New Mexico Summer Vacation - Hot Air Balloon Ride

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Hot Air Balloon Ride
Hot Air Balloonatics
Pilot - Buzz
Crew: Kari (Buzz's wife), PJ and Phillip
Albuquerque, New Mexico
June 28, 2019
In researching "Things to do in Albuquerque", hot air balloons rides seems to be on the top of many of those lists, as long as you are adventurous. We seem to think we are, so I made reservations for us to take a ride over the city on our third day in ABQ. 

Ballooning happens early in the day for ideal weather conditions. Afternoon weather seems to be much more volatile with winds and thunder showers. 
This meant for a 4:45 wake up time to allow for breakfast and driving to the launch location.

As they begin to ready the balloon, others were already getting up in the air. 

Buzz and his crew arrived and out came the basket and envelope (balloon). 
They began assembling everything. It was a cool process to watch. I had no idea we would see the whole thing, but I'm glad we did. 

Laying out the envelope. 

Getting it all unfolded. 

The first step is filling the envelope with air. This balloon holds 120,000 cubic feet of air. 
(120,000 basketballs to break it down into something you can imagine)
It takes a lot of air to fill it and this fan was roaring. Keri, Buzz's wife said to stand back. It can pick up rocks and throw them too. 

The balloon is growing and buzz is standing in the opening to keep it wide open. 

It keeps getting bigger and bigger. We are starting to be able to see a balloon taking shape. 

Once they have a substantial amount of air from the fan, he turns the burners on to fill it with hot air. This will start to provide the lift. 

The burners are crazy hot and shoot out a huge flame. It's a touchy process of moving the ropes out of the way and burning at the right time. 

As the envelope fills, it expands and contracts, so the heating of the air is done in bursts. 
There are some burn marks on the side of the envelope. It's gotten a little too hot it seems. 

Up and up it goes. Getting bigger and bigger. It goes up, then comes down a little and they fill it with more hot air. 

Finally, the balloon is hot enough to stay up off the ground and stand the basket upright. 

Doesn't Michael look thrilled? He seemed to be excited about going, but now the nerves are kicking in. It is getting exciting. I'm a little nervous myself since I don't know what to expect. 

The balloon is ready for launch.

I made a video of the process of filling the balloon.

We climb into the basket with the other passengers. 
They are a couple who are here visiting from Kansas. 

Up, up and away! 
We are airborne!

The burners are HOT! Michael and I are the tallest people onboard and the top of my head was hot! 
I'm glad I decided to wear a hoodie, I put that on and wore it for the rest of the flight. 
Michael had his on too.

Now that we are flying for a few minutes, Michael is starting to relax a bit. This is very smooth and when the burners are not on, it's very serene. 
He has to light the burners every minute or two to keep us up off the ground. 

We are up flying around with all the other balloons. Funny how some are traveling in different directions. We are all at the mercy of the wind and depending the altitude you are flying at, the winds may be blowing in a different direction. 

Us in our hoodies keeping our hair from burning up. 

We begin to see the Rio Grande River. 
Albuquerque is in the background. 

As we get closer to the river, our altitude begins to drop. He warns that we may get our feet wet. 

Thankfully, he was able to keep us out of the water and we lift up and over the Rio Grande River. 

A great view of ABQ

Looking straight up into the envelope of the balloon. 

We continue to fly around and watching the other balloons bob up and down just as we are. 

We are starting to look for places to land. Buzz is shooting for a field here and a field there, but the winds keep taking us in different directions. 

As we fly over the neighborhoods, the dogs go crazy! 
They don't like the balloons. Funny view of everyone's backyards. 

Another field off to the right. Maybe we can make that one. 

Nope. Wind didn't get us over there. And you can see the terrain is quite bumpy. It's not going to be a soft landing no matter where we land. 

As we miss another field or two, Michael is ready to get off of the ride. He's had enough. 

We are coming in close to this field. Hopefully the wind will get us close enough to land. 
I finally mentioned to Buzz that Michael was really ready to be done. He somehow got us down quickly and we were about to touch down. 

And we are down. That was a hard landing. I guess that's pretty typical though. We are traveling between 3 and 8 mph and when you hit a brick wall, or in this case a sandy berm, you hit kinda hard. 
When we touched down, the basket turned on it's side and we were all essentially on top of Buzz. 
The wind picked us up again and dragged us to the next berm where we hit again. Finally that one stopped us and we were able stay still. They stood the basket up and we were able to climb out. 
Wow, that wasn't quite what I had expected. But Michael was glad to be done. 

Keri and crew were tracking us in the truck. We would see her from time to time as they were staying close so they could be there when we touched down. 

We traveled about 6-7 miles from where we launched. 

And now to wait for the air to escape from the envelope. 

It's quite a process. We are also helping in keeping this off of the long sticker plants and cactus that are spread all around this field. 

Michael doing a good job protecting it from this plant. 

They start getting everything laid out and wrapped up. Back in the cart it goes and they load it up into the trailer. After they loaded the balloon back into the truck, they told us we were headed over to a little park for a champagne toast. 

Buzz explained the purpose of the toast and the Balloonists prayer. 

Michael and I toasted with a little sparkling grape juice. 

And Buzz awarded Michael with the cork balloon. It's given to the passenger that was most anxious so that they can keep it with them in times of anxiety or stress so that it will help calm them. 

Our certificates of recognition for flying with Buzz and crew. 

After the toast, they said they were all going to breakfast. Michael wasn't thrilled about hanging out, but it sounded like a fun time to be able to get to know the pilot, crew and other passengers. 
Plus, they had raved about this created called a "Zia" pancake. Sounded like we needed to try it. 

Weck's is a local restaurant. We saw several of them in ABQ while we were there. 

It has an old Hollywood theme. 

The breakfast portions were HUGE and very creative. Here are a few of meals that were ordered. 

Chicken and waffles. 

No idea, but sure looked good. 

Bananas Foster pancakes. OMG! 

And this is it. The coveted ZIA. Buzz ordered an extra so that we could all share. This was amazing. 
One of the crew members used to work here and on the "secret menu" they put gravy on this. 
So, we sampled it with a little sausage gravy. There is ABSOLUTELY nothing I would change about it. I took a pic of the description so that we could try to recreate it. DELICIOUS! 

Of course, I had a simple breakfast so that I could sample the others. 

Michael had a standard grilled cheese. 

And this is all of us! 
The pilot Buzz, his wife Keri, crew members PJ and Phillip, Michael and I and our two other passengers from Kansas. (I can't remember their names) 

I'm not sure that either Michael or I would take another ride in a balloon, but I am glad we did it. It's a bucket list item for many and something we can check off of ours. What an experience.