Monthly Archives: October 2017

Willcox, AZ OCT 30, 2017

After an overnight stop in Deming, New Mexico, we said a fond farewell to New Mexico and hello to Arizona.  We really enjoyed our two months in New Mexico and made many great memories, but the weather was getting colder and it was time to move on to warmer weather.  We crossed over the Continental Divide between Deming and Lordsburg, New Mexico, elevation 4,585 ft.  Unfortunately we passed by the sign too quickly to snap a picture.20171030_111505IMG_20171030_101204IMG_20171030_101248

 We knew for sure we had entered Arizona when we started seeing many signs on Interstate 10 warning of potential dust storms.  It seemed every few miles there were yellow dust storm warning signs followed by signs with advice on what to do if you encountered a dust storm. 20171030_110123 

Another way we knew we were near Mexico was when we passed through a border patrol checkpoint on I-10, even though we were really not that close to the border.  They photographed the vehicle as we slowly passed and the border patrol agent waved us through. We didn’t even have to come to a stop.

Our first stop was in Willcox where we stayed three nights at another nice Elks Lodge with electric and water hookups.  Willcox has a population of just over 3,700, a nice little town.  Cattle raising is important here as well as the cultivation of apples, peaches, pistachios, onions and tomatoes.  Willcox is also known for its vineyards.IMG_20171030_173757

On Tuesday we made the forty-five minute drive to Chiricahua National Monument.  This area is also called “Wonderland of Rocks” and was established as a monument in 1924 to protect the rocks. It exceeded our expectations and definitely had the WOW factor!  These lands were once owned by the Chiricahua Apaches who were led by the great Cochise.  Cochise led the Native American resistance to the white man’s advances during the 1860’s.IMG_20171031_132103

Twenty-seven million years ago violent eruptions from a nearby volcano covered the area with white hot ash and formed a twelve mile wide caldera.  The ash cooled and fused into an almost 2,000 foot layer of rock.  Over time erosion sculptured the rock into odd shaped rock pillars.

We stopped by the Visitors Center located in Bonita Canyon and saw a short movie on the area.IMG_20171031_134956


This view is from the sun roof of our car

We drove the eight mile scenic drive where the rocks at times towered above us.  IMG_20171031_140534IMG_20171031_140718IMG_20171031_140831IMG_20171031_141535

We also took two hikes, both on rocky paths and we were glad we had our walking sticks.  IMG_20171031_143153IMG_20171031_143257IMG_20171031_143311IMG_20171031_144011IMG_20171031_143701IMG_20171031_144722IMG_20171031_144608IMG_20171031_144854IMG_20171031_150512IMG_20171031_145047

The views were amazing and reminded us of the magnificent national parks in Utah.  We especially enjoyed the balanced rocks and the grottoes, which are small cave like formations.IMG_20171031_152346IMG_20171031_154033IMG_20171031_155142IMG_20171031_155747IMG_20171031_160311IMG_20171031_160400

Next stop: Benson, AZ

Alamogordo, NM OCT 26, 2017

Leaving Lakewood on Thursday we headed west towards Alamogordo.  We again passed by the pumps pumping oil.  20171022_145029

We had to drive over the Cloudcroft summit, elevation 8,650 ft.  Due to the high elevation and the steep grade on the way down from the peak, we disconnected the car and I drove the car down the mountain.  I was able to snap a quick picture of Bill driving the RV through a tunnel on the way down.20171026_114759(0)

We arrived in Alamogordo and set up at the local friendly Elks Lodge where they have electric, water and sewer RV sites.  Alamogordo is home to the Holloman Air Force Base and much of the city’s industry is related to the Air Base and space travel.

