Hot Air Balloon Fiesta!

This post continues our travel/sewing log for the Winter 19/20 trip to Arizona, Mexico, and Southern California. We’ve been home a month or so now, but I’m finally getting around to finishing my chronicle of the adventure. This is kind of akin to finding a Christmas present you forgot about hiding in the closet- so I hope you’ll forgive the lateness of this post, and enjoy the holiday nostalgia!

You can find parts ONE and TWO on the blog by clicking those links. I really enjoy writing about our travels, and hope you enjoy reading them as well!

Our original travel plans this winter had us returning home to NorCal after our time in Los Angeles, but some of the new friends we met at the Fulltime Families Rally shared that they were going to be continuing onto Lake Havasu, Arizona after Mexico, to enjoy a Hot Air Balloon Festival!

Not only did this sound like an absolutely amazing way to end our trip, but it also featured a 5K race, and offered the chance to continue to connect with the families we had come to call friends. If you haven’t ever traveled with another group of people outside of your family for an extended period of time (I hadn’t!), it’s a really unique experience.

In the past, we’ve met friends at campgrounds, and exchanged contact information, but that rarely leads to future connections, and a few days isn’t really enough time to get to know people. Two weeks of daily contact, however, tends to really accelerate friendships, and by the time we left Mexico, we were already grieving that we would miss these folks- so of course we had to snag the chance to follow some of them back to Arizona for more fun.

In fact, we had wanted to visit Lake Havasu last summer (check out my summer trip posts here), but the weather is absolutely ghastly in June (over 115 degrees F!), and I couldn’t imagine enjoying anyplace in that kind of heat, so we crossed it off our list. Let me assure you, the weather is much more hospitable in January- even a bit chilly!

We arrived several days early for the festival, and joined a group of nomads up at the BLM land north of town. BLM stands for the Bureau of Land Management- basically federal land, that you can camp on for free for 14 days, provided you are self contained, and are a certain distance away from roads and water. The place we stayed was called “Havasu Heights”, just off the highway, in the middle of the Arizona desert.

The sunsets were amazing, there were nightly bonfires, and the kids played daily with their friends, digging holes just for the fun of it, running nerf wars, and basically just enjoying their time outdoors.

This was our first extended experience “boondocking” (camping without hookups) for an extended period of time, and we learned that we lacked a few necessities (like a “blue boy” for taking the black tank to the station, and a water bag, for filling up at the station and pumping into our rig). We also learned to conserve our water, electricity and resources more than usual, which was a challenging experience that certainly made me appreciate long showers!

The kids did school in the mornings, and the moms typically arranged an outing or playgroup for the late afternoon- there was always a post offering a hot coffee, a walk or a craft.

Lake Havasu is the site of the London Bridge, which was officially moved there, brick by brick by the city’s owner, so we took the time for a walk across and a little history/geography lesson.

I also enjoyed a few trail runs with the dog in the mornings- there were miles and miles of dirt roads out there, just begging to be explored, and by the end of the week, we had a tired pup (and a happy mom!).

There was also a spot called the “Bunker Bar” out in the middle of the desert, and we dropped in to catch some live tunes and some amazing gyros fries while we were there (I didn’t know gyros game on fries, but now I’m convinced that needs to happen 100% of the time).

After five nights of camping on BLM land, we were able to move onto another book docking spot at Lake Havasu State Park, the site of the balloon event, so we could be closer to the action. The first few days were windy- too windy, unfortunately, for the balloons to lift off, but by the third day, they were ready to rise, and I was ready for the 5K.

Now, I’m training for a marathon, so a 5K wasn’t exactly a challenging event, but I was looking forward to it regardless.

Some of our local friends came up to camp with us, and one of them (plus a few of the nomadic family moms) ran the race with me at dawn, just as the sun and balloons rose in the sky.

It was epic, and one of those moments that makes you truly appreciate the wonder of the world.

To mark the event, and give me the best kind of souvenir, I stitched up a brand new pair of Super G’s for the race.

I’ve been saving these “fiesta stripes” from Styled Magnolia for the better half of a year, but I knew the time had come to sew and share them when I signed up for this event. Fortunately, I had brought the fabric along as part of my traveling stash, so it all came together, as things sometimes do, when I stop trying to micromanage them and just let them happen.

I used the side seam-less version of the Super Gs (check out the video sewalong HERE on my Youtube channel), and added in my usual back zippered pocket to hold my phone. The gusset is an athletic knit from Fabric Fairy, as is the inner waistband, and everything I could easily reach was reverse coverstitched in black. One less thing to worry about when we travel is perfectly coordinating thread colors– I can’t bring my entire thread tree with me (well, I couldn’t but its HUGE and would basically be our only wall art…wait, that IS an idea…), so I decided basic black was good enough, though a rainbow variegated would have been cool as well.

For some reason, none of my usually adventurous children wanted to go up in a hot air balloon (it was an option!), but a few of our friends “crewed” for the balloon owners, and we were able to watch them getting the balloons ready to fly.

After the race, the kids played in the sand along the beach, and we enjoyed live music, touring the crafting tables (they had the BEST fudge), and spent more time hanging out around the campsite.

I also managed to drag my lazy vacation self out of bed at dawn to go for a stand up paddle as the sun rose over the Arizona desert. It literally took me over an hour to regain feeling in my toes (water was sooo cold!) but it was worth it!

Unfrotunately, Noah and Oliver both caught a stomach bug while we were there, so in additon to our usual shenangigans, we also spent time playing board games, and taking it easy.

While we were sitting around relaxing, I had the chance to sew up a couple things with fabric I picked in in LA (I’ll be sharing the post on those soon, but here’s a sneak peek!) so, again, alls well that ends well.

It was bittersweet to pack up our things at the end of the week and start back toward home, but we also missed our family back in Chico, and were looking forward to more space to spread out in (ok, that was just me missing my dedicated sewing room and long baths- the kids wanted to stay and play!).

If you enjoyed these adventures, please take a minute to follow me on Instagram or on my YouTube Channel here! Happy Sewing!

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