Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta – Day 4 and 5

Balloon Fiesta – Day 4

Balloon Launch

Another morning we missed the Dawn Patrol, but a surprise landing of several balloons between the RVs.  Quite a treat!  Use the arrows to scroll.

Here’s one of the balloons right in front of Lola:

Nice morning for the Balloon Fiesta again!  We have great weather, fantastic breakfasts and dinners through the Escapee Hop and fun side-trips to keep us busy.

Gas Balloon Challenge

The first evening of the International Balloon Fiesta launched several gas balloons.  They are now in the eastern US and Canada and still travelling!  Amazing how high and far these balloons go.  Gas Balloon Challenge Results here.

Gas Balloon Challenge
Gas Balloon Challenge

Sandia Tram

The Sandia Mountain Tram is the longest tram in the US, and the longest public tram in the world!  The early bird gets the worm and we head off right after the balloon launch to catch the tram as soon as it opens.

It is a quick drive to the tramway, and saw several balloons along the way as well as from the top of the mountain.  The tram goes 2.7 miles and rises 4,000 feet.  There is a ski facility and lots of trails to hike once you get there.

Pueblo Cultural Center

Operated by the 19 Pueblos of New Mexico, The Pueblo Cultural Center has history, art and demonstrations of Pueblo culture.  We enjoyed the live entertainment at the center as well as the craft tables and shop.

We learned a lot about the Pueblo Indians.  They were one of the few truly agricultural Native American groups in the Southwest.  Most of the other groups were hunter-gatherers.

Wow – so many things to do when in Albuquerque!  Balloons and so much more!

Balloon Fiesta Day 5

Last day in Albuquerque!  The Balloon Launch included a competition to drop a sand bag in a circle or land and take off in a specified area.  Good wind conditions brought the balloons right to us again for some great video.

Happy Trails



Santa Fe – Coronado Historic Site – and Balloons

Santa Fe – Kuaua Pueblo – and Balloons

Balloon Fiesta Day 3: Morning Balloon Fix

We slept in this morning and missed the Dawn Patrol.  Then we found out that it was cancelled when we went for breakfast.  Cool!  Didn’t miss anything.

The balloons did launch, so we still got some good pictures.

Sandia Mountain Tram (NOT!)

We drove up to Sandia Mountain after breakfast, but there was a wait of over 2 hours, so we decided to get an earlier start tomorrow for the tram.  Instead we decided to drive up to Santa Fe.  Some of the Escapee Hop attendees took the train but we wanted to include the dogs so we drove up.

Santa Fe

It’s only about an hour to drive to Santa Fe from Albuquerque.  Weather was nice and it was an interesting drive going by all the different Pueblos.  We parked a few blocks away from the old downtown area, got coffee at a quaint shop about half way to the old city square.  They were very dog friendly and brought out some water for the thirsty pups.  It is the oldest capital in the US – founded in 1630.  And at an elevation of 7189 ft. it’s the 10th highest city in the United States!

The old city square was busy with a dance group all dressed out in Spanish-American costumes.  Lots of music too!

Route 66 & Kuaua Pueblo – Coronado Historic Site

We got off the freeway just outside of Santa Fe to drive on old Route 66.  We drove through many small towns.  There are several Pueblo tribes and nations throughout this area.  We happened to see a sign for Coronado Historic Pueblo and took a short detour to see it.  Kuaua Pueblo was first settled about 1325 when approximately 1200 people settled the area.  Francisco Vásquez de Coronado named the pueblo in 1540 while he was searching for the cities of gold.  Coronado is on the banks of the Rio Grande river.

Great place to visit.  Managed by the New Mexico State Park system it is another dog friendly place.

Happy Trails!


Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta Day Two

At The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta Day Two

Dawn Patrol

The Morning Dawn Patrol was so cool this time.  Yesterday there was a good breeze and at dawn the launched balloons went by pretty fast.  This morning it was very calm – and as the balloons lifted off and headed toward us they get in a loop.   About half way to the field in front of us they gradually started drifting back towards the launch site.  This made for about 40 or 50 minutes of entertainment.  We dressed warmly, brought our chairs and tripod to sit back and enjoy the show.  We took the best 8 minutes of video for the final video.

National Petroglyph Monument

After the Dawn Patrol, we watched some of the balloons float overhead – some landing among our RVs – before we headed out to the National Petroglyph Monument.