After getting settled in we drove to the nearby New Mexico Museum of Space History. It is appropriate that the museum is here since this area of New Mexico is known as the cradle of America’s space program.  It was not the most extensive space museum we have ever been to, and some of the museum was under renovation and in disarray, but we enjoyed our visit.  IMG_20171026_13585920171026_14072320171026_140819


This is the Elevator

On the grounds was the burial site of HAM, the first “Astrochimp”.  (Previously dogs and other animals had been launched by Soviets and NASA as merely passengers.) HAM was launched in a Mercury capsule on January 31, 1961.  Three months later the first manned flight was launched into space with Alan Shepard becoming the first American in space.   IMG_20171026_142931IMG_20171026_14294420171026_142947

We both enjoyed the Star Trek collection.20171026_150627IMG_20171026_151133IMG_20171026_151047

 Bill was especially interested in the Daisy Track.  It was used from 1955 to 1985 and was converted from rocket to air powered sled track. It was used to study the effects of acceleration, deceleration and impact on the human body of different equipment systems.  It was used for biological and mechanical research and testing for NASA’s Mercury space flights and the Apollo moon landings. It was used to test the idea of seat belts for automobile use.IMG_20171026_151629IMG_20171026_152437IMG_20171026_152827IMG_20171026_152907IMG_20171026_153025

Thursday evening was Wing Night at the Elks and we went over and had some wings in hot sauce, very hot sauce!

IMG_20171027_132702Friday we drove to White Sands National Monument.  Here, rare gypsum sands form beautiful white dunes that rise up to sixty feet above the Tularosa Basin floor at the northern end of the Chihuahuan Desert.  How were they formed?  Basically when the Permian Sea retreated millions of years ago, it left behind deep layers of gypsum fields.  Mountains rose and carried  the gypsum higher. The dunes were created when rain and melting snow dissolved gypsum from the surrounding mountains and carried it into Lake Lucero.  Desert heat evaporated the water, causing gypsum crystals to form.  Dry southwest winds exposed the crystals, eroding them into sand size particles that were blown to form the dunes.  

Today, wind, snow and rain continue the process.  Inches below the surface is water which prevents the dunes from blowing away.  At 275 square miles, White Sands is the world’s largest gypsum dune field.  It is truly like no other place on earth and one of the world’s great natural wonders.  People are allowed to go dune sledding here.  President Herbert Hoover declared it a national monument in 1933.  

We saw an interesting movie in the Visitors Center on how the dunes were formed and are ever changing.  Of particular interest was a description of how the animals such as lizards and rodents have adapted to the harsh, white environment by evolving to a white color to camouflage themselves from their enemies. IMG_20171027_132756 

This can be a surprisingly dangerous environment where it is easy to get lost and lose your bearings in all the whiteness.  A couple years ago a family visiting from France became disoriented on one of the trails on a hot day.  They had failed to bring enough water with them on the hike.  The parents died and their son survived because the parents gave their water to their son.  IMG_1517IMG_1519IMG_1521IMG_1522IMG_1526IMG_1532IMG_1544IMG_1552

We walked on a couple of the easier trails.  In the parking lot of one of the trails we noticed a vehicle with Virginia license plates so of course we had to stop and talk with them.  They were from Henrico County and had been traveling full time in their RV for four months.  We stood in the parking lot and chatted with them for about an hour, sharing our experience over the last four years.  Always excited to meet someone from my birth state.  We exchanged contact information so hopefully we will meet up with this nice couple sometime down the road.IMG_1557IMG_1563IMG_1553

Nearby is White Sands Missile Range where the Trinity Site is located.  It was here on July 16,1945 the first atomic bomb was detonated.  From 1945 to 1949 the German V2 rockets and their engineers assembled and tested their rockets here. In the 1960’s, testing for the lunar module engines that propelled Apollo astronauts off the moon’s surface was done here.  Today the facilities are used for radar, laser and flight research.IMG_20171026_145557

On Saturday Bill helped some men from the Elks replace some electrical power cables.  Some of the electrical outlets at various campsites were not working.  When the men came on Saturday morning to fix them, Bill went out to ask if they needed help.  They accepted his offer so he spent several hours helping them pull power cables underground. Their next step will be to connect up the RV sites to the new cables.

