" 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 up...it 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.
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.
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!
A few pictures of the area and the " Cassita "!