Saturday, May 25, 2013

Saturday encore ~ Up, up and away

Last Memorial Day weekend, my pal Denise (Ethel) was visiting and we went hot-air ballooning. 
I don't have anything nearly as exciting planned for this holiday weekend, so I'll re-post our adventure for a vicarious thrill. 


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.
(Here's a link to Lucy and Ethel make their debut on PBS.)

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. Looks like fun, if you've got earplugs. We had a lot of hot air balloons floating overhead at our place in the Nevada. They drove the dogs nuts. The horses were okay until the passengers started yelling, "Hey horsey!" Then they'd get a little a nervous between the voices and the bursts of flame. I had to remember not to wear my P.J.s outside during ballooning season.

  2. I used to have a German Shepherd named Josie who barked at airplanes overhead, even airliners. One day I heard the most ferocious barking I have EVER heard. I dashed to the back door and saw a hot air balloon silently swishing by -- and very near to the ground. If Josie could have just gotten her teeth into it ------

    This was in Las Vegas, Nevada.

  3. this is amazing, so are the photos and the fact you are in a TV show...

  4. I got to go hot air ballooning once. It was such a thrill and so beautiful. I would love to go again. Thanks for the vicarious thrill.

  5. Just purely wonderful from your getting aboard to the OJ/Champagne.
    I want to do this too!

    Jo, Stella and Zkhat

  6. That looks like a great way to spend a holiday!

  7. You and Ethel always have great adventures, whether on the ranch or "out in public". I'll never take a ride like this so thanks for sharing yours.

  8. WHy do some of them stay so low? too many people on board?