Thursday, April 30, 2009

Goodbye New Mexico, Hello Arizona

It’s hard to believe, but we pulled away from Albuquerque and New Mexico this morning.  We had an uneventful 250 mile drive across I-40 to Petrified Forest. Uneventful that is except for the many stops to torque the trailer wheels.  It turned into an all day drive.

Although we’re still in desert, the landscape is quite striking.  As we drove west out of New Mexico, we saw the mesas with their multicolored layers of soil so typical of this area.

Road conditions were good today.  We drove through several construction zones on I-40, but the road surface was excellent in all but one.  The worst construction zone was inside Petrified Forest.  We entered at the north end and drove the 28-mile Park road to the south end.  At about mile 15 we encountered major resurfacing.  We even had a lead car reminiscent of our trip across the Alcan.  After we passed through the south gate, the last half mile of park road had no surface at all.

Tonight, we are parked at Crystal Forest Gift shop which offers free camping.  It is more than just a gravel parking lot.  There are lots of pieces of petrified wood scattered around and picnic tables at every site, some of which are covered.  Even has a few teepees.  They used to provide electricity for $10, but have discontinued that practice.

Tomorrow we will explore Petrified Forest and Painted Desert then drive to Williams, AZ near Grand Canyon.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Camping World Story

With another day (that makes nine in a row) spent at this well known establishment (especially among the RV community), I think I qualify to write a little story about Camping World.

It should have been a sign to us—that man lying in the floor at Camping World’s front door.  He was popping nitro while waiting for the ambulance.  But not being believers in signs, omens, or horoscopes, we continued on about our business.  As news progressed from bad to worse concerning our slide out problem, Gene kept saying, “Things could be worse.  At least neither of us is lying on the floor waiting for the ambulance.”

Clearly, our slide out issue was a major mechanical repair requiring a whole lot of parts, a whole lot of labor, a whole lot of time, and, undoubtedly, a whole lot of money.  Our best guess is that the high winds we experienced at Carlsbad which rocked the slides about knocked the gear mechanism off the rail.  We knew the wind had destroyed the slide awning and when the slide did not come in smoothly when we were preparing to leave Carlsbad, we attributed to the awning no retracting properly.  We put the slides out a total of 4 times from the day we left Carlsbad until we had the awning replaced at the rally.  No many, but enough to destroy all working parts.   Although it could be argued that we caused this problem, our dealings with Camping World had no bearing on who was at fault.  We were not asking for the repair to be done under warranty.  We were willing to pay; we just wanted the work done.

In all fairness, I must say that Camping World was swamped with business following the Rally.  However, if they expected a successful rally, then they should have anticipated the extra business and made provisions to accommodate the customers in the store, the showroom, and in service.  That being said, shall we get on with our story.

On that first day, we arrived early for our 1 PM appointment to have the wheel bearings repacked and were pleasantly surprised when they pulled our Montana right into the service bay.  I have come to think that is just a customer relations technique.  They hide your unit in the service bay and you only think they put you at the head of the line.  Gene is not one to wait indefinitely, so after several hours he went to check on progress.  That was when we found out no one was working on anyone’s rig.  The service department was sent to Expo New Mexico to take down their booth and bring back the rigs which had been on display.  Well, great.  After repacking the bearings, they checked the slide problem.  Too bad, we might have saved $275.

Over the next 2 days, we waited for an estimate for parts from the slide manufacturer, Lippert.  Gene had spoken to a customer representative on the day after we had had the slide awning replaced and we realized there was a major problem.  That representative had been very positive in his analysis and we felt somewhat better.  However, the service department at Camping World was not so optimistic.  Every time we talked to the service personnel at Camping World, the labor costs rose and they blamed Lippert for not providing a rapid response.  The whole problem was exacerbated by the fact that each day someone else working on our problem either had a day off or called in sick.

