Welcome

The CoolRVers are actually a couple of retirees, Judy and Luke Rinehimer and our 5 year old German Shepherd Dog, Miss Shady Lady. We are "extended-time" travelers with a home in Cool, California. Thanks for following along with us as we travel North America in our "rolling condo", enjoying the RV lifestyle. Your comments are always welcomed.



Click photos to view the images enlarged. Use your BACK arrow to return to the blog.





Friday, April 28, 2017

"X" IS FOR 'X-RAY' (#AtoZChallenge)

For this "X" letter of the day for the A to Z Bloggers Challenge I am taking a simple approach:  "X" IS FOR 'X-RAY'


FUR-BABY X-RAYS

As the owner of German Shepherd dogs (GSD) over the years we have spent plenty of time in Veterinary Clinics making sure our "fur-babies" are in pain-free, good health for traveling with us in our motorhome.

"Tasha" with Robin at the top of the stairs
with cousins Megan and Laura


We are currently on our fifth GSD.  "Tasha" (see photo) was raised from a pup and survived until our daughter Robin was away at college in 1990.  After that heartbreak we decided to "rescue" each of our next GSDs.

"Tobi" was a White Shepherd who loved to run, jump for Frisbees, and, thankfully, was generally in good health.  She died from heart disease.

"Krissy", on the other hand, was a medical nightmare and we have lots of X-RAYS to share.  

"Star" was in relatively good health to the end.  You'll read her story below.

"Shade" or "Miss Shady Lady" as she is now known has taken over our household for the past 1.5 years.  At age 5 her only issue is keeping her nails trimmed.

Meet GSD #3 "Krissy"



Krissy loved to play ball and her favorite toy was a "Kong". While RVing in the Quartzsite, AZ desert the fetched Kong would be covered in her saliva and collected gravel and rocks that eventually made it to her stomach.

The first x-ray shows quite a collection of stones that were in her system. The Vet suggested a technique that basically "starves" the dog for a couple of weeks before she would try to pass them. She had to drink Pedialyte to replace her water and electrolytes and, eventually, we were told she would regurgitate (vomit) the stones without having to pass them through her digestive track.  

Photo #2 shows them "collected" in the bottom of the stomach and, YES, she did toss them out onto our home deck and we could actually see very specific stones that were visible in the x-ray.




KRISSY AND "BLOAT"

Here is a description of "Bloat
Dog bloat is a common condition that can be dangerous, even deadly. Dogs who have it need treatment right away. Know the signs so you can recognize when your pup needs help! 
What Is Dog Bloat?Bloat happens when a dog’s stomach fills with gas, food, or fluid, making it expand. The stomach puts pressure on other organs. It can cause dangerous problems, including:
  • No blood flow to his heart and stomach lining
  • A tear in the wall of his stomach
  • A harder time breathing
In some cases, the dog’s stomach will rotate or twist, a condition that vets call gastric dilatation volvulus. It traps blood in the stomach and blocks it from returning to the heart and other areas of the body. This can send your dog into shock.Symptoms:  Bloat usually comes on very quickly. At first, your dog may show signs that his stomach hurts. He may:
  • Act restless
  • Drool
  • Look anxious
  • Look at his stomach
  • Pace
  • Try to vomit, but nothing comes up
As the condition gets worse, he may:
  • Collapse
  • Have a rapid heartbeat
  • Be short of breath
  • Feel weak
If you think your pet has bloat, get him to a clinic right away. If dogs don’t get treatment in time, the condition can kill them.

Krissy survived her gastric dilatation volvulus  (aka, bloat, stomach torque, or twist).  A late night trip to a Vet directed us to an Emergency Veterinary Hospital in nearby Roseville, Ca.   She nearly died on the 30-mile trip but a 3:00 a.m. surgery saved her.  Basically, the Vet performed major surgery to "untwist" her stomach that had spun around in her body cavity like you twist a balloon to make toy shapes.  As part of the surgery she had part of her spleen removed, too.  As you'll read next, that would become a future issue. 

