Organ Pipe National Park

Organ Pipe National Park

About Me

I purchased "Sadie''s House On Wheels "in late 2007 and loved traveling in a motor home so much that I went on the road full time in late 2008. I started writing this blog to help me remember all the wonder places I have been and it allows me to share those places with my family and friends. Summer of 2013 I decided to hang up the keys for a while and moved back into my stick house. After nearly two years, I am on the road again.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Moving on, Salt River and Malpaise Wilderness, October 12, 2015

Heading back to Casa Grande on the back roads towards  the Malpaise Wilderness NM, we stopped at Ventena Natural Bridge in the monument.  Malpaise means Badlands. I was a little skeptical of the back roads, but it turned out the road was good. Ventana Natural Bridge was on the way and I snapped a few photos.  The area around the bridge is fenced off, so I wasn't able to get up close to it. 

Next we stopped  near the Salt River for a quick overnight. The Salt River Bridge was a short distance. The original bridge has been abandoned  but left in tack adjacent to the new bridge. The filming of Running  and a helicopter crash scene took place on the original bridge.  

The road was very steep and curvy in places, so much so we left very early in the morning so the Beaver would not overheat on the steep grades.  

Next we explored Show Low, with the intention of spending the night at the Elks club.  It turned out they wanted to charge the same price for dry camping as for hook ups along with a deposit, so we moved along and continued back to Casa Grande, to the SKP park accumulating more miles than normal.  The next few days were spent regrouping and preparing for our trip to Oregon.  

Lots of changes are in the future, so stay tuned.   

Last day of the Baloon Fiesta and Special Shapes, October 11, 2015

The final day of the balloon fiesta includes a final mass ascension of all of the balloons.  I was up early and headed over to the launching field. Joel decided to sleep in so I got a little earlier start as I made my way to the assigned launch site for Keystone Willy.    Launching the final morning is optional but there was a good turn out.  Many of the balloons inflated but opted not to launch.  Our pilot appeared with the bad news we would not be inflating or launching.  I won't go into why, but only will say eventually the issued was resolved and the grounding was lifted, but Wil, our pilot declined to launch anyway.  I took the opportunity to enjoy and savor all the wonderful colors and shapes.  As promised in my last post, the following is just a sampling of all the different shapes.

What a great experience this was!  I never realized how much teamwork is involved in inflating, chasing and packing up these hot air balloons.  Would I do it again?  You bet!...but maybe not for a full two weeks.

Once I got back, Joel had the Beaver packed up and ready to hit the road.

Ballon Fiesta, Part III, October 5-11

Yep, it's been almost three weeks since I posted more on the Balloon Fiesta.  The remaining days of the Fiesta turned out to be very busy.  Keystone Willy competed in the Special Shapes Rodeo as well as the Glowdeo  (short for Glow Rodeo) in the eventing.  This meant we crewed everyday and twice during the Special Shapes Rodeo. Our days started with an early morning shuttle ride to the launch  area while it was still dark, returning to the boomer area around noon, and then returning to the launch area around 5:00 P.M. for the Glow show.  Needless to say, we were pretty tired and busy.  One evening it was so windy that the Glowdeo was cancelled and another evening Keystone Willy was almost  completely inflated  but then collapsed due to the wind and then re inflated.  There were more than 100 Special Shape balloons this year, making for good competition.

The first day of the Rodeo, Keystone Willy was one of the few balloons that made the target and scored, but wasn't so successful during the rest of the competition.  The winds were not cooperative making it difficult to even launch.  One day, Keystone was able to reach the target but the marker was not in place so the bean bag was not deployed.

Mornings start very early.  These photos were take at 5:45 for the dawn patrol.

Up and away.  This morning the sky was clear and the mass ascension was in full force!
 Keystone Willy was launched and catching the morning sun.

Perfect morning shot of Keystone Willy.
Early morning launch off from the foothills in ABQ.

Sitting down on the job? No, the guys are just squishing the air out to get the balloon packed down in the bag.  It's called the the "Hiney Maneuver.  "

Keystone Willy during the Glodeo at night.

Several evenings there were fireworks  and laser show on the field, which were visible from our RV site.  During the Glodeo we stayed and watched the fireworks and laser show on the field.  I didn't have a tripod with me, so the photos are not as sharp, but you get the idea.

The crowds were huge, over 20,000 plus per day.  I was told there were over 9,000 RVs parked in the RV park in and around the Balloon Fiesta area.  There were 51 RVs just for the Boomers. What is amazing, is that traffic grid locks were far and few between and everything was very will organized.  Bicycles were encouraged and a few time we rode the bikes to the launching area, where they were parked in a free, secure bike corral.  Buses ran continuously, beginning at 4:00 A.M. (our alarm clock) and continued until 9:00 P.M.

