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Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

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Well, it's 1:30am on a Saturday into Sunday and I'm supposed to be working. The work is hard and I'm having a hard time wrapping my brain around it. So might as well share a bit of a trip report here.

First, sorry y'all- I'm wordy.

October of the first year we launched fulltiming, we started seeing fabulous pictures of the International Albuquerque (henceforth known as ABQ) Balloon Fiesta (aka BF or maybe IABF if I'm feeling fancy). We were in awe at what we saw and swore that we would attend in 2016. As soon as registration opened, I booked our sites. Stuff happened and we ended up on the east coast wasting 2016 away. I gave up our spot by the cancellation deadline and got a full refund. We swore 2017 was the year, but didn't have any idea what our actual plans were. Again, we watched the pictures of an amazing 2016 event and again, at the crack of registration opening- I reserved us 2 weeks of dry camping for 2017. I was hopeful, but a fulltime family's plans are nailed firmly in Jello.

Fortunately, WE MADE IT! WE'RE HERE! WE'RE AT THE IABF! I mean, otherwise- why would I write a trip report?

So, I think I shared in my last "pictures no talk" report that we adjusted our Anaheim dates so that Grandma and Grandpa could catch up with us. Grandpa texted one day saying that he had to be in Los Angeles for business and knew we were in California. Could we overlap? Truth be told, we were supposed to leave the day before he was arriving, so we Jello'd up and shifted things back. What it meant was that we lost a week in ABQ before the BF (we wanted some time to explore before the crowds got nuts to butts nuts).

Jello works well because Grandpa wouldn't come without Grandma. Bonus! We would get to take them and play at Disneyland.

More Jello... Grandpa got a call the day before they were to leave. He was to fly to China directly from Los Angeles. He was Grandma's driver + hotel in Los Angeles. So, like any good children- we told her to cancel any plans at home and join us in the rig for a 3-day/800 mile drive to ABQ. Hang out with us for a week or two at the Fiesta and then GTFO! (I kid- we didn't dictate a "get out date", her and Grandpa figured that out themselves.

Ok, so let's kick this thing off for real.

In preparation for 2 weeks of dry camping (something my family has never done for more than an overnight), I upgraded my single 12v battery to a full-fledge 4 battery battery bank. For a plethora of reasons (if you want to know, just ask), I opted to spend the outrageous money on lithium batteries and selected the 12v Battle Born batteries for my project. I wired the 4 batteries in parallel and added a 1000W inverter that I've been carrying around for a long time but never installed (because I'm an electrical sissy typically).


First, we drove from Anaheim to Kingman, AZ. Why here? Well, mostly- it was a convenient distance from Anaheim to break up about a 1/3 of the drive. But first, some drama llama- the day before we left, a wildfire exploded just west of Anaheim. They were intermittently closing a portion of the highway we would take. Our Jello was firm, we had to leave- but we adjusted our route.

Here's a view of the smoke on Monday, Sept 25:


We got a decent start the next morning. The plan was that I would ride in the backseat with the kids and work; Grandma got front seat.

What she didn't know is that front passenger seat has a big responsibility on state-line days... you have to get a good shot of the "welcome to X" sign!


Poor girl, look at that hair!


Being Jello, we hadn't made reservations anywhere. I didn't want to until we got on the road and knew that Kingman really was our destination. While on the road, I hit up RV Park Reviews and Campendium and found Zuni Village RV Park. It turned out well. The lady I spoke with on the phone was friendly and even called me back 5 minutes after we talked to tell me she found me a better spot than she initially told me. I verified office hours and checked on an after-hours check-in.

The park was nice. Lots of monthly/seasonal/fulltimers there. But the park was mostly kept up and our spot was really nice.


They had a small pool that we enjoyed one afternoon. It was pretty cold by that point, but the kids got in and I did too.


We stayed there from Tuesday, 9/26 to Saturday, 9/30. Our time was mostly uneventful except for a quick check-up for my daughter having bad headaches for 2 weeks. Thankfully, it was just allergies and a sinus infection.

