04 October 2014

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

At last we are here after months of anticipation. My sister, Marla, joined us from FL in her RV.

Today, Saturday 4 October,  is the official first day but we have been here since Wed with the SKP Boomers, a sub-unit of the SKP RV Club.  There are 40 Boomer rigs here and many of them have been here before which is helpful. We are in a field across the street from the Fiesta grounds along with 1800 other RVs,

Like most of the Boomers we have decided to volunteer as crew dogs for the balloon launches.  After several, too many it seemed, meetings about safety and procedures and how to get lined up with a balloon pilot and his crew chief  today finally arrived at at 0530 we headed over to the launch field in the dark.

We linked up with a pilot from Tampa FL which was strictly coincidental!  The morning dawned beautiful. Sky was clear and winds were at 3 knots at ground level.  At 1,500 they were stiffer but that is higher then most go apparently.  So Ron, the pilot, said sat her up.  And about 40 minutes later the zebra gave him a thumbs up for launch and away he went with 2 VIP passengers! We jumped in the chase truck and started tracking him and after a 30-40 minute flight we caught up with him in a shopping center parking lot in ABQ!

Of course he was one of only about 600 balloons that launched this AM from the Fiesta Field.  What a site.  And it is all managed by zebras, officials in black and while striped uniforms.  You do not move a balloon without their direction.  The balloons launched in waves from one end of the field to the other starting before sunrise and continuing for several hours!

Just look!

Some of the first to launch.  They are illuminated by the propane burners!

A few more standing up!

These will be ready to launch soon. It is about sunrise!

The next wave is standing up!

Starting the inflation process with the fan at lower left!
 I had always wondered how they got these hot air balloons inflated to start with. Now I know. They have a fan driven by a small gas engine and several people hold the throat open and the fan pushes a lot of air into the envelope (what us pro's call the balloon)! After most of the balloon is full of air the pilot lights the burners in the basket which is laying on it side and it heats the air inside the envelope!  As it heats the envelope "stands up"!
You then are ready to launch - when the zebra gives thumbs up!

Ready for lift-off!

Some of the balloons in the air!  Ours is in there somewhere!
And here he comes down in the parking lot!

Back on the ground!
Packing up the envelope!
Post flight celebration is mandatory!

The launch field is nearly empty when we get back!
This event is a very family friendly event as kids of all ages were all over the place.  The kids collect Balloon Cards as each team has business size cards with the specific of their balloon!  We are really going to enjoy this event I know.
Volunteers frequently get a ride in the balloons as a reward for their efforts.  BJ, nor I, were really interested in that aspect. I prefer motor driven air vehicles!!  But on Friday during our training sessions (a special training event for Boomers, because they have been such great supporters over the years) BJ got an unexpected opportunity to take her ride!  She came back smiles from ear to ear!  Because we were there for training we did not have one of the too many cameras with us.  But, another Boomer did and when I get those pics I will post them too!  

Always at home, no matter where we are!!

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