“It’s Amazing!!”

fullsizeoutput_4198It’s Amazing!   That is what we said over and over again at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.

fullsizeoutput_41d5We decided a year ago to meet Art and Beth at the Fiesta and coordinated arrival so we were parked side by side. Beth arranged a balloon flight and had a great time. We paid big bucks to fly over Lake Tahoe previously so didn’t plan to do so again.


fullsizeoutput_419c Friends Gerry and Kathy are balloon crew and Fiesta veterans. They advised, encouraged and provided opportunities and experiences that we never expected.  Kathy was a fount of information about individual balloons and Gerry knew everything about the science of it all. They helped make the Fiesta an amazing experience

fullsizeoutput_41a6Through them we met Cheryl, a balloon pilot and instructor.  She is also a member of the Fiesta Board of Directors.  In addition to providing entry passes, Cheryl told us stories about security, sponsorship, statistics, volunteering and the design process for their balloon Twisted.

fullsizeoutput_4199 Her husband, Fred, is the pilot for Twisted, the balloon Gerry and Kathy crew for. We were invited to come out and crew.

fullsizeoutput_41f1The process looks complicated to a novice.  A dozen people were preparing Twisted for flight.


My task was to loosely velcro the crown piece.  The pilot needs to be able to pull the crown away to release air for descent.  I  asked Kathy to double check me because I didn’t want to make a mistake!   This picture is inside the balloon looking up.

fullsizeoutput_41deRandy had the job others didn’t want when it’s cold outside – standing in front of the fans for the initial inflation process!


Randy was invited to fly with Fred and Kathy!


Zebras, in all manners of black and white, give permission for launch.


Randy aboard Twisted!


His picture of the launch field.




Randy found our home for the Fiesta, the Montana in the middle.  The temporary RV park has 30 amp power and water, a shuttle to the launch field,  and is close to the action!

fullsizeoutput_41b5 Art, happily babysitting Elko while Randy and I crewed, noticed Twisted heading toward a nearby field and walked over.  Elko found his dad in the balloon!

fullsizeoutput_41b4We spent two amazing mornings sitting at our campsite watching waves of balloons come over us.  With 550+ balloons at the Fiesta,  we were always noticing one we hadn’t seen before!



Elko enjoyed the balloons!


A balloon eclipse!

Special shapes are fun!   Next time we will plan to be there on special shapes day!


After sunset, we enjoyed the night glows and fireworks.

Enjoy the night glow video!

fullsizeoutput_4190We enjoyed learning about the America’s Challenge Gas Balloon Race, one of only two distance races for gas balloons in the world.  The America’s Challenge was founded in Albuquerque in 1995.  The balloons are white to lessen the impact of heating and cooling  and filled with hydrogen, the lightest of gases.


fullsizeoutput_41c1Balloons launch consecutively from the same stage holding two pilots, oxygen, and all the gear needed for a 3-4 day flight. They have sand and water ballast.


The yellow box holds tracking equipment to monitor the balloon’s location – important information for race monitors and their chase crew!


A gas balloon uses a closed envelope.  The pilot tries to balance winds, ballast and gas usage for flight length and direction.

Balloon routes were available on the Festival App and we monitored the race many times each day!


Eight teams, four American and four international, competed.   These are landing sites.


AC-1 and AC-6 were back and forth for most of the race!

fullsizeoutput_41d7At the Balloon Museum we learned about the first balloon flight in France with a crew of a duck, sheep and rooster.  We learned about a failed attempt to land in the arctic and the beginnings of the Albuquerque Fiesta.   We learned about milestone flights across the country, across the Pacific, across the Atlantic and around the world.   We learned about balloons used in warfare.


We also learned about the Albuquerque box, a unique combination of topography and winds that sometimes allow a balloon to take off and land on the same field.  It’s amazing!

fullsizeoutput_4193We experienced another amazing thing away from the Fiesta grounds – a Musical Highway.   We traveled east of Albuquerque on Route 66.  Once there, Randy drove on the rumble strip at exactly 45 miles per hour and we heard America the Beautiful.    A video from youtube is here.     Other Musical Highways are in Japan,  South Korea and Denmark.   The only other Musical Road in the US, is in Lancaster, California, playing the William Tell Overture.   We’ll get there!

So much is amazing!




About Serene

Former full time RVers, transitioned to homeowners and travelers. We've still got a map to finish! Home is the Phoenix area desert and a small cabin in the White Mountains of Arizona.
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7 Responses to “It’s Amazing!!”

  1. rightlaners says:

    This is a fabulous post! We’re sad to have missed it this year, but friends of ours are there: Ray and Pam Santana – just in case you bump into them!

    • Serene says:

      It far exceeded our expectations. We hope to volunteer there sometime in the future and get an even broader experience. If you go, plan to be there for Special Shapes Day. We left sooner than that so missed it but won’t miss it next time.

  2. Teri McClelland says:

    Great blog! I love the colorful balloons and different shapes. I didn’t know they had a special “shapes” day, that would be awesome. Mark and I went to a very small balloon festival in Maine several years ago. The night glow was beautiful. It looks like yall made the most of your time.

  3. Mark McClelland says:

    That looks like quite the experience. Loved the “Balloon Eclipse”! Did you have to maneuver the get that shot or did it just happen spontaneously?

    It is amazing that the winning balloon in the race got 2278 miles in less than 60 hours. Thats an average of over 38 miles an hour for the entire flight!!

    • Serene says:

      We had a handful of opportunities each of the mornings the balloons were coming our way for balloon eclipse shots. Everyone was trying to get the shot and had just moments to do it. We never walked more than 20 feet for an angle.

      We loved watching the race. It was amazing that a couple got so far!

    • Randy says:

      Yes Mark, you are correct. If you are interested, google America’s Challenge Gas Ballon Race. They can’t go higher than 18000 ft (by rule) and at one point team 6 had sustained speeds of 58 mph. We were told they get really cold and tired up there. They also have to take oxygen for breathing. All the balloons get the same amount of Hydrogen before lift off. They also have to be cleared for take off by the US, Canada and Mexico FAA. They can take as much balast as they want, then it is just their piloting skill of dropping blast to get higher and catch a stream, or let our some gas out to go lower. Eventually, the hydrogen will escape and they can no longer stay aloft. Or they get too tired, or other reasons I suppose to land.

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