From Yuma, after Mexico, we headed to the Lake Havasu Balloon Festival. We had thought we were going to miss this from being in Mexico for longer but since our plans changed we were able to go! A nice perk.
We ended up parking at the same BLM site, Havasu Heights, where we had met up with a Fulltime Families group last year. It’s a convenient spot that’s 20 minutes from town with plenty of room for lots of rigs. The Fulltime Families group was meeting up again this year but this year we planned to attend the balloon festivities each day, unlike the previous year. We ended up crewing again for the lovely Nilz Family Ballooning group.
The deal that we made with our girls at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta was that if we were waking them before the sun came up, they could have donuts for breakfast. This may seem like a theme; give away a cat, get donuts. Wake up early, get donuts. It doesn’t happen often, really! Anyway, there was a bit of a glitch in the deal this time because there were no Trader Joe’s grocery stores in the area. Trader Joes, at least in the winter, sells lovely apple cider donuts. We used the day prior to the festival to scope out our donut options in the area.
We ended up finding a local place called Donut Post that made their own donuts from scratch every morning. No apple cider donuts but they did have some cinnamon sugar covered cake donuts. We tasted these but our oldest decided they were too sweet. We asked the Donut Post if they sold any cake donuts with no sugar and she said that in the morning they make a small batch. We were thrilled and asked her to set aside 4 for us to last us the 2 days (None of our bellies like us if we eat a whole donut so we split them). They were so sweet (the people, not the donuts) and did just that. When we came back in the next day to retrieve the donuts I also tested their decaf pumpkin spice latte and Justin tried their decaf coffee. I don’t get lattes often so I’m probably not the best judge of these things but what I can tell you is that I am pretty darn picky. Let me tell you, this latte was just lovely!! It was very low sweetness and had a lot of flavor. The girls both agreed that it was delicious as they helped me drink it. Justin liked his drink too. We give the place 4 thumbs up!!
To get into the festival we ended up leaving Azul in a designated Fulltime Familes lot being used for their hangout (our friends so generously let us use their parking pass), hanging out there for a bit with friends and then taking a shuttle in. It was nice to see some oldish and new friends from the road at the rally.
The bus we ended up taking into the “field” for the balloon festival was a party bus! The entire interior was covered in leopard print fabric and LED string lights throughout, a dancing pole and thumping jams through the speakers. It was hilarious and so fun!! The older couple who were in the bus when we entered were so funny. They were not allowing any part of their being to enjoy any of the humor in it. They were stiff statues that were trying their best to ignore our shenanigans. That couple was visibly relieved to be getting off the bus at their stop! Haha. The next set of older folks were loving it almost as much as us. Yes! Our girls kept asking throughout the festival if they could get back onto the party bus. They loved it!
We always find it a bit confusing to navigate the whole crewing thing for the first day. Lucky for us the first scheduled ascent was around 4pm in the evening rather than an early morning scramble. Much more doable! Unfortunately there was too much wind for the first afternoon mass ascent to take place. So, we ended up hanging out at the balloon crew house they rented for the evening and ended up spending the night.
Justin and I debated staying the night but decided the opportunity doesn’t often come up so we should seize the moment. Plus, we would be only 5 minutes from the field instead of 20 minutes so we could sleep longer in the morning. We only had Azul with us as Wobbles was back on the BLM land so some of our bedtime things weren’t available. Luckily we had just done laundry earlier that day so the girls had their nighties with them as well as fresh clothes for the morning. It was a bit of a crazy place though! We basically had to pull a bunch of things out of Azul and shove it in the front seat or outside next to us. And, when I say “we” I mean Justin. Thanks Sweetie. 🙂 Sadly though we didn’t have our pillows so that was interesting. We got creative!
Just as a side note I have to mention that Lake Havasu has the best laundromat I have ever been to! I’m pretty sure I said this last year as well when we discovered it but it is fancy, clean and has front loaders. Modern Laundromat is the best!
