Mecca looks like a balloon festival

Mecca looks like a balloon festival

I’ve written about ballooning and festivals a few times already and if you want to check out my trip to Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta look here or the Arkansas Balloon Festival can be found here. Both include tons of pics of balloons.

I think I can say annual with confidence since this is my third year in a row…my annual trip to Albuquerque. Has a nice ring to it. By the time I left on Tuesday afternoon I was thinking I’d be lucky to make it through Oklahoma before I was ready to stop for the night. It had been a long day at work and then add driving on to that…. Thankfully I had lots of phone calls and long chats with friends and family all the way up to 1am when I finally stopped in Amarillo, TX. 

As you drive into Amarillo heading west bound there is a big sign that says ‘Amarillo’. Once I see the sign it’s like George Strait kicks on in my head. Amarillo by morning up from San Antone… Off to bed with balloons dancing in my head…not really but it sounds good.

I had planned to be up early, so I could finally check out the Cadillac Ranch. No such luck since my alarm didn’t go off for the second day in a row. Wth – It took a phone call to bring this sleeping beauty around to the living. Ugh it was after 8am and later than I wanted to start my day. A frantic beauty prep and I was hitting the road to Albuquerque aka Mecca. 

The landscape of the southwest is somewhat desolate with low growing plants and dark red outcroppings with arroyas here and there. I spotted a train that looked a mile long, passed a million trucks and campers, and cruised down the highway at a brisk 80mph. Before I knew it I was driving through the Sandia-Manzano mountains coming into Albuquerque. It feels like coming home, but I’ve never lived there. Crazy thing about this vacation I get up at 4:45am, so I can meet my pilots by 5:30am to drive to fiesta field. That’s love peeps. 

I would like to say this was vacation only but work creeps in especially when you have a big project on a time constraint. So there were about three hours with my head stuck in a laptop sitting in my hotel room. Then there were the phone calls and requests that relate to the project. It will be worth it in the long run isn’t that what we say to ourselves. 

Each day was beautiful for flying. I was a little rusty since I haven’t crewed in a year, but I’m happy to do the work. My pilot landed on the field every day I was there so I had it pretty easy this year. No tumble weeds, locked gates, soccer fields or the reservation. I might be jinxing myself for next year. Omg

We tailgated a couple of times and watched the balloons come across the field while pilots were trying to hit the target with their baggie. An evening hanging out at a beautiful home with the oldest wisteria I’ve ever seen. Saturday was game day and off to the Uptown bar to watch some SEC action. Like the previous year there were a bunch of Sooner fans there watching their game against Texas. The UT fans were huddled in the corner and left pretty quick at the end.

Ate at some familiar places and got to try some new ones. Jimmy’s Cafe was delicious. Highly recommend eating there. I had the huevos rancheros with christmas. Yum!

Spent time switching out baskets and envelopes. It may all seem kind of mundane and like a lot of work I’m sure to some. I enjoy the experience, the people I’m with, and the ability to just be myself. I took naps! It’s a privilege at my current age to be able to nap. Once I creep up in years it might be the norm. Lol

On one of the nights we went to the balloon glow and fireworks. Hung out on the tailgate and drank bloody Mary’s. It was an interesting evening especially when we saw the senorita balloon break away from its tiedown.

On the last day we flew I got to go as well. It was the highest altitude I’ve been in a balloon so far. We were going up to 7200′ not sure if we got all the way to that or not, but I know we got to 6800′. The fiesta field still looks huge from that height. It’s just so massive. There was so much balloon traffic that day – more than I’ve ever seen on one of my trips. All of us in the basket were keeping an eye out for balloons above, below and to the side. Some are just so huge you don’t want to hit by accident. Talk about a potential catastrophe. We went from that height to down on the deck pretty much, so we could land on the field. My pilot did an excellent job. I’m fortunate to have the experience and grateful I continue to have the opportunity to fly. 

If you’ve never been it should be on your bucket list or must see items. It’s a sight to behold that’s for sure.

Until next year mecca.

-G.

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Welcome to Raleigh, NC

I was heading to Raleigh for work, which is a typical theme for my travel. I was pretty excited since this was my first trip ever to the state of North Carolina – let’s just say I checked another state off my bucketlist!

It’s very green and reminds me of the Ozarks except there are a lot more pine trees than can I find in the Ozarks. We have mostly hard woods. Traffic is atrocious depending on the time of day so just be prepared but in comparison to LA it’s nothin’. Why is it bad? Raleigh is part of the triangle which is made of of Durham and Chappel Hill as well. Lots of people moving between three of them heading to and from work. We of course land right at the best time to catch rush hour! Google maps and I chatted many times about her total lack of knowledge of traffic flow. Pretty sure the bitch lied a couple of times. That’s what me and my other road dog thought anyway and we’re sticking to it.

Since I was there for a competition and work took up lots of my time I’m going to sum it up rather than go day by day. You really don’t need to see the inside of the convention center for the days I was there – this is a travel blog not a convention center blog. I do have some fantastic foodie delights to share and I’m pretty exicted about those so lets get this party started.

We had a team building activity the required everyone to load up on a bus with a Tobacco Trail Tour Guide. The day I was with him he was amusing but I heard reports back that he turned into an ass on another. Maybe that’s part of his comedy routine – going to suggest he change that part quickly. Bless his pea pickin’ heart. 

We arrived at Deep River Sporting Clay’s to do some skeet shooting. We were in hog heaven. I did terrible because I don’t normally  shoot moving objects. Snakes tend to be coiled up waiting which is perfect. Sorry for the snake lovers but I’m shooting it.

I had some foodie finds that I recommend highly:

The Cowfish – it’s a fusion of Japanese and American. So good! We took time out to go celebrate my birthday at this place! I would definitely come back. Loved the sushi!!! The atmosphere is festive and unique so it’s a fun place day or night!

The Second Empire – it’s amazing. In an old home near the convention center. It is beautiful inside and out. The food is exceptional. My first course was pork belly and scallops – AMAZING! Entre was lamb chops with a casserole. My first time ever to eat lamb chops and they didn’t disappoint. Medium rare is the way to go. I also taste tested my neighbors duck confiet…it was my favorite. It melted in your mouth. It would’ve been rude to take his dish and eat my own…really. I had the Empire Chocolate Souffle for dessert and it was another first for me. It was so pretty I didn’t want to eat it but I did!

The Angus Barn – delicious steak! There are a few unique things about this place. You must check out the bathroom it’s amazing. It’s the best looking barn I’ve ever seen in a bathroom setting. They also have a beautiful wine cellar that you can get a tour of as well. Remember no touching – only look!

Fun times with some great folks!

Circa 1888 – A great little bar that used to be a depot for the railroad. Beautifully refurbished with a patio area outside and a billard tables that will keep you hanging out for hours inside.

Mostly food because I was so busy working, but food and drink should be considered nectar of the gods!

-G.