Our next destination was Winslow, AZ. I guess there's a song about Standing on a Corner in Winslow, AZ. My mother-in-law tells me its the Eagles. Honestly.... well, yeah. I know Hotel California by them and that's it. But, my wife wanted to get a few more miles under our belts so we adjusted our plans to Holbrook, AZ. That put us right next to the Petrified Forest National Park. We only planned an overnight and not unhitching, but I threatened a lot that I was driving us through it. There were some boondocking opportunities in the area, we ultimately opted for a small park called OK RV Park. True to it's name- it wasn't anything special, but nothing bad.

On our way, we stopped at Camping World to pickup a 2nd generator. After our stay at the service lot a couple of weeks earlier- we found that a single generator wasn't enough to comfortably run a couple of things in the rig. (That service stay is a whole 'nother story- we had non-impact frame damage and made a new friend who fixed it for materials only! Gotta love fellow Fulltime Families!)

So first, you have to be asking, did we stop in Winslow to take the classic picture? Answer: we did not. Turns out, that weekend they were having a "Standing on a Corner" festival and we were worried about getting our 60' of truck + trailer parked.

But, we did better than that. I forgot that Meteor Crater was on the way and just 6 miles off of the highway. I begged and pleaded like a child to get my wife to stop. I literally described it as a "big hole in the ground that we're going to go look at". No one was enthused. I beamed ecstatically!

For 3 adults, 1 senior, and 1 free child- it was a good $61 for admission. We got there at 4pm and they close to new entries at 5pm. That better be one heck of a good hole in the ground.





In the words of my MIL, "I never thought I'd be wowed by a hole in the ground, but that was REALLY COOL! I'm glad we stopped." So there you have it- a hole in the ground can be interesting. They had a decent "museum"/visitor's center that we got chased out of due to them closing. It was good though, we still had an hour or so of a drive to get to the RV park.


We checked in with them then drove the truck + camper over to Alibertos for some fantastic Mexican food. Afterwards, we got parked for the night in our site and slept hard until morning. Here's what the site looked like in the daylight- a good 90' long. What's not shown is the weird approach through dry camping spots.


On the next leg of the drive, we crossed the Continental Divide. This fascinates me as it was something that caught my attention as a child in elementary school. Each time we've crossed it previously, there was no warning- just a green sign and it was gone. This time there was an exit just before it; so we had time to get cameras ready to take a picture. Maybe silly, but I'm stoked I got this shot:


We got to ABQ on Sunday. 5 days later than we wanted, but 2 days before our reservation at the Balloon Fiesta. I found a decent little park on the west side of town called High Desert RV Park.


A bonus while we were there, one of my Mom's best friends was traveling from Pennsylvania to Tucson, AZ where they'll spend their first winter in the RV doing the snowbird thing. The last time I saw these 2 was at my Mom's wake 6 years ago. So seeing Cindy was a lot of wonderful Mom memories coming back. Anyway, we had a wonderful evening hanging out, grilling some food, and just spending a beautiful time together. MANY LAUGHS!


We spent 2 nights at High Desert from Sunday, 10/1 to Tuesday, 10/3.

Tuesday was the big day, we moved over to the Balloon Fiesta RV Lot! At the RV lot, we were getting together for an official "Hangout" of the Fulltime Families. A total of 20 families will be through over the next week or so.

We happened to pull up to registration behind our friends/the founders of Fulltime Families.


As you pull in, there's a RV service guy setup. I had a couple of soft starts for my air conditioners (to help them play nicer on generators and 30amp sites). Electric scares me, so I asked him if he'd give them an install.


The kids got straight to playing.



I also performed a mod on my refrigerator to disable the "door heater" as it's called. It involved snipping a wire and then taping the ends so they don't short out. Instead, I had the RV service guy put spade connectors on so that I can more easily re-connect the door heater if I want. I did this so that the fridge would use less amps/battery power as it runs. But in some part of me cutting the wire or him putting the spade connectors on, we broke the fridge.

