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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Part 2 of the Colorado Trip

Come Saturday morning we were up and gathering our belongings to hit the road once again. We had a short visit then on the road to Colorado Springs. We decided to go a different route heading home. The drive down from Westcliffe was spectacular! The rock formations and shear cliffs were a reason to stop and capture the beauty around us. Evergreens galore….the scent just makes you think Christmas.

It was just over an hour later and what felt like a steady decent downward that we arrived in Colorado Springs. My sister and I headed straight for the Manitou Cliff Dwellings. PSA: it cost $10/adult to enter. We enjoy checking out archeological sites, especially ones we remember hearing about when we were kids in school. We wandered in and out of the cliff dwellings. Took lots of pictures. I had to shed my light jacket because the temperature difference was a solid 20-30 degrees from Westcliffe to Colorado Springs. I was starting to sweat and I wasn’t doing any hot yoga in those yoga pants.

She’s Cray Cray

❤ my sister!
Pike’s Peak in the distance

We didn’t take time for the Seven Falls but I’ll try to see that another trip. It’s supposed to be amazing. Instead the GPS was kind enough to route us through a heavy construction zones to a side entrance for the Garden of the Gods. We stopped right away to grab some lunch out of the cooler and take some selfies. We got back on the road and wound our way around stopping along the way for more pics of the rock formations. We finally made it to what is the front entrance and followed the signs to the visitors center. 

Camels kissing

At the visitors center on the viewing deck on the second floor is the best view of the Garden of the Gods. You get a greater perspective and it helps having the information pointers handy. We browsed the gift shop and then hit the road. We didn’t get far when we saw a gas station with a car wash. Time well spent cleaning the dust of my ride!

Our trip back was mostly uneventful considering we traveled the entire state of Kansas. We saw lots of crop land, turbines and the wind blows constantly. Cruise was set and we rolled on towards home. Once we got to Missouri and in the wee hours we stopped for coffee aka espresso. Cause we were making it to the house come hell or high water! At 2:45am we rolled into the drive. We were dead tired but we had covered five states, attended a wedding, saw the sights, made new friends, and had a grand adventure together.

What’s your next adventure? 

Enjoy-G.

Rollin’ down the highway Part 1

Rollin’ down the highway Part 1

Originally my plan was to fly to Colorado and rent a car to make the drive to Westcliffe for my friends wedding. I bought a car and had the epiphany that it might take longer to drive but cheaper in the long run. I needed a trusty sidekick for this trip. A co-captain that wouldn’t sleep the whole way, so I enlisted my sister. She’s a photographer. An easy mark, I mean potential sidekick, to entice with visions of grand vistas and mountains galore. She said yes!

We loaded up on a sunny Wednesday afternoon and hit the road to Woodward, OK. I had been trying to set up my hotel through the app on my phone with no luck. Finally I breakdown and call. The chick that answered was super polite and when she confirmed the address it was with extra emphasis on Woodward Okla-homa. I got the impression she wasn’t sure I had called the right place. This amused my sister and I to no end. I told her ‘Yep, that’s my stopping spot for the night before heading on to Colorado. So we’ll see you later tonight.’ 

After several hours of driving I noticed that I had 3 confirmations for a room. Hmmm that was going to be interesting when I arrived and it was. The girl at registration was proud to tell me that she had put all the rooms together on one floor. I had to explain I only needed one of those and the app issues. She looked so disappointed.

Driving to Woodward was uneventful which I delight in that fact. We saw an amazing sunset over a lake, but I had no place to stop for my sister to take pics. A little further down the road we had crested a ridge and the purples and pinks in the sky were fantastic. It looked like I was pitting at a NASCAR race for the perfect spot for her to get some amazing shots. What can I say I was booking it down the road.

Somewhere in Oklahoma
Westbound and down

Somewhere out in the middle of nowhere I narrowly missed a huge buck and what looked like a black bucket in the middle of the road. Possibly a wild hog but we’ll go with bucket. 

I know my Chrysler 300 won’t straddle that bucket like my Nitro. Back in March of this year my son and I ran up on a gray tote at night in the middle of the road. Oncoming traffic and a car in the lane next to us. I slowed but not much else I could do. I pulled over so we could investigate and the darn thing was hung under the vehicle. He pulled and I backed up until it finally popped loose. Thank goodness it was empty – strap that crap down people!

