A blog about "nothing"!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Day Three Cont.--Some favorite pics

I took close to 300 pictures at the Balloon Fiesta, certainly not enough time or space to share them all here, and kind of like the bad vacation slide show after a while.  I decided I would end my posts about the Balloon Fiesta with a couple of our favorite balloons and shots.

I had this one made into a canvas print for my living room, the colors were so intense and I loved that the pilot decided at that very moment to turn on the flame.

This is one of my other favorites that I had enlarged, now I just need to get it in a frame and hung.  I also used it for the cover of my photo book I had made. 
This was probably my favorite balloon of a standard type, I just loved the colors and the light was absolutely perfect when I went to take this photo.   I also had it enlarged, another one to frame!  I am going to be busy. 
I thought this one was fun because they look so tiny, almost like some kids had released some balloons into the air.  At one point we tried to count how many we could see just standing in one place and it was just too hard to do, so we quit. 
Just an amazing day, we hope to go again sometime.  We never did hear an official count as to how many took off that day, the original number we heard could be between 500 and 700--wow!!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Day Three continued--Special Shapes

Special Shapes is a category of balloons that puts a smile on everyone's faces--I was amazed at the different "figures" that were made from balloons!  We weren't there the day of the Special Shapes Rodeo where you get to see all of them, but I was surprised at how many of them were inflated for the Mass Ascension the morning we were there.

I loved this guy, he was so cool and so colorful!

Ice Cream Anyone?
Horton makes an appearance:
Straight from Madagascar:
Some of the larger balloons couldn't be released because of their size and the wind, but there were quite a few that were inflated on the ground:
Some of the larger Special Shapes did manage to get in to the air:
And the crowd favorite was Elvis--
but due to licensing issues he had to be named "Aaron"

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Day Three--Up, Up And Away!!!

We really weren't anticipating getting to see balloons this day especially after seeing the weather forecast the evening before.  Strong winds were supposed to move in overnight and carry over in to the morning.  For some reason I woke up at 3 in the morning, and decided to hop online to see what was happening.  The winds had moved through early and were next to nothing--Lee woke up about the time I was checking and after some discussion, we decided we would give it a try.  Instead of trying to use the shuttle from the hotel to the mall, we opted for driving to the mall ourselves, arriving there just a bit after 4:00 in the morning.  We were towards the front of the line and we were on the first bus to Fiesta park!!  No more of this waiting in line for an hour and a half.

The wind stayed on our side--yay!  Festivities started with the Morning Glow--about 10 balloons on the ground that were inflated and then illuminated.  Pretty cool!

Then the balloons that were inflated went in to the air for Dawn Patrol--the main purpose of Dawn Patrol is to get vital information about wind direction and weather for the balloons that would be going up later. 

While we were sitting there a balloon rig showed up and parked right in front of us.  We didn't realize that we had picked the prime spot when we sat there, but it was cool watching them inflate it.  You can imagine how surprised we were when it turned out to be the first balloon to go up, it was carrying the American flag as the National Anthem was sung.

Other balloons started inflating, getting ready for the Mass Ascension
Before long, balloons were heading into the air!
Waking up at 3AM was definitely worth it.  More to come!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Day Two--Albuquerque

I have to admit that I spent a good part of this trip with the Weird Al Yankovic song "Albuquerque" running through my head.  Not a good thing considering the song is like 10 minutes long, and the subject matter is bizarre to put it mildly.  The last two times we saw him in concert he ended his show with it.  Maybe it was some sort of subliminal thing that had us plan this vacation?!?!?!