Next up: Willcox, Arizona

Carlsbad Caverns NP, NM OCT 24, 2017

We left Valley of Fires and headed towards Carlsbad Caverns.  We hadn’t planned on visiting Carlsbad but decided since we had some extra days to spend in New Mexico and the Caverns were fairly close, now was a good time.  In November, 2015 we stopped there on our way back home to Florida.  We discovered the elevator was broken and it is a very long uphill climb out of the Caverns if you can’t take the elevator!  We decided to skip the tour and visit another time.  We usually are up for the challenge but back then I had a chest cold and didn’t feel like the exertion it would take to hike out.

Along the way we passed oil pumps pumping oil before pulling into an Escapees RV Park called The Ranch.   Located in Lakewood, it is about 45 minutes from Carlsbad Caverns.  Without a doubt Escapees are the nicest and friendliest people you would ever want to meet.  Immediately upon our arrival, someone rang the big bell outside the office and people starting walking up to greet us and invite us to the afternoon Happy Hour.

The next morning we drove to Carlsbad Caverns which required us driving through the city of Carlsbad.  The traffic was really tedious with lots of traffic lights, none of which appeared to be synchronized.IMG_20171024_091223

Carlsbad Caverns, located in the Chihuahuan Desert of the Guadalupe Mountains, is one of the largest caves in the Western Hemisphere.  It is also one of deepest, longest and darkest caverns ever found.  It is considered to be the Eighth Wonder of the World.

We decided to take the self guided tour and our Golden Age Pass prevented us from having to pay a fee to enter the Caverns.  We did rent a headset in the bookstore with a narrated tour.  We began by hiking 1.25 miles into the cave through the Natural Entrance.  IMG_20171024_095652IMG_20171024_095833IMG_20171024_101434

We descended 800 feet which was very steep in places and gave our legs and knees quite a workout.IMG_20171024_103452IMG_20171024_104302IMG_20171024_120002

The chambers of the Caverns were beautiful, though not as colorful as caverns we have visited in other states.  The prevalent color was brown and it felt drier than other caves.  The highlight was The Big Room, which at 8.2 acres is one of the world’s largest and most accessible underground chambers.IMG_20171024_104318IMG_20171024_115037


The ripples are from water dropping into the pool


This one is called “Rock of the Ages”

Carlsbad Caverns is a sanctuary to several hundred thousand Mexican bats.  During the day they congregate together in a section of the Caverns called the Bat Cave.  As we passed through this area we could hear them.  Since they have started their winter migration, we did not see their nightly flight from the Caverns which can be seen at other times of the year.  Back in the 1800’s settlers explored the Caverns and used the huge deposits left behind by the bats, called guano, as natural fertilizer.  IMG_20171024_110532IMG_20171024_114854IMG_20171024_105122IMG_20171024_115309IMG_20171024_122844IMG_20171024_113549IMG_20171024_113850IMG_20171024_113946IMG_20171024_114210IMG_20171024_114307IMG_20171024_114825IMG_20171024_114907IMG_20171024_124653IMG_20171024_114358IMG_20171024_124844

In the early 1900’s a cowboy named Jim White was the first person to extensively explore the Caverns and led the first tours.  It is hard to comprehend what it must have been like for them to enter such a huge, dark abyss.  Today there are paved walkways and electric lights.  It is  also hard to grasp the labor that went into putting in those walkways and lights.  After first becoming a national monument, it became a national park in 1930.

After spending about three hours walking through the Caverns we took the elevator back up.  We were very happy to see it working this time!

The 1959 movie, “Journey to the Center of the Earth” was filmed here.

Next up: Alamogordo, NM

Valley of Fires, NM OCT 17, 2017

By the time we left Albuquerque we were really tired from all the early mornings and physical exertion from the Balloon Fiesta.  After filling the RV up with propane we headed south to Valley of Fires Recreation Area where we had a very nice electric and water site overlooking the lava fields.  This may be the youngest lava flow in the continental United States, with scientific evidence estimating that the most recent flow occurred 1,500 to 2,000 years ago.  The lava spewed from volcanic vents, covering the valley floor.  Occasionally it would surround areas of higher ground, forming islands called “kipukas”.  Our campground was located on a kipuka.


