9th July 2018
I manage to drag myself out of bed at 4.20…. eek! Better hurry up. I just about make it to the balloon site, there are 3 deflated balloons on the ground and a man named Randy takes my details and directs me to Alan’s balloon. There is a family who I assume don’t speak English because they are all wearing flip-flops… the safety info says quite categorically, NO Flip-flops. Having said that they are still going on the flight so… Alan gives me an accident waiver to complete while he and the father and son help with inflating the balloon, they hold the ‘throat’ open to allow the air to enter the balloon.
Soon all 3 balloons are raising majestically up from the ground. Once it has reached the required size, Alan starts to use the burner to introduce hot air into the balloon and it soon rises up vertically and the basket rights itself.
Alan and his two man crew help us all get into the basket. At this point I hear the father speak, he speaks English with an American accent so they just ignored the instructions.
Once in the basket, Alan gives us a safety talk, mainly focusing on the landing. Inside the basket about halfway down are some loops, we are to grab two of these and assume the brace position for landing, ie squat down and hold on. He explains that we are to do this immediately when instructed so there won’t be any time to put cameras away etc… he will give us a warning so we have time to prepare.
After that he asks if we are all ready and it’s up, up, and awayyyy. The take off is so gentle I didn’t even realise we were off the ground. The sun has started to rise, he is hidden behind the landscape, but it’s quite light.
Mr Flip-flop doesn’t stop talking the whole flight… question after question and the two teenagers keep moving around in the basket so some of my photos are a bit shaky… apart from that it was a fantastic experience, very well worth the money and early start.
Sadly all too soon, Alan asks us to get ready for landing. We do come down fairly quickly, but the landing is ok… the basket drags along the ground and the two crew men are hanging on to it. Alan directs them to where he wants to come to a stop and once stopped we all clamber out. We are in a car park!
The crew and Alan are sorting out deflating the balloon and once it’s on the ground we are tasked with holding the huge bag open for them to fold the balloon into. Once done they get it up onto their trailer, very cleverly with a couple of planks and a piece of steel scaffold pipe.. very good.
We are then all ferried back to the launch site where we are given a drink… champers for those who want it, I have orange juice, and cakes are on offer too, I partake of a small blueberry muffin.
Then Randy, who seems to be head honcho, gives a brief history of ballooning… mostly about the Montgolfier brothers and we are given our ‘certificates’.
It’s all over by 8.30 which gives me plenty of time to get back and pick up my luggage.
When I get there, it’s a young woman on the desk who I haven’t seen before. I ask her if there’s anyone around who can help me with my big bag.. see looks a bit vacant… I ask again adding that I can’t manage it on my own. ‘Err is it big’? ‘Well, yes that’s why I’m asking for help’, she looks puzzled… ‘look it’s ok for the moment I need to sort out my other stuff first anyway… and…. is there a dumpster anywhere, I have a couple of broken bags to dispose of’ more blank looks and then someone throws a switch in her brain and she says ‘yes there’s one out the back’, ‘ok, thanks’.
I go upstairs to complete my packing and then I need the loo… it’s blocked! Gross!
When I go down I mention the blocked loo to Ms Vacant, she nods. I don’t want her thinking it was me! At last I’m ready for the big bag… I try Ms Vacant again… she looks uncomfortable… ‘ Is it a big bag’ she asks again, ‘ I mean do we need a man?’ I then realise she is offering to help, somewhat reluctantly, naturally I immediately say, ‘ of course we don’t need a man, we’ll manage ourselves’ and so we do, relatively easily… ‘there, I told you we don’t need a man’ she laughs rather nervously but in a conspiratorial way.
While I am outside, finishing off securing the luggage to the bike, along comes Lucas, the chap who has been most helpful, (all this time I thought his name was Matt), asking how it’s going. I take the opportunity to mention the broken bags. He says he would like a look at them cos he might get them repaired for his bicycle, if I don’t mind. Of course not, I’d rather they were reused than dumped. He takes a look and says he can get the zips fixed… ok you’re very welcome to have them. He seems well pleased.
So it’s goodbye my one, and I can assure you, only experience of a hostel.
After a coffee and something to eat it’s time to make my way over to Lujan Motorcycles to get my gold plated tyre fitted 😂.
I ride round the back, as instructed, it’s gravel.. my worst nightmare especially with all the luggage on board but it’s easy enough just to ride it into the workshop. Well, I kind of expected the tyre not to have arrived and I’m right it hasn’t. The owner, who I later discover is called Chris, immediately gets on the phone to try and track down the delivery. I overhear him saying something about tomorrow… ok I’m going to make a few enquiries of my own. He says he has a friend or relative that works for UPS and can find out if the tyre is in Albuquerque and if it is he can get it.