We really didn't have a set schedule for this trip, just a list of things we wanted to see and do, and it was really a good thing we did it that way.  We didn't decide until Friday night that we were going to try and hit the opening session of the Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta.  Set our alarms for 4:15 AM which sounds terribly early--not really for us, with the two hour time difference it was 6:15 which is about the time we get up anyways.  Ate some breakfast, showered and got ready to head downstairs to catch the courtesy shuttle from our hotel to a nearby mall so we could catch a bus to Fiesta park.  Up to that point everything had gone right on schedule--then it all went terribly wrong.  As we approached the mall, the shuttle driver remarked on how much longer the line was from previous years.  Long was putting it mildly, it wandered and snaked all over the mall parking lot!  We got in line and kept our fingers crossed--an hour and a half later we were finally boarding a bus.  It really wasn't as bad as it sounds, we had a wonderful conversation with a gentleman who was with us in line who was there from Australia.  He had come to ABQ on business, and decided that while he was there he had to see the balloons, it seemed silly to be here the week of one of the most spectacular events in the whole world and not go and see it.   The line moved continuously too, so it wasn't like you were just standing there.  Just minutes after we were on the bus, the official word came through--all the events for the morning session had to be cancelled due to wind >:(  UGH!  After much debate, the bus driver got word that they were requesting all buses enroute be turned around and the passengers taken back to their original pick up spot--of course at this point we were almost to Fiesta park, so by the time we got back to the mall, we had been on the bus for about 40 minutes.  I couldn't help but think "gee, I wish I was in bed about now!"  Oh well.  We went back to our hotel, had some of the freebie hotel breakfast and then went to our room to sleep for a while. 

We debated on what to do with the rest of our day and decided to just hang out in ABQ, and finally decided on Old Town Albuquerque.  Neat area, a bit of a tourist trap and because the events at the balloon fiesta had been cancelled, busy as heck, but we had a nice afternoon just walking around and checking things out.  I will say that you aren't going to see a lot of pictures from this trip of adobe style buildings, I'm just not in to it at all.  I'm not a big fan of Southwest style, I can appreciate it, but it just isn't me.   I guess those are my WASP roots seriously showing!

I did take these pictures of the neat statues in front of the museum area in Old Town--there are several large museums in this area, we didn't go in them because of the sheer volume of people.  If you want to learn the history of the area though, they are supposed to be fantastic.  Maybe next time.

I have to admit that I am as guilty as the next guy of giving in to the whole tourist trap thing and bought this necklace:
I was very careful though, we checked out several different stores and looked at lots of different pieces before I finally decided this was the one I wanted.  This came from a really neat shop, they not only sold jewelry but did repairs on site, and it was run by two Native American women.  When I asked if either of them had made this necklace, they said that while neither of them had, it was made on site, on slow days whoever happens to be working in the store makes these necklaces.  I love the "liquid silver" look and it was completely different from anything I had seen in any of the other shops.  I didn't think $25 was out of line either for sterling silver and turquoise.  I also loved the fact that the shop wasn't flashy at all, very simple, the jewelry was the whole deal--they didn't even have fancy bags, after I paid for my necklace, it was handed back to me in a sandwich bag. :)
As we were walking around Old Town, Lee noticed this speed limit sign--we both thought it was hilarious!!
After all that sightseeing, we decided it was time for dinner, so we headed over towards the area that the New Mexican place we had been to the night before was at, there were lots of restaurants in that area.  And what did we end up picking???   SIZZLER!!!   Neither of us had ever been to one and both were in the mood for a good steak.  I have to admit that visions of Larry the Cable Guy ran through my mind (along with his sister and her belly button ring LOL!)  but it really was a very good dinner.  Almost makes me wish we had Sizzler in this neck of the woods!
We headed back to our hotel room to decide if we were going to give it another try in the morning--the weather forecast wasn't very promising.  They did manage to get the festivities in that evening, but a front was moving in with some serious wind (30 - 50 MPH!) so it was debatable as to whether the morning events would go off as planned........so we decided that while we probably wouldn't be going, we would play it by ear.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Day One--The High Road to Taos

We arrived in New Mexico a day and a half before the balloon festival was supposed to start, so we decided to use Friday as a day to drive to Taos which was our furthermost destination from Albuquerque. It always amazes me how the terrain in New Mexico varies so much, I think it is a common misconception that it is all desert, but there are many areas where trees and greenery are plentiful. We took the High Road to Taos both two and from, and it was a very pretty drive, up in to the mountains. At one point my ears even popped!

Taos is an interesting place to visit, the best way I can describe it is a granola eating,
Birkenstock loving artist community.  It is a very relaxed town with a lot of art galleries and interesting little shops.  I was very surprised to find out it only has a population of less than 6,000 people.  There is a Native American Pueblo there you can visit too, one of the oldest in the area, and considered to be the oldest continuously inhabited community in the entire United States.

