Sunday, October 15, 2006
Ballooning in Albuquerque.
We arrived home on Friday night from our trip to Albuquerque. The drive was L O N G ...both going and coming back. We agreed that if we decide to go to another Balloon Fiesta, we'll FLY and rent a car. Never even got a chance to spend any quality time with CousinJIM. What happened was: We got to the field on Wednesday morning (early, like we thought we should). We'd parked in spectator parking and walked in to find L3 (where Jim and Graham were to take off). It was dark, and I lost one of my gloves on the way to L3. That majorly sucked, because those were my only gloves and a pair that my dad and Lucky had bought me one year. :-( I threw away the other one a few days into the Albuquerque trip, because one glove isn't any good without the other. CousinJIM had gloves, so I took a pair from his trailer. Time moved along and the crew got to work getting CousinJim's balloon ready for the air. Em went off to the concession area to have a smoke, because smoking isn't allowed on the field (due to the propane considerations). One thing led to another and Em got to talking to people, so when someone said, "You and your boyfriend can go with Robert on the chase", I had to say, "I don't know where Em IS!". So, we missed the whole CousinJIM experience and were assigned to Graham. Graham's "turn" was later, and I suppose that had something to do with how he only took ONE ride before we met him and put the balloon away. My previous experience at ballooning had Graham landing, taking on fresh passengers, going back up, landing again, taking on fresh passengers, etc. This time, Graham just did the up/down thing ONCE. Em was back by Graham's "turn", so he was able to help him get off and back. The basket and balloon are unloaded (from either a trailer like CousinJIM's or a van like Graham's) and the basket is "readied". There are all sorts of things that go in and on the basket. CousinJIM could give ya the details on that. The balloon is then laid out on the field and hooked up to the basket. Balloons are HUGE. Then, a fan is used to blow air into the balloon opening while it's laid out on the ground. Here's Em holding one side of the balloon opening while the fan does its work. You can see how it starts to expand. At the appropriate time (known only to the pilot), some fire is shot into the balloon from the basket propane tank and the balloon starts to want to stand upright. At that point, folks take the basket from a laying down position to a standing up position, more fire is shot into the balloon until it's pretty full of hot air, passengers load, more fire is shot into the balloon and woof...thereyago! Here's a shot of another balloon getting that shot of fire. The fire shots scare me when I'm in the balloon or on fan duty; I want to check my head to see if my hair is still there. :-) At dinner on Wednesday, Carlos suggested that Graham needed crew for Thursday's special shape ascension and Em and I volunteered before we learned that the special shape balloon couldn't take even one passenger. So, Em didn't get a balloon ride. He got to experience the "getting it up" and the "taking it down", though, so he has a little feel for what crewing a balloon is like. Here we are with Graham and Dingbat (the balloon) on Thursday: Crew not in the balloon "chase" the balloon. Graham didn't fly far, and landed in a parking lot somewhere near Fiesta Park. Nancy (of the Clutch Crew) drove the chase vehicle to where Graham landed. Here's a shot of him above us (a photo taken while driving in the van): He was fortunate enough to land in a fairly empty parking lot. After the rides are over, the balloon must be packed up and returned to the trailer or van. As Em said, "Takes a LONG time to get the balloon prepared for flight and a long time to get the balloon put away again." Time actually spent flying is sometimes minimal comparatively speaking. Can't say this was a GOOD vacation for us; it was an UNUSUAL vacation for us. We need to work out what went wrong before we attempt something like this again.