Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

It’s been an exciting and busy 10 days during which the Balloon Fiesta took place. I was busy every one of the 10 days. I got up about 4:15 a.m., yes that is correct, 4:15 a.m. That gave me enough time to get dressed, get down to the balloon field, eat breakfast, and meet my pilot Scott at the far northwest corner of the field. The field is the size of 84 football fields. I walked a lot of miles the past 10 days.

Here is a link to Album 1 of my Fiesta photos   Here is a link to Album 2 of my Fiesta photos.  I am only allowed to have 2,000 photos in a Google Photo Album, so there are two different albums.  When I get wifi and time permits, I will add photos to this story. It may be when I get back home. Until then, you can look at the pictures in these two albums.

I took about 2,200 pictures during the Fiesta. This year there were lots of balloons I didn’t see in previous years, and there were many new and different special shape balloons. There were a few days of questionable weather and the morning flights were either delayed or cancelled. A few of the afternoon glows were also cancelled due to the weather and high winds. Even if the balloon glow was cancelled, the fireworks still went off. They were really awesome. There were five nights of fireworks. Three nights I watched them from the top of the hill where my camper was parked. One night I was on the field and watched them from near the grid we just had the balloon glow in, and the other night I was on the field I watched them next to where the speakers were for the music and not very far from where the fireworks were set off. There was also a laser light show each night of the fireworks. Watching them close up and listening to the music was the best way to experience the firework show!!!

This is the fifth year that I have been at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, and the first year that I really have taken time to experience the entire event. In the past years, I crewed on a balloon and then if I was needed I went on chase crew to retrieve the balloon and if I was not needed I worked shifts at the Balloon Discovery Center. The row just south of the row we launch from are all of the large ride balloons with larger than usual balloon envelopes. Once they go up it’s very difficult to see anything past them. Right after they launch, our balloon launches. So in past years I rarely got to see the other balloons, including the special shape ones. Unless I saw them flying.

This year since I had about 200 volunteer hours before Fiesta began, I didn’t need to work much if at all during Fiesta. Most of the days there was enough chase crew so I didn’t have to go out in the truck to retrieve the balloon and pilot. So, I stayed on the field and walked around the balloons that were inflated on the field, or taking off, and of course also the ones flying overhead. I got to walk close to the balloons and take lots of pictures of the special shape balloons that I have loved to see over the years, and also the new ones.

On Thursday morning I was walking around taking pictures and I stopped at the balloon called Norman who is a serpent on a balloon. My friends Mary and Denny crew for Debbie who owns this balloon and also one called No Worries. One of Debbie’s friends stopped by and wanted a picture with her, so I put my camera in my pocket, so I thought, and I went far back to get a picture of them with the balloon showing Norman, and then a closer picture. After I gave their camera back, I reached into my pocket to get my camera and it wasn’t there. I searched all of the pockets on my cargo pants, and the pockets on my sweatshirt jacket, my other jacket, and my vest. I couldn’t find my camera. I looked all around the area I was just in and no camera. I was not happy, this is a new Canon camera I bought, it’s just a point and shoot but still a good camera. If I had to lose something, it was better to lose a camera than my phone.

I was going to go to lost and found and report my missing camera. One of my new friends here is the deputy security person, and also a Fiesta Board Member. He happened to stop by where I was walking as I walked to lost and found. I got into his golf cart and as we were driving something fell to the floor of the golf cart. I looked down, and there was my camera. I have no idea where it fell out of, but I was very grateful and relieved that I had not lost my camera. I thanked God and the angels and Universe and was very grateful that I still had my camera. It must have been in the lining which I thought was a pocket? I have no idea. I couldn’t feel it when I searched for it and emptied my pockets looking for it.

Other than that it was a pretty uneventful Fiesta. Before it began, I had a leak in a fuel line between the gas tank on my camper van and the generator mounted underneath the chassis. I was parked in the officials lot and I saw a puddle under my camper near the rear tires. I bent down to see what is was and when I touched it I knew it was gasoline. I called a RV friend and told him what it was and that I found a hole in the hose. He came over to get me and we went to an auto parts store and bought what was necessary for him to splice the line and make the repair. I was very thankful that I noticed it before Fiesta and that it was a fairly easy repair.