After checking out the area around Taos, we headed back on the lower part of the High Road towards Santa Fe.  On our way back we discovered a really nice shop selling pottery, weavings and jewelry where I got a gorgeous bracelet as my belated birthday/anniversay present :)

After we rested up at our hotel, we went out for the evening to a fantastic New
Mexican restaurant called Los Cuates in Albuquerque.  They have several locations around the city and I highly recommend them.  And just in case you are curious, New Mexican cuisine is what those of us in the east call Mexican--but truthfully Mexican dining in the US is really Tex/Mex!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

New Mexico: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Sorry folks, after spending a week in the desert, I just had to use the title of my favorite Clint Eastwood movie ;)  And yes, the name Arch Stanton did come up while we were there (TGTBTU fans will totally get that!)  For the moment I'm just going to give a little rundown on our trip, more posts to follow later with pics!

The Good
The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta is just a WOW thing, Lee and I likened it to going to the Indy 500.  Watching a Mass Ascension is just unbelievable, just when you think there can't possibly be anymore hot air balloons in the sky, more are inflated and go up.  Truly worth going to, and the main reason for our trip.

Canyon Road in Santa Fe is home to a bazillion art galleries, and well worth checking out if you like art.  What I loved about it was it wasn't just southwestern art, the galleries there represent artists from all over the world, and the variety there is just unbelievable.  I likened it to going to Art Expo in NYC, just on a smaller scale.  Probably not everyone's bag, but I thought it was cool, and I didn't buy a thing!  A visual feast for sure. 

Tinkertown Museum--pull it up in a websearch, words can't even describe how unusual this place is.  Not quite as unusual as House On The Rock in Spring Green, Wisconsin, but definitely up there. 

Homewood Suites--had never stayed at one of these before, but if they are all like the one we stayed at in ABQ, we will definitely be staying at one again.  Reasonably priced, immaculately clean, good food (and included!)--I'm ranking it right under the Grand Floridian at WDW, and at nowhere near the same price. 

The Bad
Dry air and my poor sinuses!  About a week and a half before we were to leave I got a horrible head cold, one of the worst I've had in ages, and it wasn't quite totally cleared up when we left.  I should have been on a first name basis with the clerks at the CVS near our hotel, I think we were there almost every day getting something else for my poor sinuses.  I won't go in to detail, but let's just say that if it hasn't cleared up by Wednesday, I am probably headed for the doctor. 

Budget car rental--beside the fact that it was expensive (where they get the name Budget is beyond me?!), our car smelled like stale cigarette smoke.  That odor about gags me and I'm sure that it didn't help my poor sinuses either :(  I got an e-mail survey and told them what I thought!

The Ugly
Wind--I didn't realize how serious wind was as far as hot air balloons until this trip.  I'm not talking 30-50 MPH winds either--12MPH is too much.  And when it is too windy, balloons don't go in the air.  Saturday morning we got up early to catch a hotel shuttle to the nearby mall to catch a bus to Balloon Fiesta Park--after waiting in line for an hour and a half, we finally boarded the bus, only to find out on the way there that all the events for the morning had been cancelled!!!  Since it was officially cancelled, our tickets were at least good for another session, and fortunately for us we had several days, but every day can be hit or miss.  I'll admit I was a little nervous after spending all that money trying to see balloons and just keeping my fingers crossed that the wind would cooperate (it did the next day).

The words "CANCELLED" beside your flight home don't do anything for you, especially after you've already checked out of your hotel room, turned in your rental car, and you are in a town the week of one of the biggest events of the entire year!  American Airlines is now right up there with USAir for airlines I will try and avoid when possible, their pilots have a bug up their asses right now about something and the customers are paying the price.  We ended up spending an entire extra day in ABQ, but couldn't do anything because we couldn't get our car back--so we spent the day in our hotel room watching bad daytime TV.  At least AA was paying for the room, but we still lost a whole day since we couldn't get another flight out until the following day.  GRRRRR!

Check back soon, I will post some pictures and more detailed tales of our trip!