Thursday, May 31, 2012

Up, up and away

When my buddy Denise was planning her trip to New Mexico, I sent her a link with all sorts of activities in the area and asked her 
if she'd like to do or see anything in particular. She said, "how about hot-air ballooning?" I said, "how about it?" 
In the 19+ years I've lived in the ballooning capital of the universe, I had never been, and it was about time.

3:30 a.m., to be specific. That is when we had to leave the 7MSN to be at the launch site for liftoff. 
Even for a morning person like myself, that was painful, but oh so worth it.

A lot of work is involved to inflate a big balloon, and volunteers are recruited from the passenger list to lend a hand. 
Denise and I jumped at the chance to hold the balloon as giant fans blew air into the opening.

This guy with the video camera? You're going to be seeing a lot of him. I'll explain in a minute.

Once the balloon is filled with air, the pilot turns on the propane burners to heat the air 
and make it rise above the ground. Or something like that. The combination of several giant blow torches 
and a ginormous piece of fabric seems like a bad idea, but it works.

That's our pilot, standing in the basket, speaking to one of the ground crew on the left.
And there's that pesky videographer again. What's up with him?

The ground crewman graciously took pictures with our cameras so we would have souvenirs.
I don't know if his composition was intentional, but I'm liking the whole balloon-growing-out-the-head look.

Bye-bye, ground crew! You can let go of the ropes now. 

The balloon lifted off so smoothly and quietly that it took a few moments to realize that 
the ground crew was getting smaller and smaller and we were on our way.

About five other balloons took off from the same area at the same time. It felt like we were part of a mini balloon fiesta. 
You've all heard of the famous Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, right? It happens every year in October. 
Anywhere from 500 to 1,000 balloons take off together every morning for a week. It's really quite spectacular.

Here is a picture looking down over the edge of the basket. 
For the record, I did not lose my hat, my glasses, or my camera over the side.

Now about that videographer... Ever hear of the PBS series called The Aviators? Me, neither. 
But they are shooting episodes for season three, which will air this fall. 
Of all the balloon rides in all the world, The Aviators crew walked into ours. What are the odds of that?
They shot every second of our adventure, from the ground preparation through the final champagne celebration.
I'll let you know when the episode is scheduled. Denise and I were both wearing 7MSN Ranch baseball caps, so it will be hard to miss us.

The ride lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes. 

We flew high above the Rio Grande, meandering wherever the winds took us.

This picture was taken by a fellow passenger early in the flight, when it was just a bit chilly. 
By the time we landed, scarves, jackets and every other removable layer had been removed. It was hot.

From the ground, Albuquerque may not be the most beautiful place on earth, but from a balloon? It's impressive.

I loved looking down over the exquisite horse farms along the river.
There is so much balloon traffic over this area that I'm sure the horses have grown quite accustomed to the sights 
and sounds of the balloons. Have I mentioned how loud those propane burners are? 
The noise isn't constant though - the pilot turns them on and off to control the altitude. 
If there is a downside to ballooning it is the noise of the burners. I hate noise.

It would have been great fun to fly over the 7MSN, but it's about 75 miles from this spot, 
way back there under the smokey haze.

That tiny shadow in the middle of the picture above? That's from our balloon.

I may not have been able to fly over the ranch, but I did get the opportunity to fly over 
the house I lived in when I moved to Albuquerque in 1993. That's it down in the lower right.

I see the new owners added on a sun room and got a new roof.
Hot-air ballooning is alot like Google Earth, only better. But louder.

When it's time to land, the pilot opens the flap at the top of the balloon, 
then the basket gently lowers to the ground.

Then everybody pitches in to stuff 650 pounds of fabric back into the bag. 

With the chores done, the pilot poured champagne and orange juice for us, 
and we raised our glasses as he spoke this Irish Balloonists' Prayer:
The winds have welcomed you with softness. 
The sun has blessed you with his warm hands. 
You have flown so high and so well 
that God has joined us together in laughter 
and set us gently back into the loving arms of Mother Earth. 


  1. WOW! That was a good idea of you buddy Denise!

  2. Wow. I want to do that sometime!

  3. Looks like an amazing time. I'm afraid I'd have been curled up in the bottom of the basket. I'm all about the loving arms of Mother Earth. Just looking at the pictures made me feel a little swimmy. You go, girls.

