Guest blog by Ray Shortridge.
The rift valley of the Rio Grande del Norte makes Albuquerque an addictive destination for hot air balloonists. Every fall, Albuquerque hosts the International Balloon Fiesta and balloonists come from all over the world to show off their ballooning skills. An ideal ballooning environment is caused by the Sandia Mountain Range shading the valley for a couple of hours after dawn.
This keeps the cool night air from rapidly warming up, thereby prolonging the buoyancy of the hot air balloon. Balloonists launching at daybreak can enjoy a lengthy ride viewing the Rio Grande, the river’s bosque (the longest cottonwood canopy in world), the lights of an awakening city, and the mountains.
Balloonists inflate the balloons by using fans to blow hot air generated by liquid propane gas into the envelope or bag. At night, during Balloon Fiesta, owners often tether their balloons to the ground with the burners lit, which makes a dramatic sight and is known as a “Ballon Glow”.
People often hire commercial balloonists such as Rainbow Ryders to take them up to enjoy the heady experience of unpowered flight. Often this is followed by a champagne toast. If you’re up for this adventure, make sure to wear a hat. Those burners are hot! In fall, winter, or spring, wear layers The early morning air at full altitude may be cool but it will likely warm up during your ride.
The balloon on the left seemed to follow me down a trail in the bosque, reminding me of the cult British TV show, The Prisoner.
When the balloonist ignites the propane burner to reheat the air in the bag, it sounds like a dragon is approaching. The roar can be a bit unsettling because one can hear it before before the balloon comes into view over a ridge line of copse of trees. A bevy of balloons make a great roar
Balloonists like to hover over the river. The waterfowl don’t seem to mind.
Thousands of balloonists from all over the world will once again rendezvous in Albuquerque this October for nine days and two weekends. It’s a spectacle worth seeing. Have you seen the new special shapes? They rock.