|Up, Up and Away in My Beautiful Balloon! Oh how we would have loved to have gone up in a balloon at the Balloon Fiesta Grounds in Albuquerque. Not only was it a blustery, cold and windy day but oh my, the cost of a hot air balloon ride isn't cheap! However we did spend several hours at the Albuquerque Balloon Museum which looks out on the grounds where the balloon festival is held each fall. Seeing photos of 750 to 1000 balloons setting sail, one can only imagine what it is like to see it in real life. The Museum is filled with history and many famous balloon attempts through the years. One can't help but be in awe of the bravery and creativity of some of the teams who have attempted some of these rides. Dating clear back to 1783 in history, France recorded the first hot air balloon ride with passengers Sir Duck, Sir Sheep and Sir Rooster, determining that balloons could hold considerable weight and mammals could breathe at high altitudes. Since that time, over 200 years ago, with man's ingenuity and creativity, there have been successful long range flights in hot air balloons. On display were many of the "creations" used throughout the years to attempt this feat. As with any new adventure there were many who crashed and burned and many who did not complete the entire trip but it was fun to see some of the "contraptions" used. In 2002 Steve Fossett became the first solo balloonist to circle the globe nonstop in 13 days 8 hours and 33 minutes...a distance of 20,626.48 miles. We couldn't imagine spending almost 14 days couped up in that little vessel, laying down, for even one day, let alone over 13! Can you say claustrophobia? Never knowing what you will learn at new places, we are always intrigued about what new little "morsel" we take away from our stops and this stop was no different. Hot air balloons were used in WWI, the Civil War and WWII and the Japanese military launched between 9000 and 10,000 balloon bombs in 1944-45, their target being the Pacific Northwest. As many as 1000 balloon bombs have been found in the U.S., some as far east as Michigan and some as far south as northern Mexico. As science advances they are using lighter and lighter weight materials to construct both the balloons and the baskets and many of the balloons that launch during the Festival are in lots of fun shapes and colors, much like those used in the famous Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. During the Festival you are allowed to walk out on the grounds and visit with the pilots while they are firing up their balloons but you'd better be an early riser as they start getting ready for the launch about 5:30 a.m. Our imaginations were whetted and we vowed to make the trek back to Albuquerque for the Balloon Festival in the coming years. We were told by many people that it is a sight you never get tired of seeing, no matter how many times you see it and for now we can only imagine that is true. Old Town Albuquerque was our next stop for the day and it was such fun to walk the narrow streets filled with shops, galleries and restaurants in the old refurbished buildings and to imagine yourself walking those same streets back in the early 1700's with all the characters of the day. Our favorite shop was an old-time candy store filled to the brim with candies we remembered from our days as kids. From candy cigarettes to bubblegum cigars and the little wax bottles filled with colored sugar water, it turned out to be a nostalgic trip down memory lane. And to top off our short trip to the area, having dinner with friends who live in Albuquerque and we hadn't seen for years, was the highlight of our stay. Land of Enchantment, New Mexico is to be sure and our next visit will include a much longer stay to experience many more things this beautiful state has to offer.