains those photos. The winds on the last day were too high, so there were no balloons inflating or flying. In fact, Sunday afternoon when we were back in our campers the winds were so strong that not only was my camper rocking, so were others. I was in Mary and Denny’s motorhome and it was rocking too. I shared the photos I took with Mary and Denny, and also a few other people. It’s so easy to get carried away taking pictures, and digital cameras make it so easy.
When deciding whether or not to make the long trip to Albuquerque for the Balloon Fiesta and stopping along the way both there and back to see friends, I wasn’t sure that physically I would be up to the challenge because I was having some physically difficult and painful days for several weeks before I was due to leave town. I decided to make the trip and if I could complete it great, and if not, than whatever I was able to do would be find. Thankfully, I made my furthest western destination Albuquerque. I’m so grateful that I made the trip. Yes, there were some painful days and yes there were some amazing experiences. They all are part of my journey and I’m so glad I made the trip. As I write this post I think about all I would have missed experiencing and the people I would not have met if I hadn’t taken this trip. Once again, I choose to live life to the fullest… that’s all we can do. I still want to cram as much into life as possible until I can’t do it anymore.
On my way east towards Texas, I stopped at the New Mexico Horse Rescue Ranch, Walkin N Circles Ranch to see their facility and check it out for a story on my website, and also to see what they do and what their needs are for the possibility of donating funds to help them. The staff members seem to really care about the horses and the horses get fed proper diets for their condition. It is really sad that animals are abused and/or abandoned. This facility is using hydroponics to grow grasses to feed the animals because not only does it have more nutrients, but it also saves them money if they don’t have to buy grain and hay. As you can see in the pictures, there is no grass growing on this horse ranch, so hay and feed has to be purchased or grown in order to feed the horses. A wagon load of hay costs approximately $5,000 and it lasts almost 3 months. The hydroponic grains that they grow on the ranch feeds approximately 15 or 16 horses. I was told there are usually at least 70 horses on the ranch, sometimes even 100 horses. If you are looking for an organization to donate to, I would recommend this one in addition to others that I mention in previous posts.
After my visit at the horse ranch, I continued heading east towards Texas.