  4. The red, white and blue ones are identical to one that went over our place last week --in Germany!!-- terrifying my donkey who apparently had never seen one before. I was annoyed because it was so low, there was a group of deer below it running in circles in desperation because they didn't know which way to run to escape. I know they can control altitude so I think it's wrong to scare people's animals and wildlife too. Yesterday 3 more went by, directly above us, and the donkey was slightly less scared, but really cute staring straight up. Nothing bothers my horse, he's seen it all in life, and I'm sure the fact that he ignored the propane burn blasts (VERY LOUD) helped her keep it together. I was told they have permission to land anywhere they like, in any horse field, and my instinct to call the police would be useless. I personally think they're a lovely part of our country life, but I don't like these ones that almost touch down on our home. Your flight looks lovely and peaceful; thanks for sharing the entire journey with us.

  5. Wonderful post! I would love to try a ride someday, but I might be too scared of the height. Your pictures might just have to be my memory, too :-)

  6. Very cool! My husband and I are planning to see the balloon festival this October. It's a bucket list item kind of trip. After seeing your fabulous pictures, I may even get the nerve up to try that myself. (Although heights are NOT my thing at all...)

  7. WOW!! Very interesting pictures and story! Yes please, let us know when you will be on TV, looking over the side of the basket, I would have lost my lunch.

  8. Keep us posted about The Aviators' segment!!

    I have been marching around with the HorseGuard catalog that came with our recent order of extra tape, announcing to everyone that "I know them! I know them!" :) Of course Rafer and Redford want to be on the next cover!

    I enjoyed the balloon ride from the safety of my desk chair - not sure I could go up in one - I have visions of myself sitting on the bottom of the basket, in the middle, covering eyes and waiting for touch-down.

  9. Carol in N. Colorado5/31/12, 5:50 AM

    Linda, those photos are stunning. Thank you for sharing your hot balloon adventure with us. I have heard of The Aviators on PBS. I would imagine in about 6 weeks or so the episode will air. Will have to watch for it.

  10. That is so fabulous! I am so envious! Thanks for taking us along with you!

  11. I'll add a big WOW, and a few shivers looking over the side. Deathly afraid of heights here. What an adventure! I loved each and every picture and am looking forward to seeing you two on TV! Thanks for taking us along.

  12. Ten Reasons I Will NEVER Do This:
    1. Basket
    2. Basket
    3. Basket that looks very small
    4. Fire/Propane
    5. And, as you said fabric
    6. Cold
    7. Hot
    8. Noise
    9. No cockpit
    10. The landing part.
    I'm quite sure that the first blast of propane would have me jumping out of the basket and falling to Mother Earth D.O.A.

    For you and your friend Denise, I am thrilled to pieces that you had fun and made it back safely.

  13. Absolutely fabulous!

  14. Estella from Co.5/31/12, 7:01 AM

    WOW what fun....the views, just the thought of going up that high thrills me. The beauty of the balloon...WOW So glad you both had a safe flight...have a great day and hugs to the kids.

  15. What an amazing adventure. Thanks so much for sharing it with us. Your photos are awesome.
    Lynda in Michigan.

  16. Looks like a lot of fun. Don't know that I'd be brave enough for the ride but what awesome scenery. The last time I was in Albuquerque we came in at night and looking down on the lights of the city was just beautiful. Can't wait for the TV program keep us posted.

  17. I cracked up at ANON's list!
    I almost went ballooning. We got the balloon stretched out, the burner started, and then the wind came up. It kept blowing the deflated balloon awry and finally the operator gave up.
    Maybe some other time!

  18. How cool was that!

    And I, too, cracked up at Anon's list! But this is on my bucket list of things to do.

    Went to a fest in Steamboat Springs, CO. It wasn't as big as Albuquerque's, but beautiful!

