Today was the first day of the conference for which I am here - the YALSA Young Adult Literature Symposium. But before the conference got under way, I had an exciting adventure - one I wasn't sure if I would follow through on at first, but eventually did, which I will term the Beauteous Balloon Adventure.
The YALSA folks had kindly negotiated a good price for those who wished to soar into the skies on a hot air balloon (an activity Albuquerque is well-known for, as it hosts the yearly International Balloon Fiesta). I had always had a yen for ballooning, after an incident when I was 16 -- a bunch of us from Saturday School were camping for our annual Summer Camp, when a balloon came down in a scrub area near our campsite. Since the boys amongst us helped the balloonists bring their balloon down safely, they gave some of us a ride up to 80 feet, with the remaining hot air (once the balloon was safely tethered). But then I had also heard of a hairy hot air balloon experience my friends Liz and Bill had soon after their wedding, wherein they landed, I think, in a tree! So, with equal parts excitement and trepidation I decided to go for it along with about 20 other intrepid librarians from all over the U.S.
We were met at the conference hotel at 6:30 a.m. by several balloon pilots with vans (and presumably balloons) in tow and taken to the ground where the balloons would be launched. I was surprised to be recruited into helping get the balloon inflated -- my job was to hang on to one edge of the balloon (for dear life) while a giant fan blew air into it. Near the end, it felt like the balloon was about to lift off despite me bearing down backwards with my full weight. I need to write one of the other folks in my group to ask for that photo!
All in all about five to eight balloons were taking off from the same dirt field... It turns out that the early morning is the best time for hot air ballooning, as a result of relatively predictable and mellow wind patterns.
The best part of the ride was coasting along the tops of the golden cottonwood trees that grace the banks of the Rio Grande...
The worst part of the ride was that it was all over all too soon... I am so glad that, despite my reservations, I went for it.