There are several trails at the monument.  After talking to the woman at the visitor’s center we picked the Rinconada Trail.  We found out from another couple on the trail that this trail was not as well-marked as some of the other trails, but we found lots of petroglyphs to photograph.  Folks have come up this canyon and scratching stuff on rocks for over 3,017 years!  Yup – earliest petroglyphs date to about 1,000 BC (BCE).  The last carving from Native Americans date from about 1700 a.d. The volcanic rock in the area is from an eruption about 200,000 years ago.  Way back before Jeff was even around!

The trail is just over 2 miles long, so we left the dogs behind.  They are getting too old for that long of a walk.

Old Town Albuquerque

Next, we drove to Old Town Albuquerque.  Lots of neat little shops and the old square and church.  Albuquerque was founded in 1706 and there are still some old buildings that date back to that time.  Parking is a challenge – especially on Sunday during Balloon Fiesta!  But we found a spot near one of the museums a few blocks away.

International Balloon Fiesta Grounds

Once we got back to the RV and had dinner with the Escapee Hop group we took a school bus to the Fiesta Grounds proper.  We are amazed at the number of people and vendors there.  THOUSANDS of people with DOZENS and DOZENS of all type of shops.  We ended up not buying much because we were looking for things a bit more unique than most of the vendors had for sale.  What we really came for was the Twilight Twinkle show.  We walked up a small hill away from the crowds so we could have a good view of the evening entertainment.  We were NOT disappointed.  Even though we forgot a blanket to sit on it was fun.  Jeff set up a little tripod for the camera and Christine made friends with a retired couple from Alberta Canada.

Twilight Twinkle

Well worth the trip to the Fiesta Grounds & making your way through the throngs of people.




Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta Day One

At the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta Day One

We made it!  Cross one more item off of our bucket list.   After traveling through Nevada, Utah and Colorado we made it to New Mexico and the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.

We wanted to experience this for a long time.  When we got an email from Escapees back in February that they had slots available we knew this was the time to do it.  We checked to see if we could get in to the Fiesta independently and found out that they had over 700 RVs on the waiting list!  After a call to the Escapee HOP coördinator we made our reservation to get a prime spot for us.

Enchanted Trails RV Park

We first stayed at the Enchanted Trails RV Park and Trading Post just outside of Albuquerque the day before so we could have an easy drive to the Balloon Fiesta the following day for check-in.

Setting up at the Balloon Fiesta

After getting a little lost, we found the Escapee HOP area and got settled in.  After check-in we attended a Balloon Pilot presentation from a crew that demonstrated balloon etiquette for those helping out.  Shortly afterwards was social hour and a catered dinner.

 Balloon Fiesta Day One

First thing next morning we were up before the crack of dawn to enjoy the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta Day One!  Our first full day started off with a great breakfast supplied by our Escapees HOP hosts Barb and Roger Maxey along with John and Faye Humphery our co-hosts.

Balloons Galore

We were absolutely blown away by balloon take off the first day.  Our campsite is just a couple of RVs away from a field where many of the balloons landed.  All we did was take our chairs down to the edge of the field to set up our cameras and enjoy the show.

After more than a year on the road, this was our first extended boondocking experience.  With our solar panels and lithium batteries we are set to enjoy the Balloon Fiesta with a minimum amount of generator use.

Getting up so early we decided to have a laid-back day, so we spent the rest of our time this first day just hanging out with the dogs and meeting our neighbors until the evening activities got started.  Social hour at 4, then catered dinner at 4:30.  Afterwards we watched the launch of the gas balloon race start then once it got dark we watched the fireworks.  What a great day!

Check out the link on the Gas Balloon race – these folks started out in New Mexico and teams ended up in Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Main etc.  Serious long-distance high altitude ballooning!

trippinwiththeengles Instagram

Happy Trails!


Cortez Colorado

Cortez Colorado

Last Stop Before the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

 October 2-4

Our last stop before getting to Albuquerque is Cortez, Colorado.  We stayed for 3 days to explore the area.  It sure was nice to get into some green farmland again – a nice change from the deserts of Nevada and Utah.  We stayed at the Sundance RV Park in Cortez.  It was a very nice park that is well maintained with friendly staff.  It’s central location makes it easy to go to Mesa Verde National Park, and Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.

