Saturday, October 4, 2014

The "JOYSEY" Girl From New Jersey!!

Today was pretty much organized chaos!!  Since the first pilot never contacted us and the Brazilian team's balloons are either stuck or lost in El Paso Texas, I went to the "Crew Corral" to see what would happen, but was planning on doing lots of photography instead of crewing.  While listening to the pilot meeting, a small gal sort of snuck up on the edge and asked for crew.  I think I raised my hand first ... as did three local friends behind me.  We followed her to a red van packed to the ceiling with "stuff"!!
Hmmm ... maybe I shouldn't have raised my hand so fast!!  We drove to her station on the field and began to unload the all the xxxx ... I mean the necessary stuff from the van.  Her name is Christine and she drove (and slept) in this van for four days to get here from Clinton New Jersey.  While she got organized, we watched the Dawn Patrol take off.  This was pretty neat as it was still dark!!

I think there were about 10 balloons up ... you have to have a special pilot's license to ascend in the dark.  
This field is 85 acres HUGE ... so you can imagine how many balloons were getting ready to take off.  We were trying to get ready, but basically I spent my time telling the other crew members how it works and what to do.  We have an envelope stretched out to the left, a fan and a basket that we put together.
The guy next door from Spain didn't have a fan, so Christine was nice enough to loan hers.  On the OTHER side of us was a gentleman who hasn't flown since 1996.  Yikes!!!  That's scary!!!  When he came over to ask me how to tie a daisy chain knot, I told him I knew, but he really needed to ask the pilot.  I wasn't taking ANY chances!!!  Once he took off, the fireman and hydrant became visible taking off a few minutes later.  
There are lots of special shapes ... butterflies, cats, a beer stein ..... none of which I got images of because by now I have discovered that none of the other three crew people have ever done this before.  I think I'm going to be sick ... and that's when Christine hands me the keys and asks me to drive the chase van!!  Alright then ... all I ask is a breakfast burrito!!
Ok .... it can't be too bad!!  The other three people live right here, so at least they know the roads!!  Besides that, we downloaded an app to our phones that tracks her balloon, gives us the speed, direction and the most current map of Albuquerque, besides being able to talk to her personally!!  Piece of cake ... or so we thought!!
In between mounting the burner and her gauges, I was able to snap the whale and baby.  Love this one!!
Angry bird was here too, as was the Wells Fargo Stagecoach, not quite inflated on the left.
We finally have all the lines attached and the fan running for the cold fill.  Her envelope is a little smaller she said ... but it looked just as big as everyone else's, with the exception of having only one burner AND she just purchased all new propane lines!!  Finally set up, we piled on the sides until she got some lift, then walked her to the end of her tie down rope.  All five of us did her final check as we went "hands off" and she rose into the sky.
"Take pictures" she yelled ... "I don't have any pictures" ... and so we took as many as we could before she was too far up.  We then frantically threw everything back into the van and we were OFF ... once I found the keys!!!  With the navigator in the front with me and the other two in the back sitting on the junk ... I mean boxes of equipment ... we followed her Southeast for all of 20 minutes when we saw her begin to sink in the sky.  
I definitely felt she was a little nervous, and later discovered she has been flying for about 2 years.  I'm sure by the end of the week we will be driving across town to pick her up ... but this first flight was a short one.  I give her a lot of credit because she came down in a small parking lot, but we couldn't get there due to traffic.  No worries, she pulled the crown and dropped the envelope with the help of an apartment owner.  We folded it up, got it in the bag and eventually got the basket loaded ... thanks to the two strong guys!!  Trouble was, there was no room left for us crew people.  Laid out on top of the envelope and squished next to the basket, we headed back to the field.
By the time we threaded our way through the traffic and reached the field, our legs were numb and it was difficult to unwrap ourselves.  The good news is that she had a good flight and seemed much more confident, as she promised over and over to clean and organize the van.  The other gal and I secretly bet on whether that was going to happen, and concocted a plan to do it for her on the next flight!!  You really DO need to know where your launch pass is, otherwise you are breaking the rules.    We made her put the $12 we found on the floor in her pocket, as she launched herself into the van looking for a parking pass for us.

Thinking maybe she didn't have a room, two of us offered ours, but she said one came with being a pilot!!  As we waved goodbye until tomorrow morning at 5:30, she promised again to organize the van.  I won't hold my breath ....................... but then some people just aren't as organized as others.  She was a great gal and thrilled she found a crew!  By the end of the week, we'll all be experts!!

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