Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta 2014

I've promised to tell you about balloons.  Bear with me a moment. I'll get there. Here's a balloon picture to keep your interest...

Wait! There's other things to do in Albuquerque, too?

Yes, indeed.

Thursday night we stayed at at RV park in Albuquerque.  Showers, laundry, and full hookups.  Is this place nice or what?  Continental breakfast?  Now that's a new one!

Friday morning we made our way over to our Camping World rendezvous.  Giddy with excitement, we caravanned over the the Balloon Fiesta field in groups of 20.  We had never seen that many Airstreams in one place. "Mom, are you crying?"

By the time we left for our lunch reservation, I'd met two people who wanted to "hear me talk." (What?!)  They were both quite disappointed I didn't have a southern accent.

Lunch at the base of the Sandia Tram was delightful and afforded us the "best view in Albuquerque." While quietly eating our lunch no less than 4 tour buses showed up to ride the tram.  Yikes!  It was a unanimous decision not to spend 2-3 hours of our trip waiting for our turn on the tram.  Instead, we headed over to the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History all the while practicing our southern accents in the car.  We're not very good at it. Maybe we need to watch more TV?

This museum was great for the completely geeked out Samuel and Brian.

This kid is in his element; he told me he had memorized half of the periodic table.
This was the perfect place to test him. He had them right.

 There were some interesting things for us girls to look at but after about an hour we were having trouble relating to this museum.  Finally, I had an idea.

I asked the girls: Why did the US enter WWII?
girls: Pearl Harbor. (That's easy to remember;  we've been there.)

Who was president when Pearl Harbor was bombed?
girls: F.D.R.  (We've been to the Little White House in Warm Springs, GA.)

When FDR died at the Little White House who became the president? 
girls: Harry Truman. (We've been to his library and house in Independence, MO.)
Do you remember that Harry Truman gave the order to drop the Atomic Bomb? 
girls: Yes.
Well, the Atomic bomb was tested here. Right here, at White Sands!
BING! Finally connecting the dots!

Time for Balloon Fiesta, at last!
Before dawn, helicopters circle overhead measuring winds.  Like ants, people move toward the fiesta field from all directions.  Buses and buses arrive filled with passengers. Families appear on bikes.  Something exciting is about to happen.  You can feel it.  Five hot air balloon glide across the sky in the darkness, it's dawn patrol.  We stop staring long enough to get dressed.  Then, we head down to the field for mass ascension.

"Mom, are you crying?"

Then a brisk walk back to watch them fly over our trailer.

My great aunt and uncle from Illinois are in town for the Fiesta, too. Fancy meeting you here!

Then the daily Balloon Fiesta dilemma: Take a nap or explore Albuquerque?

It's hard to turn down an opportunity to explore.

Outside Petroglyph National Monument a local artist told us about his craft as he sculpted pottery seemingly without effort or attention.

The 2.2 mile Rinconada Canyon trail was only reopened recently.
What an interesting place! The hillside is covered in petroglyphs. The five of us would stand in one spot and pick out different pictures.  Visiting at various times of day the light would allow you to see a completely different set of petroglyphs.

The National Monument volunteer told us he had never seen a rattlesnake.  I guess that makes Annabelle really lucky? 

Back to the fiesta field for evening glow.  Amazing!

"Mom, are you crying?"

After the glow fireworks lit the field.  We walked past the vendors toward our trailer, not wanting the night to be over.  We stopped to say "hi" to one of the vendors, an Atlanta based company.  "You're from Atlanta?" Did we want to see the brand new food truck? (Um, sure?)  It was one cool truck, a semi outfitted for disasters.  I forget how many sandwiches she said it can make in an hour.  She told us the funniest thing, too.  New Mexico wants chilies on their Chick fil A! 

Sunday morning it was too windy for the balloons to fly.
What a strange experience to see the Fiesta field crowded but the skies empty.

It can be somewhat frustrating to get dependable information about fiesta events that were changed/postponed because of weather.  Once, we tried the "information booth."  When information they gave us was errant, we renamed it the "misinformation station."  The most reliable way to find what was going on was to physically go down to the field and look.

Finally a decision was made to inflate the balloons (too windy for takeoff though.)


We found a balloon and watched the inflation process.

Suddenly the winds, they were a changin'!

Clearly they weren't the only ones having problems.  Look at the pictures above and below.  There's not too many balloons still inflated in the second picture.

No mass ascension afforded us the opportunity to get our hands on a balloon, it was fun to help pack up.

