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Fall flying

THE BALTIMORE SUN

In Albuquerque, N.M., the best colors won't be on the leaves this fall. They'll be floating overhead.

The 29th annual Kodak Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta begins Oct. 7 at dawn and gets into full swing by 7 a.m. That's when the first of five "mass ascensions" scheduled throughout the nine-day event lift off and grace the sky with bright swatches of red, purple and yellow. During the ascensions, nearly all the 1,000 hot-air balloons participating in the fiesta simultaneously launch.

Other events include games and competitions among the balloon pilots, whose ranks are drawn from 25 nations. Competitions will test how well pilots control their craft and how well they can land them in precise locations.

There will also be plenty of activities for the million spectators expected for the festivities. For information, visit www. balloonfiesta.com, or call 888-422-7277.

Virtual exhibit is quite a catch

The virtual aquarium exhibit at the Museum of Science in Boston has gone global. By going to VirtualFishTank.com, anyone anywhere can unleash a fishy creation into the museum's 1,700-square-feet of cyber sea. Once there, the fish has to fend for itself among other sea life -- and in front of museum guests.

The 24,000-gallon virtual tank is home to a computerized and customized blend of aquatic life. Until now, only museum-goers could design fish and let them loose in the tank. The new Web site makes it possible to skip the trip to Boston and turn a home computer into a fish builder.

But if you are traveling to Beantown, you can save your cyber fish at home and let them out after you get to the museum. Beware the cyber sharks -- they are a hungry bunch.

Sleeping in comfort at high altitudes

Since Air France went horizontal five years ago, other international airlines have added first-class seats that convert into beds so passengers can sleep in relative comfort. What have the airlines done for sleepy first-class passengers lately?

Japan Air Lines' 73-inch-long "Sky Sleeper Solo" includes a down comforter, pillow and robe. First-class flights between New York's Kennedy Airport and Tokyo feature the beds.

British Airways' "Lounge in the Sky" (right) features an arm-chair-style seat that converts into a flat 72-inch bed available on the six daily flights either way between Ken-nedy Airport and Heathrow.

A fleece blanket, full-size pillow and cotton jersey "sleep suit" are featured on Virgin Atlantic's 80-inch beds, which are available on some flights between Dulles Airport and Heathrow in London.

Singapore Airlines' SkySuites offer 76-inch beds draped in Givenchy sheets and a down duvet. Turn-down service is available. The beds are available on flights from Newark, N.J., to Amsterdam.

Ripe for visiting

It won't be long until prime apple-picking season gets under way. Here are a few ripe locations for apple-related day trips in Virginia where you can pick your own and sample the seasonal goods:

Crooked Run Orchard: 37883 E. Main St., Purcellville, Va., 20132; 540-338-6642

Blue Ridge Berry Farm & Orchards: 480 Harrisville Road, Toms Brook, Va., 22660; 540-436-9194

Harmony Hollow Orchards: Harmony Hollow Road, Front Royal, Va., 22630; 540-636-2009

For more information about other activities in these areas, call the Virginia Tourism Corporation at 800-321-3244. For a listing of more orchards by state, check out Outdoor Explorer Magazine's online guide at www. outdoorexplorer.com / apples / pick / index.html.

-- Tricia Bishop

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