BELOW:  Hubby Luke comforting Krissy following her surgery for bloat. She was eventually cleared to travel with us on our planned cross-country trip to Pennsylvania .


Just before leaving PA that summer, Krissy quit eating and was once again showing signs of bloat.  A local Vet took new x-rays and then had us come into her office as she explained that the procedure used by the first surgery Vets had left her remaining spleen loose enough that it was now wrapping itself around Krissy's esophagus passage to her stomach. Time for another major surgery. 

Ah, the dreaded cone of recovery was even more exciting once she was back in the motorhome. She was allowed to travel but we had to find a Vet in Branson, Missouri to remove her stitches. She made it home to Cool, California and later died from heart cancer. 






MEET MISS STAR

Miss Star was our 4th GSD and we had her for 7.5 years until she passed at age 13 while on another family visit to PA.  We like to say she had 100,000 miles on her!  It was only in her last couple of months that her quality of life became an issue.  She did develop "hip dysplasia" but it didn't really cripple her until her very end of life. She finally had inoperative cancer throughout her organs. 

ABOUT HIP DYSPLACIA
Hip dysplasia is a very common disease in dogs. This orthopedic condition occurs as a result of abnormal development of one or both hip joints, leading to instability and degeneration of the joints. Hip dysplasia can affect one or both limbs and may range from mild to severe.  
What is Canine Hip Dysplasia?
The hip joint includes a ball at the top of the rear leg bone (head of the femur) and a socket in the pelvis (acetabulum). When a dog has hip dysplasia, the connection of the ball and socket fits poorly. Typically, there is laxity (loose joint) and instability in the joint. Because of the abnormal connection, movement of the leg causes deformity of the joint. Over time, the cartilage in the joint wears down. Scar tissue and abnormal bony growths (osteophytes) develop. The damage in the joint makes it gradually more difficult for the dog to move the leg without pain and restricted range of motion.
Star's Hip Dysplasia X-rays

The first x-ray shows Star's hindquarters and you can see the pelvis and hip bones.  The second photo really visualizes how she adapted with her hip "out of the joint". She just walked with bone on bone.



MEET MISS SHADY LADY


GSD #5, "Shade" sits and sleeps wherever she wants.  She clings to me like Velcro.


NO HUMAN X-RAYS

Don't worry, I have no plans to show you all of our own collection of x-rays, ultra-sounds, and CT-Scans that have been taken for broken ankles, elbows, fingers, valley fever and arthritis diagnosis.  We are sure glad our Kaiser Permanente Senior Advantage health plan includes radiology and labs!


"Pets are humanizing. They remind us we have an obligation and responsibility to preserve and nurture and care for all life." 

James Cromwell



Thursday, April 27, 2017

"W" IS FOR WASHINGTON STATE (#AtoZChallenge)

We are home-based in Northern California but just up Interstate 5 about 600 miles is a wonderful RV destination -- the State of Washington.  Today's "A to Z Challenge" blog letter of the day is "W" so we'll explore WASHINGTON.



PREVIOUS VISITS TO WASHINGTON

Over the years we have made many visits to -- and through -- Washington and we have lots of reasons to go back.  On May 7th, for example, I will actually be flying to Seattle's SeaTac airport to start an Alaska cruising vacation with family. From Seattle we'll cruise to Vancouver, British Columbia and then North to Alaska.  I plan to share my tourist time in Seattle with the family members new to the area.  

Last summer we were in Washington visiting long-time friends in Vancouver, Washington, just across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon and then went north to Port Townsend where my nephew and his wife were building a house.  We will repeat those stops in late June and then we'll take lots of time to re-visit more of the Evergreen State.





I felt welcomed at Safeway
With its maritime heritage, artist spirit, and a touch of urban chic, Port Townsend is an easily accessible base camp to the Olympic Peninsula and beyond. Whether on land or sea; indoors or outdoors – Port Townsend has activities for every taste. 
The local deer are common on the lawns in downtown Port Townsend
Our "rolling condo" being towed
Unfortunately, our trip home involved a detour to a Freightliner repair service center in Tumwater, WA when the power steering fluid hose broke and forced Luke to steer the 40' motorhome without power steering a short ways to get off the very narrow and winding Highway 101 into Triton Cove State Park. Ah, the memories of a 65-mile towing. 


