Friday, October 9, 2009

Something in the Air

Albuquerque is the Hot Air Balloon capital of the world!

For over a week, the morning and afternoon skies of Albuquerque are filled with enormous hot air balloons. I saw this balloon in the middle of the city, far away from the activities of the Balloon Fiesta, last Tuesday morning. Sorry for the poor quality, I took it on my cell phone through a dirty windshield. I imagined they were looking for a good place to land.
Between predawn flights, nighttime balloon glows, and parties, hot air ballooning is almost a 24 hour sport with naps in between, rather than regular sleep. During Balloon Fiesta most people get up between 3:30 and 4:30 AM so they can beat the traffic and be at the launch field before dawn. The balloon field looks much like a state fair during Fiesta with all kinds of vendors and food stands. There are breakfast burritos (hand held sandwiches of scrambled egg, bacon, cheese, potato, and green chili all wrapped in a flour tortilla) which, I believe, began many, many years ago at a balloon fiesta. At least that is the first time I ever had one. It worked as a hand warmer as well as food. I think there are miles of different stands to visit. And the purchase lines are a mile long too!The Dawn Patrol are the first two balloons to go up. I missed getting their photographs; it was too dark! They rise in the pre dawn light casting occasional eerie glows in the black skies as the propane burners are turned on and off. They are used primarily for the pilots to observe the varying wind patterns. Because it is in a valley and there are mountains to the east, Albuquerque has a special wind pattern called the Albuquerque Box. The currents go one direction and then as you rise in altitude they go the opposite direction. This is great for the hot air balloon pilots because they can take off and land in the same general area. They can also control their direction easier.

After the sun rises, this balloon launches, signalling the start of the morning ascension.
Next to inflate are the Rainbow Ryder balloons. These balloons carry the paying customers. There are twenty commercial balloons affiliated with Rainbow Ryders this Fiesta. Some of the balloons can hold as many as ten people! My son works for Rainbow Ryders as part of the chase crew but I had no idea where or even which balloon he was at and the crowd was just too crazy so I gave up looking for him. I knew that as soon as the balloon went up with the pilot and the customers, the two crew members (my son and another guy) would be driving off to follow their balloon around until it landed. Today, the special shapes balloons took over the field after the Rainbow Ryder balloons left the area. Usually, all of the balloons are on the field inflating and launching in waves, as the 'zebra' launch directors guide them. Here is a gathering of some of the zebras to show what they wear.
Today was special, however, as there were contests to be played on the field, so all the regular balloons were driven off site for launching so they could fly back over the field for the competition.

The police horses are also very popular at the Balloon Fiesta. Imagine how much training these wonderful steeds must have gone through to be here.
This morning I got up at 4:00 and rode in with my son. Because he works there, he has a pass for free parking and admission on to the field so I got in free too. My daughter, who also works for Rainbow Ryders, wanted me to come out this morning to see her and all the balloons.
Imagine my surprise when she handed me this pass!
Here are my daughter and son talking to a couple of customers about their upcoming balloon flight scheduled for this coming Sunday morning. Even when they are off duty they work hard promoting the sport.

To be continued...

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

No comments: