We’ve left the Balloon Fiesta to roam down I-25 into southern New Mexico somewhere. We left on a high note: This morning the balloonists were competing to play a form of aerial poker, where they dropped things onto “playing cards” on the field in an attempt to make the best poker hand. After passing by the field, they floated at low altitude directly over the VIP RV area where we were parked, and many of them landed just a few hundred feet away.
This made for some spectacular morning viewing, along with the opportunity to play ground crew for the balloonists. As they touch down they usually need a few people to help hold the basket down until their chase crew catches up. Emma and Eleanor helped three balloons, and Emma was privileged to stand in the basket with the pilot, too.
Other balloonists took advantage of the famous “Albuquerque box.” On about 30% of days in October, there’s a low-level wind that blows in one direction, and a higher-level wind that blows in the opposite direction. By changing altitude, the balloonists can fly back and forth over the area. This kept the sky full of balloons for a couple of hours.
Unfortunately, the winds didn’t favor those gas balloonists who left last night. This morning a couple of them were still visible in the sky, just a few miles from where they started. They were hoping to get as far as Minnesota in a couple of nights.
Moments like this morning are the payoff for putting up with camping at the Balloon Fiesta Park. It is certainly one of the worst places we’ve ever camped in all other regards. Even Wal-Marts are far superior. The grounds are crushed asphalt and dirt, and in the rain sections of it quickly turned to mud. Sites are tight, allowing just enough room to put out an awning but nothing more. Generators are permitting 17 hours a day, and many Class A motorhome owners took full advantage, deluging us with diesel fumes.
Particularly annoying is that there is little enforcement of the rules. Almost every night someone ran their generator for hours after the official shut-down time of 10:30 p.m. They weren’t all the quiet type, either.
There’s no dump station, and no water fill. A roving pump-out truck and a separate water truck will service your RV for $20 (each). We paid for both a dump and fill because we used a lot more water than we normally would, due to Emma’s 24-hour virus. The water truck never showed up, and this morning (after two days of waiting), we got a refund.
For $65 per day, there are certainly better values in a campground. But you put up with the crowded, noisy, smelly, and occasionally muddy conditions because the spectacle of the balloons makes it all worthwhile. We are glad we went, and we might even go again sometime, but I sure wish the Fiesta organizers would try a little harder to improve the experience. I’d suggest trimming the generator hours down considerably, arranging a water fill station, and bringing volunteer “campground hosts” every few rows to enforce the rules & help people with problems.