One of the best upsides to RV ownership, as we’ve discussed, is the ability to haul around your own hotel room. It’s even better when you park it right next door to a major community event. That’s just what we did in Albuquerque, New Mexico, when we attended the fantastic International Balloon Fiesta. Owning an RV made attending this extraordinary festival even more fun. Here’s how…
If you’re not familiar with the Balloon Fiesta, a short primer is in order. It was started back in the early 1970s, and it’s one of those events that has gotten bigger and more elaborate over the years. As of this writing, the Fiesta typically sees about 800,000 visitors over the course of the week. It’s sort of like a state fair, but centered around hot air balloons — a LOT of hot air balloons. The 2008 Fiesta boasted some 620 balloons from all over the world. They inflate, they float, they race… they basically just do their thing. As far as I can tell, there’s not really any point to this frenzy of activity other than to have a good time. So it’s my kind of party.
“A bunch of balloons,” the cynic might say. “Big frickin’ deal.”
Why, yes, it actually is a big frickin’ deal. Have you ever seen a hot air balloon, up close and personal? How did it make you feel? For most of us non-Scrooge types, a flying hot air balloon brings a childlike rush of gleeful emotion. You can’t really explain WHY, but it makes you … happy. To understand the Fiesta, take that upbeat feeling and multiply it by 620 — because that’s how many balloons we saw in Albuquerque. And at times, they ALL seemed to be up in the air.
So how does owning an RV make this sort of experience better? Here’s an example… The “mass ascension” event happens EARLY in the morning, right around sunrise. Everything starts at 5:45 AM, and IT’S ALL OVER by 9:30 AM. Because the fiesta is so popular in Albuquerque, roads to Fiesta Park are jam-packed with traffic. Local residents are told that they need to be on the road by 5:00 AM in order to have a chance at arriving on time.
RV owners had no such worries. Sure, we had to drag ourselves out of bed pretty darn early. But our “hotel rooms on wheels” were parked right next to the action. It was extraordinarily easy to access the fiesta whenever we pleased. You could walk (less than a mile), or ride a free shuttle. And if you didn’t feel like taking the 5-minute shuttle trip, you could just hang out by your rig and watch the balloons pass overhead.
The Balloon Fiesta is so popular with the RV crowd, organizers have established four separate campgrounds with varying degrees of desirability. The most expensive costs $150 per night, for which you get water, electricity, and a five-star view. For $30 a night you get a standard site (with free shuttle service), which allows you to dry camp right next to the action. When we attended, the more premium sites were SOLD OUT. But we were perfectly happy with our standard site.
We left Albuquerque after a few days, headed east. We met fellow RV travelers who were driving to the Fiesta from several states away. I don’t blame them.
For more info on RV-ing at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, check out the official website here: http://balloonfiesta.com/
For more RV videos by Sean Michael, check out: TheLongLongHoneymoon.com