I took lots of pictures once again for Scott, the pilot I crew for, so that he and his crew and their families could have these pictures of them together. Since everyone is busy inflating or packing the balloon they aren’t able to take many pictures. When we have enough crew I seem to be the official crew photographer and I give them a flash drive with all of the pictures I take every year so they can have them. This year we had a few days that were pretty windy, so some days we tried to inflate but didn’t stay up long. Or we just stood up for a while so the public could see a show of the balloons and a glow. Some of the balloons caught the wind and had to come down quickly.

Overall, it was a great event, even with the not always cooperative weather conditions. Some mornings the temperatures were in the low 40’s which the pilots like. They can fly their balloons at a cooler temperature which is better for the fabric of the balloon envelopes and they can fly longer. This year it seems due to the winds that most flights were short ones.

I got to go up one day and we flew about 10 or 15 minutes. We landed in a parking lot not far from the balloon field. Due to the winds, and the fact that our chase crew was not at our location when we landed, which was not their fault, we landed soon after we took off and they had to try to determine where we were going to land and then navigate the traffic to get there, we had a pretty hard landing. Thankfully, none of the three of us in the basket nor the balloon was damaged. When we hit the ground my knees hit the inside front of the wicker basket. Then I crouched down and turned so when we bounced again I would hit the padded propane tank. Paul the other passenger held on to the basket and tried not to fall on me, Scott the pilot was holding on and trying to keep me from falling out of the basket and not to fall on me.

We finally stopped and got out of the basket while it was still dragging a little bit from the wind blowing the envelope. Thankfully, none of us was hurt and I’m glad all of us were experienced and it wasn’t our first ride or rough landing. I took a picture of the track we made when the basket touched down and dragged. Paul said it was about 100 yards. Shortly after we landed another balloon came down near us and we caught their basket so they had a pretty smooth touchdown. It turns out it was the first time flight for the passengers in that balloon. A little while after we were down our chase crew arrived and helped us pack up the balloon. Then we drove back to the field.

Being at Fiesta is a wonderful experience. Every year I get to see friends from previous year and meet new people that I become friendly with. This year one of the tasks I worked on before Fiesta was calling people on a waiting list to tell them Gondola Club tickets opened up if they wanted to purchase them. During Fiesta I went to the Gondola Club for dinner and I sat at a table and talked with a man named Tex that was sitting there. He told me he was from California and that he won the trip to Fiesta, a balloon ride, tour of the balloon museum with Troy who flew a balloon over the Pacific Ocean last year with a man from Russia. Tex told me how excited he was to be at Fiesta and how he won the trip by donating to a charity. He said he really wanted to attend a Gondola Club session but they were sold out and he was on a waiting list for three months and a few weeks ago someone called him to say there were tickets available. I told him I was the person that called him and it was really great that I could see how much it meant to him that he could have this experience.

I will get a photo album posted sometime, hopefully soon, but I’m not sure when. I am using a computer in the Fiesta office to write this post, I don’t know if I can create an album from this computer and I don’t have wifi where I am parked in the RV lot. I will leave here in a couple of days and head back east. I think I will take my usual route through Texas and Waco and across I-10 back to Florida. I was going to take I-40 across and go through Tennessee, South Carolina, etc., but the weather is colder that way and I want to avoid cold weather if possible. It’s about 2,400 miles back home and I think it will be a challenge. My pain is getting more intense, especially in the morning which may impact my driving times. I will see how it goes as I travel back. When I need to stop I will.

I most probably will stop in Waco to visit my friends there for a week or so, then stop near Jacksonville, Florida, to see my friends there as I travel back home. I will add photos to this story as soon as I can. Since I can no longer use Picasa to create an album and I have to figure out Google Photos it may take a while to get it figured out. I think I was able to properly create two different photo albums of pictures I took during Fiesta.

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