The campground is surrounded by the lava field


In the lava fields we hiked a very nice paved walkway where we saw lava, in some cases smooth like blocks and in other areas more ropy-looking.  20171020_13162120171020_13181020171020_132151

The lava is more than 160 feet thick near the center and covers over 125 square miles.  20171016_125532IMG_20171016_153241IMG_20171020_132521IMG_20171020_132545

We could see pressure ridges, collapsed lava bubbles, fissures, pits, collapsed lava tubes and rock shelters.  IMG_20171020_13034820171020_131158

We loved seeing all the cacti and plants growing among the lava.IMG_20171016_153322

Valley of Fires is located just outside of the town of Carrizozo, NM.  In the period between 1910 and 1920 it was a thriving railroad town and open for homesteading, with many railroad families claiming their 640 acres of free land.  With the modernization of railroad machinery and the introduction of new diesel engines, the need for the town’s railroad workforce was eliminated.  Today Carrizozo has a population of 940 and the town is showing signs of disrepair.  One of the main streets was used in a post apocalypse scene from the 2010 movie “The Book of Eli” with Denzel Washington.

IMG_20171017_132037We had planned to rest and relax here but we seem to always find things to do wherever we go!  Tuesday we drove an hour north to the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument.  This is made up of three pueblos and 17th century Spanish Franciscan missions.  The missions were abandoned in the late 17th century and the masonry ruins are surprisingly intact.  We first went to the Visitors Center to see a short film and view the exhibits.  

The three ruins, called the Abo Ruins, Gran Quivira Ruins and the Quarai Ruins, are within a thirty mile radius of each other.  Before the Spaniards came, these pueblos were major trade centers, with salt from the nearby salt lakes being an important trade commodity between the Pueblo and Plains Indians.  Between 1630 and 1680, Franciscan missionaries and Spanish colonists came and built churches using Indian labor and forced their religion and way of life on the Native Americans.  Drought, famine, disease and Apache raids were devastating on the Pueblo people.

IMG_20171017_133633First up was Quarai.  Here are remnants of church walls and remains of what was once a bustling Indian pueblo and Franciscan mission.  At one time the square was surrounded on three sides by blocks of stone houses three stories high.  Over 600 people hunted, farmed and traded goods and salt from nearby lake beds.  The first stone houses were built here around 1300.  By 1677, Quarai was deserted.20171017_13401420171017_13460220171017_134714IMG_20171017_135155

IMG_20171017_142306Next was the Abo Mission.  When the first Spanish priest walked into Abo in 1622, nothing would ever be the same for the Native Americans again.  Life as they knew it changed forever.  Artifacts uncovered from this area included a ceramic candlestick, mother-of-pearl cross and stone effigies all telling the story of conflicting religions.  We saw a large kiva, which is an underground meeting chamber for conducting religious ceremonies, teaching children, telling stories and weaving.  20171017_14271320171017_143008IMG_20171017_143044

The Franciscan priest supervised the construction of the massive church using Pueblo labor.  The walls were sandstone held together with mud mortar and plastered white with gypsum on the inside and whitewashed adobe on the outside.  When it was completed in 1651 it resembled the fortress churches in Mexico.IMG_20171017_142755

Last up was Gran Quivira, the largest of the pueblos.  At one time it was a village of more than twenty masonry house blocks and between 1,500 and 2,000 people.  There were approximately 300 rooms and six kivas.  They occupied this area for over 900 years.IMG_20171017_152715IMG_20171017_154304IMG_20171017_15442420171017_154902

20171018_131635Thursday we drove a short distance to the Three Rivers Petroglyph Site.  The Jornada Mogollon people carved more than 21,000 designs of humans, birds, animals, fish, insects, plants and geometric shapes in the basalt of the Three Rivers Valley in over 50 acres of the northern Chihuahuan Desert.  This area is one of the largest rock art sites in North America.  We followed a trail, somewhat challenging at times, through the desert looking at the petroglyphs and keeping a vigilant watch for rattlesnakes. 20171018_135949 

Thankfully we didn’t see any, but Bill did see a rattlesnake crossing the road across from our RV at the campground!  We only have a few pictures to show you because the pictures accidentally got deleted when transferring from the camera to the laptop.  Oh well, stuff happens sometimes!  