On the third day we decided to seriously look at trading for a new rig.  Now, we add the sales department to our “new friends”.  We had been told by the service department that Shannon was the best sales representative.  Shannon was eager to help; Shannon was eager to help everybody.  We never had Shannon’s undivided attention.  On the 4th day, Shannon was off.  In his place on that day, we dealt with a very nice gentleman, who did not quite know what a 5th wheel was.  He was a big fan of motorhomes and pronounced the greatest advantage of a motorhome was the fact that if, while your driving down the road and feel a bit thirsty, you can just go back and get a soda.  Well, great.  In the end, Shannon managed to take care of us between dashing hither and thither and about a thousand phone calls.  At least, whenever we needed anything, we were confident that Shannon would answer his phone.

When our new rig was finally cleaned and ready for our walk thru, the issue of too much work for too few people came to a head.  For every new problem we discovered, we found a different service representative in our rig.

Today, we took the Everest in for a couple repairs.  Our “appointment” was for 8:30 am.  We were there only to wait and wait.  Gene, who is not one to wait indefinitely, after several hours went to see why our rig was still sitting in the parking lot.  That was when he learned that there really are no “appointments”.  The policy is to get everyone finished in one day.  The service department just works until all rigs are out of the service bays.  Well, great.  We could be here till dark.  At the very end, about mid afternoon, when the service writer came to tell us our rig was ready, Gene asked if he needed to sign something.  With a bewildered look on her face, she asked if she had forgotten to have him sign the work order this morning.

Oh, that man on the floor at the front door—we saw him a couple days later, at Camping World, of course.  Apparently his condition was not as dire as ours.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Petroglyphs and Old Town Albuquerque

We finally got out to see a little bit of Albuquerque today.

We left early to take advantage of the sun on the petroglyphs at Petroglyph National Monument.  There are more than 20,000 images throughout this rugged landscape of basalt boulders created from lava flowing from erupting volcanoes some 150,000 years ago.  The cones are still visible in the distance. Yesterday, the ranger suggested we go to Boca Negra Canyon with its 1500 or so images.  In this area, there are three short, paved trails which weave in and out of the rocks with fantastic views of the ancient carvings.

Midmorning we headed to Old Town Albuquerque.  We have been to a couple other New Mexico Old Towns this trip—Santa Fe and Taos.  Old Town Albuquerque wins by a landslide.  It was very small compared to Santa Fe, but so quaint.  We were impressed with the number of upscale shops selling locally handcrafted items of jewelry, pottery, and rugs.  As in Santa Fe, native crafters had they wares spread on blankets on the sidewalk.  There were also several art galleries.  And there was no need to go hungry as there were several restaurants to choose from.

Gene’s favorite thing was San Felipe de Neri Church—the oldest church in Albuquerque.  Built in 1793, it occupies one side of the Plaza.  My favorite things were the many courtyards tucked away down narrow passages along all sides of the Plaza.  These were very charming and inviting little spaces with flowers and benches and an array of shops away from the main thoroughfare.  Old Town Albuquerque is a place that can be visited many times.  One could do serous damage to pocketbooks here, as well.

We had taken a picnic, of course, and we found a beautiful spot in Tricentennial Park across from the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History.  In our wanderings, however, we found a little place we thought would be suitable for a beer.  After the bartender sang the praises of the margaritas we abandoned the beer idea.  No regrets with that decision.

We were home by mid afternoon, leaving me time to do laundry and Gene time to take care of sending paperwork (and money) to Tennessee to register our new home.  We’ll be moving tomorrow, so this evening will be spent learning how to best stow for travel all the stuff I have worked so hard to put out.  Ahh, the life of full-time RVers.
High Noon Saloon

Tomorrow starts out with a service appointment at Camping World.  We only have two small items on the list, so hopefully it won’t take long.  If we can be out of there early, the plan is to head to Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona.  We’ll see what happens.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Everest by Keystone

Well, I guess a little detail about the Everest is in order and, of course, a few more pictures.  The Everest, like the Montana, is a Keystone product.  They both are in the mid price range for 5th wheels.