A geocache was found on this sign while waiting for our tow truck.


TAKING GRANDSON TAYLOR TO WASHINGTON

Loved Taylor's happy face
In 2012 we convinced our then 12-year old grandson to take a solo trip with his ol' grandfolks in the motorhome.  Our goal was to take him to the Microsoft Visitor's Center in Redmond, WA and to the Boeing Manufacturing plant in Everett, WA.   He warmed up to RVing with a whitewater jet boat trip on the Rogue River in Oregon and then a stay at a kid-friendly KOA campground in Kent, WA.  He loved the flight simulator rides at Boeing and then challenged himself with numerous roller coaster rides at an amusement water park.

SEATTLE - LANDMARKS AND UNIQUE VISITS

Pike Place Market Fishmonger tosses fish over the counter
A visit to Seattle means a visit to the iconic Space Needle Tower and a variety of nearby attractions you shouldn't miss.  CLICK HERE to visit a list of the Top 10 things to do while in Seattle. Among our favorites are Pike Place Market with the fish tossing merchants, the Ride the Duck land and water tour amphibians, the EMP Pop Music and Science-Fiction Museum, and the unique Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe.
Tour Seattle by land and by sea with crazy drivers that will keep you entertained.

WESTERN AND SOUTHEASTERN WASHINGTON

Before driving to the far Pacific Northwest from California and Oregon there are multiple routes through Western and Southern Washington to choose.  We have only spent limited time in the popular Coastal communities of Astoria and Long Beach.  Those were extended stops that did not happen last year when the motorhome broke down.  There is time to spend at the World Kite Museum and the Cranberry Museum so maybe this year we'll do more than just drive through. 



We have passed through and stayed at different parks in the Tri-Cities area of Southeastern Washington. The cities include Richland, Kennewick, and Pasco and they meet at the confluence of the Yakima, Snake, and Columbia Rivers. Much of the area is surrounded by semi-arid agricultural lands.
In 2007 we had the fun experience to meet up with an internet friend visiting from Mazatlan, Mexico on the 4th of July. Her son was the local school principal and a volunteer fireman and we all sat together watching a real down-home 4th of July Parade.




Olympic National Park - Washington

Olympic National Park, located along the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, is a very diverse region, with four distinct biospheres: the Pacific coastline, alpine areas, west side temperate rain forest and east side temperate rain forest.
The park covers about 922,000 acres and was named Mount Olympus National Monument by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1909 and then designated a national park by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1938. Native Americans like the Quileute and the Hoh still make their homes in parts of the area.

Such diverse land makes for a variety of outdoor opportunities, including hiking, backpacking, biking, river rafting, and more. Especially unique to this U.S. national park is the opportunity to participate in whale watching off the coast in the Puget Sound of Washington. River rafting along one of the park’s many rivers allow participants to view the beauty of the park while at the same time experiencing the thrill of riding the river currents. Differently rated stretches of river make it so beginners and experts will find a thrill level that meets their skill level.
In 2009 our friend Terry Webb (red jacket) had us tag along with his photography buddies on a wildflower shooting adventure atop Mount Olympus.  We could actually see British Columbia, Canada across the straits from where we stood. 


MOUNTAIN PEAKS

Washington has beautiful mountains.  Even flying over the state you can see Mount Rainier, Mount. Baker, and Mt. Saint Helens all at once.

