Friday the 4th the day had finally come, we were going to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (AIBF). By the way, we learned that it is called Fiesta and not Festival. We were supposed to be up at 6 am, but got up late at 6:30. However we did manage our earliest start ever at 7:30 am.
We had a lot working against us today, the hour time change, 240 miles to drive, an almost full fresh water tank, and we wanted to be there in line by 1:00 in the afternoon.
We made very good time and when we got about 50 miles away I decided to stop and fill the truck with fuel. We would make it the Fiesta RV Park without getting fuel, but I wasn't sure how long we would be in line getting in. Patty checked the traffic on her phone maps function and saw that it had gone from yellow (slow) to red (stop and go) on the road into the park. This traffic was happening at 11:30 am!
We arrived at the RV Park at a little after 1 pm. It really wasn't too bad getting in. It took a little over an hour to get parked. The AIBF people really have this event under control and very organized. We can't say enough about how great they were to the RVers and the fans in general.
|Pulling into Albuquerque NW. It looks a lot like Los Cruces NM.|
|In line to be parked.|
|Us on the left waiting to get in.|
Just a little about our first time boondocking as this site has no services. We really did not know how long our “house” battery would last if we used it for anything other than just powering the fridge electronics. We know the battery will last several days just doing that. Now we wanted to also power the TV using a portable inverter we have. I went through the calculations and determined that we could get 3 hours of TV before the battery was at ½ which is where you want to stop drawing down the battery. I set up the inverter in the Generator compartment, connected it to the battery and run an extension cord up the living room through a window. It worked great! However, we only used the set up that one time to try it out.
It was very cold at night, down to 40, so we needed to run the propane furnace all night. The furnace had a blower to move the heat around which uses the battery. We found that we needed to run the Generator about 3 hours before going to bed at 10 pm to have enough battery power for the furnace until 6 am. Then we needed to turn on the generator again. This allowed us to make the coffee in the morning also.
We ran the generator for a couple of hours in the morning to make coffee and recharge the battery. The daytime temps were near 70 so after the sun came up you didn't need the furnace. Then at night we ran it again for 3 hours to watch TV, charge up our phones and Computers. That system worked very well for us. So, using the inverter for TV at night was not a workable solution for us. We did, however, burn through two 30 lb. cylinders of propane. We have 2 on board so I just had to fill one on Sunday. The other one we will need to get filled in Roswell next week.
Oh, and the 2/3 tank of freshwater lasted us the entire 3 days. We figure that we could last a week on a full tank. This was a good experience for us as we now know how long we can expect to boondock without moving the rig.
Saturday the 5th the AIBF officially starts at 5:45 with the doors opening at 4 am. We decided to go to the main field at 6 am and use the free bus shuttle from the RV Park. Did I say that it is 40 outside and it is dark? We had to use a flashlight just to get to the shuttle stop which was just at the end of our row of RVs, about 50 feet. We found the bus shuttles to be exceptionally good. We never waited on either end more than 2-3 minutes for a ride. You can walk to the entrance of about 1.5 miles from where we were parked. It’s just not an easy walk through RVs, cars, and busses, and in the dark.
We arrived on the field a little after 6 am. It is dark and cold and we had no idea where we were going or what to expect. We just followed the crowd. We stopped at what we found out when the sun came up was about center field. I originally thought that spectators would be on the sidelines sort of and watch from there. No, you are right smack dab in the middle of the whole thing!
We arrived just as the dawn patrol was leaving. The dawn patrol is a group of about 12 balloons who go up first and radio back the conditions. We were thinking, this is it?! It’s dark, cold, and the balloons are dark. The dawn patrol is really not much to see.
|Dawn Patrol doing alternate illuminations.|
Just at the sun is brightening the sky, at 7 am, we start to see balloons rising in front of us, we count another 12 -14. Then, we are being moved around as trucks and cars and balloon crews are setting up all around us. By the time the sun peaked over the mountains in the east, we were surrounded and couldn't even count the balloons anymore. It was absolutely breath taking!
We learned that 550 balloons took off that first morning within 2 hours, 7 – 9 am in what is called the “Mass Ascension”. We were standing in a huge open flat field with 60 – 70 thousand people in the dark one minute and then within half an hour you are surrounded by huge colorful balloons the next minute. Each direction you turn you see more and more balloons either launching or inflating.
|The national anthem was sung as this dawn patrol balloon flew over.|
|Dawn Patrol leaving.|
|Dawn Patrol has left.|
|The sun started to come up and we found that we were in the middle of the whole thing!|
I really can’t say enough about this experience. The canyons we saw in the past month as well as the AIBF must be experienced live. There really just aren't words to describe the feeling of this event as well as the wonders of nature as the canyons represent.
After the morning Mass Ascension we went to visit the old town of Albuquerque. This would be a nice place to visit on any other time than during the AIBF. The place was packed with people. We counted over 10 tour buses also.
We thought we would have lunch there. Every place we went had over an hour wait just to be seated. We toured around for about 1.5 hours and went back to the RV and made our own lunch.
The AIBF is nine days long with 2 balloon events each day. The first is from 5:45 am to 9 am and the second is from 5:45 pm to around 8:30 pm when the fireworks end. I think the fireworks are just on the weekend though. We decided to go to the second event on Saturday also and eat the fair food. The concession area was mobbed. We managed to get some food and we walked the area and saw all of the vendors. Not really our thing.
|I just had to have a corn dog! I'm addicted!|
|A sea of people.|
The balloon event was to be the illumination. After dark, the balloons inflate and light up their flames in coordination with a director. They actually do that in the morning with the dawn patrol also so we did not really want to see that again. As it turned out, the event didn't happen anyway as it was too windy. We decided to go back and watch the fireworks from our RV. We had a great view from the RV so there really is no need to be on the field for that.
Sunday the 6th we decided to watch the balloons from our RV area. This was a great experience as well. Now we got to watch a lot of the balloons land. A lot of the “shapes”, as the character balloons are called, landed at the RV Park. It was also great getting pictures of the balloons coming over the RV.
|Patty took this pic from her desk window in the RV.|
|Another from Patty's desk.|
|That's our RV in the center, the Sanibel|
|Elvis was in the RV Park!|
|Some of these balloons are huge!|
The rest of the day on Sunday we did some computer internet stuff and read. We also got the empty propane bottle filled. Propane is really cheap here at $2.09 a gallon. A 30 lb. bottle holds 7 gallons or about $15. For 2 nights of heat and 7 hours of generator use it cost us $15, not too bad.
Monday the 7th is our leaving day. We got up and watched the balloons again. This time they were having a competition to land the balloons back at the main field on big X’s placed on the field. It is very interesting to see the balloons lift off from the field and move south with the wind at the ground and then rise very high and move back north. We were told that is what they call the “box” here. This wind combination is due to the East Mountain that sits on the east side Albuquerque. This is one of the reasons the AIBF is held here.
|This balloonist asked us if it would be OK to launch from here. Of course we all said yes!|
|Crowd control in New Mexico.|
|On our way out a balloon landed on the exit road. Had to wait about 10 minutes to get out.|
As we were boondocking, there wasn't much to do to get ready to leave. We are traveling to Roswell NM today.
Roswell is about 200 miles southeast. We got hitched up and were on our way a couple of minutes after 11 am.
More about the trip and Roswell in the next blog as this one it pretty big.
|Lastly, our new addition for Halloween.|