I decide to call Harley Davidson to check if they have a tyre, they do. I turn round to tell Chris and he already knows, but it’s a Dunlop not a Michelin which is what I wanted… At this stage I don’t care as long as it gets me back on the road. He is going to send his chap to go get one, in the meantime he’ll take the wheel out.
I ask Chris where I can get a coffee and there’s a place down the road, so off I trot. I walk some way and then give up, I can’t find it. Then I think I’m going to check HD for a price so I call them back, it’s $231 plus tax… out of curiosity I ask how much to fit… 1 hours labour so total $360, that’s cheaper than Lujan. I make my way back and decide that if he hasn’t made a start I’m going to get my money back and take it over to HD.
When I arrive I see the bike hasn’t moved so I decide to ask for my money back, I’m feeling a bit mugged off. I have a conversation with Chris and he assures me he will adjust the price accordingly when his man comes back with the receipt; he will only charge me what that says plus $60 for fitting. Ok sounds good to me.
There are a couple of other guys in the shop now, one of whom is an older gentleman, probably about my age or a bit older with a large white beard. We start chatting about the bike and then suddenly he says ‘I know what that belt means’ he is referring to my rainbow belt I bought in San Francisco to put my Dykes on Bikes buckle on. ‘Oh really’ says I, ‘and have you seen the buckle?’ I show it to him and he laughs.
He is a great fellow and I feel very safe talking to him. He has a friend or relative who is a dyke, I can’t remember exactly. He introduces me to his son, Dominic, who also has a beard and looks a lot like his father. Apparently his good friend is travelling the world with his male partner. Then Chris chimes in with his daughter is also gay… and we are all chatting away like it’s the most normal thing in the world. They are a lovely group of straight men, who are just very accepting of people.. we talk about New Mexico being a very liberal state and at some point I say to dad, Alan, ‘so Oklahoma – belt or no belt?’ ‘Definitely No belt’ they all say and we have a good laugh. Chris then tells me Alan is his uncle, what a nice family. They insist on a photograph… I am really pleased because I wanted one for here.
Alan asks about my plans and when I mention Memphis he immediately says ‘definitely belt in Memphis’ what a star.
Just after this Dominic and Alan leave, with a Pogs Hogs card each, so I hope they will enjoy the blog.
The bike is already up on the lift awaiting the tyre.
Another chap arrives… he’s not so friendly, I get the impression he doesn’t like my belt 😉.
Chris starts explaining about his weight loss regime, he is on a natural foods programme, I think it’s herbal life, and he’s been doing really well. It seems though he has overdosed on his herbal drink this morning and now is buzzing!! Just then his sponsor comes in and she is very nice… we chat briefly.
At last the chap returns with the tyre… he had to wait for it to be unloaded from the delivery van so HD have only just got it themselves. Chris wastes no time in fitting it and he works out the cost and gives me an $88 refund, very happy bunny.
As a parting gift he gives me a vest with his shop logo, he has them produced very year with a different design and asks his customers to please take a photo with the shirt around the world so he can put it on his Facebook page.
I am very happy to do that, so the plan is for a photo in Memphis, Nashville, New York City and of course London.
Sadly I now have to get back on the road, am heading for Santa Rosa some 160 miles away, but first a coffee of course. I decide to buy a Starbucks travel mug, I find they keep the coffee hot and don’t leak. It’s bright orange so should be able to spot that ok in amongst my luggage.
Arrive at Santa Rosa, sort out a motel and all is good, except I’ve managed to lose the coffee mug… oh here we go again!!
Have had a pretty full on day… very, very good. I really enjoyed Albuquirky and it’s people.
PS See, I’m not even going to mention the wind….but, it was bad! I was riding fast to try and combat the side winds when I entered the town of Vaughn, suddenly there’s a familiar whoop, whoop and I look in my mirror and yep it’s the cops. I pull over… 61mph in a 50 zone… he checks my passport and drivers license, asks me a few questions and why I was speeding.. I explain that I was battling the side winds coming into town and had been trying to cope by going fast so I just didn’t realise I hadn’t slowed down enough. Very weak I thought, but it’s the truth… he says, ‘you need to respect the laws of this country, but I’ll let you go with a warning.. respect the laws here.’ And with that he hands back my documents and walks away. ‘Yes, yes I will and thank you very much’… whew! Don’t know how I managed to get away with that one… I need to be more careful.