Greetings From Old People Camp

Balloon adventure anything but a bust

December 1, 2013 

Suzanne Davis

We pulled in to fill up with $5 a gallon gas in a remote, no on-ramp station, and as the pump cha-chinged, the nearly toothless proprietor ambled over to chat. His overalls smacked of too many ancient, greasy Fords, but he was a friendly guy. We were his sole customers and had ended up in his Route 66 station because of a wrong turn. He asked about our day and then noticed my husband Mick’s Dodgers cap. In what turned out to be one of the more vivid images stuck in my head from the trip, he smiled and said, “If the Dodgers win tonight, I’ll get down to my underwear.”

Frankly, I was surprised. I’ve always considered those two things to be mutually exclusive. But local customs differ, and admittedly I’m not very well schooled in the Needles baseball to-do list. They did win that night, but I keep pushing that thought from my head.

We were en route to the hot-air balloon fest in Albuquerque, N.M. — the Balloons or Bust trip I liked to call it.

We naturally took Lance, the travel trailer, along and upon arrival at our destination, were awash in more RVs than I have ever seen in one place. There had to be thousands, parked cheek to cheek, on a huge expanse of acreage. I’d like to say that we nestled 19-foot Lance in the middle of the 45-foot luxury cruisers, but we ended up in the low rent district, i.e. with the aging fifth wheels — and they all seemed to be sporting deafening outside generators — 360 degrees of virtual root canal.

Because I am non-confrontational to a fault, it took me three days to reach the raging senior citizen level of, “OMG, I can’t take this anymore!”

Truly, I was dammit-you-kids-get-off-my-lawn angry. As a former school teacher, I had many years of practice with rage control, so I took three cleansing breaths, walked the 8 feet to the next “site” and rapped on the door. It was a crisp, sunny, high desert day, with the temperature somewhere in the 60s. A woman peeked out.

I smiled and asked, “Would you mind turning your generator off for a while? It’s been on for a long time and it’s really loud.” (Unspoken were the words, “Would you give that friggin’ thing a rest?!!!”).

She informed me that she was baking a birthday cake and the oven was heating up the fifth wheel: Ergo, they had to run the air conditioner.

I replied internally, “YOU’VE BEEN BAKING A CAKE FOR THREE DAYS?!!”

Thankfully, I didn’t say it out loud, because about that time her burly husband arrived at the door. I politely requested that they move the offending noisemaker around to the front of THEIR trailer, so the racket didn’t come directly into our window. To their credit, they turned it off for a short while. I do hope I didn’t ruin their cake.

Speaking of being cowardly, I didn’t take a balloon ride in Albuquerque, even though there were obvious opportunities.

Mick and I gave it serious consideration, but I heard that on the first day of mass ascension, some unfortunate soul broke her leg. It happened during the mass descension actually (I know, that’s not a word — but it should be).

It’s a well-known fact that I have not gotten braver as I age, and since my last Ferris wheel experience of 30-odd years ago didn’t turn out that well, I wasn’t taking any chances with heights.

A friend of mine says she never rides on anything that can be assembled in less than 24 hours, and I’ve learned to live by the same creed. Sadly, it’s time to admit, that I did not come into this world equipped with the ballooning or scary carnival ride gene. Sorry Mr. Ferris, your time was wasted on the likes of me. Besides, my body was spent. I’d already mustered up my “confront the generator neighbor” gene and if you combine that with “naked Dodgers guy” images, it was plenty of excitement for one trip.

Ah, the adrenaline rush of high risk activity — it takes your breath away!

By the way, the balloons were spectacular.

SuzanneDavis is happily retired and living in the South County with her husband and their three dogs. Email her at suzdavis489@yahoo.com  .

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