Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

September 22, 2011

by Rex Vogel for Woodall’s Family Camping Blog

Each October, New Mexico skies are full of bold blues, imperial reds, and vibrant yellows. The event is the world-famous Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the largest hot-air balloon event in the world. This extravaganza takes place from the first weekend through the second weekend in October—this year’s festival is
Part of the reason for the success of the Fiesta are the cool Albuquerque morning temperatures in October and the Albuquerque box. (Credit: Raymond Watt,

Part of the reason for the success of the Fiesta are the cool Albuquerque morning temperatures in October and the Albuquerque box. (Credit: Raymond Watt,

from October 1-9—and attracts hundreds of hot-air balloonists from around the world. The balloons come in many colors and shapes with the special shapes category getting larger every year. There are balloons that look like cows, cartoon characters, automobiles, stagecoaches—and just about everything else.

A century after the release of Jules Verne’s balloon adventure novel with Captain Phileas Fogg, Around the World in 80 Days, internationally-acclaimed balloon festival was born in Albuquerque. It was 40 years ago! In 1972, and 20,000 sleepy spectators gathered at sunrise in a local parking lot to witness 13 balloons ascend. At the time, 13 balloons seemed really impressive. But in 2004, more than 800,000 spectators watched as more than 750 balloons floated into the beautiful blue New Mexico skies. The fiesta has amassed an international following, attracting pilots, spectators, and media from nearly 30 countries.

So, what’s the big deal about balloons?

Hot air ballooning is a spectacular and exciting event to experience. Before dawn, people start to gather. By 6 a.m. long lines of automobiles are jockeying for position in a stop-and-go traffic scene. Excitement fills the air. Weather permitting—and if the wind is not too strong—a rainbow of hot air balloons simultaneously lifts into the early morning air. The crowd is awed and “oohs” and “aahs” over every balloon! Each is a work of art. The number of giant painted bubbles gliding through the sky multiplies the viewers’ pleasure.

Mass Ascensions, a launch of all the participating balloons have been a feature of Balloon Fiesta since its earliest days and is one of the most spectacular display of sound and color in all of aviation. (Credit:

The launch field is divided into three sections of 11 rows of 12 balloons each. Think of a checkerboard. The launch begins with the outside rows on the north and south ends of the field—these two rows lift off at the same time. Usually the wind is from the north, so that works out well. Then they work in towards the middle of the checkerboard.

The excitement begins as the crews take the collapsed giant balloons from their storage baskets. Twenty to forty feet of fabric is stretched flat on the ground in exactly the right way. The blue-flamed burners that heat the air to lift each balloon are started. The heat of the flame from the propane tank is surprisingly intense and the noise made by the burner is expectedly loud. When finally, the signal is given for the balloons to ascend and they take off in waves of color, it is a magnificent sight!

Ballooning is popular in Albuquerque…why?

Albuquerque is popular with hot air balloonists because of the “Albuquerque Box.” In balloon language, a “box” refers to flight back and forth over the same area by using winds of opposite directions at different altitudes. It is a common phenomenon in valleys because of the flow of air down the mountains. With a box, balloonists have more flexibility in how they can control and navigate their balloons.

What is a balloon crew?

Balloons are big—and it takes a group of four or more people to help the pilot. Before the flight, the ground crew helps with preparing the balloon.

A special shape balloon, Well Fargo's Cent'r Stage. (Credit:

First they walk out the envelope for inflation, and then they help attach all the equipment to the basket. Once off the ground, the chase crew follows the balloon in a car or truck (the chase vehicle) so they can help retrieve the balloon and pack it up wherever the pilot lands. It can be a lot of work, but chasing can be fun!

Balloonists often need helpers—so ask around; you might just get a ride!

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
(888) 422-7277 or (505) 821-1000
4401 Alameda NE, Albuquerque, NM 87113

Worth Pondering…“How posterity will laugh at us, one way or other! If half a dozen break their necks, and balloonism is exploded, we shall be called fools for having imagined it could be brought to use: if it should be turned to account, we shall be ridiculed for having doubted”.
—Horace Walpole, letter to Horace Mann, 24 June 1785

Note: This is the first of a two-part series on Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

See part 2: Up, Up and Away: The Greatest Show OFF Earth


RV Roadschooling

September 16, 2011

by Dana T. for Woodall’s Family Camping

While we have always homeschooled our children, now that we are full-time RVers, we boy doing school workhave found that Roadschooling (homeschooling on the road) presents some unique challenges as compared to when we homeschooled in a sticks & bricks.

