September Happenings… and Hot Air Balloon Experiences

It’s been a few weeks since I last updated my website, because I didn’t have much to write about. Mostly, for the past few weeks all I have been doing is reading books, working on jigsaw puzzles, and having lunch with my mom or friends.

This is the time of the year that I would be in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In September and October 2011 and 2012 I posted stories and photo albums of my time in New Mexico in the Photo Gallery and Blogs. New Mexico is a very interesting place to visit. In September 2011, I visited Acoma Sky City which was built on top of a mesa over 700 years ago, Tent Rock National Monument, and the Albuquerque Zoo and BioPark.

The Albuquerque International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta begins the first Saturday in October for 9 days. I wanted to be there for so many years that after I retired I made it a priority to have that experience. It was extraordinary to stand among the balloons as they were being laid out preparing to be inflated, watching them be inflated, and lifting off. It’s beyond description. I miss being there, but I know that it’s not possible. However, I have been looking at the pictures I took the past two years when I was there, and I found a few short videos of when I went up in the balloon, so I’ve been watching them. In case you are wondering, it’s not scary being up in the air in the balloon. The minute and a half video I made of us lifting off and going up in the balloon is too large a size for this website. So, here are two of the short videos where we are flying over the balloon field during one day of competition. Pilots have to drop a 6 inch ring over the top of a pole coming up several stories in height from the field. It takes a lot of skill to get close to the posts. My incredibly skilled pilot Scott, who is also a really nice guy, came really close but missed it by an inch or so. MVI_5883   MVI_5882

Just so you have an understanding of how incredible it was that my pilot Scott got so close to the post to drop his ring, I want to give you some information to help you understand the skill it takes for this competition. During the regular mass ascension of the hot air balloons they lift off from the balloon field which is the size of about 84 football fields. During the days of competition, the pilots participating in the competitions have to go at least 1 mile away from the field. They have to determine what directions the winds are blowing at various levels so they know what direction they need to drive to with their vehicles in order to be in the proper location for flying their balloons, once inflated, towards the field.  Then they have to inflate and wait until they hear on their radio that they are permitted to begin the flight towards the balloon field. Then they lift off and begin the navigation to fly over the field and drop the ring on the poles. They have to take into consideration the direction and speed of the wind which changes at different altitudes since that’s the only way to navigate their direction. Then they have to navigate around the other balloons that are also trying to do the same thing. Sometimes someone else’s balloon gets in the way, and then even though you are close, you may not be able to get close to the target and might not have a chance to try. Or, when you are flying towards the field the wind conditions are not right and you can’t even get close to the field. It takes a lot of skill, patience, and concentration.

Imagine starting 1 mile away and getting within inches of the pole. They only get one chance to get close to the field and posts. Once they pass their target there is no way to go back and try again. In addition, when the pilot pulls the gas burner that makes the balloon go up, or open a vent so that it goes down, it takes several seconds before the balloon responds. There are other competition events including some where the pilot has to drop a bean bag with a piece of fabric on it from the air and have it land on a target on the ground. Points are given for the various events, how close they come to the targets, and generally if the weather is good then the competition is for  days. Here are a few videos of when I went up the first time. I had the good fortune to go up twice in 2011, once on field and once off field, and once in 2012 from off field. MVI_5673 MVI_5710 MVI_5714 MVI_5729

Here is a link to the webcams and time lapse balloon videos and pictures.


Big Blue, Pilot Scott Esposito

The balloon I crewed for is named Big Blue, and is owned by Scott Esposito who works for the Albuquerque Fire Department. When I met Scott and crewed for him in 2011 and 2012 I had no idea that in 2013 my life would take a new direction that would include fire departments. Crewing for a balloon pilot and being on the chase crew is great fun, and lots of work, but well worth it. I also enjoyed my time volunteering in the Balloon Discovery Center informing the people coming into our tent about various aspects of hot air ballooning. I got to meet people from all over the world. The volunteers who work more than 7 shifts earn a Balloon Fiesta jacket that we get the following year. Last year it was a nylon jacket with a zip out lining and it was embroidered on the back with hot air balloons. Every year the theme and jacket is different. I worked 14 shifts last year, and since I can’t be there this year, they sent me my jacket which is really cool. It’s a denim jacket, sort of a Levi’s style. Here is a picture of the back of the jacket they are giving this year. It’s very different than jackets they gave in previous years.  It also has a flannel lining so it will be very warm. It gets pretty cold during the balloon fiesta.

