Continental Drift #4/#5

Chihuahua, Mexico
November 8 - 9, 2008


Me llamo "El Hombre Globo"



In 2008, a Mexican named Elvis invited me to fly with helium balloons over the city of Chihuahua. Gerardo Vidales Sandoval -- called "Elvis" since childhood for his great love of rock and roll -- was with the tourism section of the city economic development department, and thought that I would be a good addition to the Fiesta Del Globo, the local hot-air balloon festival.



It was spring when I agreed to attend, and the festival was in November. Arrangements for my appearance at Fiesta Del Globo proceeded at the two speeds that seem to apply to most things down in Mexico -- "very slowly" and "very rapidly at the last minute". However, things ultimately worked out, and in November I shipped my equipment, and Ernie and I flew down to Mexico.


My cluster balloon flights were being sponsored by the Jarritos soft drink company. The festival promoted me in their ads, and Elvis came up with a name for me -- "Hombre Globo" or Balloon Man.


In Chihuahua, the festival had appointed Ana Campero, a university student, to help us with the set-up for the flight. Ana spoke excellent English and was very helpful, but seemed to have bad luck with cars. She had trouble starting her car when whe picked us up at the airport, then later showed up in a taxi because her car had a flat tire. Later she had a flat tire again. The festival organizers lent her a tiny breadbox-sized pick-up truck that wouldn't seat the three of us, which they later exchanged for larger truck that had no headlights. Finally, her boyfriend Mario ended driving us around in his car.


I was scheduled to fly on both Saturday and Sunday. The festival took place on the campus of the local university, and featured a carnival and live entertainment. The team of festival volunteers arrived at 5 AM to start inflating my balloons. Most of the crew were university students fulfilling some kind of community service requirement. They seemed like nice young people, and were a step up from my previous experience of "not-quite-volunteers" at festivals in the U.S.: prison inmates on work release.




By the time I was ready to launch, a good-sized crowd had gathered. I was wearing my snazzy green Jarritos jacket, and was being cheered on by Jarritos superhero mascot Jarriman (think "Duff-Man", if you watch the Simpsons) and the Jarri-chicas.


When I was ready, the festival announcers led the crowd in a countdown for me....



And up I went into the sky over Chihuahua.