A few hours after he left, I had to call him and ask for help. He gave me some ideas to check but ultimately, he had to come back and found that a fuse on the control board was blown. It made for an expensive fuse, but being without a fridge would have been a disaster!

The next few days were pretty quiet.

I started drilling and mounting my Low Pro Lockdown to properly secure my generators. These are fairly impenetrable (supposedly). The generators live in the back in the truck but when setup for camp, they'll be secured to the bumper.


The RV spots are pretty snug and supposedly the fire marshall will get on you if you're blocking the drive at all. So we had the FTF row of trucks up on the berm.


After a rain, we were treated to quite a rainbow!



On Friday, a handful of us went to meet a pilot to get oriented on how to crew for him. Crewing means helping to launch, chase, and retrieve the hot air balloon.




Because of my work schedule, I got selected to help crew the first morning of the Balloon Festival (Saturday, 10/7). But I'll break here... more to come when I get a moment to avoid work! 

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Doug, your off to a great start!!!!! I love your sense of humor and the way you deliver it, keep it coming and have a great time at the balloon festival.

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Great photos, always wanted to go to that area, but it is a long way from here and work interferes  with pleasure. Keep up the good report

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Thanks guys.

I did forget- mostly because my wife took pictures and I didn't.  After we left Meteor Crater but before we got to the RV park, we stopped in front of Wigwam Motel in Holbrook. These were partly the inspiration for the Cozy Cone Motel in Cars.

I'll have to get her pictures and circle back.

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Thanks everyone for joining along! What they don' tell you about ballooning is that the colder it is, the better they fly. It also means that days start inhumanely early. There were reports on the Internet that you wanted to get to the Fiesta field by 4am (yes, THERE by 4am). Heck, the shuttle busses from the RV lot started running about them. And there were many grave warnings about dire traffic getting into and out of the area.


We were assigned to "crew" on Saturday. This meant being on the field at our pilot's assigned spot (the field is laid out in a grid and each spot is identified - for instance, we were in R9) by 6:30am. Y'all, with work lately- I've been going to bed just before then. But we were excited and managed to get the kids to sleep by 10/10:30pm and us by close to midnight. My alarms came early: 


What it also meant is that at 5,500' before time wakes up, it's COLD.


You are talking to a family who prides themselves on avoiding cold and honestly had to go searching for cold weather gear. We didn't bust it all out, though we considered it. (That'll happen tomorrow for my wife and daughter though- it's forecasted to be below freezing!)

The shuttles are school busses. We walked up to the bus stop and were literally the first people blocked from getting on because it was full. Oh well- gave me time to take a picture to prove that I was up at O'Dark Thirty (aka 5:12am).


There was a fairly orderly line started behind of us. Until some old farts came up and warned me that my backpack wouldn't be allowed on the fiesta field (it was) and just stood off to the side at the front of the line. Then more old folks showed up on the other side of the shelter and again at the front of the line. When the bus came, my wife, son, and mother-in-law got to the bus almost first and the old farts started squeezing my daughter and I out. Seeing the lack of seating on the bus (we weren't the first stop in the RV lot), my heckles got up and I kindly (well, as much as I could muster) asked the old fart who hassled me about my bag to "please allow my family to be together". We got on and only 5 or 6 people behind us did. Guess who else made it? Dem jerks.

Anyway, the excitement as building. We were willing to deal with the cold, old fart bad behavior, and were more than excited when we got dropped off at the fiesta field. We got through the entry (not even a bag check that day) and headed down to the field.

At 5:45am, there was a laser light show. This was neat, but I have to admit- I'm a little spoiled by some of the more fantastic ones we've seen. It didn't photograph well, though.

It's amazing how a giant flame reaching into the sky will make a group of people stop and stare. For a moment, I even forgot to take pictures. But I fixed that- here Grandma and Grandson (my boy) are in awe together:


As we made our way, we had to decide what to do. At 6am, they were scheduled to do the Dawn Patrol Show and at 6:30am, was the Morning Glow. We decided we would make our way most of the way to our assigned spot and then would watch what we could as we went.

