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August 5 - Ballooning
Liz's friend Diane has a hot air balloon, and was kind enough to offer me a ride! So, before sunrise (hot air balloons work best when the ambient air isn't also hot) we gathered in the outskirts of Albuquerque.
I learned that there are actually two components to the sport of hot air ballooning: flying the craft, and chasing it from the ground below. Diane made two flights, so I got to experience both parts. First, I had a bouncy ride in the back of one of the chase trucks which zoomed around a network of dirt tracks through the desert scrub, trying to stay under the balloon. Albuquerque seems to be a Mecca of hot air ballooning — there were at least ten other balloons visible in the sky that morning.
Then, it was my turn to ride in the basket, and see from the air: jackrabbits, the Albuquerque suburbs, and the speeding chase vehicles.
Finally, I was privy to the secret initiation ceremonies, that included being stuffed into the balloon bag (thanks, Liz!), and having beverages ritually poured over our heads — before breaking out the snacks and drinks.
Sunday afternoon, I took the scenic route (New Mexico 4 passes through the Santa Fe National Forest, with a lush wooded river valley and high altitude meadows) up to Los Alamos, where I visited the Bradbury Science Museum. This museum has exhibits on the history of the Manhattan Project, and various aspects of nuclear weapons (including an example of radioactive glass-like melted sand from ground zero of a test site). I brought in my Geiger counter inside to test whether the radioactive exhibits where the real thing. (They were.)