Utah-New Mexico Vacation – Part 8

In Santa Fe, we visited the famous and beautiful Loretto Chapel.
The story of the Loretto Chapel began with the appointment of Bishop Jean Baptisite Lamy to the New Mexico Territory in 1850. The following year, Father Lamy asked the Sisters of Loretto to establish a school for girls in the town of Santa Fe.

In 1853, the Sisters opened the Academy of Our Lady of Light (aka Loretto). Over the next twenty years, the day and boarding school flourished and grew. By 1870, the Sisters believed the school needed a chapel. Funds were raised, land was purchased, and in 1873, work on Loretto Chapel began.

Only as the Chapel neared completion did the Sisters realize that access to the choir loft, 22 feet above, would have to be by ladder. A staircase would take up too much space in the small chapel. Climbing a ladder to the choir loft would be a great difficulty for the Sisters. This posed an impossible dilemma that no architect or carpenter was able to solve.

According to the story, the Sisters, seeking an answer to their architectural design dilemma, made a novena to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. Legend says on the ninth and final day of the novena, a man showed up at the chapel with a donkey and a toolbox looking for work. Months later the elegant circular staircase was completed and the carpenter disappeared without pay or thanks. Some believe that he was St. Joseph himself.

The staircase is a wonder. Some of the design considerations are said to still perplex experts today. Built without nails (only wooden pegs) the staircase has two 360 degree turns with no visible means of support — a kind of double helix design — and with no railing. It was not until 1887 — ten years after the staircase was completed — that an artisan added the railing.

There are also design questions about the number of stair risers compared to the height of the choir loft and about the types of wood and other materials used in the stairway’s construction — some of which appear not to have been available from any known local source.

The staircase in Loretto Chapel is truly a miracle of construction and design.

After visiting Loretto Chapel, we wandered through the shops in the Plaza in downtown Santa Fe.

I didn’t find a quilt shop in the Plaza, but I did find these wonderful textiles and quilts hanging outside of a colourful little shop.

Utah-New Mexico Vacation – Part 7

We travelled along the Turquoise Trail through the Sandia Mountains between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Along the Trail we passed through a tiny town of 132 people called, Madrid.
In the Disney Touchstone Pictures comedy Wild Hogs, starring John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence, and William H. Macy, four middle-aged wannabe bikers take a road trip from Ohio to the West Coast spending time in New Mexico. The movie was almost entirely filmed in New Mexico.
The majority of the film was shot in the former mining town of Madrid. After the town’s mine closed in the 1800s, it became somewhat of a ghost town until the 1970s when artists began to settle in the village. Today, it is a thriving artists’ colony complete with shops, galleries, restaurants, and bed and breakfasts. 
This is a picture of Maggie’s Diner that was built specifically as a set for the movie.  Today, Maggie’s Diner is not a restaurant, but a gift shop dedicated to selling anything, “Wild Hog”.

We had fun wandering through the many shops that lined the street.

There is no quilt shop in Madrid.  It looks like there is an opportunity to renovate a house like this and open a quilt shop!  All the traffic that travels through Madrid, passes right by this front porch.  Hmmmmm, consider the possibilities. 

Click on the picture below to read the sign.  This one made me chuckle.

Utah-New Mexico Vacation – Part 6

While walking through the vendors’ tents on the Fiesta grounds, I came across a tent filled with quilters!  I had found the New Mexico Quilters’ Association from Albuquerque, NM. 

This was the quilt–Spirit of the Fiesta–that was being raffled off.

During our break between events at the Fiesta, we decided to walk from our hotel to a local quilt shop.  Google indicated that it was 1.7 miles from our hotel to Southwest Decoratives and that the walk should take us about 35 minutes. 

This is a picture of me taken in front of Southwest Decoratives.  http://www.swdecoratives.com/

Even though I spent 45 minutes wandering around the shop, I still fell like I could have spent more time there–there was so much to see in this wonderful shop!

This is a picture of my patient husband waiting for me to finish shopping.  He doesn’t look happy in the picture, but he wasn’t feeling 100%–he was fighting a cold.  I think he deserves an award for walking with me to the quilt shop in the heat and then waiting patiently while I shopped.  I think he is a keeper!

For the most part, this shop carries  fabrics and patterns with a Southwest theme.  
The walls were covered with quilts that take their inspiration from the local landscape and culture.

I purchased balloon fabrics to make myself a quilt to commemorate our balloon ride.  The fabric on the left is from Timeless Treasures.  The panel and fabric on the right (view of the tops of balloons) are from Andover Fabrics.  I am planning to use the pattern, Sidelights to make my quilt.