At 6am, I watched as they started cold inflating a few hot air balloons.


The steps for launching a balloon are:

1) rig up the basket + balloon; basket on it's side and balloon laid out down wind from it

2) cold inflate it with gas powered fans

3) hot inflate it to stand it upright

Not really knowing what titles meant, what we experienced was first they launched a small set of balloons - maybe 10.


The crowd cheered as the first took off:


Before long, they were up and off:


By this point, I had to drag myself and Paige away from watching the burners to go to our assignment. We got there a few minutes before our pilot did. We were supposed to launch in Wave 1 of the Mass Ascension but our pilot needed to rig up his sponsor's banner. This meant he let his neighbor go in Wave 1 and we went in Wave 2. We were supposed to rig up the banner the day before at orientation, but it was too windy.

So what's crazy is the list of rules they give you during orientation. But at the end of the day, you have a pilot, student pilot, and crew chief (in our case- pilot's wife) who know what they're doing. The rest of us just sort of showed up and were like "y'all, I'll help" while picking our belly buttons and eating it. This guy's life depends on us not messing up. No joke. I guess it works- because he thanked us and we thanked him and he's yet to fall out of the sky after 3 days of flights.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The first step was getting the basket setup and rigged. At the end of the national anthem, all of the pilots were going to light their burners at the sky.


The other oddity is that any time you asked the pilot, student pilot, or crew chief what you could do- the answer was "nothing right now", but then you'd notice a fellow volunteer doing something and you'd go help that. Which would lead to the next thing. If you waited to be told what to do, you wouldn't do anything and would leave upset (like a fellow volunteer- she was pretty furious by the end of the morning. (sadface)).

Fortunately, for being a teen girl- my daughter has a heck of a lot of "go get it" in her. She kept finding things to do and be busy with. I tried my best.

While we were setting up, friends came over to watch.


Once the sun came up, we realized we were all frigid cold because what we thought was dew on the grass was actually frost! The littles were very cold, but really kept themselves together admirably.

You couldn't actually hear the anthem whatsoever. Our pilot chuckled and said, "when they do it, I'll do it". So he did and the heat was GLORIOUS!




As I said, no one really tells you what to do. But we noticed the student pilot rigging the interior of the basket and offered to help. She took us up on it and had Paige grab the leather tie offs on the outside of the basket and fish them back in.


Since we swapped waves- we had some time to kill. Our neighbor had to get their balloon mostly inflated before we could get ours laid out. Ballooning is a lot of hurry up and wait.

Here are the commercial ride balloons:



Once we had our window, the first step was to lay out the ground cloth. Our pilot seems a little "particular" about his balloon and keeps it neat and pretty. After that, we carried the basket on and then laid out the "envelope" (the bag that holds the actual balloon). The balloon weighs in the ballpark of 300 lbs.


Here we've started to lay out the balloon:


The launch field is ran and controlled by Zebras. The Zebras are the flight directors. As our pilot said, "whatever a Zebra tells you, you do it." They're aptly named as they're a cross between a umpire and many wear actual zebra print, zebra stuffed animals, all sorts of garb. Here was Tom, I think his name was:


Cute picture of my daughter as we waited out our neighbor inflating their balloon. Albuquerque's Balloon Festival is one of the few in the country that let you be down on the field and so close (literally, no ropes and only a few rules).


Selfie with all smiles:


As we waited, we watched balloons launch. Whiskey anyone?


Another big ole fan cold inflating:



(What can I say? I'm easily distracted.)

The English guard from England:


I wish this next photo better captured the joy and jubilation my son got out of watching that one lift off. He squealed, laughed, and cheered. I have 2 shots of him and both are beautiful, but neither really captured it. My mind did and I'm smiling now because of it. :)


As the morning wore on, more and more balloons launched:


We also started noticing that some were landing just over by the museum (between the Fiesta field and the RV lot) and others sure seemed like they were landing in the RV lot area. Sure enough- friends described it as raining balloons. Some (including a full-9 month pregnant mom) were running around helping to crew balloons to deflate them. The preggo mom says she helped land 8 or 9 (she says it so nonchalantly). Another dad said he kept getting offers and business cards to help crew for other pilots.