Here is a link to the BLM site where you can see some petroglyph pictures located at Flickr.

On Saturday we drove 45 minutes to Ruidoso to have lunch with Bill’s cousin Julie and her daughter.  Bill and Julie had not seen each other for 35 years!  We had a nice time catching up.IMG_20171021_145412

Next stop: A visit to Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Albuquerque Part 2, NM OCT 14, 2017

As I mentioned in the previous blog, Bill’s college friend Peter and his wife Beth flew in from Florida and joined us for several days in Albuquerque.  Besides the Balloon Fiesta there were other things to enjoy in the area.00000IMG_00000_BURST20171014150352_COVER
One afternoon we went to the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History.  This is the country’s official museum for the history and science of the Nuclear Age.  They have replicas of Little Boy and Fat Man, the world’s first two atomic weapons.


The Trinity Test Tower. At 5:30 a.m. on July 16, 1945, Los Alamos scientists detonated a plutonium bomb at a test site located on the U.S. Air Force base at Alamogordo, New Mexico, some 120 miles south of Albuquerque.

They have exhibits on atomic theory, the Cold War, pioneers in nuclear science, uranium processing, facts about radiation and nuclear medicine/ medical technology.  We saw a movie about the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos about the design and testing of the nuclear bomb.  Outside were several planes, rockets, bombs and missiles.IMG_20171012_13231320171012_153936PANO_20171012_160821IMG_20171012_160938IMG_20171012_16101220171012_153807IMG_20171012_153345IMG_20171012_153053IMG_20171012_135248

Another day we all went into Old Town Albuquerque for lunch and wandered through some shops.IMG_20171014_152926IMG_20171014_150438IMG_20171014_150505IMG_20171014_132808IMG_20171014_132827

Bill and I visited Albuquerque in May, 2015.  You can read about our visit here.

It was fun to catch up with the Wienermobile outside Peter and Beth’s hotel!20171012_130750

Many of you have commented on how much you enjoyed the Balloon Fiesta pictures in the last blog. There were way too many pictures to post in one blog.  Here is a link to more Balloon Fiesta pictures if you would like to see more.

Next stop: Valley of Fires, New Mexico for some rest and relaxation

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, NM OCT 7, 2017

All year we had been anticipating and looking forward to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.  On Wednesday we arrived at the Balloon Fiesta RV park across the street from the balloon grounds where we camped for twelve days with the Escapees Boomers RV Club.

Balloonists come from all over the world to fly here.  An atmospheric effect called “The Albuquerque Box” makes precision flying possible.  The “box” is a set of predictable wind patterns in the Rio Grande Valley beside the Sandia Mountains.  Pilots launch into cold surface winds from the north and ascend into winds from the south which allows balloonists to take advantage of the winds to change direction by varying their altitude.  Balloons cannot be steered so there is no control over where they fly, but pilots can change their altitude and take advantage of the wind in different wind layers to control their direction.  They like the challenge of using the Albuquerque Box to attempt to launch and land in almost exactly the same spot.  Few balloonists achieve this feat.

Friday morning we got up at 5:00 A.M. to go with a group of Boomers to a local elementary school.  We met a balloonist who was going to launch a balloon from the school so the children could watch.  Since it was 7:00 A.M., we assumed this was a before school care program.  This was our introduction to hot air ballooning as we watched him launch his “Alley Cat” balloon.  

Friday afternoon during Boomer Happy Hour we were given our pilot assignment for the week.  We had a choice of signing up to crew for a limited number of days or the entire week.  In our excitement we bit off more than we could chew by signing up for all nine days of the Fiesta!


The Balloons Are Required To Hang A Navigational Light

Saturday morning we got up at 5:00 A.M. and took the shuttle bus from the RV park over to the balloon field.  As we entered the park we could see the Dawn Patrol, several balloons which go up each morning to test the weather conditions. In order for the balloons to fly, visibility has to be no less than 3 miles, clouds not below 1,500 feet and winds no faster than 10 knots.  