First, let me say that we chose the Montana and the Everest based on our needs.  Since we live in it full time and have no home (or even storage unit) in our home state of Tennessee, we need something that is large enough to be comfortable in all seasons and has the storage capacity for all our belongings (including Christmas decorations).  The Everest measures 39 feet (about) from king pin to ladder; approximately 37 feet interior living space which is about 1.5 feet longer than the Montana.  The Montana had more storage space inside, but the Everest has more basement storage.  This particular model Everest is not plumbed for washer/dryer which I didn’t want anyway.  The Montana was plumbed for washer/dryer and since we didn’t have them, that was a huge storage space which I already miss.  We also have a fireplace in the Everest which we didn’t have in the Montana.  That was another space I used for storage which I don’t have now.

I enjoy cooking (and Gene enjoys eating), so I like having the large kitchen.  There are 2 things about this kitchen I especially like—the large refrigerator and the microwave which isn’t over my head.  The microwave in the Montana was so high I had to stand on a stool to take food out.  Quite the health hazard in my opinion.  This microwave, like most in RVs, is also a convection oven.  The Everest (and Montana) has a three-burner gas range with an oven.  I like having an oven.  Many RV manufacturers are just installing the cook top without an oven.  I guess they figure the microwave/convection oven is adequate.  Gene is especially fond of his 32” HDTV.  It is not working, however.  It doesn’t seem to be getting a signal from the antennae.  We already have an appointment at Camping World for Wednesday morning.  Peanut seemed most fascinated by the fireplace.  

We haven’t used them yet, but we have two bar stools at the end of the kitchen counter.  With these two seats, the four chairs at the dining table, the chair at the desk, and the folding table from the basement at the sofa, I guess we could feed the 5th Army Division.  I guess I won’t be able to use that old excuse of not having enough space for the big family Thanksgiving dinner.

Here are a few more photos, mostly of the living area which was blacked out by the sun yesterday.

Gene made his daily trek to Camping World this morning and has gone again this afternoon. He just can’t get enough of that place.  I have continued to rearrange things.

We had planned to go to Petroglyph National Monument this afternoon.  After a trip to Target for a couple items, we headed over to the Visitor Center.  We looked around the gift shop and talked to the Ranger, but I was just too tired to enjoy the petroglyphs.  I came home and took a short nap instead.  We’ll go tomorrow as well as to Old Town Albuquerque.

The best part of today was our lunch visit with fellow RVs, Bill and Helen.  We have been following along with their travels for a couple years now on their blog at  They have been an inspiration for several places we want to go, especially their trip to Nova Scotia.  We had a wonderful visit with them.  The last time we had seen them was in Nashville a year ago so it was great to get together again.  Thanks, Bill and Helen, for making our day and being the bright spot in our week.

Tomorrow, I am determined to get some sightseeing done.  We are anxious to get back to what we love to do.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Pictures of the Everest

We are getting back to normal now with meals on time and sleeping more soundly in our new bed.  I have even started putting pictures out and a few things on the walls.  It is beginning to look like home.

We have both been busy today rearranging what we did so hastily yesterday.  We have thrown away more stuff and made another trip to Goodwill.  Gene went back to Camping World (that makes 6 days in a row) to pick up a good side-to-side level, hitch-up memory level, and a very long-handled brush to sweep off the top of the slides.  We didn’t have to worry about that with the Montana because we had slide out covers.  Now we don’t have to worry about the wind destroying them.

Here are a few photos.  I took them when the sun was shining right through most of the windows.  We have the big picture window in the rear which totally back-lit the living area.  I’ll try for some better shots in a day or two.

Tomorrow we will get back to our sightseeing.  We’ve been in Albuquerque 2 weeks and haven’t seen anything except Balloon Fiesta Park, Expo New Mexico, and Camping World.  We’ve gotta get back with the program here.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The First Full Day In Our New Home

It was an ordeal, but I think it is finally over.  We paid the money, signed the paper, and drove off the lot this afternoon about 3 PM in our new Everest 5th wheel.

