September 09, 2009
This is one fun event at the Elephant Butte Reservoir in New Mexico, about a 2 plus hour drive south of Albuquerque! The competition concept is for the balloon Pilots to launch from shore in the State Park, and get over the lake, take a baton from their Water Chase Crew, make a right turn and fly to the Marina to and toss on to the target. Mind you . . . concept! Well many made that right turn and my Pilot, Doug Lenberg of Farmington, New Mexico flying the Route 66 Again balloon (red with big center white stripe) decided that flying across the lake is much more enjoyable. So off he went, and off I went chasing him. The Water Chase Crew are there in case the balloon stalls over the water and it's their task to slowly tow them back to shore. As the weekend went on, that was a definite challenge for most. I was the Land Chase Crew driving by myself and in an area I had never been before. Thankfully there were only two roads from which to choose. As it was, I could not get close to him and the Water Chase Crew along with a second boat had to load up his basket and balloon envelope and take it back across the lake to the boat ramp where I was waiting along with quite a few other vehicles launching and picking up boats. Except I didn't have a trailer which amused many after I told them I wasn't giving up my space as I was waiting for my craft.
Doug's Dad took us back out later on the lake as I wanted to go swimming and had not done that in years. What I like about New Mexico State Parks is that you can - at least in this instance - set up camp at the water's edge. So balloons were flying in, over and about the camp sites, and seeing it was early in the morning, waking them up to the sounds of the burners. I was told that the lake is 45 miles long and quite the Mecca for Lake Trout fishing in the Spring. Elephant Butte is next door to Truth or Consequences and there are many motels that have natural hot springs and is quite the eclectic community. And if the Space Port does become a reality, that area and down to Las Cruces should grow rapidly.