This stripe print is called Monument Valley Stripe and is by Michael Miller.  Although Monument Valley was not a place that we visited on this trip, the red rock and pictured in this fabric is very typical of the red rock formations that we saw in several places on this trip.  My current plan for this print is a Seminole row type quilt.

This shop had the SW inspired quilt, Reflections, draped over a chair and they were selling it as a kit.  As I had limited room in my suitcase and because fabric is heavy, I elected to buy the print yardage and pattern only.  The fabrics that the shop put with this print in the quilt were solids or near solids and I felt I could purchase those at home.  By leaving them behind, I was able to put other fabrics in their place in my suitcase–fabrics that I wouldn’t likely be able to get at home.

This print is A Robert Kaufman print called, American Heritage and reminds me of the jewellery made by the native craftsmen that this area is well known for.

The prints in the next picture are of cacti.  I also fell in love with the Saguaro Cactus quilt hanger.  I don’t have a pattern in mind right now for these prints, but I will be keeping my eyes open for something to showcase these interesting prints.

This is a panel of African animals that I will be adding to my African fabric stash for a “someday” quilt that I have planned.  🙂

These are the patterns that I brought home with me.  There were racks of patterns from local designers who are inspired by the native basket, pottery, and weaving designs.  I had a difficult time deciding on just a few patterns to bring home.

This Easter Egg pattern is one that I had seen on line in the past but never was able to locate it in my quilt shop back home.  I think this will make a cute table topper for spring.

Utah-New Mexico Vacation – Part 5

Balloon Fiesta kicked off on the morning of Saturday, October 1.  We left our hotel at 4:45 am in order to navigate the heavy traffic jamming the roads on the way to the Fiesta field and in order to be in our seats ready to enjoy the Dawn Patrol show at 5:45 am. 
Two California balloonists developed position lighting systems that allow balloons to fly at night. Dawn Patrol pilots take off in the dark and fly until it is light enough to see landing sites. Fellow balloonists appreciate the Dawn Patrol because they can watch the balloons and get an early idea of wind speeds and directions at different altitudes.
The Morning Glow then started about 6:30 am.  Balloon glows are nighttime static displays of illuminated balloons.  “All burns”, when all the balloons fire their burners and light up at the same time are spectacular. 

In the next picture, balloons are getting ready for Mass Ascension at 7:00 am.  During the first day of Fiesta, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta set a new world record for the most hot air balloons launched in one hour with 345 hot air balloons taking to the air in one hour during Mass Ascension on October 1, 2011.

The special shape balloons were a hit with the crowds.  Here is Darth Vader, a balloon from Belgium.

This is Spyderpig from Albuquerque.

These are two of the three bees.  The red bee on the left is Lilly Little Bee from Jeffersonville, VT.  The smaller purple bee on the right is Joelly from Maricopa, AZ.

The is The Stork from Corrales, NM and Iwi The Kiwi from New Zealand.

This is Lady Jester from Albuquerque, NM.

This is Sushi from Incline Valley, NV.

This is Centr Stage from Albuquerque, NM.

This is Airabelle, The Flying Cow from Priddis, Alberta.

Here are all three bees.

This is the Dos Equis balloon with the beer bottle, Select 55 in the background to the left of Dos Equis. 

Sometimes the balloons came so close to where we were sitting that it seemed like we should be able to touch them.

The next picture is of a Balloon Fiesta Zebra.  Balloon Fiesta Launch Directors (ZEBRAS) are volunteers that coordinate the balloon launch. They handle crowd control, observe pilots , and work with them to get their balloons safely off the ground every morning during Balloon Fiesta.

Every Zebra checks to see that every balloon is airworthy and that there is no damage to the either the envelope or the basket. They then let the pilots know where they will be standing and what hand signals to look for during the launch sequence. They also discuss wind conditions and the traffic directly overhead. The Zebras then walk each pilot out to a clear area near the launch site. When the skyway is clear, the Zebra blows his whistle and gives a “thumbs up” signal letting the pilot know he is clear to take off.

After the Mass Ascension was over and all balloons had launched from Fiesta Park we headed back to our hotel for a much deserved rest.  Then it was back to the Park in the late afternoon to get ready for  the Twilight Twinkle Show at 5:45 pm.  The next picture is of the balloons glowing while they are tethered to the ground in the early evening.

The next picture is of the gas balloons getting ready to launch for the America’s Challenge Gas Balloon race. 