We got an early start yesterday with one goal in mind—downsize.  That seemed like a strange concept given the fact we live in less than 400 sq ft and had worked for years to get rid of the excess.  However, in the end we have made two trips to Goodwill and given a few items to the campground manager.  It is surprising how much “stuff” can accumulate when you really don’t mean for it to happen.  More junk went into the garbage, especially as the moving process progressed.  For some things it was easier to drop them in the trash than to find a place for them in the new coach.

Little Peanut also needed some attention.  It was time for his annual vaccinations, so after the assistance of the campground manager in finding a vet, we all piled into the truck in search of Rabies shots.  Peanut wasn’t nearly as enthusiastic about the adventure once he figured out what was happening.

To occupy the rest of our time waiting while the few minor repairs were being made on the Everest, we “packed”.  Actually, I just put clothing in grocery sacks and then put the sack back in the drawer.  That worked out pretty well.  For the move, since the bedroom drawer space was almost identical to what we had, it was easy to take the bags out of the drawers in the Montana and put them in the same drawer in the Everest.

Camping World finally called about 3 PM to say they would be ready for a walk thru at 4 PM.  We hitched up the Montana for the last time and drove the mile and a half to camping world.  They parked us side by side with the Everest—door to door.  By the time they actually got ready for the walk thru and the paper signing afterwards, it was almost 7 PM.  We wolfed down a cheese sandwich and set in to get as much done in the remaining hours of daylight as possible.  I started in the bedroom, so we actually were able to sleep in the Everest last night.  Of course, waking up with no water or electricity to make coffee was a bit discouraging.

I didn’t think today would end.  We bought the Montana for its large storage capacity.  Today, I didn’t think we would ever get it all out of there.  As noon came and went, I was desperate to just get it in the Everest so we could get back to the campground and electricity for air conditioning.  With stuff just shoved in every nook and cranny, we pulled off the lot about 3 PM.

Poor little Peanut was so confused, he cried almost nonstop during the moving.  He didn’t sleep well last night, running back and forth trying to figure out where he was.  He was fascinated by the fireplace, however.  He has finally given out and is asleep on his new sofa.
We called a halt to the work for today.  After a McDonald’s hamburger (the first hot meal in 2 days), we are now relaxing and enjoying for the first time our new home.

A few pictures tomorrow.  I promise.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

And On The Third Day

This has been the third day we have spent a good portion of the day at Camping World.  All we had by noon were more promises that an estimate for repairs would be forthcoming.  Each time we talked to someone from the service department, we got a different opinion of how long it would take and what needed to be replaced.  When the service manager got up to an estimated labor charge of 30 hours and began talking about cutting and welding, our minds shifted to trading.  There comes a point at which you no longer have much confidence in the service department.

We have picked out a new 5th wheel which will meet our needs and it should be ready to move into tomorrow afternoon. It is in the shop now having vent covers installed as well as a central vacuum.  We are happy with our decision to trade and as soon as the stress level from this whole ordeal abates, we will be excited about our new home.

This evening, I will busy myself with getting all the pictures and things off the walls of the Montana.  Gene is reviewing specs and making a list of people to call and things to do to get title and registration taken care of.

More of this saga tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A State of Confusion

Sorry about the abrupt ending of the last post.  I knew I would not get back to the computer for several hours so wanted to post what I had rather than hold on to it.

The news from the service department was not so good.  Our main slide (the one with the sofa and dining table) will not work anymore.  Apparently, the strong winds we had in Carlsbad shifted the slide off the track.  Since we were unaware of that, running it in and out the few times since we left Carlsbad, has destroyed the gears, bushings and track.  Almost the entire mechanism needs to be replaced.  We are still waiting for an estimate on parts.  The service department estimates the labor will take 24 hours at a cost of $109 per hour and it will be at least 2 weeks to get the parts.  This has turned into a great big sum of money.  So much that we are now debating whether to have it fixed or trade it for something else.