Mount Rainier

Mount Baker
Mount St. Helen erupted on my birthday, May 18, 1980

CENTRAL WASHINGTON

In 2011, on our return motorhome trip from Alaska we were introduced to Central Washington and the communities of Wenatchee and East Wenatchee where we met up with our former neighbors.
The city of Wenatchee shares its name with the Wenatchee RiverLake Wenatchee and the Wenatchee National Forest. Wenatchee is known as the "Apple Capital of the World" due to the valley's many orchards. The city is also sometimes referred to as the "Buckle of the Power Belt of the Great Northwest". The "Power Belt of the Great Northwest" is a metaphor for the series of hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River. Rock Island Dam is located nearest to the middle of this "belt", and so was labeled the "Buckle".
Wenatchee calls itself the 'Apple Capital of the World'

Not far from Wenatchee is Levenworth, a community that opted to rebuild itself into a quaint Barvarian Village that now attracts millions of visitors a year.

Our friends took us to lunch at a restaurant upstairs and across the street from the flower park


EASTERN WASHINGTON

Here's how Wikipedia describes this area:
Eastern Washington is the portion of the US state of Washington east of the Cascade Range. The region contains the city of Spokane (the second largest city in the state), the Tri-Cities, the Columbia River and the Grand Coulee Dam, the Hanford Nuclear Reservation and the fertile farmlands of the Yakima Valley and the Palouse. Unlike in Western Washington, the climate is dry, including some desert environments.
Heading east from Central Washington we drove through a diversity of landscapes quite the opposite from the green and wet western coastal area we associate with the Pacific Northwest.  High, dry rolling desert hills merge into a colorful "patchwork" of agricultural areas known as the Palouse.

Colorful farm lands contrast to the Eastern Washington desert

Our final camping destination before driving into Idaho a few years ago was Spokane.  We stayed at the Fairchild Air Force Base, just minutes from the Spokane International Airport. That was a handy departure place when Grandma needed to fly back to California to baby-sit the grandsons one year. Grandpa and the GSD stayed on base in the FamCamp.

GATEWAY TO CANADA
For our trip to Alaska in 2011 we opted to miss the congestion of crossing into Canada near Vancouver, British Columbia and chose to enter at the Sumas / Abbotsford Crossing. It was a quick check into Canadian Customs and we were on our way.


Inspection Booths are always a tight fit for recreational vehicles.


SUMMER 2017 - DESTINATION WASHINGTON STATE

We are planning our return trip to the Pacific Northwest this summer and you can bet we'll see alot more of Washington state.  To keep you busy, CLICK HERE FOR FUN WASHINGTON STATE TRIVIA



Wednesday, April 26, 2017

"V" IS FOR VALLEY FEVER (#AtoZChallenge)

Valley Fever is not some light-weight ailment that you associate with an exotic island.  It is a fungus-based spore that you breathe in that can kill you!  Today's "A to Z Challenge" blog letter of the day is "V" so I am taking this opportunity to educate my readers about VALLEY FEVER!!!



I HAVE VALLEY FEVER

Yes, I have Valley Fever and this blog will detail what it is and what you can do about it.  The Valley Fever Awareness page from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) states:
Valley fever is a fungal lung infection that can be devastating. Learning about Valley fever can help you and your doctor recognize the symptoms early. Valley fever is an infection caused by a fungus that lives in the soil. About 10,000 U.S. cases are reported each year, mostly from Arizona and California. Valley fever can be misdiagnosed because its symptoms are similar to those of other illnesses. Here are some important things to know about Valley fever, also called coccidioidomycosis."  [** See Update Below]

MORE INFORMATION ABOUT VALLEY FEVER (VF):

The Valley Fever Survivor website (http://www.valleyfeversurvivor.com) is a wonderful non-medical advocacy group that has provides excellent information and resources we can all learn from. I also participate in their Facebook Survivor discussions. I also highly recommend you get their book:  Valley Fever Epidemic.



Here is a YouTube overview video about VF and the book written by David and Sharon Filip.

