Borrego Springs, CA

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Sunday Blast from the Past

On October 8, 2008, I arrived at the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I would be boon docking on the fairgrounds with other Escapees attending the HOP (Head Out Program).

The next day, I would be able to check off one more thing on my Bucket List. I got up before 5:00 and was waiting outside the rig for the shuttle bus by 5:30. It was quite a challenge to find where I was supposed to be, but eventually I got there just in time. There were thousands of people out and about in the pre-dawn darkness. It is said that the Balloon Fiesta is where the breakfast burrito was invented.

By the luck of the draw, I was assigned a balloon with only four passengers. I was elated about that. Some of the balloons had as many as 20 passengers and had to stand three deep in the gondola. With only four, we each got an unobstructed view for the ride. We headed for the take off field where hot air was being blown into the balloons to get them ready.

The hardest part of the flight was getting in and out of the gondola. There is no door as I thought there might be, so we just had to climb over the side to get in or out. It helps to be flexible, but longer legs would have been an advantage. ;)

Anyway, as the balloon began to lift up straight, I got a little nervous as the gondola began to sway. It was only momentary, though, and we soon began to lift off. What a thrill that was! As we began to gain altitude, it was marvelous. There were about 75 ballons in the process of leaving the ground and we were one of the first. What a sight it was. We drifted over the Fiesta grounds and I could see all the Escapee rigs parked below.
This is the view straight up with the flame maintaining the hot air. It would blast on periodically as the pilot determined. In between blasts it was serenely quiet floating along.

As we got higher, the winds changed and we drifted back over the grounds again. We crossed the Rio Grande River (in the left bottom corner), and kept going.

While we were in the air, the pilot was in continuous contact with the earthbound chase team. He would let them know where he was going to land, and they would arrive with the van to pick us up.

The pilot chose an intersection in a residential area and set the balloon down softly exactly where he said. We all climbed out and grabbed a hold of the gondola. It did not turn over until we were all out. Such was not the case for other balloons. Some gondolas tipped over upon landing and the passengers fell like so many bowling pins. We created quite a stir in the neighborhood, and several folks came out in their pajamas to watch!

After helping to pack up the equipment in the van, we all returned to the launch field for the customary glass of champagne. What a grand experience this was!

The next morning, the winds had shifted and the balloons in the mass ascension had to take off from the middle of our rigs. What a site that was. We all just stood outside our rigs and watched as the sky filled with a rainbow of balloons.

This will be my last 'Blast from the Past' because a few weeks after this I started this blog. I've enjoyed reminiscing; hope you've enjoyed it too.

Thanks for stopping by....talk to you later, Judy

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