Monday, November 15, 2010

New Mexico Part III - The Balloons!!

Friday morning our alarm woke us at 4. Blake headed for the shower and I laid like a slug in bed. Whose idea was this??!! I demanded silently. What crazy psycho gets up at this ungodly hour just to sit in a cold camp chair and freeze their butt off anyway??

We do, apparently. You only live once, I told myself as I rolled out from under the covers, bleary-eyed from the hotel room lights. So kill me now. Once I woke up, I flew around the room, throwing on clothes and doing something presentable with my hair. Thank God for laser eye surgery; no contact lenses to push into Sandman eyes.

We were on the road in a half hour; Blake drove as I gazed out into the inky blackness. I admired the lightning storm to the south until I remembered: we were headed south. Then I started to worry. I got up this early to see balloons and I'd better see balloons!! I'm a night owl! This is going to suck if there are no balloons!!!

We arrived at our bus stop with enough time to buy a cup of coffee from the stand that was set up. Note to self: Don't buy a cup of coffee and get on a bus with it, especially when you have a tote bag, a camera backpack and two heavy folding camp chairs you have chosen to take with you. And on top of all that, try not to be the last people on the bus; you have to sit in the wayyyy back. Picture if you will: Blake with his coffee, the camera bag and a camp chair. He has to walk to the very back of the school bus, with the bag and the chair banging each adult, who, along with their appropriate spouse and/or child, is stuffed into a seat meant for a 5th grader. Now imagine what it was like for each of those adults to get smacked by that camp chair, plus maybe a dribble or two from hot coffee. Now imagine having to endure it twice, since I had the tote bag, the other camp chair and my own hot cup of coffee.

Yeah. Not fun. My sincerest apologies to all our bus mates. I hope those coffee stains have washed out!!

The sky was still dark when we approached the balloon field and de-bussed. The vending booths, however, were lit up like a landing strip. We plodded along the field, choosing a spot to put our chairs up and settle in to wait for the balloon teams. Having finished our coffees on the bus, I went out in search of food for us. Green Chile Breakfast Burritos stood out to me and they were cheaper than anything else I found in my short walk! And they were good! And hot and satisfying!

The "Landing Strip" and predawn clouds and crazy people

Notice the tiny little lights in the sky? Balloon officials sent up weather balloons to check the wind speed. The officials were also concerned about the thunderstorms earlier in the morning as well, and they sent those up to see if it was safe for pilots to take off. As it turned out, they told us via loudspeaker that the "Special Shapes Rodeo" was canceled due to wind, but pilots could fly at their discretion.

Here we have the official Balloon Fiesta balloon and the American Flag balloon for the National Anthem. See how hard the wind is blowing?

At first, I stayed with Blake and our stuff and took pictures, but then I really don't know what happened. My feet carried me away and I wandered off, drawn by the bright colors like everyone else. Sorry, Honey!! I got some great shots, though!

Hmmm... Who could this be?

That would be the friendliest gargoyle I've seen!

Ever wonder who would create a "Dead Cat" balloon? Yeah. Me neither!

Adorable Noah's Ark balloon!

The official name of this balloon: Shroom With a View

That would be a saguaro cactus. One of my favorites!

Up in the sky! It's a bird! It's Superman! No, it's a plane!

Any guesses??

This balloon was quite possibly the tallest one there. So awesome! They had set up all the way down on the opposite end of the field, naturally, so the walk to get there was a lovely brisk one. On the side of the balloon there is a yellow patch that reads: "Built to commemorate 100 years of powered flight and to remember the great courage of the fallen. Challenger: 1/28/1986 Columbia: 2/01/2003". What an honor it was to see this balloon up close!

Can't forget the Champagne Bottle...

Before we knew it, most of the balloons had either flown away or were taken down and bundled up, and folks were packing up. When ballooning, you can't really fly in the middle of the day; hot air balloon + air warmed by the sun = no fun at all. We walked around a little bit with all our crap that we brought before we had enough of the heat and baggage. Down to the bus we waddled. Boarding wasn't as big of an issue the second time around as we knew what to do this time! Unloading our stuff into the trunk of the car was an excellent feeling, as was driving back to SF. We reviewed our pictures as we lay collapsed on our bed and then crashed, sleeping until dinner. We ventured out to find the Blue Corn Cafe this time, and enjoyed another delicious New Mexican dinner with, you guessed it, green chili. After a brief walk around the Plaza, we drove home and hit the hay early, ready to begin the torture all over again the next morning.

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