Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, 2015

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Ups and Downs at the Balloon Fiesta

On Tuesday morning we once again stayed in the RV parking area and watched the balloons fly and land in the nearby field. On Wednesday we went down to the launch area and cheered some of the same balloons as they inflated and took off. We seem to see something new each day.

The Dawn Patrol all lit up on the launch field
On Wednesday we watched the Creamland Cow being inflated,

launched, and floated away. She sure was big!

On Tuesday we had watched her land in the field and be packed into a not-so-little bag. The average round balloon, like the one next to her, is about 90 feet tall.

Darth Vader is a crowd favorite. We have seen him in pictures from past years, and saw him flying in the distance a few times this year.

On Wednesday we got to see him up close on the launch field.

Every balloon is different. Every balloon has a name and is inspected by the FAA each year, or after 100 hours of flight time, whichever comes first.

We have seen many Special Shapes balloons flying with the others, but are wondering what we will see in the next two days when they do what they call the Special Shapes Rodeo, and Special Shapes Glowdown.

But until then here is another that has been flying:

Notice how tiny the basket is compared to the spaceman!

Tomorrow is going to be very exciting. We are going to take a ride in a balloon! Check back to see how it went!

Butt for now I will leave you with one other thing we smiled about. We have often seen police on horseback at large public events. I guess it is easier for them to get around than on foot, and being astride a tall animal gives them a better view of the people. We chuckled at the strings of LED lights on the horses. I guess this gives new meaning to "Tail Lights".

The End

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Balloons Overhead!

This morning was proof that you don't have to go down to the launch field to have a great balloon experience.

After our 5 AM Escapees breakfast, conditions were such that the morning launch was on hold, so we returned to the Alfa and went back to bed (fully clothed). It was only six in the morning and still dark.

I dozed off and then I heard a big WHOOSH WHOOSH from outside, and I knew there were balloons were overhead and they were blasting their propane flames to keep aloft.

I popped out of bed, grabbed the camera and was delighted to see hundreds of balloons rising from the launch field,  with many floating low over our RV parking area.
The Escapees HOP breakfast tent and parking area is adjacent to a field. Some of the balloons came down in it.

When a balloon comes down, and their chase crew has not yet arrived, it is usual for members of the public to pitch in and help get it under control. 

When we saw this big blue one landing, a number of the Escapees (myself included) went in to help. 

Down!                              Drag!                             Deflate!

How will we get this all in that bag?

By working together.

The big green frog also came down near us.

That is our caterer's BBQ and our Escapees tent in the foreground.

We helped bring him down too. He had special vents in his feet that helped get the air out.

On the other side of the field this large black whale was flattened as well.
It was very exciting to have them coming so close to the RVs.

Our son-in-law is from New Zealand. I saw this kiwi balloon on Saturday, but was pleased to see it dip down for a closer view before it caught an updraft.

We listened to a talk from a balloon flight instructor on Friday. He told us that the only control the pilot has is to go up or down, and that the wind blows in different directions and intensities at different altitudes. 

This afternoon, we left the Fiesta grounds for the first time since we arrived last Friday. When we drove into the RV parking area it was totally full. I was surprised to see many empty spots today. I guess a lot of people only come for the weekend. We are staying through the entire nine days. I have waited so long to get here, I don't want to miss a thing!

Life is looking up! 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Balloon Fiesta in pictures

We have been at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta for only two and a half days, and I am feeling overwhelmed by the number of pictures I want to share and stories about what we are doing. 

I have decided to start the week by sharing eleven of our favorite pictures, with nothing more than captions.

Morning starts with the launch of the dawn patrol balloons, 
which provide wind information for the others.

Balloons crowd the field waiting for their turn to launch

The captain of this balloon took her boots off and walked into the balloon to adjust something as it was being inflated

Fly me to the moon!

Make room!

I see you!



Police brutality?

If it has wheels and leveling jacks, is it an RV?