The Balloonmeister will postpone or cancel flights if the weather conditions are not right.  Likewise the pilots may decide not to fly if the winds are too light.  Sounds a lot like Goldilocks’ porridge, doesn’t it!  For that reason, if you want to attend the Balloon Fiesta and have a good chance of seeing  balloons launch, you need to come for several days.  Each morning the pilots have a briefing before they meet their crew on the field.  We met our pilot Layne from Jefferson City, Missouri.  There was one other Boomer to help us.  With no training other than having watched the pilot on Friday, we hit the ground running.  It is hard work.  The balloon and wicker basket has to be placed on the ground.  Both are very heavy.  The balloon is taken from the bag and spread out on the field.  IMG_20171007_072856

A fan is turned on and a person stands on each side of the balloon and holds the mouth of the balloon open while the balloon fills with air.20171006_065932

Another person holds the crown line which stabilizes the balloon both during inflation and later during deflation.  Once the balloon is full of air, the pilot uses burners to blast hot air in the balloon to finish preparing it to launch.  20171006_070557

One of the “zebras”, who are the Launch Directors in black and white outfits, gives the okay for him to launch.  Every morning just after dawn there is a mass ascension where up to 550 balloons are launched in two waves which takes about two hours.  Some mornings we were in the first wave and other mornings we were second wave.  20171012_093749

This allows the 550+ balloons to launch safely in the crowded sky.  What was amazing to us is how close they allow the massive crowds of people to get to the balloons on the field.  There are no barricades keeping the crowds away.  You can walk right up and watch any balloon being launched.  IMG_20171014_083717

In fact the pilot might even ask for your help.  It is the only hot air balloon event in the world we know of where such open access occurs.IMG_20171008_075213IMG_20171008_075723IMG_20171008_083210IMG_20171010_074723IMG_20171014_074723IMG_20171014_082837IMG_20171014_090006

Once the balloon is launched, a chase vehicle needs to follow the balloon to help with the deflation and storing of the balloon and basket once it lands.  Bill was asked to drive the chase vehicle which was difficult since we don’t really know the layout of Albuquerque!  But Bill did a great job and the pilot had a cell phone to notify us of his location if we lost sight of the balloon.

Once the balloon landed we had to get the air out of the balloon, roll it up, put it back in the bag and load the basket on the back of the van.


The View From Our Campsite

Saturday evening we went back and did it all over again for the Saturday evening “Glow”.  This is when the pilots inflate their balloons and they all fire their burners at the same time.  The balloon light up the night sky, a beautiful sight!  20171013_18560120171014_080856IMG_20171007_193326


Bill was taught how to do the crown rope, probably the most strenuous job because you have to keep the huge balloon stabilized as it fills with air.  

We were really tired by the time we caught the shuttle bus back home.  It was then quick baths and hurry to bed so we could get up the next morning at 5:00 A.M.  Fortunately this was the only nightly event our pilot participated in and the only two launches in one day we had to do.  I don’t think we would have been physically able to do many two launches a day.20171012_181408

On the first Saturday they launched eight gas hydrogen balloons which raced each other across the country over a course of several days. These balloons are trying to break distance and or time records.IMG_20171007_175019

In the nine days of the Fiesta we helped launch and put away the balloon seven times.  It was hard getting up each morning at 5:00, being out in the cold and using muscles we hadn’t used so strenuously in awhile.  A couple times the balloon launches were canceled due to wind.  We still had to report to the field by 6:30 A.M., only to find out the launches were canceled.  Most mornings it was really cold.  The first morning I thought I had enough clothes on, but I didn’t, and just about froze to death.  From then on I wore two long sleeved shirts, a light jacket, a heavy winter coat and three pairs of socks.  Once the sun came out we needed to shed the layers.

One day our pilot landed in Indian territory.  The Native Americans really dislike balloons landing on their land.  If that happens the chase vehicle has to call a number and wait for an Indian escort to the balloon.  The pilot and chase car driver have to fill out forms provided by the Native Americans.  There were some days pilots didn’t fly because the winds were blowing toward the Indian reservations.

Several days they had Special Shapes Day when huge balloons in different shapes were inflated.  At night when the special shapes were all lighted it was called a “Glowdeo”.  

