After Mexico 9, 3rd October 2004

It rained during the night. Just enough to dampen the top inch or so of the road surface. This top inch turned into a very sticky mud which picked itself off the road and stuck to the tyres. As I looked back in the mirrors I could see the dry track where the tyres had been. I could also see and hear this mud that had been torn off the road mud hitting the underside of the van and the mudguards and being flung off to the side. I only drove at about 5 mph but the impacts were enough to break off part of the rear mudguard on each side.

I got out to look to see what was happening but so much mud stuck to the soles of my shoes I could barely lift my feet up. I changed my shoes. Later I got a stick and cleaned of most of the goo from the wheels and my shoes.

On my last note I forgot to include photos of the Black Canyon. Here they are. Those cliffs are over 1000 ft high.

I stopped to look at the railway museum in Ridgeway then continued to Durango via Silverton. There was some snow on the way.

But there were also more superb views of the autumn leaves.

In Durango I parked up in Wal-Mart, chatted to a local also parked there, then in the morning headed south, stopping to check out the nice little museum in Aztec. Next was Chaco Culture Historic Park, miles down a dirt road, interesting because it has in a relatively small area some huge ancient houses, dating from the mid 800's. Several of these houses have more than 500 rooms and were up to four stories high.

The round constructions that can be seen were kivas, semi underground religious buildings. It is presumed that relatively few people lived in these great houses, maybe 50 or 100 people, and that the houses were civil or religious centres with some rooms being used by visitors, maybe some of the central rooms were used simply as space fillers, to make the building appear larger and more impressive. There were many smaller houses scattered close by, with 10 or 15 rooms, and using simpler construction techniques. There was obviously a high level of social organisation, it is noted that the construction of these great houses was planned in advance, they were not just built and added to as the need arose, and there are many signs of good astronomical knowledge, amongst which are the way the different houses, the pueblos, were aligned with each other, also roads linking with other centres. But no-one knows why they came here, a place with less than 10 inches of rain per year, long winters, and a short growing season.

The Chaco people were here about 300 years, then left. No one knows why, or where they went. Probably they were just absorbed into other local cultures.

I stayed in the park campsite for the night, and met up with an interesting English couple from Lewes, Chris, a retired mathematics professor and his wife Jean. They have spent many long holidays exploring the US, bringing their tent along with them. Whilst not apparently hikers they are much more into long walks than I am!

Tomorrow I leave for Albuquerque. I wonder if that is the end of my travels for 2004? I really have no idea what I shall do after the balloon meeting, except that I want to be back in the UK for Christmas, it's time to see my sister and family again, my daughter Eleanor in Paris, my son Daniel and my grandchildren in Cyprus.

So. Albuquerque has balloons. Lots of balloons.

700 balloons. I have not carefully counted the balloons in the above photo but I guess about 60. So in total there are about 12 times as many balloons as you can see in the photo. That's a lot of balloons. The sky is full of balloons. FULL of balloons.

Of course, there are so many balloons and so many pilots it is not possible to meet everyone. In fact there are so many balloons it is almost impossible to find the pilots that I do know. It is about a half mile walk from one end of the launch field to the other. So think of walking along a road with 700 houses looking for familiar faces in each garden...........

Albuquerque is probably the biggest balloon meeting in the world. It is not my favourite. I like meetings with 10 or 15 balloons where you get to meet everyone.

After the morning flight though Little Cat had a long run around making new friends everywhere and afterwards totally crashed out in the van, dead to the world. Saturday afternoon the gas balloons launched, just after a small competition launch of hot air balloons. Here's a mixture, with gas balloons in the front waiting to launch.

Sunday morning I was with Jeff Johnson, retrieving, he made a good landing on a road in a housing estate. Only trouble was there was only one way into that estate, and it was in entirely the opposite way to the way we thought. We got him, eventually. Took a while.

I took little cat to meet Terry DiLibero. Terri had been telling me she wanted to meet little cat and she met him, at length. By the time I got back to Jeff's spot he had gone, together with the binoculars I had left in his truck. I somehow think the binoculars will be safe there. I wandered further, stopping to pick up drinks from time to time. Americans are liberal in their tailgate parties. Eventually I was spotted by Tim Baggett and stayed with his party for the afternoon.

There was a glow scheduled for the evening but there was wind and rain so it was cancelled. A glow is a night time inflation of balloons. They look great in the dark when the burners go on. The crowds love it. Me, I can think of several million ways more interesting to pass my time. For me, balloons are for flying, for looking at the view.

So I am back at the Casino RV park, just north of the field. I am told it's possible to stay in the official RV park overlooking the field for $65 per night. 10 days in there would be getting pretty close to wiping out the totality of my pension for the whole month without even buying food. The Casino Park is free. Of course most people will play the slots while they are here. It's nearly 50 years since I last put any money in a slot machine, maybe I'll be tempted this time. I'll let you know. Anybody want to make a book on it?

Best regards

David Barker

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