Anyway, back to me. Our neighbor is standing and it's time for us to get cracking. The sponsor was soon showing up and we had to get the banner on.


The "big guy" of the crew gets the crown line. You're on a long line that is tied to the top of the balloon. As cold inflating goes, you have to keep the balloon from rolling sideways. As hot inflating goes, you have to help control its upward movement. You aren't stopping it from lifting up and it'll literally pull you across the ground if you try to stop it. Each time they told me that I was on the crown line, they said "because you're built for it". The crew chief literally chuckled and patted my belly as she did!

So, here was my view:


The extent of my instruction? "Keep tension and don't let go... no matter what."

Fortunately, I had time to kill and went and talked to the neighboring crown line guy. He confirmed he's done it before and told me what he tries to do. Yay for better instructions.

In the meantime, my daughter is trying to actually attach the crown. Every slice of the balloon has 2 pieces of velcro and they all of that match up with the crown's velcro. She was literally face-first in balloon trying to get them. Finally the crew chief gave her a bit of reprieve and said the bottom ones were easier if you wait until cold inflating is happening.

Whoops, distracted again:




A little more hurry up and wait before we cold inflated, the crew chief chit-chatted with another neighbor. She called Paige over to help the guy with his crown attachment. My kid tore the heck into it!


He was a big guy - bigger than me. He was happy for the help and stepped back while she rocked it out. While she was almost literally inside of the balloon, we had this exchange:



Me/dad: is it safe for her to be in there like that?

Him: yep, it's all nylon. She won't hurt the balloon.

Me/dad: heh, I don't quite care about your balloon. Does she have to worry about straps/entrapment/dangers to HER?

Him: (slightly stunned) naw, she's fine.


So there was that.

Moving right along, more down/distracted time:


My pictures stop with this one because it was time to work the crown line. Logan came out and helped a bit- first we moved it to not overlap with a balloon behind me. Then after tension was on it, I cradled some of the knots and let him pull on it. And then once it really was hot inflating and going upwards- I had no choice, it was walk forward or get drug on the ground. It's funny how spectators are pretty oblivious- I had to shout for a family to get out of the way as I literally came through their group!

My wife took some good pictures during this time. Flip through the photos on Facebook here:


And then, just like that- our balloon as vertical. They called me in to hand off the crown line. And they were about ready to take off.



Another all-smiles selfie:


They got the signal from our Zebra and off they went!


Unfortunately, since they were carrying VIP sponsors in the chase truck- that used up most of the inside seats. New Mexico's law is that you have to be 18 to ride in the bed. This meant that no kids could go chase the balloon in the truck. My daughter was quite disappointed and is looking forward to crewing tomorrow in the hopes that she gets her chance to chase. (She literally said she would decline a RIDE in the balloon in order to CHASE the balloon!)

But since we were together as a family, we went exploring and walking the grounds. There were still a handful of balloons who hadn't launched yet (and a few that wouldn't).




This is a balloon. And it flew the next day, on Sunday:


The rest of Saturday was pretty low key for us. We all headed back to the house to sleep for a spell. Once we got up, I worked for a while and the kids disappeared to be crazy with the rest of the 20 families here.

They made glow-in-the-dark slime. My daughter and friends decided to "science experiment" with it and put it into the microwave. I was all for it- I wanted to see if the microwave would run off of the inverter.


Sad to say, my 800W microwave wouldn't run on my 1000W inverter. So I fired up a generator.

A little later, my mother-in-law and I climbed up onto the roof to see what the RV lot really looked like. We're off in a corner and had no idea there were so many rigs. Plus, I'm not getting out a whole lot with work these days.




Here's a quick look at our home for these 2 weeks:



It's nuts to butts cozy, but could be worse. I can put my awning out with a little more space and not everyone can.