4:01 YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gakZ6aU0t4

MY VALLEY FEVER STORY

I was attending the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in 2011 and about two weeks into our stay I developed severe flu-like symptoms with extensive body convulsions, constant coughing, night sweats, headache, and total exhaustion.  I was too sick to even take my temperature.  A week later I finally went to an Urgent Care facility in Surprise, Arizona and was diagnosed with Bronchitis and given a steroid, Prednisone

Two weeks later we returned to our home in Northern California and I was still extremely sick. I immediately saw my primary care physician (PCP) who ordered a chest x-ray. We discussed my travels to the Southwest so I asked if it could possibly have Valley Fever. I had only heard about VF in dogs but my PCP was very familiar with the fungus disease because he had done his internship in the Phoenix, AZ area, a prime endemic area for VF.  When he saw "spots" in my lungs from the x-rays he immediately ordered a CT-Scan and put together my new medical "team" that included an Infectious Disease (ID) specialist and a Pulmonologist who both were familiar with VF.  

VF SPOTS IN MY LUNG!!!
Further blood testing and two bronchoscopy exams positively confirmed I had Valley Fever with a "titer score" ratio of 1:8 which meant I had a "moderate" case.  They immediately began treatment with an anti-fungal medication called "Fluconazole".  [See Point #2 below] That drug stopped the growth and spread of the coccidioidomycosis spores.  

Thankfully, I never suffered from "dissemination" of the spores to my joints and other organs. I also never had the associated body rash nor did it spread to my spinal cord where it can travel to the brain as Meningococcal Meningitis.  You are never "cured" and it can stay in your body and can "reactivate" at any time in your future.  My worst fear!!!

MY MISSION TO EDUCATE OTHERS ABOUT VF

The following information is something I wrote a couple of years ago as a one-page hand-out. It has been distributed at seminars when I have presented information about Valley Fever at RV rallies. I also email copies to folks who are having difficulty with their health and showing symptoms of Valley Fever (VF) or to their friends who can't figure out what is wrong with them.  

PLEASE CLICK ANY HIGHLIGHTED LINK TO LEARN MORE.

MY ADVICE FOR PEOPLE WHO THINK THEY MAY HAVE VALLEY FEVER

I developed Valley Fever (VF) in Albuquerque, NM in 2011 so I have become a self-educated "expert" on this nasty fungal disease.  The official medical name for Valley Fever is:  Coccidioidomycosis.  The other nickname is "cocci" (pronounced cocksey).  The blood test score “titer” is pronounced Tie-ter.

Chances are your primary care doctor will NOT know much about VF, if he/she has even heard of it.  Be sure to tell the doctor if you HAVE BEEN IN THE ENDEMIC AREAS prior to your feeling ill.  It takes 10-14 days for the symptoms to present themselves.  You can say you were traveling in the Southwest or California Central Valley (and now in other states).

1. Your first step is to request the VF "cocci" blood test (see link below).  This simple blood test can confirm if you have VF and, if so, how much exposure you have had. Ask your doctor/lab to send it to UC Davis (THE specialist lab for evaluating VF blood samples) and then send the results back to your doctor.  It can take 10-14 days to get the results because this is a fungus test that must have time to grow.  [See link below]

2.  If your blood test comes back positive, the numbers will determine your follow-up. The results are called "titer scores" and are presented as a ratio.  <2 = no VF.  My first test came in as 8:1 (moderate).  16:1, 32:1, 64:1 are more serious cases.  4:1, 2:1, 1:1 are milder scores.  I am currently "NEGATIVE" but I will always have VF. You should request to see either a pulmonary doctor or an "infectious disease" (ID) specialist with knowledge about VF for follow-up. See the link below for the "Valley Fever Center for Excellence" and they can help you find a doctor that knows about VF. 

I am including more useful links (see below) and documents that will give you an overview of VF. The Center for Disease Control VF information (good to give to your doctor), and links to studies and survivor websites will help with your understanding of this disease.  For the most part these sources are written to be understood - non-techie.

