Balloons Over Albuquerque
October 2002
Page 9

Life in Camp

Our day in camp usually began very, very early for us to be able to witness most of the activities on the balloon field starting with the Dawn Patrol. We had an unobstructed view of colorful sunsets. At night, we had a nice view of the city lights of northern Albuquerque while looking out through the windshield of our motorhome. There were very few night time activities in camp due to the fact that people went to bed early to be able to get up long before sunrise.

The campground next to the hot air balloon landing field is normally pretty quiet with nothing much going on. That all changes each morning after the hot air balloons rise from the field heading for a position in the box. If the box fails or drifts to the South, the RV campground gets exciting fast.

A lineup of our motorhomes looking out on the landing field

After spending the morning watching the launch of a huge number of balloons, we would return to our motorhome around 9 or 10 o'clock in the morning. This would be the time that the first balloons to launch would be looking for a place to land.

This balloon approached landing field close over our motorhome

Some balloons didn't make it to the field and landed among motorhomes

The landing field was also used for several competitive events. One competition was the most fun to watch. A tall pole was set up in the center of the landing field. On top of the pole was a set of keys for a very expensive pickup truck. The challenge was for a hot air balloon pilot to get close enough to the top of the pole to grab the keys.

Normally a pilot can only control the altitude of a balloon. The direction of a balloon's travel is mostly at the mercy of the wind. Therefore, it took a while before a jubilant pilot claimed the set of truck keys after many attempts. In the process of trying to get into position to get the keys, those of us in the RV camping area were treated to a show up close and personal.

The view of the landing field as seen through our motorhome windshield

On our last full day in the camping area, after watching the "Mass Ascension" on the field, we returned to camp to watch the balloons landing all around us. Kevin put a lawn chair on the roof of his motorhome to get closer to the action. I thought that might be a bit risky after seeing a balloon basket come within inches of his motorhome TV antenna just the morning before. At one point there was a balloon approaching that made it look as if Kevin was reaching out and touching the balloon while standing on the roof of his RV.

More balloons are heading our way — notice Kevin on roof of motorhome

While Kevin was on the roof, the rest of our group was in front of our rigs watching the activities all around us. Some were standing so as to be able to move around to see around the various RVs, while others took in the show while seated comfortably in chairs.

It appears as if Kevin is reaching out to touch a balloon

Balloons can be seen landing in all parts of the field

At the peak of activities overhead, there were balloons as far as the eye could see in all directions from our motorhomes. We had a few narrow escapes; however, we didn't have any balloons land on us. On two sides of the RV camping area, there were balloons that landed right next to some rigs.

The balloon on the left caught the attention of the women in our group.

Next to one boundary of the RV campground was what looked like an old cemetery. I've always found old cemeteries to be interesting. Evidence of a part of life in the area many years ago can be gleaned from the messages on grave markers. I decided to pay a visit to the cemetery next door to find that it wasn't all I thought it would be.

An entrance to an unexpected scene

Looking through the wrought iron gateway, the final resting-places did in fact look old. Upon closer inspection, however, I learned that even though many of the graves were indeed old, several recent burials had taken place. It appears as if this burial ground is a final resting-place for the poor.

This was the last resting place of the poor

Most of the grave markers were hand made with many showing the love a family member put into the construction of a headstone or simple cross to mark the resting place of a loved one.

There were days in camp when people spent an afternoon taking it easy with naps, reading, working on craft projects or just visiting. During one such afternoon, Tina and Nora were watching an activity taking place across the road form our campsites. This was the area where fifth wheel rigs were parked. Suddenly Tina and Nora began laughing as they watched an unpleasant operation taking place.

The RV across the road was having the holding tanks emptied. With no hookups, this was a necessary service for RVs that were in place for several days. The process involved pushing a small kiddy wading pool next to the RV. Then a short hose was connected to the holding tank valve allowing the free end to dangle into the kiddy pool. The dump valve was then opened, filling the kiddy pool. A pumper truck then was used to empty the kiddy pool. Because the kiddy pool was not able to hold the contents of a full holding tank, this process had to be repeated several times to empty both the waste water tank and the gray water tank.

Fortunately for us, the wind was not blowing in our direction most of the time. However, occasionally we would get a small dose of the outhouse odor come our way. The people doing the work were a bit clumsy and there was speculation as to what might happened.

One time a hose came loose at the wrong time while at another point one of the people stepped on the edge of the kiddy pool waste container. One of the workers covered up a small spill by using a foot to kick dirt over the mess. After a few wild speculations of possible disasters made by Tina and Nora, they had each other laughing so hard that I thought they might hurt themselves. Then I began laughing just from watching them laugh. It went on for a while and took some time to wear off.

These two laughed so hard it looked as if they may hurt themselves

An unpleasant operation took place across the road from our campsites

After everybody was up and around, we all voted to have dinner at a buffet at a local Indian casino. The casino was located in a beautiful building. The architectural design was modern pueblo utilizing adobe and lot of very large wooden beams. Looking out from the interior, the mountains in the distance were framed by the high windows at the entrance. I tried to take pictures of the casino building and the view from inside when I was stopped by one of the casino guards. I would later get an opportunity to snap a picture of the building from a distance. Unfortunately, not much can be seen of the beautiful structure.

A distant view of a casino where we had dinner

After dinner Kay played the slots, Kevin and Tina played cards while Tom, Nora and I shopped in the casino store. I bought a nice shirt with money that I would normally have put in slot machines. I figured I would at least leave the casino with something of value. When it was time to head back, Kevin and Tina chose to stay at the casino while the rest of us returned to camp.


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