Cortez Diesel

Our first stop though was to Cortez Diesel – a Cummins diesel shop.  Lola – our Winnebago Journey hesitates when accelerating after we got fuel.  We always get fuel at a major truck stop, so fuel quality should not be an issue, but throughout this trip after stopping to get fuel it continued to happen.  At first it was a slight hesitation – I thought my foot may not have been on the accelerator fully or slipped off the gas pedal.  The second time it was a more significant, and the third time it happened in the middle of the intersection just outside of Salt Lake City during rush hour traffic (now that makes you start to sweat). The engine caught and we were off and running.  Since the problem was getting worse we decided to get it checked out.

We called Cortez Diesel after checking web reviews and talking with the service manager Cory Schmitt, we scheduled a morning appointment.  Cory checked out the throttle and saw no issues, then ran a diagnostic – that also looked good.  However, he noted that we were many many revisions behind on our Cummins software.  One of the fixes that we were missing was engine cutting out at low RPM.  He also noted that if that did not solve the problem there is a controller under the throttle that is simple to replace – even though the diagnostics indicated it was OK.  {Lola ran great for the rest of the trip to Albuquerque and back to California to see the kids.}  Thanks Cory & Cortez Diesel.  We highly recommend them if you need any diesel work.

Canyons of the Ancients

Visitor Center

Our first stop is to the Canyons of the Ancients visitor’s center just outside of Cortez.  Very friendly staff and going through the visitors center we learned a lot about the early settlers and the native Americans.  Gives you a better idea of what you want to see in the time we have.  They explained how much time it takes to get to the different places to explore.  We also really enjoyed the green fields and snow-capped mountains!


Lowry Pueblo – Canyons of the Ancients

Leaving the visitor’s center we drove to Lowry Pueblo – our first stop.  Built about 1060 a.d.,  it is so cool to wander around where native Americans once lived so long ago.  It’s a nice walk around the site with the dogs.

Hovenweep Pueblo Complex – Canyons of the Ancients

Next we drove to Hovenweep Pueblo – just across the Colorado – Utah border.  Another good place to walk the dogs.

Mesa Verde National Monument

Mesa Verde National Monument is one of the premier places to view pueblo cliff dwellings dating back 1300 years.  There have been inhabitants in this area dating back to 7500 BCE!  Most places are accessible to those with pets.  As with all National Monuments – drones are prohibited.  Who wants to hear the buzz of a drone while enjoying these sites?  No problem here!

At an elevation of 8572 Park Point fire lookout has a commanding view of the valley below.  You can see why this was a choice defensive position for the Paleo Indians and Native Americans for millennia.

This Episode’s Video

Happy Trails!!

Eastern Nevada and Utah

En route to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

Eastern Nevada and Utah – En route to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

Our Route from Winnemucca to Scofield State Park











California Trail Interpretive Center – Elko Nevada

September 28th

After leaving Winnemucca we drove through the high desert of Nevada to Wendover on our way to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta .  On the way, we stopped at the California Trail Interpretive Center in Elko Nevada – it’s well worth the stop and has easy bus and RV parking.  The dogs enjoyed the break and there were some nice trails for them to stretch, sniff and wag.

Pictures of the California Trail Interpretive center (Hit the arrows to scroll):


It’s a typical Nevada border town with casinos galore!  We stayed at the Wendover KOA behind a casino.  We were very close to an airport and after getting approval to keep it low we took The Eyes of Lola – our DJI Mavic Drone – for a quick look-see.  We could just make out the white of the Salt Flats in the distance.


Salt Flats

September 29th

At mile marker 10 just inside Utah on I-80 is the Salt Flats rest area.  Again – The Eyes of Lola went up for some better views of the Bonneville Salt Flats – and a stretch before driving through central Utah.  Check out the video at the bottom and the pictures below (Hit the arrow to scroll)!

Scofield State Park

September 30 – October 2

Our destination of 3 days – a stay at Scofield State Park.  The fall colors were all around us and we enjoyed several drives in the area.  Up at 7,656 feet elevation it got chilly at night and we even had snow on the last full day at the park!

During out stay we visited the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry where one of the largest finds of Allosaur bones are found with museums around the world getting skeletons from this quarry.  Unfortunately it was closed the day we visited, but we hiked the area and spotted some cool rocks.

