In case you missed part 1, here’s the link to our post about the first two days at the Fiesta: Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta – Part 1
Sunday started off much the same as Saturday, except due to some cleaver maneuvering of the truck and a barrier made out of our 15′ rainbow windsock, we were able to deter the pedestrians and sleep in a bit longer. We missed the dawn patrol, and by the time we got up and out the word circulating around our neighborhood was that the balloons would not be flying that morning. There was barely even a breeze on the ground, but apparently farther up it was quite gusty, which is not conducive to safe balloon flying. So instead of rushing out, we leisurely made our way down to the field, hoping to at least see some of the balloons inflated on the field. Only a few were up, but they were some of the cool shape balloons that we hadn’t seen on Saturday. The crowd favorite was clearly the Elvis balloon.
Since the next balloon event wasn’t scheduled until the evening we decided to join Kate & Iain on a Breaking Bad tour. Fans of the show will know that it was filmed in Albuquerque. Those who have not watched it might just want to skip over this next part :) There are approximately 100 filming locations that you can visit around the city. Driving around to all 100 seemed a bit time consuming, so our tour director extraordinaire, Kate, chose seven that were all relatively close together. First stop – a dam on the edge of town. This is the very same dam where Jesse, and later Walt, wait for “the extractor” to pick them up and bring them to their new life.
Next we visited Saul’s office which is now a seedy looking strip mall night club, Walter & Skyler’s house (where we only took pictures out the window because apparently the homeowner is not too thrilled about the hundreds of people taking pics of her house), Jesse & Jane’s apartment (remember the one where she died), Jesse’s fancy looking house, and the iconic carwash/money laundering business.
Our last stop was way on the south end of town where we found the site of Los Pollos Hermanos. The restaurant is actually part of a New Mexico chain called Twisters, where you can buy burritos, tacos, and burgers, but no fried chicken. This place is clearly embracing their television fame with a sign by the front door and a plaque above the both where Walter sat in the show. I read a few different accounts that said their business had increased anywhere from 10 to 20 percent since the airing of the show.
After getting our fill of filming locations and burritos (which were better than expected) we made it back to the Balloon Park in time for a short rest before the start of the Airstream dog parade. Like all RVers, Airstreamers like to travel with their dogs. The parade was a great way to show off the dogs, although it was kind of hot so I think the people probably enjoyed it more than the dogs. Tim & I went along as spectators. Unfortunatley it was not the kind of parade where they throw candy at you.
After the parade we retreated under the shade of our awning for a bit before it was finally time for the Balloon Glow. Unlike the night before when the wind prevented a full show, this time conditions were perfect, and by the time we got down to the field hundreds of balloons were inflated and glowing.
The best part of the show was when the lights twinkled on and off. Every few minutes the announcer would count down from ten, the balloons would all twinkle, and the crowd would cheer.
The glow was followed by another fireworks show. This time we made it farther down on the field and it was far more spectacular than Saturday night. I think we were tired of taking pictures at that point, so I have no evidence to support this claim. You’ll just have to trust me when I say it was the perfect end to a perfect day.
The next morning (Monday) Tim had to work, so we decided to stay home and watch the balloons float over our house. There was no Mass Ascension scheduled, but we figured since they didn’t get to go up on Sunday morning, maybe they would on Monday instead. We figured right. The first balloons showed up before the sun.
We quickly threw on some warm clothes and joined our neighbors outside for the show.
When the sun finally rose above the mountains we were treated to an amazing sight.
The balloons kept coming and coming. We were thrilled to spot some of the special shape balloons that we hadn’t yet seen, like the giant pink elephant, a happy smily whale, and a long blue balloon wearing a surprised look on his face.
Most of the balloons were headed across the street to the landing field, but some never made it that far. Like this sad face wizard/cat combo that landed in the bushes next to the Airstreams.
After about on a hour the balloons slowed down and we wandered inside to start breakfast and work. We could still see masses of balloons off in the distance preforming flying contests over the field. A few started floating our way, and then we heard a large whoosh of air overhead and I ran outside to look. Sure enough, one was landing right behind us! That’s definitely not where they wanted to land, but it was a thrilling moment for us.
One of the things we really wanted to do before leaving the Fiesta was visit the Balloon Museum. Apparently hot air ballooning is such a big deal around here that they have an entire museum dedicated to the history of this sport (hobby? not sure how to classify it). Lucky for us the museum hours were extended during the fiesta (closing at 5 instead of 4) so we had plenty of time for an after work visit.
The museum chronicled the entire history of ballooning from the very first flight in 1783 – where the test pilots were a duck, a sheep, and a rooster – all the way to 1999 when captains Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones flew a balloon around the world in under 20 days.
We also learned all about the history of the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. The event was inspired by a birthday party in 1971 where a single balloon was inflated as a party decoration. The following day the ballon took flight and the idea for the fiesta was born. One year later the very first Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta took place in a parking lot with with 13 balloons launching into the air. Forty-two years later the fiesta is more popular than ever with over 100,000 attendees and 500+ balloons. It’s now held on the custom designed 365 acre Balloon Fiesta park where year round ballooning events and races take place.
After our museum tour we biked across the street to Brenda & Hector’s for dinner. After seeing them several days in a row I finally remembered to take a photo.
When we got back home our neighborhood group was hanging outside so we sat with them for a bit. We had some newcomers, a family from Australia who purchased an Airstream in Oregon and are are planning to have it shipped home. Apparently this is way cheaper then buying one over there. I kind of wish we had met them before the last day, but as typically happens with large gatherings we ended up spending most of our time with our small group and didn’t meet as many new people as we could have. In fact, after the first day we never joined the Airstream happy hour gathering again. Not because we didn’t want to meet more people, but because we were enjoying the company of Lauri & Jase, Kate & Iain, Sarah & Frank, and Eric the filmmaker far too much to venture out.
Tuesday morning started out much the same as the day before. I peaked out the window around 7, and sure enough the balloons were starting to float overhead. Once again we threw on some clothes and headed out to watch the show. The very best thing about watching the balloon steps from our front door was the absence of a dress code.
It was another incredible show. Wish I could see this every morning!
We spotted even more special shape balloons.
As the show wound down we all suddenly remembered that we would soon be parting ways and rushed to take some last minute photos. As usual it was hard to say goodbye, but was made easier by the fact that we already have plans to see all our new friends again.
The official time to exit the park was 11am, but as Tim was in the middle of work we decided to see if we could get away with staying there for the remainder of the work day. No one bothered us, but it was getting pretty hot in that asphalt parking lot, so sometime around noon we headed out.
I hope these two posts, along with the many, many photos, have conveyed just how amazing the Balloon Fiesta is. We don’t attend very many large events, and we are definitely not rally people, but we loved everything about this experience, and will definitely do it again someday.