Notes on the Journey

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Balloon Sighting

I saw six hot air balloons this morning in the sky over Albuquerque.  It always makes me happy to see them.  Albuquerque is known for hot air balloons, but I don't see them all that often.  Most likely because I'm not a real early morning person.  This morning I got up early in order to take my car in for service, so it was about 7:15am when I saw the balloons.  They fly over the flat, western part of the city.  And, the early morning is the best time because the wind is quiet.

I had just merged onto the freeway that runs west to east when I looked up and saw three balloons.  As I continued toward the west and connected onto the freeway that runs north to south, I saw two more balloons.  Oh...five balloons!  How great!  Then, after traveling north and taking an exit that would take me further west, I saw the sixth balloon.  Wow...six balloons!  I'm like a little kid when I see them.

It's monsoon season here, but this morning the sky was clear and blue.  The only clouds were thin ones over the Sandia Mountains, hinting at the rain that would come later in the day.  The wind was quiet, the air was crisp, and the balloons stood out in stark contrast against the sky.  It was a gift to start my day by seeing the balloons.

Our Balloon Festival happens in October and is the largest event that takes place in Albuquerque all year.  People come from all over the world for it and there are more balloons than you can imagine.  You get up in the wee hours of the morning and get to the balloon park before it's light.  The first balloons take off in the dark and you can see the fire from the burners that heat the air inside the balloons and makes them rise.  They glow as they go up early before the rest of the balloons to check the direction and strength of the wind.  Then, as the sky starts to lighten and the sun starts to rise, the mass ascension of all the assembled balloons happens.  It's gorgeous and overwhelming and takes hours and hours for them all to get up.

The balloon park is a huge open field where the balloons get laid out and inflated.  There are hundreds of them.  And, everyone walks through them.  It's not like the balloons are in one place and the people attending the festival are in another place watching from afar.  When you attend the festival, you're right next to the balloons.  They take off all around you.  I was turning in circles trying to see all of them as they took off.  I took so many photos it was hard to get through all of them.  The balloons are very colorful and there are so many different shapes.  The typical balloon is round and large on top and then kind of tapers down toward the bottom, but at the festival there are balloons shaped like Darth Vader and like houses and like cartoon characters.  The creativity that's gone into the balloons is stunning.

It's hard to describe the beauty and the emotion of the balloon festival, and you might wonder, "What's the big deal?"  But, if you can, you should come to Albuquerque in the fall and see for yourself.  It's a week of wonder and fun and magic.  The balloons affect you in ways you wouldn't expect.  They open hearts and bring people together.  It's only July...you have time to make it this year.  We'd love to have you.

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