Saturday, September 01, 2007

Hot Air Balloon Chasing with Maria

Having missed last weekend's Hot Air Balloon Festival over at the "nearby" Chatfield Reservoir Park, I made sure to plan on seeing the balloons at the Colorado Balloon Classic festival this weekend!

It was down at Memorial Park in Colorado Springs so it was a bit of a ride to get there. I had intended on rising at o'dark thirty and cruise on down the slab to the vecinity of the park, hoping to find a vantage point for Maria to pose at as they did their "mass rising" at 0700. Alas, the bedsheets stuck to me and I did not make it to the vecinity of the park till well after 0830 I think.

There were perhaps 20 balloons visible in the skies around the park, you could even see them from the I-25 Slab as you approached Colorado Springs! I decided as I neared that I would go chasing the individual balloons, hoping for some good shots.

The first balloon I got near to was the one below, I pulled into a school parking lot and managed this shot:

Afterwards I cruised the neighborhood streets that surround the park and spied another balloon which seemed pretty low to the ground. Turns out, it was landing! I got there just after they touched down in the middle of the strip mall's parking lot.

I watched the crew for a bit as they collapsed and deflated the balloon in preparation for it being stowed aboard the support truck which apparently chases each respective balloon team.

I headed off again and spied the below ballon in the distance, as I neared, it too seemed to be trying for a landing. I lost sight of it as I negotiated the turns in this hillside park that separated me from the balloon. As I crested the hilltop near parking lot 19, I regained sight of the balloon and was able to park Maria in time to sit there and watch the team's basket touch down right next to the parking lot on the hilltop! Pretty cool stuff.

As I made my way down the hilltop road, I saw the balloon's support truck winding its way up to them. I was beginning to suspect my arrival in town had coincided with the few balloons still up in the air getting ready to run out of fuel. Hence, all the landings I'd seen.

I wandered about Colorado Springs, trying to find more balloons but none were in the skies. I wandered some more, tanked up with gas, and kept moving hoping for more balloons to appear after refueling perhaps. No go on more ballons but did get this shot of Pike's Peak Mountain as it looks during the summer:

Finally found the actual location of Memorial Park, the GPS was not as helpful since I did not have an address to point it to and it would increase the scale of the view on the screen when moving. No big picture of the area for me to guide on except a map of the park and surrounding areas I'd printed out beforehand for my tank bag.

Here's a shot of Colorado Spring's City Hall, which I found while wandering:

After a bit of wandering in circles, finally found the park. No balloons in sight but lots of support equipment and food vendors awaiting their return. Registered the park as a waypoint on my GPS so I can find it easier next time.

Stopped for a bottle of water as the temps were quite warm and the day was quite sunny. I headed on home via the I-25 slab and despite a couple of idiot cagers whipping in and out of traffic and generally creating hazardous conditions for everyone else, made it home by noon with no real incidents. Traffic was definitely heavier on the slab in the late morning, not pleasantly sparse as it had been when I rode down earlier.

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