After we got our bad news yesterday, we went out on the lot to see what was available that we might be interested in.  We went back this morning and took another look around. We have called our dealer in Nashville to see what is available there and we have called other dealers in Albuquerque.  In between phone calls we have been looking on the internet at pictures of several brands of 5th wheels and a few Class C motor homes.  We have been so blown away by this that it is difficult to concentrate on what we need or want to do.

We have moved to a campground only about a mile from Camping World and plan to stay until the issue is resolved.  Of course, we can’t put that main slide out so we are a little cramped.  We can get to the dining table; we just both sit on the same side.  We cannot get to the desk area which means the computers are some place different every time I look.  Other than that, it is home, sweet home.

We are staying at High Desert RV Park.  It is a small campground (about 60 sites) just off I-40.  I heard the traffic most of the night last night, but I’m not sure if it kept me awake or if I was just too stressed to sleep well.  The interior roads are paved with grave pull-thru sites.  The office area is new with a fantastic common room with big screen TV and tables for games or puzzles.  The bath is spotless.  The laundry is also very clean with new front loading washers.  The folks in the office are very friendly and helpful.

Somehow, I was able to get the laundry done.  That was becoming a critical issue as well.  At least I have plenty of food in the house and don’t have to think about finding time to get to the grocery.

Hopefully, we will get a call soon with the repair estimate and we can make a decision.  I expect we will spend a considerable more time inspecting available RVs and discussing pros and cons of everything we see as well as the advantages of having the Montana repaired.  This all makes my head hurt.

I’m sure we will get a little sightseeing done before the week is out.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The End Of The Rally

The Rally is over and we currently spending the day today at Camping World for service on our Montana.  Gene made an appointment for service before we got to the Rally to have the wheel bearings repacked and the brakes checked.  It was a good thing because many folks who were at the Rally want to get service done before heading to their next destination.

In addition to the wheel bearings, we had a slide issue come up while we were at the Rally.  You may remember when we were at Carlsbad, the wind blew and blew.  We had some damage to one of our slide awnings.  An awning repair service was at the Rally and we ordered a new awning for that slide.  After it was installed, the repairman asked us to run the slide in to be sure the awning was working properly.  The awning worked just fine, but the slide did not.  We are hoping to have that slide inspected today.  With any luck, we can have it repaired today.  I expect, however, we will have to wait for a part to be ordered.

We are all mustering up as much patience as possible and hoping the wait won’t be much longer.

My final thoughts on the Rally are these.  A major drawback was being parked in a different location from the exhibits and seminars.  Too much time was spent traveling to and from locations and standing in line waiting for the shuttle.  We did not know that it was to be held in different locations until after we had made our reservations.  We probably still would have come, placing all faith and hope in the shuttle system.  We won’t do that again. Many of the seminars were infomercials and we did not like that.  However, that may appeal to others.

Our primary issue was water.  Because of the length of time (6 days) we planned to be on the rally site, we reserved a spot with electricity.  A fresh water truck and a honey wagon would deliver and take away (for a fee of $20 each).  We put our cards out for water and sewer service on Saturday morning.  To get the maximum for our dollars, we both had showers that morning, leaving very little fresh water in the holding tank.  The sewer man came, but not the water man.  Sunday morning we went to the desk at the registration booth to inquire about when we would get water.  There was no one there, but a sign announced that they would be there at 10 AM.  We checked back several times during the morning, but no one appeared.  At the information desk, the lady was most helpful in providing a number for the company.  There was no answer, but the message gave an emergency number.  When Gene dialed that number, he got the man in the water delivery truck.  He told him he was currently on row 13 (we were on row 11) and was working his way toward us.  That phone call took place about noon.  We went back to our RV and about mid afternoon, we saw the water truck on row 12.  Gene went out and talked to him, even took him cookies, but by the time we went to bed, we had not received water.  By that time we were out of water except for a couple gallons of distilled water which we had to make tea.

