Day 165: Full of Hot Air

We had a restful Shabbos here at the pond near Yuma, AZ.  This morning, we went fishing in front of our RV:

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I noticed a hot air balloon in the sky.  It reminded me that, when we were in Lake Havasu City weeks ago, we had seen that there was an upcoming hot air balloon festival.  Checking my phone, I saw that today is the last day of the festival.  Lake Havasu City is only 70 miles beyond Quartzsite, so we decided to drive to Quartzsite, drop off the RV, and drive on to Lake Havasu City for the balloon festival.

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Our somewhat secluded spot at the pond:

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We drove the 60 miles North to Quartzsite.  There are many camping locations for the 300,000 RVs that descend on Quartzsite this time of year.  Closest to town is the massive La Posa LTVA (long term vehicle area).  Users of the LTVA purchase a permit for $180 that allows camping at any of the BLM’s LTVAs in the desert southwest from fall through spring.  A few miles farther out, there are five sites with the usual BLM “free camping for two weeks” arrangement.  We chose the site on the Southern side of town, called Road Runner, as it’s on the same side of the town as the shows, so getting into and out of the shows should be easier than if we stayed on the North side of town.

It seems that most folks that come to Quartzsite do so to camp with a group.  There are groups for every make of RV, as well as interest groups.  We happen to be camped next to Quartzfest, a Ham group, and RVW, an RVing womens group.  We camped a couple hundred feet from the outermost edge of these groups.  It’s hard to tell from this photo, but the folks in groups park pretty close together, and this density extends for over a mile to Highway 95.  And this is just one of the five “small” two-week stay BLM areas, all of which together are a fraction of the size of the La Posa LTVA.

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Looking in the other direction, you can see we’re pretty much the farthest out RV in this area.  The road that defines the edge of Road Runner is about 3/10s of a mile beyond where we’re parked:

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After unhitching the RV, we drove on to Lake Havasu City for the balloon festival.  It’s not just balloons, apparently.  It seems like anything that flies is welcome:

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There was also a collection of classic cars on display:

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The festival had a small carnival as well, so the kids went on this ride while Trish and I watched from the ground:

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Of course the main attraction was the balloons.  One was taking off as we arrived.  We were surprised to find out that, unlike an air show, at the balloon festival spectators can freely wander the flight area and even help the balloon teams to inflate and launch their balloons:

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Due to prevailing winds, most balloons were driven away from the festival and launched, hopefully to land back at the festival:

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Some of the balloons were kept at the field.  They were to be inflated, held in place, and illuminated at night like a set of giant light bulbs.  Here a team rolls out their balloon:

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More balloons went aloft:

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Coming in for a landing:

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Touchdown!

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Another successful landing for Team Humpty:

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It was amazing to see just how massive the balloons are:

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More balloons were laid out for the nighttime illumination:

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The Wells Fargo team had the largest balloon at the festival.  20 or so spectators assisted in getting in inflated.  They first use a giant fan to fill the balloon, which in ballooning circles is referred to as the “envelope”:

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Once the envelope is mostly full, the propane burners heat the air in the envelope which makes the air in the envelope less dense that the cooler air outside, causing the envelope to rise:

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Looking into an envelope after inflation but before the burners fire up:

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A performer with illuminated hula hoops wandered the grounds:

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My favorite balloon was the UltraMagic balloon, which is decorated as a replica of the first balloon ever launched:

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As everyone waited for the synchronized illumination, individual balloons would briefly light up as the crews kept the air in the envelope hot enough to make the envelope rigid, but not so hot that the balloon took to the skies:

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The synchronized illumination:

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We drove back to Quartzsite after the festival.  Tomorrow, we will visit Quartzsite’s “big shows” and see what all the fuss is about.  See the trip map for our drive from Yuma to Quartzsite.

Day 163: Onward to Yuma
Day 166: The Quartzsite Shows

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