Gas balloons ascend because the gas inside is less dense and lighter than the air on the outside of the balloon. Heating up regular air makes its molecules expand, becoming lighter than the surrounding atmosphere. That’s what causes hot-air balloons to lift off. Gas balloons used in races such as the Balloon Fiesta’s America’s Challenge use either helium or hydrogen, both lighter-than-air gases in their natural, unheated state.
Gas balloons differ from the hot air balloon that we had our ride in.  With both types of flight, pilots try to control their direction by taking advantage of different wind currents at different altitudes. Gas balloon pilots typically started out flying hot-air balloons, and then decided they wanted to be able to fly farther, higher and longer. Because gas balloons cost more to fly, they usually aren’t flown as often. Their flights can last for days, unlike hot-air flights, which usually last about an hour. Gas balloon pilots may prepare for months before a competition, and when they’re racing, they sometimes fly into dangerous weather conditions or over open seas, where an emergency landing could be a disaster. They even have to be careful not to fly over certain countries, where political conditions could make them targets of hostile fire. Gas balloons usually need more people to help with their launch than hot-air balloons. It takes about ten people to launch a gas balloon, according to the Balloon Federation of America, and about half that number to launch a hot-air balloon. For a competition, the gas pilots also use the services of meteorologists. The pilots’ strategies are largely based on weather conditions. The only way they can “steer” a balloon is to catch the best wind currents.

The gas balloon is inflated through a tube, called an appendix, and it takes hours for the inflation to be completed. The appendix stays open during flight to let excess gas escape and keep the balloon from bursting. Pilots make gas balloons rise by dropping weights, called ballast, from the balloon. A ballast is usually sand. The balloonists descend by letting some of the gas out of the envelope through a valve at the top of the balloon in a procedure called valving. There’s usually a cycle to a gas balloon flight. As the sun heats the gas-filled envelope, the balloon gets even more lift and can rise higher, to several thousand feet. At night, the gas inside the balloon cools off, and pilots drop bags of sand to keep from hitting objects on the ground. Then as the sun rises and heats the envelope again, the balloon gains even more lift since its load is lighter. The process usually lasts up to three cycles in a competition. When all the ballast is gone, the pilots have to land.

This year’s America’s Challenge winners travelled nearly 1,000 miles to near the Canadian border in North Dakota and in doing so, set the new America’s Challenge duration record of 71 hours and 31 minutes.
The Evening Glow was followed by a spectacular display of fireworks.

Utah-New Mexico Vacation – Part 4

One of the destinations for this vacation was Albuquerque–specifically, the 40th Annual International Balloon Fiesta.  We had arranged to take a balloon ride on Friday, September 30–the day before the Fiesta started.
We met our pilot and fellow passengers on the Fiesta field before 7 am to organize for our ride.  Balloons only launch during the morning hours.  As the sun warms the earth during the day the warm air rises creating thermal columns of air which make it very unstable for flying during the day.  In the morning and the evening, the thermal activity is minimal and the winds are the calmest. 
After arriving at the launch site, the business of setting up the balloon started.

The envelope was removed from the bag and laid out in a long line. The burners are attached to the uprights, and the basket is attached to the cables on the bottom of the envelope.

The balloon was partially inflated with cold air from a gas-powered fan, before the propane burners are used for final inflation.

As you turn around, you can see other balloons in various stages of inflation.  There are many excited people on the field now.  Even though this is will be my first ride, I can’t help but catch the wave of excitement.

Here we are in the basket ready for lift off.

We slowly and gently lifted off the ground.  These folks are our chase crew.  Our pilot stayed in contact with them as we floated above the city.

Other balloons were launched from the same site as our balloon with passengers like us.

There were just under 30 balloons that launched the same morning as us.

I have a fear of heights but I did not have any problems flying in a balloon.  Flying in a high sided balloon basket is not like standing in a roof or a high ladder. You don’t get that vertigo feeling. It is more like the ground is unfolding beneath you, and, because you are moving with the wind, you don’t feel any wind blowing. The basket does not rock or sway so you can’t possibly fall out.

Winds determine a balloon’s direction.  The pilot can steer a balloon to a limited extent by adjusting the balloon’s altitude to make use of different wind speeds and directions.
We were prepared by our pilot for the three “bumps” that we would feel as the basket touched the ground. 

After we were helped out of the basket by the chase crew, the balloon came down and the process of packing up the balloon began.

Several of the passengers assisted with the packing up of the balloon.

And finally the balloon and basket are packed away in the trailer and we all headed back to the Fiesta park in the chase vehicle.

This was a fabulous once in a lifetime experience.  If you ever get a chance to fly in a a hot air balloon, don’t hesitate!