  19. Anonymous' comment made me laugh and laugh! And also vigorously nod my head in agreement. :-)
    What an amazing guys knocked this one out of the ballpark, that's for sure.
    I really don't know if I could have done this...I sure would have said I could and absolutely would have tried to, but I may have been quite uncomfortable the entire time. I just don't know. :-)

    Wow. Incredible pics, Carson...and
    ((waving)) Hiiiii Denise!!! (you look like a LOT of fun!) :-) :-)

  20. Never done that. That was fun..thanks

  21. How cool!! Love your photos! Yeah for Denise to pick a great adventure! Looking forward to the tv show. For someone that doesn't like heights, I am not sure I could do that. My hands are sweating just looking at your photos! What a wimp I am. :)

  22. I acually looked into getting a license to fly hotair baloons, The drawback was, I would have had to get up at 3:30 a.m., drive an hour and half to get there and then work a 12 hr. shift afterwards. I wouln't have been able to keep that up too long. I love it, even the noise. It's so peaceful even with that blast.

  23. What an adventure! I have a huge silly smiley face right now. Those are awesome photos, I can't choose a favourite. What fun!! Thanks for taking me along.

  24. Totally jealous! Another thing for my every growing bucket list! Can't wait to see the Aviators episode (yup, I watch it on Saturday's when I'm around to catch it).

  25. I am so jealous - this is something that has been on my bucket list for years. I used to be married to a glider pilot, and went soaring a number of times but that just didn't capture my interest. I kept hinting that I wanted a balloon ride as a birthday present (we lived in ballooning country then), but it never happened. Now I live on an island where I never see balloons - I guess they might land in the water! - but going for a balloon ride is still on my bucket list. Your blog entry has made me more determined to see it happen.

  26. Thank you so much for sharing this with us!

  27. A balloonist came to our campus this spring and let students go up about 10-15 feet but the ropes stayed tied the entire time...I was in awe of the fire though and it was definitely loud!

  28. I was eagerly waiting for this balloon post......your picture taking was perfect. Really got the feeling of being in the ballon with you. You had lovely weather. I lived out west for 30 years and never tired of seeing balloons first thing in the morning. No coincidence the video guy was there.....only the divine. Can't wait to see you on PBS.

  29. Beautiful post, fabulous photos! Also, it's nice to see what you look like.

    We did a hot air balloon ride a few years ago in Cappadocia, Turkey. But I didn't get any photos. I was too busy holding the balloon in the air through the force of my will!

  30. You're so brave. I'm such a flatlander I got dizzy just looking at your photos. I've always thought Albuquerque was pretty, by the way.

  31. I would have had to have the drink first! Looks like it was a great time.

  32. What a fabulous adventure for you and your friend. Great day for a ride too. The one and only time I went up in a balloon, a million years ago when we looked down on the dinosaurs, it was a rough landing and I messed up my arm trying to hold on. But hell, it was worth it. The ride was spectacular. Congratulations on being airborn. Super pix of the river and all. I can hardly wait to see the episode on PBS. Right place, right timing.
    Oma Linda

  33. I got to go hot air ballooning once and had the time of my life. Beautiful post!

  34. toooooooooooo much fun! what a blast! I'm a little disappointed you didn't try and bungee out of it though (haha);
    i've always wanted to do this, too. made it to the balloon fiesta once.... quite magical!
    i'll look forward to the special in the fall; do keep us posted!!

  35. My mom and I have had our big culture trip to Spain and next on our bucket list is the hot air balloon!

    You have inspired me to make it happen this summer.

    My mother thanks you in advance!

  36. I had just seen people fling in the Big balloons, now seeing these pictures i am inspired a lot. And sooner i will be fling with this Balloons.

  37. My husband loves the Aviators show. I can say that's the lady that had the Hydro Ax. He was so enamored with the Hydro Ax. 'We NEED one of those!"

  38. Diane from NC6/1/12, 6:01 AM

    Great photos...thanks for sharing. I am with the other commenter about having the drinks first..and where was the bathroom?

  39. Not only is it a BASKET, but I went back and looked at the pictures more carefully...the 'ropes' look VERY small to me...I would put them in the category of STRING, actually, and it looks like they're attached with chip bag clippies...I'm just sayin''s a basket held onto the balloon by strings attached with clippies...carrying people, cameras, propane torch, etc. The End.

  40. What a lovely ride, and worth a 3 am wake up call (but just barely).

  41. I have a fear of heights, so I will never do what you did but the views must have been amazing to see.

    Hope you are doing ok with the smoke and fires.