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.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Update For September

Since my last blog post, we’ve done less traveling, slowing down a bit to attend some rallies, get some things fixed, get annual doctor visits (for me) done and just rest. So here’s an update on what we’ve been doing.

We enjoyed serving on Staff for the first time at the Escapade in Gillette, Wyoming and have signed up to do the Volunteer Bureau again next year in Sedalia, Missouri.



After Escapade, we took part in a 4-day VCR Reunion and Workshop at Elkview Campground in Sturgis, South Dakota. VCRs (Volunteer Club Representatives) usually get together every year after Escapade to share ideas and experiences while attending Chapter rallies around the USA and Canada, and to help out with any problems that may arise. We also have a good time together as friends and fellow RVers.


Immediately following that, we moved 10.5 miles to Elk Creek Resort in Piedmont, SD. There we served at VCRs for the Heavy Haulers, a Birds-of-a-Feather (BOF) group of the Escapees RV Club. This is a very specialized part of the club, and for that matter the entire RV world. Members of this group have 5th wheels, and most of them use large trucks to pull them.


I was pleased to see that some of the women also get involved in the technical aspects of truck maintenance, and they do part of the driving. One woman who doesn’t drive was inspired to learn, after several conversations with me and other women who agree that every woman should know how to drive their RV, even if just for emergencies.


We learned a great deal about towing weights and other challenges of this type of RV, and we helped the members resolve some issues regarding their group’s web site and future plans for rallies. And we made a lot of new friends.

Then it was time to take care of some personal business. We spent two weeks at our home base, Hart Ranch Resort in Rapid City, South Dakota.


We accomplished several things on our To-Do list. The broken Atwood jack was replaced by Mid-States RV in Blackhawk, SD, and the leveling system was restored after almost two months of living in an unstable RV. Hurrah! The front thermostat that had quit working was tested, which caused the a/c and heat to also quit working (the service manager denied it was the tech’s fault). The wrong thermostat was ordered (or maybe not ordered at all), so Don ordered it directly from Tiffin and replaced it himself. (We now know not to totally trust the service manager at Mid-States RV.) The motorhome windshield chips were repaired by our friend Jim Rafuse. We got a quote on replacing the car’s windshield and repairing chips in the body, but insurance approval arrived too late to get the work done here.

Toby of Land Roamer RV Service built a temporary support for the sagging floor of our water bay so we can make it to Red Bay, Alabama to have it replaced by Tiffin.


We aren’t thrilled about having to go 1,200 miles (each way) to get this work done, but it’s the only way to avoid having to pay for it because Tiffin is the only place we can get it done free. The company has admitted they used faulty materials for the flooring under the water tanks in several years’ models of the Phaeton and the Allegro Bus, but didn’t issue a recall. And we need some other things done to the coach that we prefer to get done there, too. So we decided to bite the bullet and make the trip there, then return west to our lot in Benson, AZ.

We found time to meet some friends for dinner at the newly opened Texas Roadhouse in Rapid City.


We left Hart Ranch last Thursday to visit Don’s son Craig and daughter-in-law Liz in Laramie, Wyoming. On the way, we had to drive through some heavy-duty construction. It was almost like being in Canada and Alaska again!


It was a nice visit with the “kids” and we’re happy Craig was able to take a little time off work to spend with us.


We were lucky to get a site right beside them, as the big football game between Wyoming and Nebraska took place that weekend on the nearby campus of the University of Wyoming, and the RV park filled up.


We toured the Ivinson Mansion together. This historic home played a significant role in the development of Laramie and fostered the education of many young women while it was used for several years as a boarding school.


We took a day trip to Pole Mountain, a recreation area east of Laramie in Medicine Bow National Forest where Craig and his crew are working to remove explosive devices left behind by the military.


We enjoyed a picnic lunch then looked around for Native American artifacts.


Liz and Craig found a couple of possible arrowhead pieces.


Our drive continued through streams and over sometimes rough roads, to explore the area thoroughly. We got a beautiful view of the area by climbing to the top of an old bunker.


Unfortunately, previous visitors left behind a mess for someone else to clean up.


Don and I visited the Wyoming Territorial Prison, where Liz and Craig had previously been. It was built in 1872 and restored in the 1990’s. Exhibits tell some interesting stories about the early years of Wyoming and some of its convicts including several women and the famous Butch Cassidy.


A broom factory on the grounds shows how convicts helped earn their keep.


We’ve now moved on to Albuquerque, NM where we’re attending the Balloon Fiesta with about 75 other Escapees Boomers. We’ll be posting pictures of this spectacular event in the next few days. Last night we had dinner with some of the early arrivers. Judy and Luke Rinehimer, our leaders, are to Don’s left. They’ve done a lot of work in preparation for this event and are enjoying it for the 8th year!


I’m sorry this blog is so lengthy – there was a lot to catch up on. Thanks for the patience shown by followers during its hiatus. It’s good to be back!