The Valley Fever Center for Excellence (http://vfce.arizona.edu/) also has tabs for about VF in dogs, cats, and other animals. 
"The most common early symptoms of primary pulmonary Valley Fever in dogs:

    • coughing
    • weight loss
    • lack of appetite
    • lack of energy 
    • fever 
    Some or all of these symptoms may be present as a result of infection in the lungs. As the infection progresses, dogs can develop pneumonia that is visible on x-rays."
    Source:  http://vfce.arizona.edu/valley-fever-dogs/symptoms
    The Valley Fever Survivor website (http://www.valleyfeversurvivor.com) is a wonderful non-medical advocacy group that has produced excellent resources.  I also participate in their Facebook discussions: VALLEY FEVER SURVIVOR SUPPORT GROUP #1 for Answers, Info, & More since 2002.  This is a "closed" group but just ask to "join".
    **UPDATE:  In reviewing this blog, Sharon Filip, co-founder of Valley Fever Survivor, advised me that this CDC page (linked above) statement is wrong:  "Hundreds of thousands of Valley Fever Cases occur each year. Reporting is extremely inaccurate as it is believed only 2% of cases are diagnosed accurately leaving 98% either undiagnosed or misdiagnosed."
    According to Sharon, "What the CDC page states is not quite accurate... We have spoken with the CDC about accuracy in the past and how important it was to put up the proper information but they will do what they will do. ... All the information by the founders have been studied and researched for accuracy for the past 15 years."

    Get the Filip's book Valley Fever Epidemic and share it with your doctor, your friends and family.  This is my copy that I do share...

    There is also a petition drive to warn tourists and Arizona residents about the "dangers of Valley Fever" as part of a VF awareness campaign.  The sponsors are also seeking more "funds for vaccines and cure projects". Feel free to circulate the following petition.  Kern County in the endemic area of Central California is also now doing an awareness campaign using billboards and public service announcements.



    MORE RESOURCES...

    The Center for Disease Control (CDC) (quoted above) has extensive research about COCCIDIOIDOMYCOSIS diagnosis and treatment.  My health team from Northern California Kaiser followed their "protocol" for my early treatment of Valley Fever. 

    The Infectious Disease Society of America has an Oxford academic presentation about Valley Fever called:  
    2016 Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) 
    Clinical Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Coccidioidomycosis 

    University of California, Davis (UCD) Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology is a leader in research and clinical care for coccidioidomycosis, commonly known as Valley Fever. You can go to their website link above and locate the information about the cocci blood tests they will evaluate. CLICK HERE for the blood test order form.


    MY PROGNOSIS

    As stated above, I currently test "negative" for Valley Fever but I still have one 2.3 cm "nodule" stuck to the back wall of my left lung that is visible in my annual C-T scan. We have been monitoring it for a few years and it actually shrunk this past year from 2.5 cm to 2.3 cm.  Yea, progress. :-)

    I annually do two cocci blood tests through my Kaiser Permanente labs and the samples are sent to either the UC Davis Serology Lab (see above link) or to Quest Labs for evaluations.  My Infectious Disease doctor wants me to have less exposure to radiation so now I only do one C-T Scan annually instead of the two or three I was previously having.  She reviews the images and we do a telephone appointment to discuss the results.  She told me this monitoring will be done for "the next 15 to 20 years". So at age 68 I was happy to say "I can live with that!"  Anytime I think I might be having a relapse I am directed to go to an Emergency Room (ER) with my binder of Valley Fever information and previous test results.


    WHAT YOU CAN DO

    Read, read, and read.  Help me spread the word about this potentially deadly fungus, coccidioidomycosis, commonly called Valley Fever.  May you never get it!






    Tuesday, April 25, 2017

    "U" IS FOR "UP, UP, AND AWAY" (#AtoZ Challenge)

    We have been "crewing" for the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival (AIBF) since 2006 and today's "A to Z Challenge" letter of "U" will be for the 5th Dimension's version of "UP, UP, AND AWAY".


    BOOMERS & BALLOONS

    We were introduced to the ABQ Balloon Fiesta at our first event with the Escapees RV Club group known as the "Boomers". 
    2006 ABQ Boomers in 15 RVs

    In previous years a club member had owned a hot air balloon and had used Boomers as volunteers to "crew" for him. The year we showed up he had sold his balloon and our group was told "no problem" -- just go over to the Pilot's Tent and sign up for a pilot. And off we went.  