Back to Oklahoma – we made it to the hotel and I crashed in 5 minutes tops! Long day but I loved seeing new places and driving is something I enjoy. We still had at least 7 hours of driving the next day so you would think we would be up at the crack of dawn. Nope! We were all leisurely about it and thank goodness. Just about the time we were loading up to leave I had an email from my new boss. Um I needed to respond to that and then decided I’d just go ahead and jump on the conference call we were discussing. 10:30ish that’s what time we left. As we tooled through the panhandle of Oklahoma my sister got the task of being my admin. She took dictation for emails, kept an eye on our route, looked for anything interesting to take a picture of…I found that bit of interest. Hooker, OK (see below). The jokes in my head are endless and I’m told the mascot is a Horny Toad. I’m not checking that bit cause I really want it to be true!

Makes me laugh every time!

Once we got past Boise City, OK the road got smaller. Two lanes with no shoulder. Not pulling over in the car but we had a huge discussion about native grasses, crops, cattle and crop rotation. That’s what you get with a farmer and a horticulturalist. When we crossed into New Mexico it was with little fanfare other than the huge pumpkin patch that was being harvested that we whipped past on our way to I-25.

I love karma sometimes. We had a red Grand Cherokee pass us like we were sitting still. I’m no slack behind the wheel and I was estimating that he had to be doing close to 90mph. I really didn’t want a ticket in my new car plus I just paid for the tax, title and license, so I couldn’t afford a hefty fine. Miles down the road I see blue lights flashing and I said to my sister ‘bet that’s the Jeep.’ My sister and I laughed as we passed that Grand Cherokee that thought 90mph was justifiable. That policeman didn’t think so.

Somewhere between Raton and the Colorado State line the sky was just beautiful. You could see the rain coming down in the distance. I told my sister get your camera I’m pulling over. She was like What – ok! I didn’t have to force her at all. I sat in the car since I was sitting just off the interstate. She tells me to get out here so I can take your picture. Um, what. I hate being the model. Lol she did a great job for a stop that was on the fly. We had lots of stops like that – no sense in wasting good scenery!

Before we hit the rain in New Mexico
Made it to Colorado

The best part of the trip was the exit off I-25. It looked to be in the middle of nowhere. I pull up to the stop sign and I see a car sitting off to the right parked next to a fence. No right and straight puts you back on the interstate. I’m looking at Google maps like what left turn I don’t see anything except the drainage space under the road. Looking down at the map I creep forward and the arrow moves along the line on the map. Hmmm that’s so strange. It points right at the drainage space under the interstate. It’s literally one lane! My sister and I look at each other like you’ve got to be kidding. We took pictures of course.

The car fit!

One thing I noticed about Colorado was all the signs for animals. On the way to Westcliffe we saw deer, elk, bear, and buffalo. Once we got to The Historic Pines Ranch we were given warnings about badgers also called bashers by someone’s phone. My phone changed badger to grudge…wth. Autocorrect needs to get with the program. 

The ranch is beautiful! We were just under 9000′ elevation. Our normal is just over a 1000. We did a little huffin and puffin but it was worth it. The aspen weren’t turning yet but they were still beautiful with their stark, white bark with accents of black. I think it’s got to be my favorite tree just for the bark alone. I know plant nerd outta control here. The bonfire reception with chilli and Fritos was delicious. The wedding the following day everything my friend had imagined and more I’m sure. She was a beautiful bride and the groom was handsome as can be. Their joy rolled off them in their body language, facial expressions and actions. Makes the heart go pitter patter to see a couple like that or in my case brings some tears to my eyes. Can’t help it I’m a big ol’ crybaby. Hallmark commercials slay me!

Just outside of Westcliffe
Beautiful church in Westcliffe
Rehearsal – fun times
Aspen trees!!!

More aspens – love them
Ready for the wedding! ❤ my sister!
The happy couple!

Since this was a 5 state trip full of stops, pictures and adventure I’ve broken this blog into two parts. I hope you’ve enjoyed the fun of our sister trip so far.

Stay tuned for part 2!

Enjoy-G.