Sunday, May 6, 2012

Our New Mexico Cottage!

I realized recently that I first fell in serious like with all things Cottage when we went to New Mexico for the Hot Air Balloon Festival in Oct. 2008.  We rented from a delightful couple who helped us by offering advice on things to do, restaurants, and tips for getting around Old Town and beyond.  Our little " Cassita " was small but perfect for the two of us. It included a full kitchen and a washer/dryer! The " Cassita " had it's own yard and patio complete with outdoor table and chairs. It was located in the couple's back yard but it was totally private for us and them. I think we enjoyed getting to know them as much as we enjoyed the
 " Cassita ".  We have stayed at Bed and Breakfasts and always got great info on local attractions and what to do and what to avoid...they did the same for us and acted like unofficial tour guides. The highlight of the trip was the 1,000+ hot air balloons all lifting off the same morning. Amazing shapes, colors, etc.  We arrived around 9:30 at night. A bit concerned about renting our car at the airport and being able to navigate our way to the " Cassita " in Old Town in the dark. This at least for us was Pre- GPS. Mike found our way with no problem once we figured out that our large suitcase was not fitting into the trunk of the Black Convertible Mustang that we rented.  It was dark as heck in the rental lot and we had to figure out how to get the top down and then put the suitcase in the back seat! Whew, we were pretty tired...traveling since early that morning.  We also had to be in Old Town and have found our balloon company before daylight the next morning.  We wandered about on foot and  made it in the dark.  Our pilot wasn't sure we were going had been too windy the previous day. After much calling and calculating wind speeds, weather conditions, the pilot said we were going
 " to try it ". That made me a bit nervous.  I have a few shots of our balloon before lift off.

It was a little cool and jackets were needed. Mike in the hat, our pilot in the gray sweater. He had 25 years experience flying in this festival. A fact that would turn out to be very important, very soon!

Note the size of the basket. Yes the sides are wicker. There were 7 of us counting the Pilot! More people than I expected in one little basket with a large gas fired burner in the middle that was quite loud whenever he needed to turn on the burner to gain lift or change directions.  No brakes, No steering wheel, just a skilled pilot who knew the area and what to expect from the wind patterns there. He also knew the best places to set the balloon down...again that would get to be pretty important later in the day.

Turns out it takes a Village to inflate one of these things. We all needed to help...This shot shows the envelope as it  fills up...courtesy of the large fan in the preceding picture.

Almost ready. The folks behind us got off first. Our pilot shared that the guy had a small tear in his balloon and if the inspector had looked at his envelope instead of ours he would have been grounded. Our pilot said he would never take a balloon up in that condition.  Made me hope that our guy was one of the good guys!

Ready to fly.  I pocketed the camera at this point. The pilot gave us our positions in the balloon based on weight, height, etc.  Mentioned what to do in a crash landing...we practiced that for a bit and then we were floating free. The chase car suddenly looked very small and very far away.  The pilot stayed in touch with him so he could follow us and helped him land the balloon. The trip was awesome and lasted quite a bit longer than either we or the pilot expected. The winds were more active than planned. We were quite a ways from where he expected to land and were actively looking for a good landing spot free of power lines and super highways.  He found it and luckily after much discussion our chase car found us and he rolled out of the truck just in time to grab a line and put us down before the basket dumped us out on the side...which is exactly what would have happened to us. It did happen to others that day and resulted in broken hips, etc. We were very lucky to be with a 25 year veteran pilot who spent his career in this area. Likely saved us from broken bones or worse.

Shortly after landing in the scrub...3 to 4 foot tree/bush like things that would have prevented a smooth landing had the chase pilot not grabbed our line and then the basket to keep us upright. We found out later that afternoon that a less experienced pilot and crew had blown off their expected course and into the large power lines.  The co-pilot jumped out to his death when his arm caught fire. The pilot stayed with the balloon as long as he could then he was engulfed in fire and jumped to his death. Needless to say we were thankful to have made it back in one piece. My first and last ride.  We enjoyed the festival but the many accidents put a damper on the events.  We did enjoy seeing the other balloons lift off each day but we did not want another ride.

The pretty truck belonged to Wells Fargo. They had the stagecoach  and three other balloons there. They must have had 50 to 75 employees working on getting them all in the air.

Hard to understand that there were over 1,000 of these all getting ready to go up in waves!

See the Burner firing at the base of the Swiss balloon.  Many foreign countries were represented at the festival.

All shapes, colors, and designs!

A few pictures of the area and the " Cassita "!


The patio and yard.

So cute! Love the tile floor.

It was time to say good-bye! 

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