    MEET THE LIBERTI FAMILY

    What started out as a random assignment to meet Pilot Mike Liberti in Grid K-3 at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday morning became a decade-long team effort and a great friendship with Mike and his wife/crew chief Theresa ("T") Liberti and their two pilot sons, Chris and Daniel, and the rest of their families.
    Liberti Family launching together: (from the left) Daniel, Chris, and Mike 
    That first Fiesta Luke and I were both introduced to the various jobs associated with "crewing" and we were both rewarded with our very first hot air balloon rides!!! In 2006 there were approximately 900 balloons participating in Fiesta and what an amazing sight that was from the ground and from our space in the balloon baskets.  Because of declining landing space around the Albuquerque area the number of participating balloons has dwindled to less than 600.  Still, photos don't do it justice. According to Kodak, the Fiesta is the most photographed event in the world.  I know that I have hundreds, if not thousands of photos taken during the past 10 years.

    Luke's first flight with Pilot Mike Liberti, Tuesday, Oct.10, 2006
    Judy with Pilot Eric in "Boris"
    We were "initiated" into the Ballooning Family with a not-so traditional champagne ceremony

    Judy's first hot air balloon selfie - Oct. 10, 2006



     


    Each Fiesta morning begins with the flight of the Dawn Patrol, a group of pilots who take off before sunrise to report back to the remainder of the pilots on the wind direction and speeds at various elevations.  BELOW:  the balloons are inflated in a very systematic manner and launch on commands from the on-the-field officials known as the Zebras because of their black & white apparel.


    A photograph I shot during a ride.


    HOSTING THE ABQ BOOMERS & BALLOONS RALLY

    It wasn't long before we became the "hosts" of the Boomers get-together at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.  Over the years our job of "hosting" evolved into securing discounted RV parking spaces with the Fiesta RV Office, coordinating with the Fiesta RV Campground parking crew, arranging pilot assignments, providing newsletters and crewing "how to" instruction for our volunteers and, ultimately, in becoming the Safety Officer for our group.

    There were 15 RVs with the group in 2006 and the last few years we were dealing with 50 RV spaces in an area now called "Premium Box View", right on the landing zone!  Last year we provided more than 100 crewing volunteers on 25+ hot air balloons.  Volunteers earn coveted "crew passes" that get them free entry into all activities during the nine day event.

    Luke adds the Boomer Banner to our motorhome to identify our group's home base.

    Our Boomer spaces are literally on the "flag line" for the designated landing and competition zone.

    LOVING OUR BALLOONS AND PILOTS

    Each year we have added more and more balloons asking for our Boomer support teams.  With hundreds of balloons launching in "mass ascensions" on the weekends and special shapes flying both mornings and inflating for the evening "glows" it is hard to pick favorites.  Here are a few:

    Annie the Ladybug chases her crew back to the launch field after a perfect flight.


    BELOW:  "Annie" looks to be whispering into the ear of "Clown", another Boomer crew balloon.


    The very popular 3 Bees - Mama, Papa and Baby launch together holding (Velcro) hands then turn, kiss, and separate.


    Speedy Snail is one of the Brazilian balloons that the Boomers have crewed with.



    RETIREMENT TIME

    Last year we pulled our "rip cord" and retired from hosting the ABQ Boomers and Balloons Rally. We had a couple from previous rallies, Jim and Gail McManus, step forward last year as our HIT Team (Hosts in Training). They have already started the recruitment for the 2017 AIBF Boomer Rally.  We wish them well!

    This blog could have included hundreds more photos with details about all the fun activities that occur in Albuquerque, New Mexico for two weeks every October.  For now we will live in our memories and sing along with the 5th Dimension to "Up, Up, and Away".

    Click the PLAY icon. 2:37   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JsVgSqAwSEI


    BE SURE TO GOOGLE SEARCH THE OTHER BLOGGERS PARTICIPATING IN THE "#A TO Z CHALLENGE"


    Wednesday  "v STANDS FOR valley fever"