Wasatch Plateau

During out stay at Scofield state park we had time to expore the area.  The Wasatch Mountains and Plateau is an active coal mining area, a perfect area for outdoor enthusiasts with roads and trails for ATVs all over.  We spotted many fishermen on the lakes and streams.  With roads at over 9,000 ft in elevation you get breathtaking views of the valleys below the Wasatch Mountain Range.  A good driving guide is found on the Sanpete website that includes several loops that you can drive.  One cool stop is to the Mammoth skeleton found near Huntington Dam.

In 1989 during the construction of a dam a Columbian Mammoth was found in the mud – one of the best preserved mammoth skeletons.

The site of the discovery is right off the road and there are some nice trails and fishing spots.


This Episode’s Video

Fernley and Winnemucca Nevada

Heading to the Balloon Fiesta from California

First Stop Fernley Nevada

We left Sacramento on September 25th, heading east to the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque taking the long road there!

Balloon Fiesta Trip Overview

We had a bit of a rocky start when our RVi Brake acted up braking hard when it should not.  After getting frustrated about the RVi Brake we accidentally pulled the toad a bit in park!  After several thousand miles pulling our vehicle it shows we can still do stupid things when we get side tracked!  Oh well, live and learn.

We arrived in Fernley, set up camp and took the Eyes of Lola out for a fly.  Our DJI Mavic worked like a charm.  We stayed at the Desert Rose RV Park.  It was a no-nonsense park that was clean and new.  It was on Alt-US 50.

Next stop – Winnemucca and NEW TIRES

On the 25th we drove on to Winnemucca, and wanted to see a bit more about the town.  We visited the Humbolt Museum first then down to Wal-Mart to get groceries.    Thump-thump-thump… something was wrong with the toad.  We stopped at one mechanic that had good Yelp reviews, but he didn’t have time to look at it, so he referred us to Speedy’s just down the road from the RV park that we are staying at.  Once there Jeff spotted a flat spot on one of the tires, and the mechanic confirmed that was where we need to start in figuring out the problem.

You guessed it, we needed to invest in a new set of tires.  Good thing there is a Les Schwab Tire Store in town.  Of course, because of the all wheel drive you can’t just get one or two replaced.  Nope, all four. Augh!  Well, it could have been a lot worse.  The transmission was fine, and the tires were past their prime so it wasn’t to bad that we needed to get all four replaced.

Weather was great and the high desert was… very dry ;-).   We had to keep remembering to drink lots of water.  (Beer too!)

We stayed at the New Frontier RV park outside Winnemucca – it was off the highway a bit so it was relatively quiet.  We spent 2 days here so we could explore the museums (and get new tires).  And another flight with Eyes of Lola.


Happy Trails!

Lone Tree Point and Hope Island

Thousand Trails La Conner

Lone Tree Point and Hope Island

The Swinomish Indians share some of their land with the Thousand Trails La Conner Preserve in Washington.  La Conner Thousand Trails  is on the Puget Sound just north of Seattle.  Lone Tree Point is a sacred spot for the natives in the area.

Here’s a map of the area, compliments of the Swinomish Indian Tribe


20100901 Usfws Twg Map E1 498x644
Swinomish Indian Reservation

And an aerial view of the point:

2017-06 Lone Tree point
Lone Tree

On the point of land is a single lone tree.  Over the years, storms have ravaged the tree, and it is smaller than it was when we were last here in 2006.  The tribe is growing seedlings from the seeds of the Lone Tree to eventually replace the old tree.  The Swinomish tribe has established a marine interpretive center primarily focused on the clam re-seeding program.  There are several informative signs explaining what the tribe is doing.  They are experimenting with raising clam varieties that are better suited for eating than the invasive non-native pacific clams.

From Lone Tree Point, out in the sound is a large floating nest of pens where salmon are farm raised.  These do not belong to the Swinomish Indians and the tribe has erected a sign explaining the amount of pollution created by these pens.

Getting Some Pictures

Great weather continued during our visit to thousand Trails La Conner, and I spent a couple of hours out on Lone Tree Point enjoying the sea breeze.  On a couple of visits I flew the DJI Mavic Drone to capture the beautiful scenery.

