Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Camping with 1600 of our closest friends at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

South RV Lot Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, NM, October 3 to October 16, 2018

South RV Park AIBF

Remember, you can click on any picture to increase its size. (Sorry for all the pictures, but it’s the only way to adequately describe this event).

When we pulled into the South RV Lot at the AIBF (our home for the next 13 days) it looked like this.


And then 2 days later it looked like this.


RV’s as far as the eye can see. Yes, it’s a real conundrum. EJ and I don’t like camping with crowds. We prefer boondocking in the wilderness where is it is quiet and maybe, just maybe you can see another RV. But it is when we step out of our comfort zone and insert ourselves into these crowds that we make friendships with like minded nomads. Sigh, what’s a hermit to do? We enjoy the company of other people, but not crowds.

But we were crafty and got there early so we could get a good spot. Actually we just wanted to spare ourselves the hassle of lines of RVs trying to get into the campground.

Crowded camper

We came to see the Albuquerque International Balloon Fista. It’s been on our “bucket list” for several years now. When we saw that the Escapee Boomers had reserved a block of RV camping spaces we knew that this was the time to do it. And because we didn’t want to miss anything (ie fear of tickets being sold out) we thought we would get a jump on the game by buying all our admission tickets to the balloon field ahead of time. We were newbies to this event so that action would come back to bite us in the behind.

We found out after our first “4pm Boomers Happy Hour” we could have gotten our admission free if we had only volunteered to crew for a balloon. We were not interested in committing to arising at 4am for 9 days in a row, but then we found out that you only had to crew for a single event to get the free admission. Oh well, if we ever come back we will know better. We had purchased tickets for the 2 of us to attend 6 events.

And speaking of “Happy Hours”, this is one thing Escapees are known for. It’s a must attend event, everyday, where you find out what’s is being planned, share stories, eat snacks, and maybe have an adult beverage.

2018 Balloon Fiesta Group

We sampled several breweries with our newly met friends and even rode a bicycle 10 miles to one of them.

Nexus Brewery

Most of the rest of the time was spent watching balloons. Of course we had to make sure we used as many of our pre-paid admission tickets as we could. However, since we were not crewing we could take our time in the morning and mosey on over to the balloon field at 7am instead of 5 or 5:30am where we watched the balloons prepare for takeoff alongside thousands of other people.


Then there some mornings when we were just lazy and slept in ‘til 7-7:30am and watched the balloons drift over the RVs where we were camped.

10-9-18ABF00110-9-18ABF00410-9-18ABF009Our Rig at Balloon Fiesta

And EJ was in awe at all the balloons. “Which one do I take a picture of next?”


In addition to the normal shape balloons there were “special shapes” which were a classification all their own. Large and unwieldly, the conditions had to be almost perfect before they would launch.


This is one of my favorites. “Spaceman staring at sun”.


Good to see one commemorating our fallen and missing warriors.


And then of course there were several “Night Glow” sessions. The balloons don’t leave the ground, but they are inflated and right as it gets dark, the pilots fire off their burners to light up the balloon shapes to the delight of the crowds.


And every morning, weather permitting, there was the “Dawn Patrol”. This group of balloons ascended before dawn to determine if conditions were favorable for the rest of the balloons to launch. Balloons that launch in the dark are required by FAA to hang two lights beneath the balloon basket to assist in collision avoidance.


And of course, every night after the balloon activity was over, there was a fireworks display.


By the time the days activities were over, we were tired puppies. It was time to go to bed and do it all over again.

Other Boomers who crewed were mostly estactic about it. To them it made the event very special and many planned to come back and do it again. For us, we were content to be on our own schedule. Some mornings we would get up at 6am and at 7am walk over to the balloon fields. Then several mornings, we thought the wind would be blowing in the wrong direction or too fast, we elected to sleep in. However, the cats generally get me up about 6:30-7am. So if the balloons did happen to drift over the RV’s I’d wake up EJ and we’d rush outdoors to watch them float overhead.

All in all, we are happy we went. 3 or 4 days of balloon watching is plenty, but you need to plan for bad weather, which means you need to add a couple or three days to your stay in case it’s too windy or it rains. We are content to say we’ve done it, time to explore other things.

From the balloon field, another amazing sunset.