Theresa and I have wanted to go to a hot air balloon festival for a while, but the one we were thinking of going to in Colorado Springs is always over Labor Day and we're always running the Disneyland Half Marathon at that time.
Theresa saw that one of the biggest hot air balloon festivals in the world happens in Albuquerque in early October. No Jacob or Ruston joining us this time, but meet a few of our other friends, Jonathan and Lacey.
You can park directly at the Balloon Fiesta, but traffic is a hassle. Instead, we took a bus from a satellite location which gets to go on roads that are closed to everyone else! I can't remember the last time I was in a school bus.
We got to the field just before sunrise and it was pretty empty. There were a few people laying out balloons, but the field wasn't crowded at all. Take a look at those skies.
Shortly after taking these pictures, it started to sprinkle. A few seconds later, the skies opened up and it started to pour. Not only that but there was lightning as well. Everyone hustled over to the vendor tents and tried to find a place to stay dry. Theresa and I were wearing rainproof jackets plus had a small umbrella, so we stayed outside the tent so others could squeeze in. Our jeans got a bit wet, but it wasn't too bad.
After maybe 15 minutes, the rain and lightning passed and people started coming out again. There were tons of vendors selling all sorts of interesting foods. We passed on a donut burger, but Jonathan did get some mini-donuts. T and I split a breakfast burrito.
With the weather, all the events on the field were cancelled, but there was still other stuff to see. We checked out the craft tent.
And watched some chain saw sculptures being made.
The clouds are still looking crazy.
Next we went into another tent and learned all about balloon making. Theresa is weaving a basket.
The buses all leave by 10:30am, so we had to get back to the bus and then back to the car.
Time to see what else Albuquerque has to offer.
Krispy Kreme happened to be one of the vendors but instead of getting old donuts, we decided to go find some fresh ones. Did you know that if you look up locations online it will tell you which places have "Hot Donuts Now"? We found the nearest one and after google maps tried to route us to a horse pasture, we used Siri to finally get us to the hot donuts.
Next we went to go see the new movie Looper. It was different, but I think most of us enjoyed it.
What else can we do on this rainy and cloudy day? We haven't gone bowling in a while, so why not do that?
We assumed (correctly) that the evening Balloon Glow would be cancelled due to high winds. I think winds were topping out around 25mph.
The day didn't quite go like we expected, but it was still interesting.
The next day, it was a bright and early start to get over to the balloon fiesta. It's colder than yesterday (45F), but the skies are much clearer.
Another bus ride to the balloon field. As we were driving up, we saw 5 balloons already in the air and were thinking "Oh no, it's started already and we're missing it." Yeah, that was five of four hundred, so we didn't miss much.
On of the great parts of the fiesta was how close you could get to the balloons.
And the balloons are really packed together since there's so many.
Peeking inside one as it's getting filled up.
It's amazing how close you can get to the balloons as they're filling them up.
A balloon headed to the mountain as the sun is coming up.
Balloons don't launch straight up. They have people in ref uniforms that clear a path and then off they go.
Theresa and Jonathan watching with huge grins as they're lifting off.
It's astounding how many balloons there are.
Theresa had a smile on her face the whole time.
Rolling out the next balloon.
Every one of these tiny dots in the sky is a balloon!
One of my favorite balloons. Darth Vader!
And surrounding the balloon were Stormtroopers, Scout Troopers, Boba Fett, a sand person, tie fighter pilots, and more!
More fun shapes.
We went over to the vendors to grab some breakfast and discovered that stormtroopers like Krispy Kremes.
Afterwards we headed back to the car and tried to figure out what to do with the rest of our day. The evening balloon glow won't happen until 6pm, so we've got a few hours to kill.
Our original plan was to go to the Sandia Peak Tramway. We drove outside the city to the base of the mountain and at the entrance one of the greeters told us the wait times. 150 minute wait at the base of the mountain, 120 minute wait at the top. Um, no thanks...
Instead we drove over to Petroglyph National Park.
These petroglyphs were carved by Native Americans 800 years ago in volcanic rock.
We had been watching the evening forecast all day and were resigned to skipping the Balloon glow that night because there were supposed to be high winds. But right around 5:45pm, BalloonFiesta tweeted they were good to go! We hopped online, bought tickets, and jumped in the car.
Once again, you can get super close as the fill up the balloons.
The winds were still affecting the balloons a bit. This heart balloon was really rocking back and forth a lot while they were trying to stand it up.
In front of Humpty Dumpty.
As it got darker, every minute or so over the loud speakers, an announcer would count down from 10, and then most of the balloons would light up.
It was all really awesome to see, but I think a lot of the pilots stayed away because of the threats of high winds.
We jumped back in line for the bus and headed back to the lot.
T and I had every intention of going to the final ascent on Sunday morning, but after two days of getting up at 5am local time (4am So Cal time) we were just too tired. Looks like everything went off well though because we saw balloons floating by from our 11th story hotel window.
Which is surprising because we are staying at the airport hotel, which means we're not that far off the flight path.
Umm... That's too close for me. I wonder if the jet wash affects the balloons...
A few minutes later, Theresa yells to look out the window and we see a balloon floating right by.
We ran to the staircase on the side of the hotel to try to see more. That blacktop at the bottom is the hotel parking lot, and just a few hundred yards behind that is the airport tarmac. I am really surprised they got that close.
We headed outside to see how close we could get while the balloon was deflating. Theresa got these shots on her phone.
In all, it was an absolutely amazing visit. The awe and amazement we felt while we were there are just hard to describe. It's one of those experiences that you just think back on and are amazed about everything you saw, and just know that there's no way to feel the same thing again the next time you come back. And I think we will be back again.