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.

unpacking the balloon, with the Moon still in the sky (8/05 5:27 AM) Porter investigates as Diane sets up the burner (8/05 5:32 AM) unrolling the balloon (8/05 5:38 AM) inflating the balloon with a fan (8/05 5:46 AM) Hold it down! ...almost ready to go (8/05 5:54 AM)

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.

Diane's balloon aloft - with 2 others balloons in the background (8/05 5:56 AM) chase trucks zip around the dirt tracks below (8/05 6:37 AM) chase truck from above (8/05 6:43 AM)

Then, it was my turn to ride in the basket, and see from the air: jackrabbits, the Albuquerque suburbs, and the speeding chase vehicles.

view from air (8/05 6:45 AM) in the air (8/05 6:47 AM)

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.

packing up the balloon (8/05 7:18 AM) initiation ceremony (8/05 7:57 AM) initiation ceremony - pouring drinks (8/05 7:58 AM)

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.)

radioactive quack cure (8/05 2:18 PM) common radioactive items (8/05 2:48 PM)