The view from our RV parking area on Sunday morning

Monday, September 28, 2015

More about Santa Fe

Our time in Santa Fe is almost over. This sculpture that we saw outside of one of her many galleries truly expresses the nature of the city:  Joyous!

This bronze, which we saw at another gallery,  adds: Fun!

And of course we found the taste of New Mexico at the city Farmer's Market: chilis.

One of the many nice locals we met this week suggested that we drive up into the mountains to see the Aspen color.  He said not to go during the weekend because it would be crowded. So we waited until Monday.

The four images I am posting fall so short of the experience of driving through an area of Aspen peak color! 

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

The trees were glowing in the sunshine against the brilliant blue sky.

The magnificent pines lent themselves as contrast to the brilliant yellow of the Aspen.

Even the grasses along the path echoed the color above.

But no image can really convey the full experience. The breeze played with the quaking aspen leaves in a magical way, and the faint scent of pine teased the senses, while a hint of coolness in the wind promised snow to come.  

It was a glorious afternoon, and we are so glad we got to experience this place high above Santa Fe.

When we got back to the Alfa, I finished making a special grilled ratatouille using some of the delicious veggies we bought at the Farmers Market. The key is to char the various ingredients, eggplant, peppers, onions, garlic, and squash, individually on the grill, and then combine them with seasonings before simmering them in a big pot on the stove top for a little while to combine the flavors. Perfection!

I served the ratatouille with a freshly baked baguettwe picked up at a charming French bakery on the way home, along with these tasty Raspberry Tarts for dessert.

RV life is very good!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Colorful Sculptures in Santa Fe

Friends who know me, or who have followed this blog for some time, know that when it comes to art I am attracted to large whimsical sculptures.  As an art major in college I fought for the validity of using animal images that make people smile. I remember having a disagreement with a sculpture teacher when I created a large fiberglass and resin frog. The basic armature was  folding lawn chair. The instructor was into abstracts and nudes, and I had to do a different project to fill the course requirements.  It was a good frog! My kids loved to climb on it in the yard for several years! In the long run, my work did take that direction, but it took me some time to get over that class and go my own way.

This week, as I checked into our current RV park, I picked up a flyer for the studio of artist, Fredrick Prescott. I knew we had to go see it! And on Tuesday afternoon we did.

Each of the large critters had a head that moved. You started the motion with a slight touch and the heads rocked back and forth for some time. The artist describes them as movable by the wind, but it would have to be a pretty strong one.

Craig's favorite was this very tall flamingo. Prices were not posted out in the sculpture garden area. We did see a sign on one large dragon that was for $27,000.  

Good thing they are too large to fit onto the dash of the Alfa!

The selection was delightful. They were all made of heavy steel and most were brightly colored. 

Some were the natural
rust tones of weathered steel.

In addition to the outdoor sculpture area, there was a large indoor gallery.  Many of the pieces here were much smaller, and of course less expensive.  

These two both moved nicely and were only $85 each. Still not what we need in the RV, but if we had a house, a work like these could easily find a new home.

The Prescott Studio, Gallery, & Sculpture Garden is located at:
1127 Siler Park Lane, Santa Fe, NM 87507

If you are in Santa Fe, call 505-44-8449 for gallery hours. His work will make you smile!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Just Checking In!

Sometimes, for me, the best way to let friends and family know where we are and what we are up to is through this blog. So I'm just checking in, so to speak.

First, my implant: it seems to be healing OK. I still have several days of antibiotics to go, and I no longer need the strong pain killer.  I think it will be fine.

Second, the Alfa is running wonderfully: we didn't have any problems, but it was time for the regular annual services. One note is that we pulled the same long incline from Phoenix to Flagstaff that had caused us such stress and overheating last spring, and even though it was 100° the temp gauge hardly moved above the normal range. We didn't have to do any manual downshifting either. Seems like the radiator cleaning was the correct thing to do!

