This morning we were on the field early, but got a yellow flag while they debated the weather. You can see from the picture below this one, there was a storm passing over just missing us, but the accompanying wind delayed the launch. Once they got the green flag, I snapped this picture immediately. I think it's my favorite so far!!
The clouds really weren't looking so good. The balloons are released only by the upraised thumb of a Zebra ... guys and gals running around in black and white striped outfits. They watch for traffic and keep everyone organized. Unless they give you the thumbs up, you can't fly. This is the team from Ireland waiting for the green to go.
Once the sun came up, even though it was hidden in the clouds, the wind died slightly and we got the green flag to launch. The Irish guys were up in a flash, but needed eight people to "weight on" the basket to keep it stable.
This bunch was rocking and rolling in the wind like crazy. Enough that our pilot Richard said he would just wait until the wind died down a little more. If not, he wasn't flying. Richard is very safety conscious ... a good thing when it comes to these monster balloons!!
These guys finally left the field, most carrying huge baskets full of paying customers. The problem is with that much weight, sometimes they don't lift off very fast.
If you look close, you can see this little bitty boy running to the balloons. Mom wasn't far behind!!
As the balloons lifted off the field, the wind pushed them South rather quickly, but once they rose to maybe 500 feet, the wind turned the exact opposite direction and they floated North.
That's called the Albuquerque Box ... go up and the wind pushes you south ... go further up and it pushes you back where you came from ... go back down and you go south again ... and so on!!
Yesterday Darth Vader landed right in front of our rigs. This picture was taken by a neighbor who wasn't working that day. That's my rig on the left with Darth's head coming out of my roof.
Princess Cinderella stopped by for a wave too. Notice the different shape of the blue balloon that makes you think you need better glasses? That's a racing balloon, much taller and thinner than most.
There are many commercial balloons here also, and this one with it's large basket is giving rides to tons of people.
Finally the wind died down and Richard said it was a go ... so we quickly scrambled to get the basket and envelope ready. That's Richard in the red jacket.
Once you start the cold fill, there's no messing around with cameras until they are in the air ... at which time I run VERY fast to the van and grab my camera!!
The one on the right with the burner glowing?? He's from Thailand!! They come from all over the world for this event.
This HAS to be my favorite balloon ... a scuba diver with droopy drawers!! Isn't this just an amazing job of sewing parachute material??? I think he would be hard to fly in the wind however!!
There are sharks here too ... getting ready to eat the racing snail!!
Once we had radio contact with Richard, we were off in pursuit. I caught this dragon holding on to his balloon, as we drove off on the great chase!! We always know where WE are ... it's the PILOTS that get lost!!
Richard dropped down in to the Rio Grande River for a splash and dash ... you know, touch the water for a few minutes, then take off again!! All the while, we were driving in circles trying to figure out where he might end up. He finally had to land in the Cottonwood Mall Macys parking lot. Jeff drives like crazy, slams on the brakes and we all jump out to grab the basket and weight on to keep them from tipping over or sliding along the asphalt. That's when the security guards, the HEAD security guard and the POLICE he called, showed up because we were on private property. Good thing the Police like us ... and so should the mall since the balloon families bring so much money to Albuquerque!! At any rate, we packed up and went back to the rigs, just in time to get ready for the Pilot/Crew picnic at the fairgrounds with Gail and Jim McManus.
While we chowed down on chicken, burgers, bratwurst and beer, this Charter School band played flamenco music while the dancers danced!!
It was great entertainment. At this school in New Mexico, they actually teach the arts, including flamenco dancing!! Pretty cool!! Once the rain started however, we pulled out our umbrellas and headed home.
We are usually at the field by 5:45 am for the morning flight, and back again at 6:00 pm for the evening Glow. The good news is that we don't "Glow" tonight!! The even better news is that we get tomorrow OFF!!! I'm pretty sure you can imagine how happy THIS crew is!! Not that it matters much, because we'll all be up taking pictures of the Special Shapes landing in front of our parked rigs. But don't worry, we'll be back at it Friday through Sunday!! In the meantime, maybe a few ice packs will relieve the sore muscles!!