Thursday, June 17, 2010

Up Up & Away

Anticipation never fails. I have found that I generally don't need an alarm to get up early for departure on a trip, or to be up for a shoot before dawn, I just seem to get up at the right time. But to take the chance of missing an appointment....never....just be safe, set the alarm. I was scheduled to take a hot air balloon ride meeting the company at 5:30 this morning. The alarm is set and it goes off at the appointed time 4:30 according to the cell phone. Shaving preparations start and a side glance at my watch reveals that it is 2:30. The cell was still on central time.......I lay awake until 4:30.

Meeting the company at 5:30 at a local grocery store/restaurant and everyone in the group loads up in the vans and we take off for the "Launch Pad"....kinda feel like Buck Rogers. I thought that it would be somewhat of an individualized trip, one balloon a couple of people the pilot in the basket, Up Up and Away. Not quite that simple. We get to the site and there are three balloons in different states of inflation. Some nice light is creeping through the trees and everyone is milling around with the exception of the "Inflation Technicians". They are zapping the balloons with bursts of flame and as they do the limp folds of material start reaching for the sky. The crowd is divided into three groups of about ten each and we are introduced to our Pilots. Kevin is ours and seems to be a nice guy that is absolutely in love with flying the balloons. He said that he has been a "Corporate Pilot" for several corporations and has lived in several areas that are connected with the industry. He liked Aspen Colorado the best with the view from the air being remarkable.

With a blast of hot air we were in the air. Smooth elevator so to speak. As we rose I was amazed by the view and the silence. Actually we rose pretty quickly and floated through different currents which is how we "controlled" our direction. About halfway through the trip Kevin lowered the balloon down to just several feet above the grape vines....I was wondering about when we were to land.....start smashing I need to take off my shoes ? We cruised above the grapes for a while and then rose again. Kev had continued conversations with the chase group, the car following us in a car, until we decided to, or had to.... land.

There were several balloons in the air with us and if we had to get them rounded up it would be like herding cats. The conversations Kevin was having also included the other balloons. The comments were mainly concerning the "currents" that we were flying through. Depending on the level of the balloon the general direction of flight was determined. Judging from the conversations he was having, Kevin determined that we would land on a volleyball court surrounded by houses. To me it all looked pretty grim......I could see hordes of people gathering to meet us waving pitchforks, dogs yelping, and small children hiding as the sky was falling. 

It could not have been more uneventful, we landed, the balloon deflated, the chase crew remained behind to repack the balloon, and we went for a celebration breakfast. One more item checked off the bucket list.

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