Here, finally, is a pictorial review of the 2-hour flight I took in the hot air balloon Zipper, with pilot Luc Goethals and crew chief Loren Goethals, during the International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque.
The day began like many others, with the American flag flown by a balloon during the singing of the National Anthem.
Don was invited to fly that morning, but he preferred to drive the chase vehicle and offered the flight to me instead. I quickly agreed. As we lifted off, the crew waved goodbye and took pictures.
Here’s an interesting view of the inside of the envelope from below the propane burners.
Lots of other balloons were taking off or getting ready to go as we lifted up into the sky. It was neat to see the Butterfly, Hummingbird and Little Bee family (Lily, Joey and Joelly) among other balloons getting ready for lift-off.
We started moving south over the balloon museum, visible in the lower left of this pic.
I could see our group of RVs parked below as we went over the standard RV parking next to the landing field. Our motorhome can be seen just to the right and below the red car. There were 29 rigs in our group, most of which are in this pic.
Then we hit the famous ‘Albuquerque Box’ phenomenon of winds at a higher altitude going the opposite direction, which pushed us back over the launch field, heading north. See the bees and butterfly below?
It was great to see balloons flying around us.
Some balloons had a short flight, like these two Little Bees that launched after we did.
As we floated silently over the Rio Grande we saw balloons attempting a ‘splash and dash.’
We had to try it, too. We passed over the river to the northeast, then descended to catch a breeze that would take us back over the river. Pilot Luc had been studying the paths taken by the other balloons to analyze the direction and speed of the wind. We passed close to this house and our shadow covered part of it.
We were close to a muddy area and shallow water. I was hoping we wouldn’t get stuck in the mud.
Luc skillfully missed the mud and touched the water with the bottom of the basket before lifting up again. Our feet didn’t even get wet!
We saw a big corn field with a maze cut through it next to some really large and interesting homes.
The panoramic views of the valleys and mountains were awesome. At one point, we reached 9,000 feet elevation; the launch field is about 5,000 feet.
Loren flew a purple ribbon with memorial messages written by crew members about lost loved ones. In the peace of the flight, it was touching to appreciate those who have gone before us.
We began looking for a place to land, but we were over a neighborhood where landing balloons isn’t encouraged, and where there are horses and llamas, and plenty of power lines to avoid.
Some school children wanted us to land in their play area.
We passed over the Rio Grande again and were greeted by a group of kayakers.
Finally, we found an alfalfa field where another balloon had landed with permission from the farmer, and we put down not far away, with that balloon’s crew helping us come to a stop.
Before long our chase crew arrived, with Don driving the truck between the rows of alfalfa, and they helped us deflate the envelope and get out of the basket.
When we realized that the flight had been a particularly long one, Loren said it was the longest flight she’d ever had, and she has flown almost every time the balloon went up during the past 4+ years! It was my longest flight, too – out of all 2 of them!
After packing up the balloon and having our traditional post-flight celebration, Don, Frank, Gloria and I returned to the Boomers’ RV group and enjoyed a nice potluck dinner.
And the sunset was really beautiful that night, a perfect end to a spectacular day!