Our campsite is fully dry camping. We have access to water, but it is supposed to be carried in (I'll talk later about some cheating that happened today!) We have no electric and no sewer. Sewer dumps are $25/each. Water, if they bring it to you, is also $25/fill- supposedly free if you go fill yourself, but the messages are mixed on that. We have a friend in a water + electric site, so we've been stealing some of their water using a fresh water bladder (I talk more about that below).

Saturday night, I hosted a guy's hangout at the rig. My wife decked us out with snacks and goodies. The Moms would have their own time- they were calling it "Margaritas for Moms". For some reason, I got disapproving looks when I wanted to host "Pros for Papas". Fortunately, I have no pictures of the night- not because of debauchery but because I was relaxing and talking with friends.

While we were hanging out, you could just see the Saturday night fireworks from the sites. A couple of folks climbed up into truck beds to watch.

Boondocking notes...


Up to this point, with a 42gallon fresh water tank, we got 6 showers (me twice and everyone else once) and a handful of dishes washed. After those on Friday morning, I took my bladder to a friend's site with water and thought I filled it up- truth be told, I probably put about 20-25 gallons of water in it, if that. I got a shower and my wife did a BUNCH of dishes.

On Saturday night, after I went in from the Pros for Papas hangout- my wife pointed out that the water pump was taking a while to shut off. This is a telltale sign that we're out of water. Sure enough- we were on E. It was too late to fill up, so I grabbed a few bottles and put them in each bathroom. We explained to my MIL what was happening and the kids already know this drill. (lol)

I worked overnight and went to bed about 5:30am. At noon, my wife couldn't take not having water any longer so she woke me up and I went and filled the bladder. I think this time, I got probably 35 gallons of water. It definitely did NOT fill up my 42g tank. So I need to learn that I can put WAY more water into this supposedly 60g bladder.


To eek out 7 showers, I equalized the water level in my 2 gray tanks. Since they share a common sewer drain, I have an end of line valve on it. I make sure the end of line valve is closed and opened each gray tank. The water level equalizes between the 2 tanks -- effectively shifting water from the shower (where it's more full) to the kitchen sink (where it's less full).

On Friday, we had them come and pump out our gray tanks and front black tank. The black tank wasn't full- we typically get 6 days out of it, but we figured it's getting heavier use for some reason and while they were there, we might as well.


As I mentioned, I upgraded to a set of 4 lithium batteries by Battle Born. With lithium, you can use up to 80% of your battery capacity (vs. lead-based batteries are only 50%). In reading some of their marketing materials/videos, it kind of sounds like they have it designed so you can use all 100AH but I'm dubious of that claim. So I have anywhere from 320-400 amp hours of battery usage.

At night, we run a dorm fridge in the outdoor kitchen, I'm working 8-12 hours at a shot, various phones/tablets/laptops are being charged, the fridge is on propane but still uses some 12v, my wife runs a essential oils diffuser, I have a CPAP machine, and we run various fans (ceiling fan and 2-3 small 12" fans). From 9 or 10pm to the next day at noon, we're commonly using 260-280AH of battery. We are making ZERO attempt at conserving energy, just to see what we can do.


During the day, we either run one or both Honda 2000 generators. We run just one if we don't need A/C and are only charging the batteries. They get refilled at somewhere between 50 and 40 amps per hour. If we want to run A/C or another high use appliance, we'll fire up the second generator.

I don't have solar, but I'm building quite a contempt for generators. First, our neighbors don't have Genturi or exhausts that go above the rigs. During the day, we'd like to cool our rig with the windows open, but we get gassed out pretty quick. Our carbon monoxide detector has gone off. So we close up windows and the temperature builds which leads us to running our generator which adds to the disgustingness outside. I've been researching DIY solutions for raising the exhaust up on my portable generators.

Second, Hondas are supposedly the gold standard in quietness. I'm shocked at how loud these Honda 2000 generators are. I've heard how quiet a 1000 can be. This makes me sad. I hate the noise.