About 11 PM we were awakened by the beeping of a truck in reverse.  The water man had just driven by our rig.  I waited for the sound of running water, but it never came.  I got up and noticed out the window that the water truck was working his way down the row, but he had passed us by.  I pulled on jeans and my jacket and literally ran after the water truck.  He had passed us because our water compartment was locked.  Apparently, Gene had locked it just by habit without thinking about the water man coming.  We got it worked out and I had water by midnight.

They are calling our name.  Gotta go.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Balloon Glow Photos

Today has been more of the same as far as the Rally goes.  I don’t want to bore you by repeating myself.

So I am just posting the photos taken at the Balloon Glow last night.  We had never seen one of these events.  It was pretty special.  Enjoy the pictures.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Rally Impressions

This is the second full day of rally activities plus the two early bird days.  I guess that is long enough to be able to make a few comments on our initial impressions.  This is our first rally, so keep in mind that I have nothing to compare this experience to.

When we arrived on Wednesday, I was very impressed with the park process.  There were probably over a thousand rigs here already by the time we arrived that had been parked that morning.  We got in our line and moved right along.  From the time we entered the gate until we were parked was probably no more than 30 minutes.  We had been sent in the mail color-coded passes to place in our windshield which indicated the lot we were assigned to.  There was no time lost at the gate.  The attendant looked at our windshield then pointed to the appropriate line for us.  There was plenty of parking to the side for owners of motor homes to pull over to unhitch their towed vehicles.  We thought the process went very smoothly.

There was some confusion trying to find where the bus stop was located for our ride over to the Expo center to get registered.  We eventually found our way.  The registration process was somewhat slower, but still seemed to be well managed.  Rally attendants were to register by last name.  Of course, some lines were longer than others.  Ours, the B-E line, was one of the longest.  We did not know, and no one said, that we could get in any line that was empty.  So we could have gone down to the Z line and been finished in a matter of minutes.  Still, we only waited about 45 minutes.  We took advantage of the wait time to put our pin in the map and sign up for fresh water and the honey wagon.

Friday was the first official day of the rally.  That was the day it snowed and the weather was so miserable.  The weather also caused traffic problems which caused the buses to run behind schedule.  Apparently, many people had expressed their dissatisfaction with the long bus lines because during the announcement session last night, we were encouraged to take our own cars to the Expo.  Also, the entertainment program scheduled to begin at 7:30 was delayed until 8 in order to accommodate those 400 or so souls who were still waiting for the bus to get back to the Balloon Park.  There are approximately 2700 rigs registered making a minimum of 5000 people to be shuttled back and forth and only 8 buses to do it with.  That’s inadequate.  Today, 6 more buses have been hired plus many are driving themselves so waiting lines are minimal.

I was discouraged yesterday with the crowds in the Exhibit Hall. Those crowds were probably due to the weather.  No one wanted to be at the outdoor exhibits in that weather.  It was also around lunch time and the Exhibit Hall is where the food vendors are located.  Gene reported that the crowd thinned out considerably later in the day.
Ours was the white one in this section

On this row
There is a full schedule of seminars, however, most are infomercials.  Good information can be gleaned from that type presentation, but we prefer to hear an unbiased speaker rather than one trying to sell their product.  Many of the popular topics seem to be in rooms too small to accommodate the crowds and it is not uncommon for there to be standing room only.

There is entertainment each evening and it is in the large tent at the Balloon Park.  At least no late night shuttle from the Expo.  We did not go the first night, but we heard that it was very good.  A local group performed music that appealed to those of us of a certain age.  Neil Sedaka was on stage last night.  The tent was full and the performance was fantastic.  Rita Coolidge is on tonight which should be super.  Afterwards, Rainbow Ryders are going to do a balloon glow for our enjoyment.  That should be fun.

