Monday, October 12, 2009

Something in the Air, part II

Friday morning I woke up in the middle of the night and made the trip out to the Balloon Fiesta Park with my son for a very special morning. We went to the Rainbow Ryders tent where my son and daughter both work. My son headed off to work as a chase crew member for the commerial hot air balloon rides. He helps to set up and inflate the balloons and then they follow the balloons to where ever they land and help take the balloons down and put them away. It's a fun job but it's hard work too. The commercial balloon gondolas (baskets) are huge, some carry ten passengers and can weigh 1200 pound! There is also a huge fan for inflating the envelope, the propane tanks and burners, and the envelope itself. See more here and here on hot air balloons.

My daughter presented me with a VIP pass. She also took some of the morning off to be with me. This VIP pass allows people into the VIP tent where they have free food and a bar set up. There was a nice little patio area set up with gas heaters all around the tables as well as a fire pit burning those wonderful smelling mesquite logs. They also have 'real' bathrooms instead of the port-a-potties. Even though the VIP tent was all around to the other side of the field, it was definitely worth the trip. My daughter and I had a great breakfast! We had eggs, bacon, potatoes, and carne adovada (tender pork and red chili), in a flour tortilla. There were also fruit, cereal, and pastries available. After our bellies were full and we had warmed up by the fire pit we headed back around the field to the Rainbow Ryders tent as the sun rose over the mountains.

As mentioned in my last post the Dawn Patrol launched and the commercial ride balloons took off. Because I didn't know which balloon my son was actually crewing for, I couldn't locate him in the throng of people, balloons, and vehicles. Seeing that they were lifting off and leaving the field, I went back to the Rainbow Ryders tent. The next wave of balloons was already beginning their inflation, the special shapes balloons.

Back at the Rainbow Ryders tent, I found out that I would be flying in the Albuquerque "Q" balloon with the owner of Rainbow Ryders as my pilot and a couple of gentlemen from the 'CW' TV network as my fellow passengers. One gentleman was Mitch English and I believe he has an on-air show. We would be competing for the 'key grab' contest. And best of all, this was a complementary (no charge!) ride! Woohoo!!! I was very excited about going for a balloon ride again although I was also a little hesitant after my last few days adventures. I briefly wondered if the third time would be it...

I nabbed this picture from a trading card. This was the balloon I would fly in.
We all climbed into the Rainbow Ryders van and headed out, the pilot, Sheila and two other men who would be crewing, and we three passengers. We drove around outside the park on the south side looking for a good place to launch that would take us right back onto the field. There were dozens of balloon vehicles everywhere in various stages of launching, all with the same plan as us. Every field and parking lot was filling up with more and more balloonists getting ready to launch their hot air balloons. We found a good location and then decided to find a better one. Eventually, we settled on just the right spot.
Here's the ground crew or "chase crew" for the balloon I'd be riding in.I watched as my daughter and the two other balloon crew members set up the hot air balloon. First they spread a HUGE groundcloth. This protects the envelope from damage or tearing as they lay the envelope out lengthwise on the ground. Then they pull out the gondola and set up the propane burners and tanks. They attach it to the envelope securing all the ropes and cables and lay the gondola down. They set up a huge fan and begin blowing air into the envelope. As the envelope fills up with air, they begin to add hot air by turning on the burners, being careful not to burn the envelope. Here's looking inside the hot air balloon as it is inflating. Isn't it pretty?Soon the balloon rights itself and is ready to launch. The pilot jumps into the gondola first and makes sure everything is good. Then the passengers climb over the gondola sides. There is a foothold in the middle of the basket for a step but it is still quite awkward. Inside, the gondola is a little crowded with four people but there is still room to move around. I positioned myself between the propane tanks opposite the pilot so that I could see in all directions. The two CW guys stood in the middle. There are long ropes that hang from the envelope called tethers. The crew members hold these tethers as everyone climbs in. Then the burners are turned up and the air inside the envelope heats up causing the balloon to rise. Thanks to the ground crew for all their hard work getting us ready to go.
And we're off!

to be continued...

Something in the air - song: Something in the Air, artist: David Bowie, album: "hours..."


Grey Horse Matters said...

It looks like a fun day all around. I'm not sure I'd ever get in a balloon though. I might be too chicken.

Andrea said...

What a fun time! The Balloon Fiesta looks awesome!! And how cool to have a VIP pass!! I think the balloons are beautiful, but I would never ever be caught in one of those baskets! I am so afraid of heights. I might have been in the fetal position in the bottom of the basket!! LOL!! That fire picture is really impressive!!

Dan and Betty Cooksey said...

Way cool. We were watching from our house in Corrales so we probably saw you in your balloon.


Shirley said...

A really neat post! There is a lot of work going into setting up a balloon, and your photos show it really well. Some lovely shots! Hope you had a good ride, I'll be watching for your next post.

The Wades said...

Just beautiful. Breakfast looked delish!