With a nod from mother nature, on the last day of the Fiesta pilots were cleared to proceed. By the dozens they floated into the dawn sky, a wonderous sight to behold!
At the Fiesta, divisions disappear. No borders, no religion, no politics. Only balloon enthusiasts from all over the world gathering to share their passion and to defy gravity. This being the 40th Annual International Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque was ready with crowd control, transportation, lodging and other events to entertain visitors from afar.
Evening brings the balloon glow. As the sun sets behind the Sandia Mountains and the Albuquerque sky dons shades of scarlet, the bands play and spectators arrive. The pilots proudly light up their balloons. Soon after the fireworks begin.
THE STORM TROOPERS JOINED THE FESTIVITIES
We hooked up with our friends, Marlin & Peggy, who were camped in their RV at the Fiesta fairgrounds all week. They travel with a group of “Lazy Dazers” and caravan all over the U.S., Canada and Mexico. We met them for dinner at the Tomato Cafe, and parked near their RV for the Fiesta.
We viewed the farewell ascension from our car in a parking lot near the Highway. Hundreds of colorful balloons filled the morning sky. In Albuquerque there is what they call a box wind effect where balloons ride the wind currents n one direction, rise to a different air current level and ride back in the direction they came.
As the balloons land they have a myriad of obstacles to avoid: buildings, power lines, fences, etc. And then their retrieval crew must get to them. Residents take this into stride as balloons land on their property.
Balloons come in dozens of creative shapes.
Many balloons are sponsored by companies for advertising purposes.
Here is the Wells Fargo Coach.
How can Albuquerque host this successful event year after year? “It is our endless community spirit, excellent flying conditions, wide open spaces, festival atmosphere and undying camaraderies that bring pilots and fans back.”
WITH THE FIESTA OVER, THE FUN HAD JUST BEGUN. WHAT A SURPRISE WAS AHEAD!
From Albuquerque we drove to Gallup and set up camp. The camp host informed us that some of the balloonists were going to launch the next morning from Red Rock Park, only a few miles from Gallup. We set our alarm and arrived at the park about 6:30 a.m. There they were, getting their rigs together and looking for help.
THE TARPS WERE SET OUT:
GROUND CREWS UNFURLED THE BALLOONS
Alan helps unfold the balloon, almost getting pulled off the back of the truck. Hard work!
BLOWING AIR INTO THE BALLOONS WITH LARGE FANS, THEY START TO INFLATE.
AND THEN THEY BEGIN TO RISE!
THE SUN IS FINALLY
WE WORKED ON THE GROUND CREW FOR COLIN GRAHAM’S BALLOON. HE AND HIS WIFE LIVE IN YUMA.
AS THEY BEGAN TO RISE HE THREW HIS KEYS TO ALAN AND ASKED HIM TO TAKE HIS TRUCK AND RETRIEVE THEM WHEN THEY LAND. THEY WERE OFF!
Imagine riding air currents above the red mesas of Indian country, silent, magic, uplifting..
Racing through the backroads Alan finally spots Colin, his wife, and balloon floating in for a landing.
They hit the ground softly.
The balloon, basket, etc. are all packed into the truck. Meanwhile, several other balloons land in the area and await their retrieval teams.
As the drama comes to an end, we bid farewell to Colin and wife. They head home to Yuma and we set off to Flagstaff by way of the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest.
Looking out over the Painted Desert
The Painted Desert Inn was constructed of petrified wood. From 1947 to 1963 the hotel was run by Fred Harvey. It is now a National Historic Landmark.
The Petrified Forest: Trees turned to stone. They are a sight to see. There are many stops on the road to view these ancient trees and walk among them. There are two visitor centers and a museum with interpretive displays and movies.
The road between the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest crosses Route 66. There are no campgrounds in the National Park but nearby is the town of Holbrook where you can stay in a teepee. We also saw a nice RV park on the road to Meteor Crater.
As this portion of our trip comes to an end, I’d like to share a favorite photo with you. We passed this sight several years ago and since then had lamented many a time that we did not stop and take a photo. It is located near Farmington. Finally we got our picture!!
We are off to Flagstaff and looking forward to dinner at a favorite restaurant: Black Barts. Here the wait staff entertains with opera and contemporary tunes. It is located right in the campground across the highway from Little America.
And a word for a favorite vendor: When we get to camp, Alan checks out the neighbors to be sure he has the tallest flagpole and the most lights. We fly different flags and windsocks which make it easy to see camp when you are in a sea of RVs. Helps the grandkids too if they are along. My favorite is the kokopelli windsock *below.” The company is called polesandholders.com. You can order your pole on line!
It’s a guy thing. The camper with the tallest pole wins.