IMG_1453In addition to the regular spectacular colored balloons there are many special shape balloons. Every year there are new shapes in attendance. Here is a link to the special shapes balloons.

Feel free to check out the balloon fiesta website at There are time lapse cameras showing balloon inflation and liftoffs, photo galleries, and much more to explore, especially during the event when new photos will be added to their photo gallery by professional photographers.

My friend Pam and I made a decision this past Saturday to not continue with one of the puzzles we spent many, many, hours on. It got to not be fun working on this very challenging puzzle. We had it sorted by colors, and so many of the pieces we couldn’t tell if they were sky or mountains. The golds we thought were part of the barn or house were part of the golden grass in the foreground. Since I have other puzzles that we think would be more fun to do, we abandoned this one. We did however put the pieces we sorted into colors into separate baggies, and the pieces we had put together we tried to leave them intact in sections so it might save whoever puts it together some time. Here is how far we got before we took it apart and a board with some of the sky and mountain pieces so you could see what I meant by similar colors. I’m giving the puzzles I’ve done to others so they can have fun putting them together.

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Here are some pictures of additional puzzles we completed, these were great fun, because of the colors and unusual shapes of the puzzle pieces. However, the chocolate piece puzzle was very challenging, but still lots of fun, especially since I love chocolate.








The newest puzzle we started is fun to do. It’s an old style newstand with magazines, newspapers, and candy bars. In about 1/4 of the hours we spent on the farm scene puzzle we got lots farther and we had fun sharing memories as we looked at the types of candy bars and headings on the magazines and newspapers.


If anyone likes to read, and wants to read a very interesting book series, it’s called The Sisterhood Series by Fern Michaels. There are 22 books in the series. I would recommend starting with the first book and then reading them in order. This series has it all… a bit of sadness, but mostly humor, suspense, spying, drama, and comedy. As the series progresses, it gets more involved and additional interesting characters are added.  You can go to Fern Michael’s website,, and read about this series. I didn’t know it when I read the series, but I recently went to her website and saw there are 2 new books in the series bringing it to 22 books. I also noticed that she has a page with pictures of what the characters look like and a bit about each of them. When I read the books, I just used my imagination of what they looked like and it worked just fine for me. Now, looking at the pictures on Ms. Michael’s website, I didn’t picture the characters looking like the pictures she posted of them. This is not a series just for women, especially as the series progresses. When I was on the road traveling, I would swap out books at various campgrounds and somewhere along the way I picked up a book which it turns out was one of the last books of which I found out is in the Sisterhood series. I really enjoyed reading that book, so I went online to the county library and downloaded all the books, a few at a time, and completed reading them.

I want to thank everyone who is sending me cards, notes, and emails. Your kindness is greatly appreciated. Everyone is so busy, and yet you make time in your busy schedule to let me know you are thinking about me and keeping me in your thoughts and prayers. Many people I don’t even know are sending me cards. Evidently, there are groups of people all around the country that are sharing my website, and what I’m doing, with others and they are so inspired or touched by my story they let me know what it means to them. Thank you again.

Since I can’t be traveling anymore, I sometimes watch a travel show on the computer. It’s called Motion with Jeff Aiello and it’s on Live Well Network. Jeff travels to National Parks and other interesting places. Sometimes, he is exploring places I have been such as the Redwood Forest, Glacier National Park, Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Mesa Verde National Park, and others. Sometimes, he explores places that I wanted to go to but didn’t get to such as Alaska, Yosemite National Park, Olympia National Park. When I watch his show, I get to see not only places I have not been to, but I also get to see different sections of the parks I visited, that I didn’t get to explore.  Here is a link to the webpage. 

Thursday, September 26th, will be my 63rd birthday. Wow!!! I never expected to still be alive for this birthday. Even my doctor is surprised. God still has another plan for my life. When I was watching the July 4th fireworks, I was thinking this is the last time I will be around to watch the July 4th fireworks. Now, I’m not sure. One of the things I wanted to do, but didn’t get to, was to see the Macy’s July 4th fireworks in person and not on television. They have the best fireworks show, and I try to watch it every year on TV.