Justin and I had a great time chatting and getting to know the crew a bit better and the girls slept fairly well in their temporary beds. When our alarm went off for the morning mass ascension our sweet pilot Paddy told us officials had cancelled due to high winds again. It was a bummer but we welcomed the extra 40 minutes of sleep it granted us before the girls woke.
With the wind canceling most of the ballooning activities for the day we gathered our things and went back to poor Wobbles we had abandoned. She was doing just fine and lucky for her she was semi warm when we arrived due to our leaving the heat on, not knowing we’d be away overnight. Fortunately we keep our heat to a shivering 58* at night so I’m sure it didn’t turn on much in the night. Yay for not wasting as much fossil fuels, boo for being cold.
While we were back the girls got some kiddo playing time in and our oldest found time to do dental cleanings on all of us. “I think this is how Rachel does it” she would say. Our dear sweet friend Rachel is a hygienist and she was trying to follow in her shadow. 🙂
The next morning we did it! We did the whole ballooning thing with early wake up with donuts. We even got spoiled this time and got breakfast in the crew/pilot tent. The whole thing is such fun…going in the chase vehicle to find a good spot Paddy wants to set up, figuring out the direction of the wind, setting up and blowing up the balloon.
Whenever they get off the ground it still seems like some sort of a cartoon to me. There is a giant balloon taking these people into the sky. It seems like that shouldn’t be able to happen in real life. It’s just so beautiful too! The girls got to do what they have been waiting to do again since last fiesta, roll out the air in the balloon and sit on the balloon after it has been packed up to get more air out.
It was a perfect day for flying with little to no wind. Some of the shapes such as the unicorn were also able to make it up into the sky.
We were so very lucky that Paddy was so sweet to bring the 4 of us up in his “Arriba” balloon for all our first times! He landed the balloon and his previous passengers hopped out and then we hopped in. It was amazing!!
We were chatting when we were on the ground and didn’t realize right away that we were in the air. It was so graceful! When we were up in the air it felt so peaceful and quiet, very much in contrast to the hustle bustle and loud noises of balloon set up. I wasn’t even nervous which was strange, I thought I would have been.
That is until when I was holding our little one in my arms and she unexpectedly boosted herself up off my leg for a better look over the edge. Even though in reality she wasn’t even close to falling out of the basket (her head was just barely peaking over the top), it was enough to shove my heart in my throat for a couple minutes. My mind immediately went racing downhill with thoughts like, “We are hundreds of feet above the earth floating in AN EASTER BASKET CARRIED BY A BALLOON for heavens sakes!” Or “We are far enough up that if one of us fell out we would have time to think how awful it was before crashing to our death!” These thoughts were obviously extreme and thankfully I was able to brush them aside after a couple minutes.
Once we were on the ground and back to Wobbles Justin confessed he also had a bit of a panic moment up there thinking similar thoughts. Ha, those minds of ours.
The girls had so much fun peaking over the edge of the basket while in our arms or using the foot hole as a peak hole. It was such a perfect little spy hole for them to give our arms a break (and hearts when we were panicking!).
We landed almost as gracefully as we had taken off. Thank you Paddy for this amazing experience for us and our girls!!
In the afternoon back at the festival we traveled away from the crowds to peak at the little beach there was onsite when a super sweet older gentleman asked if the girls wanted a free kite. The guy said that he was part of a kite group that give kites to kids they see and give them a quick flying lesson. Kites clearly made this gentleman happy and he wanted to bring that happiness to others. He was so very kind. The girls and Justin ended up flying kites with the gentleman for some time in a grassy field; us taking turns pulling our oldest in the wagon and she hung onto the kite string.
With the permission of the kite gentleman we passed on the kite he gave the kite to a group of other kids who had been watching our girls fly the kite. We all then watched a show of bellydancers from the crew tent while we chatted. The bellydancers were really an eclectic bunch with ages ranging from a guesstimated age of 10 – 80 years of age. Go ladies, go!
We had a great time at the Balloon Festival but unfortunately ended up picking up the flu from some of the Fulltime Families kids. AHHH!!!! We always forget how much we pay for hanging out with other families on the road all with various sicknesses that inevitably get passed onto our family.