Well, it’s finally time to get to what you’ve been waiting for: New Mexico! This post won’t be long compared to what’s coming, so I hope as I start publishing Balloon Fiesta pics you make sure you’re in a comfy chair. I took A LOT of pictures, and culling them down to a reasonable amount to publish is not easy.
First things first, though: we have to get there. We left Amarillo and were able to join up at a rest stop with Randy and Mary F, Orin and Linda S, and Chris and Dee C. We made quite the convoy! Except I broke ranks as I wanted to get fuel at a truck stop that I have a fleet card for. So, I kinda took off from everyone. All for naught, as when I got there the truck stop was backed up 3-4 deep per lane. I abandoned that idea and moved on.
One thing to know is that we were told that parking for the Balloon Fiesta would be first come first served. We wanted to be in a group, so we wanted to arrive together. Therefore, we (the 14 total rigs that were coming) decided to all stay at the same RV park the night prior to our allowed entry to the Balloon Fiesta. So, on Wednesday, September 29th, we were meeting at the Route 66 RV park in Edgewood, NM.
There were already a few there when I arrived. The RV park itself was ok; all gravel, and sloped though there was some effort to level each site. It was convenient from I-40 and had room for all of us, so high marks for that. It was so great pulling in and seeing a bunch of people that I knew!
Once everyone had arrived and set up, we had a brief meeting that evening to discuss the plan. One of the guys, Doc, had made signs for our group which was required by Fantasy RV to identify us as RVs belonging to them and that we were in a group. John R. had come up with our group name after some input (I suggested the Donner party but not everyone understood the reference). John suggested the Ba-loonies, which was universally applauded. The weather forecast was for rain the next day. Edgewood is only about 30 miles from our destination, so we agreed to all leave around 8:00 and hopefully be there just as they were opening the park to traffic. Before I left though, I had a task: adding New Mexico to my map!
Driving in the next morning was fairly easy. There was off and on rain and traffic at times was bad, but for the most part people were able to stay somewhat together. We were headed for the AIBF RV South Lot, which is used just once a year. AIBF of course stands for Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, which is quite a mouthful. The south lot has no electricity, but Fantasy provides a huge generator for it’s group so we could have 30 amp service. There were some water faucets scattered about and there was a sewer pump out service provided half way through our stay.
I was the fourth in line of our group. The problems started when we got to the south lot, turned in and were waved down a long road. However, they didn’t seem to know what to do with us and we ended up sitting on the dirt road for nearly an hour while the Fantasy people tried to figure out the issue. The next sign of trouble came as we were finally moved closer to our parking sites: I was asked how long my fifth wheel was, and truthfully answered 34 feet. Well, this got me pulled out of the line as they decided to put me in with shorter rigs such that my RV faced the main road. This decision ultimately led to major issues later, but we’ll get to that eventually.
The main Fantasy tent was on a bit of a rise; I was parked down the small hill and as it turns out I was at the nadir of the slope. This is also important to remember shortly. I had help backing into my spot; this was made easier by the fact that no RVs were across the road, so the Fantasy guys just took down the barrier and had me drive over it. My site was fairly level side to side; I got unhooked and then realized I had no real place to park Rory. I was next to John and Doris K on one side and Larry and Janet M. on the other; with a lot of discussion (and I mean a lot) we finally got everyone parked so that we weren’t in the road.
That evening, we had a welcome dinner and some Marimba entertainment. I had spent the latter part of the night before working on a banner for us. I brought my Cricut and a bunch of vinyl, so I brought the finished banner to the dinner and had everyone in our group sign it. Some of the taller guys then helped me hang it up behind us. I’m not sure the Fantasy people knew what they were getting when all of us Ba-loonies signed up, but we did have fun!
You might notice in the pics of dinner that the tent sides are down and people have coats. That’s because it was raining and chilly! And after being up at the tent for several hours (pre dinner drinks, then dinner, then entertainment and chatting) I discovered when I returned to my RV that not only had parking Rory been a challenge, but there was a growing lake beneath my rig! It was very fortunate I had put out my portable steps, which reach out further than my regular ones. Otherwise I’d have gotten wet feet trying to get inside! I had no idea I would have a waterfront site!
Unfortunately, it rained throughout the night. I laid awake listening to it drumming on my roof and wondered what Lake Weist would look like in the morning. Now, we had arrived on a Thursday; the Balloon Fiesta didn’t kick off until Saturday. Fantasy had arranged for buses on Friday morning to take us to Old Town, which has some nice shopping and dining areas. I got ready to go, as the weather was supposed to clear that afternoon. Then, I looked out my door.
Lake Weist had grown significantly. So much that one of the Fantasy crew members had brought a stool for me to step onto in order to get past the lake. They eventually called in a pump truck to suck it down.
I headed off on the bus; once we arrived, my first stop was to visit the church, San Felipe de Neri, which was built in 1706. It was open to the public and very interesting to see. I then wandered around some shops and a few art galleries. It’s obvious that COVID has severely impacted businesses in the area; many restaurants are closed and some shops weren’t open. But it also seemed they were eager to welcome back tourists. The only unfortunate experience I had was at a gallery; I really liked some art photography printed on metal and was trying to decide which to buy, but couldn’t find a single person who wanted to help me. It was busy, so I left. I later went back after eating a nice lunch with Janet and Larry M. However, though it was much less busy, no one in the gallery deigned to help me again. It was very annoying and they lost my business after I patiently waited over 20 minutes for someone to acknowledge me. Not a single worker ever said a word to me. Their loss.
I ended the afternoon enjoying some mariachi music from the small bandstand across from the church. Then I hopped on the bus back to the RV lot and felt it was a day well spent (and my credit card thought so too!).
We were fed dinner again that night. And while my site was very, very muddy, Lake Weist was much reduced on my return. All in all it was a great day, but the very best would start the next morning, with the kickoff of the Balloon Fiesta. Hope you’re ready to see some pics!!!!