One more: ABQ & the Uplifting Balloon Fiesta

Albuquerque: our final destination, and one to be reached by an extended drive beginning at pre-dawn hours in the Grand Canyon. We passed through the mountains surrounding Flagstaff and then the desert of Arizona before arriving in New Mexico, where rounded red rocks surrounded us prior to our ABQ arrival. It was here we would take in the great spectacle that is the Balloon Fiesta.

And since we met family/balloon pilot in-training there, we were able to spend our time as “balloon crew” for a licensed balloon pilot. Though winds prevented our first viewing of a “glowdeo,” we awoke (absurdly early, I might add) to the opportunity to see a mass ascension of special shapes (e.g., beagles, Star Wars characters, turtles, etc etc). Our opportunity to serve as crew members didn’t pan out due to the pilot’s wind-based decision not to fly, but others opted in and we were treated to every color and shape possible lifting into the early morning skies. More than once, I found myself staring up and smirking as if I was a five-year-old child about to burst with wonder.

With the balloons sailing away, we ventured out to Old Town ABQ, which, admittedly, was seemingly one large gift shop full of balloon/cowboy/turquoise/chile-themed “stuff.” You know, for tourists like us. With balloon duties to fulfill, we had little other opportunity to explore the city beyond Old Town. We capped off that evening by viewing the glowdeo, with balloons inflated but not flying, while a special flame is occasionally and briefly fired in a manner that lights up the entire balloon. Cumulatively, it makes for a enthralling, orange-tinted scene.

And so it ended, our Southwestern Adventure. We flew out of ABQ early, and viewed that day’s mass ascension from a much different angle: the airplane window.  Farewell to the shapes, colors, sunshine, mountains, rocks and desert of the often-dusty but always spectacular southwestern US.

Slideshow and final thoughts still to come…

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