Being on the road has given us a chance to visit some wonderful historic locations that we would not have been able to otherwise afford to go to without our RV.  We love to tailor our curriculum to where we are visiting; especially for history, writing, and science, but traveling full-time makes it difficult to always have, on-hand, the learning tools that we enjoyed in our house.  We have found having a laptop and printer on-board indispensable to our destination tutoring!

Of course, if you are going for a short trip, it would be very easy to find applicable information before you leave home, print it out there, and take it along.  There are some great websites that provide details and worksheets about stateshistorical destinations, and elementary hands-on science.  My children, for the most part, enjoy worksheets, so in addition to downloading interesting online worksheets, I also watch out for fun workbooks about where we are visiting.

History of Texas Museum

History of Texas Museum

Last month when we were in Texas, I found a great workbook at the Bob Bullock History of Texas Museum gift shop.  Because I have multiple ages, I went through the workbook and marked each page that I thought the kids might enjoy with a post-it flag.  On the flag, I wrote how many copies of that page I wanted depending on which children it was age appropriate for.  A quick trip to Staples, and we were set for some fun (and inexpensive) learning about a new-to-us area.

Many students use the Internet for classroom research, and travelers use it to find out about a possible destination.  Roadschooling brings both of these together.  In addition to finding out about the surrounding tourist sights and searching for campgrounds, we like to find factual information on the historical places that we are interested in touring.  Last week we visited Tombstone, AZ, the sight of the legendary gunfight between the Earp brothers with Doc Holiday, and the lawless Clanton Gang at the OK Corral.  On our way to Tombstone, we searched for a website about the deadly match, and read about the gunfight aloud; we also learned a lot about the founding of the town, including the source of it’s name.  The kids had more interest in the location knowing a bit of it’s history, we had a better idea of how to prioritize our time there based on what details we found intriguing, and the kids had a jump-start on what they would need to know to earn their Jr. Ranger badges.

Homeschoolers tend to be bookworms (and we are!) but now that we are schooling out of an rv, we are greatly limited as to both space and weight.  We don’t have much room for books, but even if we did, the weight factor of hauling them around would be detrimental to our GVW!   I have never been a big library fan – I felt that if a book was worth reading, it was worth owning – unfortunately, this mind-set  just doesn’t fit in well with the r.v. lifestyle!  But how could we school without our books?  One solution was that we bought the older kids e-readers for Christmas.

There are over a dozen different manufacturers; we chose Sony.  (the following info is based on our experience with them, so it may differ if you choose Kindle, nook, or any of the others…)  If you tend to purchase a lot of books anyway, a digital reader can pay for itself very quickly.  Our family prefers classics, and many of these books can be downloaded for free.  In fact, you don’t have to have an e-reader to take advantage of free downloads; they can be read on your computer/laptop also!  It is easy to find books based on location or historic event with literally millions of books available for download!

books organized in cupboard

magazine racks work best for our workbooks

For storing our traditional school books, we have found that it works best for us to have a container for each child’s books.  At first we used horizontal plastic boxes with lids, but we have found that, in the area we have set aside for school in this coach, magazine holders work best.  Each child has their own holders, and since the containers are vertical, the kids don’t have to dig theirs out from under others, and the remaining holders stay upright (instead of a row of slumping books), making it easier to keep those cupboards tidy.   We also use magazine holders for coloring books and info that we send away for from each state like tourist guides.

We do enjoy a certain amount of educational DVDs.  One of our favorites is Drive Thru History; they are generally location specific or about a certain person (thus you might want to watch about Benjamin Franklin when you are visiting Boston, his birthplace, or Philadelphia, where the Declaration of Independence was signed).  My boys especially enjoy these as Dave is usually driving some cool or unusual vehicle, and he is rather comical.

We also have found other ways to impart learning into our ‘camping’ routine.  We tend to lean towards games that have some, however small :), educational value.  My kids like the game bananagrams, which is somewhat similar to Scrabble but without a board; great for spelling, and is very compact.  Math games, like Math Dice, are small, lightweight, and easy to adapt and play with multiple ages.

We have really been enjoying our roadschooling adventure.  At first it was a challenge for this bookworm mom to adapt to life without a library on board, but we have found some great alternatives that are making our journey a lot of fun and still educational.  We are also finding that learning can be extra rewarding when we take advantage of the educational opportunities that each of our travel destinations offer.  If you have some other roadschooling ideas, I would love to hear from you!

