Albuquerque, New Mexico.
A common sight over the city, the hot air balloons are airborne on those many calm air mornings. Known for the annual Balloon Fiesta in October, when our family reunion was held last June, one of the attractions mentioned was a balloon ride over the city. This would be our second balloon ride ever as in 2002, at a previous Albuquerque reunion, Lynn and I took our first aerial balloon experience (and still have the champagne glasses to prove it.)
The members of our family were even involved in helping the crew set up and put away the balloon. Above, my grand niece, who was supposed to be holding the edge of the balloon open while it was being filled with air grabbed a quick photo of our pilot, Murray, while he inspected the balloon’s interior.
The inflation starts with a gasoline powered fan (lower right) just blowing air into the balloon. Once there’s enough air to support the top of the balloon, the pilot starts heating the air so the balloon eventually rights itself.
Soon we were all loaded and we lifted off. Another balloon from the World Balloon Company also launched that morning, a few minutes behind us. The two balloons traveled on slightly different routes but eventually end up landing in the same vacant field where the two chase vehicles and trailers were waiting to load up the balloons at the end of the flight.
At one point, we settled down over the Rio Grande River. We did not touch the water, though the pilot said that on days when the wind direction matches the direction of river flow, a touch is possible. When they are in different directions as they were on this day, there is a chance of tipping the balloon. We were appreciative that we didn’t get an early morning dip in the river.
At one point, the pilot brought out a large bubble wand and a couple of passengers amused themselves by launching a bubble brigade.
We flew over many neighborhoods in the city. On our 2002 ride, we were mostly out in the country. The ride over the city is much more interesting as the scenery below is so varied.
You never know what you might see in someone’s back yard. Dogs in the yards didn’t hear us coming until the pilot fired the burner. At that point, they typically went into defensive mode, barking, running around the yard or otherwise protecting their homeland. The goats above, though, didn’t seem to care much.
Like I said, you never know what you might see from the air. I don’t know who feeds this dinosaur, but he must eat a lot…
After too little time in the air (actually a bit over an hour), it was time to land. We landed upright with a bit of a bump, but relatively gentle. Murray assisted the passengers as we all left the basket. We all then piled into our chase vehicle and returned to the launch site for the traditional glass of champagne, a history lesson about those first balloon flights in France and to receive our individually signed flight certificates. I captured many photos on our ride, far too many to include here, but I am including a much larger gallery than usual. On most browsers, click on an image to enlarge it and to scroll through the gallery.
Murray is a friend of mine! I volunteered with him at the APD while he was still commander. And I’ve been to the balloon fiesta numerous times. I also crewed with a pilot back in New Jersey decades ago – and I got to go up once. It was one of the biggest thrills of my life!
Yet another one of those “small world” experiences! Cool.
How cool that you got to experience this once in a lifetime opportunity twice! Yet another chance to live vicariously through your blog, for this as usual I thank you. 🙂