Friday, September 30, 2011

Pre-Balloon Fiesta Days

We’ve enjoyed our first few days in Albuquerque since arriving on Tuesday. We’ve learned a lot about hot air balloons and the activities associated with getting the equipment ready to fly so gracefully, and also what happens when the balloon returns to earth. Without going into a ballooning tutorial, I’ll share some highlights of these activities, as well as some of our friends who are sharing the experience.

Our hosts, Judy and Luke Rineheimer, are parked on the right in their Horizon motorhome. You can barely see the nose of our Phaeton, the fourth motorhome. Others in our group are parked in an L shape (behind me), and along the line below as far as you can see, with a total of about 40 RVs, with almost 80 members of the Escapees Boomers. We have a bird’s-eye view of the landing field, where many balloons will be coming down at the end of their flights.


It was exciting to see the first few balloons flying overhead.


Judy (in pink shirt and white hat on left) is our Go-To Gal for information about volunteering to help on balloon crews.


On Thursday, we attended an orientation video, then signed up to be crew members.


We then checked out the location for our assigned balloons to be launched.


This morning we got a chance to practice what we’d learned. Two balloonists and their families went to the Douglas MacArthur Elementary School to demonstrate how a balloon is prepared for flight.

First, all the equipment is unloaded from the truck or trailer carrying it. The envelope of the balloon is removed from its bag and laid out across the ground.


Volunteers help spread it out.


Don helped hold the throat open while the balloon was inflated.


When fully inflated, the balloon’s envelope was attached to the basket, and the propane burners were lit to warm up the air.


The warm air caused the envelope to rise, lifting the basket.


About that time, the wind changed and made the envelope start to flatten out.


The pilot decided to abort the effort, pulled the ‘red line’ to allow the air to escape out the top and deflate the envelope.


A few minutes later the wind calmed down, so the pilot tried again. This time, the balloon fully inflated and rose upright.


Soon it was Up, Up and Away!


Because of the ‘squirrely’ wind, the other balloon didn’t make it into the sky.


We helped with the one that flew, then chased it across town where it landed in a vacant lot.


We walked the balloon and its pilot to the street and down to a cul-de-sac where we learned how to deflate and pack up the envelope, basket, burners, and other equipment.


After handshakes and hugs in thanks for the help, we returned back to our RV parking. About noon, Don’s son Craig and his wife Liz arrived and parked with our group.


We took them to view the crew orientation video and helped get them signed up for crewing. Then we enjoyed happy hour with the Boomers. Some of the group found a source of free T-shirts during the day, and modeled them for us. It looks like I’ll have to go shopping again!


Our friends Frank and Gloria King stopped by to say hello and met Craig and Liz.


After dinner, we’re calling it an early night so we can get up very early for our next crewing experience tomorrow.


  1. What a fun thing to do. We'll be looking for more from the fiesta! And then will we see you in Columbus?

  2. Looks like a lot of work to get those balloons in the air and down again. But what FUN!!

  3. Looks like fun and a lot of great colors. I'm not sure I'd want to go up in one of those things though!


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