Safe Travels and Happy Learning!



Are You Growing?

September 5, 2011

by John Imler
John is an RVchurchesUSA Ambassador and author of It’s Never Too Late


In summary of his message to Christians, Peter admonished them, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). As parents we experience our greatest pleasure when we see our children grow up to become adults and to have meaningful lives. It would be tragic if they failed to develop fully and at some point just stopped growing.

However, some Christians do just that. They accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and then at some point fail to continue to grow in their Christian life. Although they have the Holy Spirit to assist them in their spiritual growth, they become complacent in following His direction.

Christ said, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26). It is important that we understand these words regarding the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. He will first bring Christ’s words to our attention and then cause us to retain them in our hearts and minds.

Our Attention
It is important to our spiritual growth that we know what Christ has said. The only way I know that this knowledge can be attained and brought to our attention is by spending time reading His Word. It is here that we learn (are taught) the words of Jesus. It is here we find the meaning of “the way” Jesus spoke of in John 14: 6. He has given us the Holy Spirit to help us obey His commands (John 14:21) and to grow in Him.

Our Retention
As we grow older, our ability to retain things that we once readily recalled seems to fail us. Yet God has seen fit to give us a Helper in this area. I am constantly amazed to hear stories of those with various stages of dementia who are faithfully witnessing to others as they recall and quote scripture.

God has promised that the Holy Spirit will remind us of His words (everything I have said) to help us as we seek to grow in our knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Christ gave us His own example of this retention in Matt. 4:1-11.

Are you growing in your Christian life? God has provided you a Helper to assist you in doing so. He is available to all of us who seek to follow Christ’s teachings by teaching us all things and reminding us of what Christ has said.

John welcomes your comments either below or email him directly at [email protected]


Is An RV Business For You?

September 5, 2011

by Jaimie Hall Bruzenak
as appeared on RV Home Yet?


The Las Vegas Review Business Journal has had two articles recently about mobile RV businesses. In the first, a business is foundering; in the second, a three mobile RV businesses are flourishing. Is this a viable way for RVers to make money?

Business one is a girl’s party bus that provides full cosmetology services plus takes the gals to their night out. The bus is decorated for a party complete with zebra-pattern walls, pink furniture, stereo system and flat-screen TVs plus a stripper’s pole. They park in a variety of locations to provide their services.

In the other article, “Entrepreneurs take niche goods, services to road for customers’ convenience,” three entrepreneurs are featured: an RV mobile repair business, a mobile car detailing service, and a mobile custom tanning and salon. The last does custom air-brush tanning. According to the article, what helps a mobile business succeed is finding the right niche or having high quality if you’re providing service in a broader specialty. Maybe the party bus in the first article is a niche that doesn’t jive with the market.

How does this apply to RVers who want to travel in their RVs rather than be based in one community? Having a mobile business isn’t as easy. For professions such as cosmetology that requires a license in each state, a mobile business would not work as well. Plus, a beautician relies on developing a clientele. Moving around frequently would not allow that to happen unless you came each year during a certain season. For example, some who cuts hair and spends each winter in the same snowbird park would be able to develop a clientele over time.

Another restriction is getting the word out. If you travel constantly, people may not see you enough to get familiar with you. Often customers need to see you or hear about you several times before feeling comfortable enough to buy from you. If you were parked at an RV park for a while, you would need permission from the owner, who might want a cut. And, you probably will need a local business license or at least a tax ID to run a business there.

The mobile businesses I’ve seen work provide services for RVs, such as mobile repair, repairing windshields, computer repair, and cleaning carpets. They may have a sign on their RV or their tow or toad, letting RVers know about their business. Some set up at RV events or at RV gathering places like Quartzsite, AZ in January. I’ve also met RVers who cut hair and give massages, but they do it by word of mouth since they are not licensed. Keep in mind if you offer services at RV rallies, you may be required to get a booth. There are always costs of doing business!

If you tow a cargo trailer or even have a toy hauler converted into some sort of workshop, there are more possibilities. Just pick a business that doesn’t need a state license and make sure you follow the state and local regulations for paying business license fees and taxes. Knowing lots of RVers or going to rallies or where they gather also helps. It could be a viable way to make a living on the road.

Jaimie Hall Bruzenak

Please add your comment below or email Jamie at [email protected]

reprinted with permission

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