Making our way back to the trailer we noticed a couple of people struggling to folding up a large balloon.  Having just folded a balloon we asked them; "Do you need help?"  They stopped what they were doing and handed us cards with a picture of their balloon on it.  (Hu?  That was a weird reaction.)  We looked at the balloon card.  Brazil!  Their balloon is from Brazil.  They don't speak English.  We asked again if we could help them, this time with hand signals.  Their answer was a resounding Yes!  They wanted our help and needed it too.  Such a big balloon and a truck with no lift!

Heave ho!

 Shortly after this we heard the announcer say "Elvis has left the field."

Sunday afternoon's gas balloon event, "America's Challenge," was postponed due to wind.

So, what's next?  Nap or adventure?

You guessed it.  We walked across the parking lot to the Balloon Museum.  Our docent lead us around the museum and engaged us with many interesting stories. Balloons were used in WWII. Did you know?

 American Gothic Balloonists?

Back to the trailer in time for an Airstream doggie parade.

The girls are especially fond of sweet Tilly and walked with her in the parade.

See that pretty balloon on the right, it's called "Fired Up, too!"
It's the same balloon we helped pack in the morning.

The kids got to stand in the gondola.

Who's that fuzzy headed kid with his hand on the switch?

Monday morning we made our way to the back of the Fiesta field.

Fired Up, too! was operating with a small crew and allowed us to help.  Did we want to chase?  Of course! Annabelle and Sabrina are minding the fan while I help hold the envelope open.

"Going hot!"

They're off!

It's the closest one on the left.  Don't lose it.

Still see it?  Follow that balloon!
Oh wait! Is that a whale over there? A balloon shaped like Speedy?  Hey, I don't remember seeing that neat balloon before.  Yikes!  It's easy to get distracted.

I have no pictures of packing up the balloon.  You know.  Cause we were busy.
It landed in the RV park across the street from ours.

Nap or Indian Pueblo Cultural Center?

There's no photography in the museum.  An indigenous family performed traditional song and dances.  Photographs were permitted but taking them just didn't seem respectful.  Again, "Mom, are you crying?"

No balloon glow was scheduled for Monday evening; instead, we had Monday afternoon naps (finally.) Late afternoon, Airstreamers wandered out of trailers.  A table was laid out and soon covered with food.  Sometimes the impromptu potlucks are the best kind: crackers and cookies, pigs in a blanket with pecans on top, salsa and chips, all kinds of goodies with an amazing Sandia mountains sunset backdrop.  (A scene easily overlooked during balloon glow.)

After dark, sometime between 9:30 and 10 pm Brian and I wandered down to the fiesta field to substantiate rumors the gas balloons might take off.   We saw seven balloons, a hydrogen truck, and lots of generator powered lighting; the prospects looked good.  While waiting we talked to the two other spectators (a hot air balloon pilot and friend) who explained many things to us with great patience and detail.

Balloons started inflating at 10:30 and our balloon pilot docent left shortly after. (He wanted to stay but had to wake up at 5am for his next balloon flight.)  A little later two seasoned balloon chasers came to spectate with us.  Aside from the balloon crews, families, and balloon officials the four of us were the only spectators.  What a privilege to see "America's Challenge" even if it was the middle of the night.  It's the only place to see gas balloons in the US.

Here's Tuesday morning's balloon pictures while I ramble about New Mexico. 

Do you know your state bird?  State song?  Does your state have a state question?  New Mexico has a state question.  It's "Red or Green?"  The question refers to chiles of course.  Like a good tourist we've been eating chiles our entire week in NM.

Tuesday morning we had breakfast burritos from our favorite vendor one last time.  The state question came. Instead of answering right away I asked a question back.  "Which one is hotter?"  Much to my surprise he said "green."  So, it turns out I've been eating "green" all week because I thought it wasn't as hot.  Hahaha!  I guess we'll have to go back and try that again.

More than breakfast burritos I'd been eating carne adovada all week.  I first noticed this strange word on the menu at Carlsbad Caverns.  I asked what it was and then decided to order it.  She asked "Do you want cheese on that?"  (Yes?)  I answered the same way all week but the questions were different.  Do you want potatoes on that? (Yes.)  I'll take whatever it is one typically eats on this strange and delicious carne adovada.  By the way, can I get some to go?  As in, can I get some to go so I can eat it back in GA all the time?

That's the trouble with travel, no?  You get to eat new and different things but don't get to have them back home.  Often, I find myself pining for loco moco (Hawaii) derby pie (Louisville), beignets (New Orleans), burnt ends (Kansas City), popovers (Maine)  and now I'll just add carne adovada to the list. 

Our friend's truck drinks diesel.  No problem.  We'll take your generator gasoline leftovers.

Our last view of "Fired Up, too!"  Look close.  It's high above our trailer.

Samuel said "I never knew why it was the land of enchantment until I went."

New Mexico: land of enchantment, magnificent, inspiring, radiant, seductive, you are the "land of tears" to me.