Monday, October 10, 2011

The Greatest Show Off Earth!

We traveled to Albuquerque, NM last week for a short vacation. It was the 40th annual Balloon Fiesta, billed as the Greatest Show Off Earth! The last time we visited the Fiesta was 4 years ago. Payton was three. He's now seven and Parker is three.

The weather wasn't favorable the first few days. We did get to see some of the special shapes 'glow' Thursday morning, but the wind picked up canceling all flights. The next three sessions of the Fiesta were canceled due to rain. Saturday morning was beautiful. It was a bit nippy and in the fifties, but we bundled up and did just fine. After sun up the National Anthem was played and the flag raised to begin the Greatest Show Off Earth. No land based flag pole would due for the flag raising.Parker was very excited seeing the balloons. He absolutely loved seeing them. Neither Kathleen or I remembered to bring our camera so we had to rely on crappy cell phone pictures.
Many of the balloons have major sponsorship. Below are the State Farm and US Bank balloons. Look in the background at the Sandia Mountains - click on the picture to enlarge it. Overnight 6" of snow blanketed the mountains.
The shark balloon was new this year. It was really nice looking. Apparently many of these balloons are made in Brazil. These manufacturers bring newly made balloons to the Fiesta not for the enjoyment of the crowd, but to sell them. The shark balloon is currently for sale, but I don't know for how much.
The Nightmare House has been around for awhile and is still a nice looking balloon. Its creation was inspired by a haunted house toy.
I like looking up into the balloons as they fly overhead. I think it is neat seeing inside these flying things.

The special shape balloons are the largest with some being around 120,000 cubic feet. I'm not sure, but I think that's about 4 or 5 average sized homes. It is kind of fascinating to see a balloon inflated. They use a small, but still quite powerful 3' propeller fan to cold inflate the balloon first. At this point the balloon is laying on the ground with its basket on its side. The basket is tilted up slightly and the burners are ignited to start heating the air inside. A balloon's burners put out a lot of heat. You can be 20' away and feel a hot blast when those babies lite up. As the air inside heats up the balloon starts to stand up. Up and up it goes until it starts to lift off. Final prep is completed, the pilots egg the surrounding crowd on and up and away they go.
Like any other show there are always exhibitors. One such exhibitor was NASA. Payton got to sit in a real F-16 flight simulator. Lordy lordy there are a lot switches in planes. Using their displays I made Payton into a 60's experimental test X-15 test pilot. They had a neat photo booth to get your 'Commander' picture taken too.
We take advantage of the park and ride buses. We think it is really the best way to and from the show. The morning sessions start quite early. Sunrise is at 7am so you need to be there by 6:30. You can't see the balloons glow unless it is dark. Getting there by 6:30 means getting the boys up around 5:30. That's mighty early. Getting up that soon means nap time comes early. Below is Parker on the way home Saturday morning around 10am. He was sound asleep and drooling on the seat.
After getting back to our car we headed to the Sandia Peak Tramway. Remember that snow I mentioned? That's where we were headed. At the base it was sunny and in the mid fifties. Four thousand feet up it was 20° with winds up to 20 mph. Buurrrrrr.
It took about 15 minutes to get to the top. It was indeed cold and there was lots of snow. The air was great. Cold, crisp and very clean smelling. It was refreshing. The clouds came and went. Sometimes letting the sun peak through, sometimes not. The boys had fun playing in the snow. Cold as it was it wasn't too cold to play in.
The city of Albuquerque spreads out 4000 ft. below the peak. There is a restaurant at the peak - the world's highest full service restaurant - called High Finance. I don't care for the name but that is what it's called. Kathleen and I are going to have a sunset dinner there on our next trip to the ABQ.

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