Saturday, November 15, 2014

Dancing in a Balloon, 2014

     I'm really not sure how to describe the Balloon Fiesta.  There really aren't words.  I'll fill you in on what we did, but then post several pictures to hopefully give you an idea of what it's all about.  We arrived at the Fiesta grounds on Tuesday, Sep 30.  It was about a 4 hour drive from Show Low.  The Boomers were all parked together, facing a very popular balloon landing site, about 1 mile north of the launch field.   The views of the balloons landing were awesome.
Our rig is in the corner.

The first week was mostly getting to know the grounds.   On Thursday, we all walked over to the launch field and attended a crew safety video.  Following that, we all received the coveted crew pass that gained us free access to all the launch field events.  Normally these cost $10 each in the mornings and $8 each for the evening events.    Mornings of course are the launches and competitions.  Evenings are the glows.
Laying the envelope out and starting the fan.
Opening the throat of the envelope for the fan.
Fan blowing cold air into balloon envelope to inflate.
Pilot Mike Liberti checking the balloon envelope.

Friday most of us met and followed the Liberti family to vacant lots in Rio Rancho, (northwest Albuquerque), where they were going to launch their 3 balloons.  This gave us an opportunity for hands on training and more explanations of how to assist in launching and later in landing.
Hands on to keep balloon on the ground.
Letting go!!!
We're Off!!!

The body of the balloon is called an envelope and it lays out flat on the ground.  Ropes connect it to the basket, which is on it's side at this point.  Then a very large fan is positioned by the basket and aimed at the balloon.  One person on either side of the throat, holds it open and the cold air blows into the balloon and starts to inflate it.  One person does nothing but control the fan,  All directions are given by the balloon pilot and crew chief.   One, two, or three people hold the crown line (a rope going from the top of the balloon to the ground.)  The crown is attached to the envelope with velcro strips all around the opening.  The pilot pulls this open when landing.   When the cold inflation is adequate and when given permission by a launch director (Zebra), the propane burners are lit and the balloon "goes hot."  The balloon rises into a vertical position and the basket goes upright as well.  The pilot will usually ask for "weight on" at this point and the crew lean onto the basket with their weight, so it doesn't take off before the pilot is ready.  Final checks are made, any passengers are loaded, and off they go.  Al the evening glows, everything stops here and the propane burners are lit intermittently to show off the balloons.  A regular balloon uses a crew of 5-7, but a large special shape balloon can require 20-25 people for a crew.  Crowd control is always part of crewing, since in Albuquerque, the public is allow right up  next to the balloons.

The following pictures are from Gary's flight.  He flew during one of the mass ascensions, so with over 500 balloons in the air the sights were amazing!!!
Zebra discussing take off with Pilot.

Launch field as they rose up.

Another balloon flying by.

Launch field from higher up.

Lots of other balloons up in the air.
I could print so many pictures, but this is really one instance where seeing is believing.  You can see why this is the most photographed even in the world.  The views are constantly changing as the balloons inflate and take off.  Then the sky is changing as the balloons move around it. 
Stagecoach and Dairy Cow Laid Out to Fly
Crowds and Balloons!
Zebras Getting Ready for Launches.
Dairy Cow taking a bite of Yoda.
Busy Bees
More special shapes inflating.
Dawn Patrol Getting Ready to Fly
Note shield on the firefighter's hat.

More & more balloons!!!
Firefighters flying their flag.

All in all, we  had a marvelous time.  The early mornings rising wasn't bad and the one day we took off from crewing, turned out to be a perfect day for the balloons to be landing all around our rig.   Even if you don't get us, you hear the shuttle bus on its many rounds and the burners on the balloons flying overhead or landing outside.  Then you don't want to be in bed!  For those of you who are you tube fans, check out the 2014 time lapse video.  You can see a two hour mass ascension in about two and a half minutes. 

Another fun adventure happened when friends Kathy and Chuck met us on the field and took us to "Tim's Place" for breakfast.  Tim had Down's Syndrome and has defied the odds, having his own business and serving delicious food and hugs.

We also visited the Petroglyph National Monument while in Albuquerque to get an earthcache on International Earthcache Day
A Geocache of course!
After leaving Albuquerque, we drove back to Show Low and spent one more week packing up for the summer.  Then it was down to Casa Grande, where we will spend  most of the winter.   We're looking forward to our winter friends arriving and all the park activities.  Since swimming is no longer a daily routine, we're doing daily morning walks of 1-3 miles.

We'd love to see anyone traveling in Arizona this winter, so give us a holler if you're close by, say within a couple hundred miles.  We're enjoying the new-to-us rig we got last year and viewing our beautiful desert.

I  hope you enjoyed our Dancing in a Balloon,
Hugs, Katy, Gary, and Bandit