Albuquerque! Bob + Shannon! Balloons! The Girls! Roller Derby!

Friday night, we headed down to Albuquerque to spend the night at Bob + Shannon's — and all go to the The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta on Saturday morning. They made us dinner, we watched Montana's governor on The Colbert Report, and went to bed early.

We were awakened for a little bit in the middle of the night by the yips of coyotes, and then were up for real at 5:00, which got us on the road a little after 5:30. It had been a bit overcast at night, so it was it the mid–high 50s when we stepped outside. A smooth ten-minute drive, then we ran into traffic by the exit for Fiesta Park. More than an hour later, we were parked and heading in; there was some reflection of the sunrise on the clouds over the Sandias, but by the time we were entering the park, it was gray and overcast and close to 10º cooler than when we left Bob + Shannon's (apparently, it's generally cooler lower and by the river; go figure).

We were waved in without having to pay admission, something which we didn't think twice about until it occurred to us that it meant that they didn't think the balloons would be launching. We walked quickly through the "midway" and out onto the field, where we watched a live TV broadcast confirming that, though the wind at ground level was mild, up around 400' it got gusty. The organizers were going to put up a weather balloon at 7:30 to assess the situations and either cancel, further delay, or approve the launch. We walked around, cold and despairing that the Mass Ascension would occur.

We were at the far end of the field, watching one of the balloon teams that kept firing its "candle" and listening to them explain how they hadn't been given a go-ahead to prepare for launch. And then we looked further up the field, and saw balloons starting to inflate. [All small photos below, click to enlarge.]


We dashed off to where there were a bunch of balloons inflating, and lingered to watch them take to the air.

We were a good position to watch one of the teams from the beginning. They started by unpacking the balloon, in a bundle about the size of an easy chair, and laying it out. The gondola is attached and tipped onto its side, and a big industrial fan is used to inflate the balloon. Once the balloon is pretty well filled, the candle is lit and the whole thing is tipped upright. The pilot and passengers climb in, and once the "zebras" (organizers named for their referee shirts) clear the area, the balloon takes to the air.


It was so much fun — a flurry of activity, brilliant colors, and the excitement at liftoff. I thought that we would be off to the side watching, but spectators were right there among the balloons.


It was amazing how quickly it all went. It took maybe 10–15 minutes for a team to get a balloon airborne, and within an hour most of them were in the air. I guess that the conditions turned, because balloons that hadn't made it up by then had to pack back up. That included the Nelly B., which we stopped to watch come together.


Less than two hours after arriving, we were back in the car and on our way out for some breakfast. After which, we headed back home to Stella (Laborador) and Chelsea (Retriever), who were waiting for their walk.

Bob + Shannon's place adjoins some Albuquerque Open Space. A walk back there is their usual daily routine, so we joined Bob and the girls for a hike around the Sandia foothills.

We were out for about an hour-and-a-quarter, a chunk of that time spent in a more enclosed, secluded area where the dogs could run off-leash — and Monica and I could walk at something closer to the pace to which we're more accustomed.

Back at the house, we looked at the photos from Bob and Shannon's travels this past summer to French Polynesia. We got to see some of the places they talked about when we last met up with them. Lush, green mountaintops in the middle of little islands, clouds and rainbows dancing around the peaks, all surrounded by brilliant blue waters. Apparently, it really looks just like the photos.

We headed out mid-afternoon, and off to the Duke City Derby roller derby championships. We met up with Jett at the gigantic club where the season's bouts have taken place for the competition between the Doomsdames and D.I.A.. We were there to root for the Doomsdames, being fans of Reese Lightning's alter ego. It soon became evident that they didn't need our help, heading off to an early lead and never letting go, so we were happy to cheer for whoever was passing by at the time. The Doomsdames' secret weapon was Kamikaze Kim, below right, who would just weave through the pack like they weren't even there. I don't even know what the final score was, though it wasn't pretty — but it was a terrific way to round out a full day.



world champ stephen neal said...

Have you returned from Mexico yet?

jraphael said...

I just KNOW you wanted to throw some red paint down the face of the yellow smiley-face baloon.

monica said...

heh. human bean juice.