I mentioned that there was over 100 Special Shape balloons.  In my next post, I'll upload some of my favorites.  On the last day of the fiesta, Keystone Willy was grounded, so instead of crewing, I had an opportunity to take photos and wander through the crowds, which was a treat.  Almost all balloons were inflated, but not all launched.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Ballon Fiesta Part 2, October 3-4

Saturday was the official opening of the Balloon Fiesta.  We headed over to the launch field to meet at the appointed time of 6:15.   There are shuttles, but they were running late or full, I'm not sure which , but we ended up walking to the field, panicked because we thought we would be late.  The traffic was grid locked and the crowds massive..   More on  the traffic, parking,  and transportation issues  in another post.

"Dawn Patrol" starts at 6:00 which means many crew members have to be at the launching point by 5:30 or so.  Fortunately, our Pilot is not part of the Dawn Patrol so we didn't have to be on the field until 6:15.  However, the balloon he will be flying  is a "Special Shape" called Keystone Willy. Keystone Willy is huge and takes a more time to roll out and inflate and more time to pack up. Keep reading for photos of Keystone Willy.

The pilots receive their briefing  at 6:15  and we wait and watch the "Morning Glow" which is spectacular.  It starts about 6:30 when it is still dark.  (Sunrise is 7:05 or there abouts)The balloons fire up in unison and "glow" in the dark.

 In the mean time, the rest of the balloons are getting ready for Mass Ascension:

The Mass Ascension, is just that.  All the balloons go up about about the same time. However, on Saturday the balloons go up in two waives.  There are around 500 registered balloons We were second wave, mainly because our balloon, Keystone Willy is so big and other balloons need to clear the field before inflation starts.

The truck with the fan, balloon, and basket.

The basket is taken off the truck and the burners are set up and then the basket tipped on its side.

The balloon is rolled out.
The fan is turned on and the throat is held open. Our pilot, Wil is helping out slightly. He is the only one who is allowed to step on, or in the balloon while it is inflating.

 Once the balloon is full of air, the the burners are started and the balloon pops up and the basket tips back up. At this point the weight has to be applied or the balloon will take off.  The whole process from rolling out the balloon until take off can take is little as 30 minutes...if all goes well. The pilot has to wait for an official called "Zebra" to clear take off (they wear striped clothing).  Below, they are walking the balloon to a better launching point requested by the Zebra.
Everyone lets go of the basket on the pilot's command, and up goes Keystone Willy.

The mustache alone is 50 feet across.  The weather on Saturday and Sunday was a little  "iffy". Clouds threatened rain and the wind was kicking up slightly on Saturday and on Sunday, there was no wind initially, and  light rain sprinkles.  If the wind speeds are more than six mph the pilots generally won't fly. If there is no wind, or the wind headings  are the wrong direction they won't launch.  Anyway,  lift off times were delayed slightly (we didn't need to stress about being late)  until the officials declared it safe to fly on both Saturday on Sunday.

Once up in the air the "chase" begins.  We all load up in the chase truck (most in the pickup bed) and keep an eye out for Willy. Our driver is communicating with the pilot the whole time and the pilot is narrating where he is and where he is going to put down.  On Sunday we actually lost site of Willy when he landed and radio communication wasn't working well and he landed on a road on the other side the park. We drove through  neighborhoods giving a high speed chase trying to get back to the road and park where Willy landed.  On the way, I held on for dear life with one had while snapping pictures with the other.

Once the crew arrives and the landing site, the hard work starts. First the balloon is allowed to  deflate and lays on the ground.

Then all of the air has to be massaged out so the balloon can be tied up.

No, the crew is not laying down on the job.

 Next the balloon is stuffed in the giant bag.  The tricky part here is that the bag must be scooted towards the balloon and the more balloon that is put in the bag, the heavier it gets.  Also, the crown is put in the bag  first and the  apron very last.  In this way the balloon can be rolled out  apron first on the field and the rest of the balloon is rolled away opposite from the basket.
 Once the balloon is in the bag, then it has to be tamped down and the bag tied up.  (This was how the bean bag was invented in 1965, so our Pilot says).

The basket is put in the truck and then the balloon is rolled onto the tailgate lift and positioned on the truck for the next flight.  The whole packing up process, if all goes smoothly, doesn't take more than 30-45 minutes.

Tomorrow competition begins and pending weather, Keystone Willy will be flying every day.  The days have been busy, but fun.  There is much, much more to come.