The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta had been on my bucket list since I heard about it several years ago. I finally made it and I’m so happy I did.
After Mike flew home, Sandy and I went to the Balloon Fiesta and parked with the Escapee’s Boomers group in the RV parking area along with 50 other rigs. Jesse and Cheryl, and John and Darius, friends from Sacramento, also parked with the Boomers. The Boomers have attended the Fiesta for many years and they provide crew for the balloon pilots. I signed up to crew despite the fact it required getting up at 4:30 am for the morning flights.
My first chance to crew was for Albuquerque Aloft. This is an event the balloon pilots conduct for the elementary schools in Albuquerque. The pilots take their balloons to the school grounds and the children go up in the inflated, tethered to the ground, balloons. I have never seen so much joy in one place as I did that morning. The students also learn about the physics of ballooning. After the students all went up, the pilot asked me if I wanted to go and I said yes! After all, the balloon was tethered to the ground and I felt safe. It was a surprise to me that you don’t feel like you’re rising and you don’t feel any wind because you are moving with the wind. You don’t feel anything! It was pretty exciting. I was told that if you crew with a pilot, you do well and they like you, they often invite you to go up at some point.
I also crewed for Miss Bell, a special shape balloon. It was a GIANT Liberty Bell! The weather did not cooperate so Miss Bell never flew and I didn’t get a chance to fly either.
One morning I didn’t crew and slept in a little only to be awakened loud sounds right over my rig. I recognized the sound of the giant propane burners, which meant there was a balloon right over my rig. I threw on some clothes and ran outside. The wind direction blew the balloons over the RV parking area and they were landing amongst the parked RVs! It was quite a site!
The Balloon Fiesta is a visual feast for the eyes. So many balloons and colors! Balloon pilots come from around the world to participate in the Fiesta. My favorites were the “glows” and the special shapes. A normal shaped balloon is like flying a eight story building. The special shapes are even bigger! Here’s a few photos to give you an idea of what I saw at the Fiesta.
The motto for the Boomers is, “Boomers just wanna have fun!”, and that’s exactly what we all did! I loved spending 12 days with old friends, new friends and the awesome experience the balloons provided. Getting up at o-dark-hundred every morning was totally worth it! If I ever find myself near Albuquerque in October, I will definitely attend again.
After the Fiesta I moved the rig to the Albuquerque Elks Lodge. I wanted to see more of the city and be near an airport so I could conveniently fly to Oregon to visit friends and then to Norfolk, VA to be with family for Thanksgiving. The Lodge is only a couple miles from Sunport (ABQ). This made it very convenient to fly to Oregon and Virginia.
I flew to Medford, Oregon and visited Ralph, Malia and Mary Jo and Mike. It was beautiful Fall weather and the trees were bursting with color. Ralph relocated from Sacrament to Cave Junction, Oregon last year. He bought a house on a private lot in a very small town. Ralph had a nice surprise for me when I arrived. He prepared my favorite childhood meal of chicken, peas and mashed potatoes. It was great! Malia and I took in the Fall colors in Lithia Park in Ashland. Ashland is a favorite of mine. It is known for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It has a beautiful outdoor theatre in which to see Shakespeare plays. It also has a few other theatres that have a variety of non-Shakespeare plays. Ralph’s good friends Bill and Chris live in Eagle Point, just outside of Medford and came over for dinner. And of course there was a drive to the ocean on a beautiful, sunny day. I had a great visit!
After my return from Oregon I had a couple weeks before flying to Norfolk, VA for Thanksgiving with family. My nephew Kevin and his family moved from Yuma, AZ back to Yorktown, VA. I will surely miss them when I get back to the Southern Arizona desert.
Then it was time to fly to Norfolk for Thanksgiving. I flew in and most of the Florida contingent drove 12 hours from Port St. Lucie. We rented an AirBnB condo. My first AirBnB and is wasn’t a great experience. But it did let us spend quality time together over the holiday. It was all fun and games until I got the creeping crud from the kids. We all had a great time and I’m glad I went. Over the years I haven’t been able to spend many holidays with my family. Now that I’m semi-retired and have flexibility I can spend more time with the family.
During the time between fly out trips I took in the sites around Albuquerque. I visited Old Town, the Bio Park, Nob Hill, the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and the Dragon Lights Festival.
Old Town Albuquerque is reminiscent of town plazas in Mexico…duhh…oh yeah…it was Mexico. I picked up a new cowgirl hat and had a delicious lunch.
The Elks Lodge is on the border of the Nob Hill neighborhood and is the location of the University of New Mexico campus. Great restaurants, bars and shops with which to weil away the hours!
The Bio Park is located along the Rio Grande River near downtown Albuquerque. It consists of a Zoo, a Botanic Garden, Aquarium and Tingley Beach. I visited the Botanic Garden and the Aquarium.
New Mexico is home to 19 Indian Pueblos. The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center was founded in 1976 by the 19 Pueblos to preserve the Pueblo cultures and educate visitors about the Pueblo way of life. Puebloans believe that from the beginning they were given knowledge that would guide their existence. This knowledge centered on core values of love, respect, faith, understanding, spirituality, balance, peace, and empathy. They believe they are given gifts from Mother Earth and Father Sky and they are the designated caretakers of these gifts. I absolutely love this! The Center if full of history, art, artifacts and painted murals. I was surprised to see contemporary art too. Here’s a couple of my favorites.
Once I returned to Albuquerque I attended the Dragon Lights Festival produced by a company from San Francisco. It is a display of large- than-life lantern displays. Each lantern is handcrafted by a team of artisans from Zigong, China. The lanterns are silk covered wire sculptures lit from within. They were beautiful!
In early December it was getting much too cold for me. One morning there was actually snow on the ground! Albuquerque is the same elevation as Denver. In fact, the lowest altitude in New Mexico is 2800 feet, with most of the state much higher. Therefore, it’s not the best place to be in the winter if you’re chasing 70 degrees like I’m supposed to be! I enjoyed my time in Albuquerque very much and it was time to go. So I packed up the wagon and headed south on I25!
And I now know how to spell Albuquerque!
Next stop Socorro, New Mexico.