My camper needs a serious weight diet but solar + an inverter upgrade is in my future. I want to be as generator free as possible.

Secondly, I want to look at even better chargers than what I bought (I specifically upgraded to a Progressive Dynamics lithium charger). I'd love to see higher amps per hour pushed in. Supposedly with a 400AH battery bank, I can push up to 200AH at a time to it. I'd love to shorten my generator time (and even before I can embrace solar).


If you do any boondocking (even single overnights), get yourself a proper battery monitor. There are a few on the market. I opted for the Victron BMV-702 because it has bluetooth integration and an app for my phone. Watching the amps usage and recharge has been addicting. I have screenshots with notes and all sorts of things telling me what I'm running and how much its using. The installation is  simple.


I'm going to stop this one here. On Sunday, as you can tell- we had a pretty low key day. In the later afternoon/evening, we went over to the Fiesta grounds for food, an evening glow, and fireworks! But that'll be another update for another night that I'm supposed to be working...

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On 10/8/2017 at 10:38 AM, Littleolwoman.aka.Kristie said:

Following along as we too have wanted to visit this event.  

It is beyond amazing. I came in with EXTREMELY HIGH expectations and it has exceeded them. I will suggest- stay on site at one of their RV lots. Either slum it like we are in dry camping or pay the (fairly high) fees for some hookups. But being able to see balloons literally landing between RVs, it's sooo worth it!

On 10/8/2017 at 11:11 AM, Cortezcapt (Derek) said:

This is something that's on our travel bucket list.

DO IT! As soon as you can. Do it! :) And sign up to crew. Being able to help launch a balloon is spectacular.

On 10/8/2017 at 6:20 PM, bdm said:

I'm in


On 10/8/2017 at 6:57 PM, Beckers said:

I'm so in!


14 hours ago, Tri-Circle-D said:

Very cool trip!

I can't wait to hear how two weeks of dry camping goes.  That's a long time.

I want to see some balloon photos!


So far, we're coming up on week #1. I recapped it in the prior post- but basically, 1 gray/black pump out (due to gray water filling) and essentially 1 or 1 1/2 fresh water fills (we came with full [42 gallons] fresh water on board).

14 hours ago, Robin said:

Thanks for sharing. We have a weekend balloon fest in our town in July. This year there was 15 balloons it was really something seeing them all lit up at night.

It's amazing here with the 500 balloons. We talked to people and they said 10+ years ago, it was 1,000-1,500 balloons. But with the city built up as much as it is, they've literally run out of places to land that many and have had to scale it back.

12 hours ago, twiceblessed....nacole said:

So excited to hear about your adventures!  One of these years, we might get to this one.  Curious to hear about your feedback on how the drycamping (for two weeks!) went and feedback on staying at the festival...were people loud at night?

Not "might", you definitely need to come! My mother-in-law said she thought it would be "neat" but has been blown away by how awesome it is.

12 hours ago, Memphis said:

I'm in.


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I meant to say it above and lost the thought- but I like it enough that I don't want it to get lost. After we launched Fred and the VIP sponsors, we were walking around. As we watched another balloon take off, I noticed Paige was just beaming. Ear to ear grin.

She caught my eye and said, "We technically launched a balloon."

I agreed, we sure did.


What's even cooler, the crew chief talked to me with Paige there and said that Paige has hot air ballooning in her. She was a natural- just having an intuitive knack for knowing what to do and what comes next.

The crew chief reiterated that last night as we talked by phone- she asked me what Paige's schedule was for the week to come back and crew again. She again said that Paige is a real hard worker.


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Thank you for this trip report! I love hot air balloons. There used to be a smaller balloon festival near where I live and it was just amazing to see them fly.  Fear of heights keeps me grounded but I think  the view of looking up at them as they cover the sky is better anyway. Love the Smokey Bear one. 

I also am in awe of the experience you are providing for your kids, and you and your wife too.  In another life, that's what I would have done. 

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Thank you so much for taking the time to write your report and share the photos.  So cool!