Third, our location: we are now happily settled at a small commercial park, Rancheros de Santa Fe, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. One of the theories behind full time RVing is that if you don't like the weather, drive away from it!  We sure didn't like the 100°+ temperatures in Yuma or Phoenix, so we headed north. It is now mid-afternoon and we have the windows wide open. The shade side thermometer is reading 79°. Perfect in my mind. 

We love Santa Fe, so we may just stay put here until it is time to go down to Albuquerque for the Balloonfest. I have reservations at an Albuquerque park for the two days before the festival, so we can get the rig ready for nine days of dry camping. You know, holding tanks empty; fuel, water, and propane full.

We did have a bit of a stressful morning. I found what sounded like a nice state park just north of Santa Fe. It only had a few sites with electric, and all were first-come first-served. We got up really early and drove up here, but alas there were no openings and no one was planning on leaving. As we drove back out, I located the dump station and decided it would have been almost impossible to get the Alfa into it anyway.  Also there was absolutely zero cell service. No cell = no internet.  Not something we want to put up with for 9 days, even for a bargain price!

So we drove back down out of the mountain park, about eight winding miles, got to a spot where we could park and make some phone calls, and found this place.

I am more than ready to stay put for a week or so!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Another information post: Annual maintenance for a diesel Class A

So, after getting my dental work taken care of, we decided to take care of the Alfa's annual maintenance.

In the past years we have just had our annual service done, mentioned it in the blog and went on with life. Recently I've been participating in a Facebook group with a number of people planning on buying rigs who have asked about the difference in maintenance cost between a diesel motorhome and a gas motorhome. Someone else will have to provide information about the gas rig. 

We have a 2007, 35' Alfa Founder with a Cat C7 engine, with 49,000 miles on her. We don't do any of our own chassis maintenance, and have all recommended annual services done at Freightliner Oasis Centers. An Oasis Center is a Freightliner dealer that has a separate crew for motorhomes. The advantage is that you don't have to vie for time with commercial truckers. (They always take priority at non-Oasis Freightliner centers.)

We have our annual service done in fall, and always make an appointment in advance. Last year it was in Gaffney NC, this year it was in Tolleson AZ.

We pulled in Thursday afternoon and we given an overnight spot with full hookups. We were up and in the service advisor's office at 6:45 AM. The regular RV service advisor was off-site, so we had to deal with a substitute.

Because we went to an owner training class called Camp Freightliner and we have the owners' manual, we think we know what needs to be done. We had a checklist from the Freightliner web site, to which we made a few additions Thursday night. We went over our list with the service advisor -- can't remember whether we made any changes.

We went back to our coach and were surprised by a knock on our door a few minutes later. Our smart-looking young mechanic drove our rig into their service bays and we went to the customer lounge.

About 3 PM our service advisor said our coach was ready. 

We are members of the "Freightliner Chassis Owners Club (FCOC)" and are entitled to a 10% discount on parts and labor at Freightliner Oasis dealers. Their preliminary invoice fell a little short of the proper discount. It took about a half hour of negotiating, displaying of previous service invoices, and plain old obstinacy on Craig's part, but finally the service advisor said "I don't want to lose you as customers for an $18 difference of opinion" and got close to the discount we deserved. It's hard to understand why we have to introduce some of the best Freightliner Oasis centers to the FCOC discount as we travel around the country!

Our bill was $806 for a 19 quart oil change, 1 oil filter, 2 fuel filters, a quart of differential grease, cleaning of the radiator and Charge Air Cooler, leveling of the air bags, and most importantly checking/inspection of 43 points on the Freightliner checklist including draining water out of the air tanks, plus a number of little lubrications and adjustments. Plus tax.

They say that the biggest hurdle for a new owner of a diesel pusher RV is the first oil change. We're OK with this one.

Paid invoice in hand, we went back to our coach, plugged it back into its hookups, and enjoyed a quiet night with the windows closed and the air conditioning on.

Saturday we drove northeast into New Mexico. But that's another story...