Albuquerque - Part 1. Balloons!
The four days we spent in Albuquerque at the Balloon Fiesta were probably the fullest we have enjoyed on the road so far. I decided to split the blog into two posts because we did so much. First, the Balloon Fiesta itself and second the other fun we had in Albuquerque, namely the Breaking Bad tour, visiting Old Albuquerque and meeting lots of cool people.
We had not heard of the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta until some friends of ours from San Diego mentioned they were heading out there this time last year. It is the largest Balloon Fiesta in the world, and also the site of one of the largest Airstream rallies in the US. Once we saw the amazing photos online of previous fiestas and we realized it was a convenient stop on our route out to Austin for the Formula One Grand Prix, it became the cornerstone of our Fall travel plans.
The Fiesta lasts for nine days, with the Airstream Rally being on site at the Fiesta park for the first four days. Two hundred Airstreams attend, and job number one is to get them all parked. We were instructed to assemble at Camping World on the west side of Albuquerque. We got there at 9am to rendezvous with Tim and Amanda, who we met the previous week in Santa Fe. They had also arranged to meet up with Lauri and Jase - who blog as WanderWasi. They, like us, are newbie full timers and travel with their two doggies, which allowed us some much needed Black Lab lovin' for a few days. John and Terri who were vacationing from Wisconsin also joined us. Our four Airstreams were led in a caravan to the Fiesta park. We ended up way at the back of the parking area near the Balloon museum, but we were determined to become the hip neighborhood!
We spent the rest of the day wandering around oohing and aahing at the multitudes of Airstreams. At 5pm we were welcomed by the Airstream club who really did a great job of organizing everything and getting all two hundred Airstreams situated with the minimum fuss. They let us know what would be in store for us over the next four stays and after a few drinks back in our up and coming neighborhood, we went to bed dreaming of the balloons we might see over the weekend.
Next morning at 6am we headed to the field for the Dawn Patrol. This is a small group of balloons that go up before the sunrise to check the weather conditions, scout out landing sites etc. They look fabulous as their burners glow and light up the morning sky around them. After they launched we grabbed warm drinks and waited for the Mass Ascension when hundreds of balloons take off together from the field. We have lots more pictures in our Facebook album but here are just a few that illustrate the event so much better than words ever could.
Once the balloons left the area we had the day to ourselves to relax or head out and have fun. In the evening the balloons return to the field for an event called Twinkle Twinkle Glow, where they all light up but don't take off. This is followed by fireworks. The first night was just too windy for many balloons to inflate, but on Sunday evening we enjoyed the full experience down on the field. This made up not only for Saturday night, but also for the lack of a mass ascension on Sunday morning - again due to high winds. The experience of being among the balloons as they glow is amazing - again photos tell the story better than I can in words.
We expected that our last two days at the Fiesta would be quiet. We were surprised that many of the balloons choose to fly in the mornings even though there isn't a formal mass ascension. These pictures show our morning routine for the next two days!
The Balloon Fiesta was such a wonderful event. The balloons themselves were fantastic and they alone made this an event that we will never forget. What made our time really special was experiencing it with wonderful people who are now friends that we will meet again on the road. More about the friends in Part 2. If the pictures don't sell this event to you, then I don't know what will. All I can say is that if you ever get the opportunity to walk on the field among hundreds of balloons and watch them rise through the gorgeous sky like a beautiful ballet then grab it.
These experiences are what memories are made of.