On Friday we boarded buses and our first stop was the cable car ride to the top of Sandia Peak on the eastern boundary of Albuquerque. At over 10,000 feet the views of the city and the surrounding area were spectacular. As we were leaving the cable car we were met by our friends Leon and Laura Hoots who were going up to the top. They had driven all the way out from Virginia Beach to meet us here for the Fiesta. From here we traveled to a local community market where we were treated to the smell of roasting chilies. In this part of the Southwest the roasting of chilies is an annual fall event. The chilies are roasted to take the tough outer skin off them. The locals eat green or red chilies with just about everything. Each of us was given a bag of chilies to take home. We then had a fantastic lunch at El Pinto, a beautiful restaurant. After lunch we visited Old Town Albuquerque for shopping where Josie bought a pair of hot air balloon earrings. We then returned to the RV Park where we again met up with Leon and Laura and we had a great evening catching up on all the events since we last saw them in December of last year.
On Saturday we were up before dawn and we met Leon and Laura at the Fiesta grounds at 6 am. Each day a dozen or so balloons take off in what is called the Dawn Patrol before the sun comes up to let the other balloons see how the winds will take them during the mass ascension at 7 am. We were able to grab a few fresh mini donuts and hot chocolate before the mass ascension. Once the balloons start taking off it is just over whelming. Over 500 balloons taking off in waves that for almost two hours. They allow you to walk among the launching balloons so you have to be alert but it is all very well organized and it goes off without a hitch. I took over 200 pictures the first morning alone. I will only put a few below but if you Google Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta Pictures, you can see what it is like. Then that evening all the balloons return to the launch area and they inflate but do not take off but glow as you walk among them. The winds were too strong the first evening so only a few balloons inflated. But we were treated to spectacular fireworks show.
On Sunday the winds were too strong for launch so we were unable to see them in a mass ascension again. This gave Leon and Laura time to repair the flat tires on their bikes. Here in the Albuquerque area they have these small thorns that are like sand burrs on steroids. They call then Goat Heads. They seem to be everywhere and they stick to your shoes, and puncture bike tires. The locals use a slime that they inject into heavier than normal bike tires to keep from having flats. Here in the RV Park we saw a lot of people put booties on their dogs while walking them.
We went over to the launch area Sunday night and as you can see below took a couple of pictures that you can guess what we were thinking. The winds died down to near calm and we were treated to a fantastic show of glowing balloons. As I said before you can walk right among the balloons as they inflate. It was almost impossible to take it all in. Again I took hundreds of pictures and I will post a few below. If you would like to see more search Albuquerque Balloon Festival Balloon Glow.
On Monday Leon and I played golf at the Sandia Resort. Sort of hard to concentrate on golf with hundreds of balloons flying over. After golf the Hoots headed off to Santa Fe. That evening we were treated to a Mexican buffet with entertainment provided by a Mariachi band in the Winnebago tent.
For Tuesday mornings launch I climbed on top of the RV and watched the balloons come over the RV Park. This created a whole new perspective Again I will post a few pictures starting with the dawn patrol. Near the end of the day we even had balloons landing in the Park right outside our window. After the morning launch our tour group boarded buses and we drove back to Santa Fe for the day. Since we knew we would be coming back to Santa Fe we did not take in some of the sites that we knew we would see with the group. We first toured the Cathedral, then the Loretta Chapel with a spiral staircase that to this day architects do not know how it stands with no support. It is said that St Joseph answered the prayers of the nuns of the church and he built it disguised as a poor carpenter.
We then were treated to another fantastic lunch at the La Fonda Hotel. After lunch we again met up with Leon and Laura for a few hours of site seeing and shopping.
There was another launch on Wednesday morning so I went over early and watched from the hill at one end of the field. That evening we were treated to a BBQ buffet from Rudy's BBQ and great music by a Texas Swing Band with lead singer Syd Masters. Check out his song Cooking Bacon in the Nude on Youtube.
Thursday was Special Shapes Day so we went over to the launch area early and saw many special shapes balloons we had not seen before. I have posted a few pictures below. We then took a tour of the Balloon Museum. The evening Special Shapes Glow was limited because of high winds and scattered showers so we decided to just stay in since we will be leaving in the morning. But we were treated to another fireworks show out the front window of the RV.
The Balloon Fiesta exceeded our expectations and if you ever have the opportunity to attend it you should. The Winnebago Outdoor Adventures tour group was a lot of fun. We had great leaders and met a lot of nice people.
We will now head west back to Phoenix.