Bill especially enjoyed the Star Wars balloons and one evening they had different Star Wars characters and Bill had his picture taken with several of them.  20171013_18431720171013_184703IMG_20171010_074715

The last evening of the Glowdeo the wind was strong and the balloonists were struggling to get the huge balloons inflated and tethered.  We were standing next to two of our favorites, adorable boy and girl Mexican balloons.  They were huge and the balloon owner had a mariachi band playing.  Suddenly one of the tethered ropes of the Mexican girl balloon broke and the balloon with the pilot in the basket went soaring through the night sky.  The crowd gasped in alarm, it was really quite scary to see.  We were all concerned about the safety of the pilot and where he would land in the dark and windy night.  It made the local news that night and we learned the pilot was safe.IMG_20171007_193822

Each night at the end of the evening they had a laser show and fireworks.IMG_1439

On Wednesday Bill’s college friend Peter and his wife Beth flew in from Florida.  This was their fifth time to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.  They stayed at a nearby hotel and joined us for each day’s events.  They also agreed to help us crew our balloon which was a big help!

On Thursday Bill went flying with Layne and I was able to go flying on Friday, the 13th.  It was both Bill’s and my first hot air balloon ride.  It was amazing!  So smooth you could hardly tell we were moving and the views were amazing.  The hardest part was climbing in the balloon!20171012_08072620171012_08074520171013_082505IMG_20171012_082608IMG_20171012_08274720171012_083836IMG_20171013_082314IMG_20171013_090647

During the Balloon Fiesta commercial balloonists were charging $350 per person for rides.  Every time you entered the field for the morning or evening events it cost $10 per person.  In exchange for helping our pilot we each received a free ride and free passes for the week to all events.  We estimate helping crew saved us over $1,000.  They also had a Pilot Picnic for the crew.  We thought they were having hamburgers, hot dogs and beer.  I decided not to go so Bill went with a Boomer friend parked next to us.  Turns out they had steak, chicken, potatoes, green beans, Caesar salad, strawberry shortcake and all the mixed drinks or beer you wanted.  That will teach me to turn my nose up to hot dogs and beer!

Besides saving money, we also had a great experience learning all the ins and outs of launching, piloting and landing a hot air balloon.  It was hard work, cold and getting up really early was difficult.  The traffic is beyond crazy and the crowds huge.  It is such a big event in Albuquerque they close schools on Thursday and Friday of Fiesta week so children can attend with their families.  We would do it again, but next time we probably won’t volunteer to help the entire week, but would gladly help for several days.  Attending the Balloon Fiesta and riding in a hot air balloon had been on our bucket list for some time.  Now we can check it off!

On the last day we told Layne goodbye.  He sent us a Facebook request and posted a nice comment on his wall about what a big help we had been to him.  Nice to know he was pleased with us rookies.IMG_20171012_104224

Next up: More about our time in Albuquerque with Peter and Beth. It wasn’t all about the Balloon Fiesta!

Hot Air Balloon facts:

  • Joseph-Michael and Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier invented hot air balloons in 1783 in France.  They discovered if a lightweight paper or fabric bag was placed over a fire, the hot air made the bag rise.  They built a balloon, and a duck, sheep and rooster were the first passengers to fly in a hot air balloon.  They flew almost two miles in eight minutes.
  • The first human passengers flew in a balloon built by the Montgolfier brothers on November 21, 1783.  They flew over Paris for 5.5 miles for 25 minutes.  Today November 21 is known as Montgolfier Day.  (By the way, our pilot Layne made his own balloon.)
  • Hot air balloons usually do not fly in the rain because the heat on the inside of the balloon when combined with the rain on the outside of the balloon can damage the fabric.
  • Burners on hot air balloons produces enough air to heat almost 200 homes.
  • A hot air balloon rises because the temperature inside the balloon is warmer than the temperature outside.  The average temperature inside a hot air balloon is around 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • The average height of a hot air balloon is approximately 90 feet tall, the height of a nine story building.IMG_20171008_084336
  • The Balloon Fiesta launch field is almost 80 acres, the size of 54 football fields.