Saturday, October 15, 2011

Don’s Balloon Ride, Amarillo and Oklahoma City

We all enjoyed the last day of the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, especially Don because he got to ride in the balloon! The rain had ended and the weather turned sunny and perfect for flying. As he climbed into the basket preparing to launch, I don’t think Don’s grin could have been any bigger!


Up, up and away!



As they rose above the launch field, Loren took this picture, capturing the expression of awe on Don’s face.


Craig drove the chase car as we kept track of the balloon flying WNW over Albuquerque. We were able to reach the point where the balloon landed only a minute or two after it touched down.


While packing up the envelope, we celebrated with some cold refreshments. A friendly neighbor took this picture. From left, Pilot Luc Goethals, Crew Chief Loren Goethals, and the volunteer crew: Bill (last name?), Craig and Liz, Don and me.


During our time parked with the Escapees Boomers at the balloon landing field, we held an auction of donated items to raise money for our favorite RV charity, Escapees CARE (Continuing Assistance for Retired Escapees). The auction took place twice, as it was rained out the first time. Below, Chuck Moore braved the storm as auctioneer, while Judy St. Croix (on left) described the metal balloon sculpture she created that was being auctioned off. Don’s son Craig bought it, as one of the last items sold before a big wind came along and forced us to pack up and take cover inside our RVs.


A few days later on Sunday afternoon the auction resumed. We enjoyed a beautiful, sunny day, and I bought the other metal balloon sculpture that Judy made. Here, we show off our purchases.


On Monday we said goodbye to friends and family and departed Albuquerque after our memorable 2 weeks there. We stopped overnight in Amarillo, TX where my cousin Ann Warren and her son Robert drove down from Dumas to meet us for dinner. (Sorry, too busy visiting with them to remember the camera.)

On Tuesday we drove to Oklahoma City and added another state to those we’ve visited together. We toured the Oklahoma City National Memorial, on the site of the Alfred P. Murrah Building that was bombed in April 1995, killing 168 people.

Here are a few pictures of the grounds of the memorial, starting with the entry wall. It’s inscribed “We come here to remember those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever. May all who leave here know the impact of violence. May this memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope and serenity.”


The Field of Empty Chairs stands where the building once stood. Nine rows of chairs represent the nine floors of the building, with a chair for each person working or visiting on each floor, plus five chairs on the far end for five people who were killed outside the building.


Smaller chairs represent the 19 children who were killed.


A reflecting pool flows over granite, where 5th street was in front of the building, the site where the bomb was detonated. The two bronze Gates of Time at either end represent the minute before (9:01 am) and the minute after (9:03 am) the bombing.


The Rescuer Orchard was planted on the other side of the reflecting pool where two other buildings were damaged so badly they had to be torn down. This area honors rescue workers who rushed in to help after the bombing.


The Survivor Tree still grows nearby, having barely survived the bombing, although hundreds of buildings in the downtown area were damaged and 16 had to be torn down. The tree was hit by glass and debris, lost most of its branches in the bomb blast and was damaged by fire from burning cars parked nearby. However, a year later it was noticed that the tree was beginning to bloom again. Steps were taken to protect and support it.


A handwritten message from one of the rescue teams remains on the outside wall of a nearby building, which suffered damage but was repaired and now houses the Museum.


We ran out of time to tour the museum, but will plan that for another visit to this interesting city.