That is what we think so far.  I’ll have more comments, I’m sure, by the end of the rally on Monday afternoon.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Winter Has Finally Caught Up With Us

Just after breakfast this morning I noticed the snow falling.  All day there has been a mix of light snow and rain with temperatures in the low 40s.  It is a miserable day to be outside.

Unfortunately, we are parked in a different location from where the seminars and exhibits are being held.  We don’t take much to the idea of braving the elements along with Albuquerque traffic to make our way across town to the Expo center.  That leaves only one options—ride the shuttle bus.  When we got to the bus stop this morning, it was like one of those squiggly lines at Disney World. We stood in the cold for 50 minutes to catch the bus.  When we arrived at Expo, we, like the other 5,000 people here, went into the exhibit hall.  I was able to stand the crowds for about an hour before I had to leave.

I stayed long enough to find a great little stovetop grill pan.  I watched the demonstration twice before deciding (or maybe that was because they were passing out free chicken at the end of each demonstration).  Anyway, I got one.  The lady behind me on the bus on my way home, was singing the praises of “Grill It!”  She has had one for a while.  I used it to cook the salmon for our dinner.  It worked great.

This evening, we are heading over to the entertainment tent to hear Neil Sedaka.  That should be fun.

Tomorrow will be more rally.  Hopefully the weather will improve.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Up and Away Over Albuquerque

Awesome!  That was my thought this morning as we gently floated over the city of Albuquerque in a hot air balloon.

We have been thinking about this trip for as long as we have been planning to attend the Rally in Albuquerque.  After all, isn’t Albuquerque like the capital of hot air ballooning?  A balloon ride has been on my bucket list for several years.  Today was the day.  Gene is afraid of heights, so I was really excited to learn that our good friends, Tony and Dianna, had made a reservation to ride in the same balloon.

For now, however, we are on our way to the Expo center.  I will continue this story later today.


So, for the rest of the balloon story.
Some assembly required
The group flying today (there were about 100 of us) was instructed to meet at the Rainbow Ryders booth at the Balloon Fiesta Park between 5:45 and 6:15 am.  We managed to make it with only one cup of coffee and no breakfast.  We were assigned to group 6 with pilot Troy Bradley.  We learned later, quite by accident, that Troy is a world class balloonist.  He holds 58 world records and has flown across the Atlantic Ocean.  As Tony pointed out, we would have been much more comfortable leaving the relative safety of mother earth if we had had this information beforehand.  Anyway, I was quite impressed with Troy’s flying accomplishments.
Everybody gets to help

Getting serious about inflating
Our group of 8, plus Gene, loaded into the van and headed to the launch field.  It was pretty special to see all that has to be done to get a balloon in the air.  Members of the group helped when possible; I mostly took pictures.  Since there were about a 100 riders, there were about 12 balloons to be launched.  It was thrilling just to be wandering about in the middle of partially inflated balloons.

The time finally came for us to board the basket.  Then, suddenly, we were in the air.  Simply wonderful.  We were up and down, but spent much of the hour and twenty minute flight between 1,000 and 2,000 feet.  When we were high, above the sound of the dogs barking, and when the burner was not engaged, there was hardly any sound, almost totally quiet.  I had the sensation of floating.  There was no rocking and no bumps—just floating.
I-40 westbound

The landing field with the chase car already there
The pilot can control the altitude of the balloon, but has no control over the direction of flight.  We were at the mercy of the wind.  Therefore, we had to pass up the first couple of landing spots we found.  Finally, a large empty field was right in our flight path and that is where we landed.  All hands were needed to stow the balloon in it’s stuff sack before our ride back to Balloon Fiesta Park.
Stuffing the balloon back in its sack
During our flight, Gene was riding in the chase car.  The driver, with his eye on our balloon, kept as close to us as possible.  He was there at the field when we arrived.

It will be a while before we will find an adventure to top this one.

Tomorrow it is rally all day long.