Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta day 5

Trip Start May 06, 2010
Trip End Oct 14, 2010

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Flag of United States  , New Mexico
Saturday, October 9, 2010

My family and I got up ridiculously early so we were sure we'd make it in time for our balloon ride today.  We needed to be at Balloon Fiesta Park to check in at 5:30 and we were concerned the traffic would be worse than we've seen during the week.  We got there early and sat in the car until it was time to check in.

After check-in we waited until it was time to be led out to our balloon.  When all nine people assigned to our balloon were ready we were led out onto the field.  The chase crew had laid out the balloon.  Shortly after we arrived they started to inflate the balloon with two large fans.

I've been around balloons being inflated on other days of the event.  There have been some people around watching how it's done but today the crowds were much larger.  I suspect today, the second Saturday of the event, is the peak attendance day.

After the balloon was inflated we all got in the basket and were quickly on our way.  One group of balloons had taken off before dawn to check the winds.  We were among the first balloons to follow them.  The Dawn Patrol had found that the winds today would not allow us to return to the Park by changing direction by changing altitude.  Our flight was going to be a one-way.

Once you've gotten in the air the balloon is very stable and you rarely notice any movement at all.  The pilot is able to raise the balloon by turning on the burner or lower the balloon by opening a vent at the top of the balloon.  He can also rotate the balloon by controlling vents on the side of the balloon.  All of these motions are very slow and gentle and you don't feel them.

You get a much different perspective from the air.  Early in the flight we could look down on the other balloons lifting off from the Park and inflating on the ground.  Later we slowly drifted near downtown Albuquerque.  Most of the time we were quite low and you could hear and be heard by people on the ground. 

After a bit over an hour our pilot told the chase crew where he intended to come down.  They had been following us and were visible below us.  They drove over to the chosen spot and were there when we first touched down.  They maneuvered the balloon around some obstacles on the ground.  We then lifted up to go over a canal and then landed in a large field at which point the pilot opened a large vent in the top of the balloon, causing it to quickly collapse.  After the balloon was down we got out of the basket.  While the chase crew folded up the balloon and loaded everything onto a trailer the pilot opened a bottle of champagne for the traditional toast.  We then were driven back to Balloon Fiesta Park.  It had been a very pleasant flight.  I'm eager to do it again.

By the time we got back to the Park there were no balloons near the field.  We went back to the hotel.  I was tired and stayed in the rest of the day.
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