Here’s the flight path on one of the flights (using Air Data):

Hope Island Flight
Hope Island Flight

I have been experimenting with using D-Log and the GC-Heron LUT (Look Up Table) for color adjustment from RTH Studios (non-paid reference).  I have found it a challenge to dial in the drone camera settings and the right post production settings.  More drone photography experiments to come!  {Updated Video with Corrected Color Grading}


Back to Oregon

As I mentioned in a previous post about our arrival in La Conner, in May and June we were in the middle of getting my dad’s house  ready for sale.  Fortunately my brother was able to maintain the house and get a new roof up prior to Christine and I arriving to get it ready for sale.  We remodeled the kitchen and bathrooms, put new siding on the house and painted it inside and out.  Thank goodness my younger daughter and her husband were able to take some time off from their busy schedule or we would probably still be up in Oregon getting it fixed up.  Thank you!

Dad’s house

What’s next?

As a retired couple full-timing in their RV, life is a breeze, eh?  Not!  We purchased a true fixer-upper close by our daughters in the Sacramento area and are currently busy ripping out carpets, remodeling bathrooms and the kitchen and hauling trash away!  Almost feels like work.  Good thing we have Lola to live in during these crazy times.

We are headed to Albuquerque for the Balloon Festival and are busy planning our winter visit to Arizona and South Texas.  Stay tuned!   We will explore more of Nevada, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico on our way to the festival.

Balloon Trip
New Mexico here we come

In the meantime I want to do some reviews of tools we have been using successfully and NOT over the past full year of full-timing in Lola.

Jeff and Christine


Happy Trails


Whale Watching and Friday Harbor

Whale Watching and Friday Harbor

Trips and Places to Visit while at Thousand Trails La Conner

Whale Watching!  We spent a day in the San Juan islands located north of Puget Sound watching whales and visiting Lime Kiln Point State Park on San Juan Island.

We started off with a ferry ride from Anacortes to Friday Harbor on San Juan island.  The water was calm and weather clear so we could see Mt. Baker in the Cascades and Mt. Olympus in the Olympic range.  I always feel reinvigorated feeling the sea breeze wash over me.



No drone video for this episode – took the little Panasonic for stills and video using that.  After arriving at Friday Harbor we drove to Lime Kiln State park while we were waiting for our whale watching boat.  You can often see whales from the point, but no such luck this time.  There is a neat little light house at the park you have to check out.

We drove back to Friday Harbor and had lunch then went out on the whale watching cruise.  We took the Western Prince Whale tour.  I have been on a half-dozen whale watching trips in California, Hawaii and the San Juan Islands, and this is probably just about the best.  There was a lot of activity in the pods we watched – so I hope I caught some of the excitement in the videos and pictures.

After getting back to Friday Harbor we got the car and got in line for the ferry.  After talking to the Western Prince folks when we got there they suggested we change our ferry reservations to the last ferry out.  We did, but made it back in time for our original time and was able to change back – getting back to Anacortes and Thousand Trails La Conner in time to share our experiences with the rest of the family who were exploring the trails and beaches at TT.

This was a great birthday present from my eldest daughter and family.  Thank you!

Happy Trails!


Deception Pass Bridge and State Park

Deception Pass – Puget Sound

Deception Pass State Park is just a hop, skip and a jump away from Thousand Trails La Conner.  We visited the park with our daughters many years ago, and again about 10 years ago when Christine and I took our first vacation ‘without kids’.




Deception Pass State Park – Little North Beach

Little North Beach is the closest beach to the Deception Pass Bridge – a magnificent engineering masterpiece composed of two bridges.  One over Canoe Pass and the other over Deception Pass.  The bridge was built in 1934-1935.  A fun fact from Wikipedia is that it cost more to paint the bridge in 1983 than to build it in 1934!

This is a great place to catch some drone footage, and we did!

There are lots of agates on the beach, this is a great place for any rock hound.  We had Little North Beach to ourselves for most of the time – amazing to have an entire beach for the family during the summer!  The kids and grandkids skipped rocks over the water, watched boats cruise by through the narrow gorge between the islands and soaked up the summer sun.  We truly escaped!

This is only a small part of the over 4,000 acres of Deception Pass State Park.  There are campgrounds, beaches and lots of walking trails to enjoy besides the view of the pass and bridge.

You can see it was fantastic weather in Washington.

Happy Trails!