As for a health update, I think the tumor is still growing, but maybe not too quickly. From feeling the size of it, we are guessing it’s between a baseball and softball in size now. When I first noticed the tumor last September, it felt like it was a bit larger than a golf ball. It’s been giving me some more sharp pains every now and then. My organs are feeling sore on the inside again so they are probably being pressed against my ribcage again. This causes them to be bruised, then they seem to heal and not hurt, then when they get compressed some more because of changes in the tumor, they get sore again. I’ve had to increase the amount of my pain medicine and it makes me more groggy than the lesser dose did.  Since I can’t drive after I take my medicine, I do my errands and go to lunch or do whatever I want to do in the mornings and early afternoons since during that time I seem to be relatively pain free. The pain seems to start mid-afternoon and into the evening and early morning hours. So, I take my medicine when I get home in the afternoon. Then it doesn’t matter if I get tired and take a nap. I’m still totally at peace about my health situation, and whenever God decides my time here is over it will be okay. I’ve been so blessed and grateful that I have had this extra time to make memories with my friends, make lots of new friends, and reconnect with friends from years ago.

When I decided to retire in June 2011, I knew that since I wanted to travel and live full-time in my camper van that I would be selling my condo soon. When I got back to Florida after my 2011 trip, I knew it was time to downsize and sell my condo. So in February 2012, I either gave almost all of my possessions away, or donated them, and I sold my condo. Material possessions are not what’s important in the grand scheme of life. What freedom to not have so much “stuff.” Life is so much more simple. I’ve learned how little I need to live. I can get by with a pair of jeans and a few t-shirts for a week. When I lived in my camper van for two years, I had really limited space and realized that I had way too much stuff for many years. Less is better and it makes life so much more simple. Now that I am living in an apartment, I took things out of my camper and I still only have mostly basics. Still probably more than I need, but I haven’t bought hardly anything. I like to keep it simple and basic. A great thing about giving things away now is that I can give them to people that need them, or that I want to have them. Giving possessions away allows me to give them often to people in person and give friends something to remember me by that they will enjoy.

I received a letter this past week from someone in my high school class, they are having our 45th class reunion this coming weekend in New Jersey. I graduated from Kinnelon High School, Kinnelon, New Jersey, in 1968. I am not able to attend, but I did send my best wishes. I reconnected with Maggie the classmate that wrote to me. We had not talked in 45 years and when we talked on the phone for over an hour, catching up on life, we talked like old friends. What a special gift to reconnect with her.  I’ll look forward to seeing the pictures and hearing about the reunion. It’s hard to believe it’s been 45 years since I graduated high school. Boy have I changed since then… I think for the better.

I’ve learned over the years, and especially the past ten or so years, what is important in life. It’s how I interact with others and the memories I make with them. It’s about leaving the world a better place because I was here. It’s how I will be remembered after I am gone and knowing I made a positive difference in the lives of others. Over the years, probably due to health issues and losing lots of people I loved, that I became more peaceful and realized what is really important. What a gift and blessing it is to be able to inspire others to live their dreams and to help change their lives.

I’m really excited, tonight is the season premier of NCIS and NCIS LA. These are my favorite shows, and now that I have a television, even though I only get a five channels one of which is CBS, I can watch these shows when they are on, rather than watching them on my computer a few days later. Early this summer I didn’t think I would still be alive to watch these new episodes, but now I can. What a great gift… I’m excited to see what’s going to happen. One of the things I had on my bucket list that I did not get to do was to go watch an episode of NCIS and NCIS LA being filmed. However, being able to watch the shows on TV is almost as good.

If I was able to complete my entire planned trip this year, part of my route went through California where among other things, I was going to explore Yosemite National Park, and try to go see the Ellen Show and the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. In case you are curious, the other things on my bucket list I didn’t get to complete were going to Alaska, and seeing the Northern Lights. I want to see Alaska, but not the tourist parts of Alaska, I want to see rural Alaska. So, the next best thing is watching shows about it on the Internet. I can’t complain about what I didn’t get to see or do. I did so much more the past three years than I had on my bucket list, or even dreamed about seeing and doing. I pretty much did everything on my bucket list, and even experienced more than I had on it. I saw places that I didn’t even know existed such as Golden Spike National Monument where the east and west coast railroads met. I got to camp in Hells Canyon near the Washington Idaho border, and so much more. Not only did I get to have these amazing experiences, but I am able to share my experiences and pictures with others through this website.

Here are updated photos of my door poster.

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Have extraordinary day, live life to the fullest, and thank you for caring about me and reading my website.

My friend Lois told me many times that I have to take care of myself because if I don’t I can’t do what God wants me to do.  So everyone, please take care of yourself so you can do what God wants you to do. That means eating, resting, taking time to do things for yourself. Be kind to yourself, not just others.

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