You have a great sense of humor, and use some terms that I'm sure I haven't seen on this board before! (e.g. nuts to butts).  I also enjoyed the part about picking your belly buttons (but not the part about eating it). LOL.  Great job!

It's awesome that your daughter is being recognized for her work ethic.  Good job, mom and dad!


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Can't get enough of the pictures!!  $25/ dump sounds like a decent price for the honey wagon...but the fresh water situation seems like a pain.  From the conversations I've had with folks, that's what gets ya as your tanks fill up slower than what your fresh tank empties.  Paper plates and military showers (every other day) is what I've been told is the key.  Nice that it's colder at night (so no need for the a/c).  I can sleep much better bundled under blankets, than I can sweating...?


Love that your kiddos, are loving the experience ❤

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11 hours ago, dblr....Rennie said:

WOW!!!! Looks like your having a great time, love all the boon docking info your sharing with us.

It's been good. I hope y'all steer me back if I go overboard with it. The battery stuff goes from simple to complicated in an instant!


9 hours ago, Seals said:

Thank you for this trip report! I love hot air balloons. There used to be a smaller balloon festival near where I live and it was just amazing to see them fly.  Fear of heights keeps me grounded but I think  the view of looking up at them as they cover the sky is better anyway. Love the Smokey Bear one. 

I also am in awe of the experience you are providing for your kids, and you and your wife too.  In another life, that's what I would have done. 

Funny thing about the Smokey Bear one - there was a hispanic family who the wife/mother was taking the picture. I offered and as I lined up the picture, the dad said "Make sure you get Smokey the Bear!" It was seriously a highlight for him/them!


8 hours ago, Tri-Circle-D said:

Thank you so much for taking the time to write your report and share the photos.  So cool!

You have a great sense of humor, and use some terms that I'm sure I haven't seen on this board before! (e.g. nuts to butts).  I also enjoyed the part about picking your belly buttons (but not the part about eating it). LOL.  Great job!

It's awesome that your daughter is being recognized for her work ethic.  Good job, mom and dad!


Thanks TCD! I try to look for the humorous side of things. I also try to balance it for not falling off the "ohhhh he shouldn't have said that" edge. I fail often, but I'm usually giggling as I fall.

Thanks for the kind words. It's coming at a great point in her life that hard work is being recognized by someone other than Mom and Dad.

7 hours ago, bdm said:

Wow, they got you guys packed in there tight.  It does look like a great time.

Yeah, it's cozy! Sadly, still not as bad as San Francisco was! We had a coveted spot with some grass. Otherwise, the front was pert near as tight as the back.




7 hours ago, Robin said:

You should be proud of your daughter!

We are. She's at such a tough age where she sees how we get after her more than we praise her. But I truly know how wonderful she is. 

3 hours ago, twiceblessed....nacole said:

Can't get enough of the pictures!!  $25/ dump sounds like a decent price for the honey wagon...but the fresh water situation seems like a pain.  From the conversations I've had with folks, that's what gets ya as your tanks fill up slower than what your fresh tank empties.  Paper plates and military showers (every other day) is what I've been told is the key.  Nice that it's colder at night (so no need for the a/c).  I can sleep much better bundled under blankets, than I can sweating...?


Love that your kiddos, are loving the experience ❤

It's not awful, but higher than I want. I really hate paying it as I have a fancy sewer bladder that is designed for exactly this situation. Unfortunately, I've been so crazy with work (60-70 hour work weeks and 3 or 4 overnight working sessions with 5am bedtimes) - I just haven't had time to pump and drive to a dump (closest is 6 miles away).

The showers really surprised me. We have never gotten more than 4 showers even with so called "navy showering". I think we just never took it quite so seriously. I also had more luck with equalizing the tanks than I have before.

2 hours ago, Beckers said:

I'm so glad you are doing this report! What an experience!!

Thanks! I hope y'all enjoy it. It's truly mindblowing to walk out and see them all. I debated going outside this morning and finally drug myself out of bed after a 3am sleep-time. It was soooo worth it!

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