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.

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".


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.  


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.


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.


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.


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


Wednesday  "v STANDS FOR valley fever"


SENCO Cat Herder said...

Wow - what an AMAZING post - it all looks wonderful if not a little UNBELIEVABLE - I've certainly never seen so many hot air balloons before all at one time!!! What an awesome experience for you both - totally UNIQUE. Thank you for posting it was a UP-lifting read :)

Emily Bloomquist said...

It looks like such a fun and interesting thing to do! I love watching hot air balloons from the ground. I am too afraid to go up in one, though. Thanks for the fun post!

Emily | My Life In Ecuador