This was an adventure - nobody in our party of 7 has ever been in a hot air balloon before. Getting up early to be ready for a 6am launch was the biggest concern for most in our party. Those concerns quickly dissipate when drive up to the hangar and anticipation takes over.
Rainbow Ryder's hangar is the gathering point and easy to get to. It's just off the interstate and two turns off the service roads and you're there - I'm just bad with direction and took a wrong turn. You don't want to be late because you could hold up others that are waiting to go - so being there on time is appreciated. We were 5 minutes late - but happily no one gave us any grief about it.
There are celebrity pictures up on the wall, and equipment on display - but you're there for the briefing, sign releases, meet the crew, get a cup of coffee, use the restroom, and board the vans for a short ride to the launch area.
The crew made our trip fun and enjoyable. We had no idea what to expect - other than get in a hot air balloon gondola and go up. At the launch area you can stand around and watch - or - if you're willing, help out with the crew (they'll tell you where and when to lend a hand).
I was delighted to help out with unloading and dragging out of the balloon. I knew we had professionals to take care of everything, but I did enjoy the opportunity to inspect the equipment up close. So often you're not allowed to participate - but they encourage you to get your hands on it and help if your interested.
Taking off was spectacular - smooth. We all were bugged eye'd with wonder and grinning as we saw the ground, highway, business, homes, and countryside from a different perspective. Seeing the sunrise over the mountains from a couple hundred feet off the ground was awe inspiring - it was gorgeous!
The air currents that morning carried us over some of the highway, nearby farm land, skipped by outskirts of Albuquerque, residential areas and over the Rio Grande. Our pilot brought the balloon down to skim over the river - which was really cool and then took us back up high.
It's very quiet - peaceful and serene - when you're in the air. You truly have a 360 view, and I've never see the Rio look as beautiful as it does from way up high. Hot air balloons also seem to catch dog's attention - I couldn't help but laugh at the noise they were making.
I was somewhat concerned when we were approaching our landing area - it seem like a small spot to put a balloon - but our pilot was an expert at maneuvering the balloon and the landing was smoother than any plane ride I've ever taken.
It took about 30-45 minutes to pack up the balloon and gondola. Then we hopped on the vans - and rode out to a park for a champaign celebration party. Rainbow Ryders is a class act.
We've all seen on the news hot air balloon accidents, and have heard of all kinds of mishaps, but our trip was informative, safe and hugely fun. The crew at Rainbow Ryders makes safety a priority as they're riding in the balloons too. I'd do it again - they made the ride memorable and fun.
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