Archive for August 6th, 2013

Join the Tuesday Slice of Life

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balloon ride 2013

On Saturday, I went on a ride of a lifetime. Several months ago, I was out walking Charlie and saw a hot-air balloon flying over our neighborhood. I shot some pictures with my phone and sent them to the local newspaper. They printed one with my name in a caption. The owner of the balloon saw the picture. He knew my husband, so he gave Jeff his card and said, “This is good for one balloon ride for you and your wife.”

In ballooning, everything depends on the weather and the direction and speed of the wind. Ted called me Friday morning and said he had plans to ride on Saturday morning. He promised to call and wake us up if he was going. At 5:30 AM, our phone rang loud and jarring. “Meet me at 6:15.”

Everything I knew about hot-air balloons came from The Wizard of Oz. I’ve only seen a few in my life and from far away. Ted involved us in the whole process, not just to teach us, but he needed the extra hands. I was surprised at how much work goes into launching and landing a balloon. Ted was meticulous about every step, and he had done it many times, so I was not at all afraid. His “crew” were two women. They were excited to try out the new cart for the balloon. In the 20 years they have been working together, they always bagged the balloon and lifted it into the trailer. Ted, being a mechanical engineer, made a cart using a janitor cart. He added thicker wheels and a rolling pen to the handle to help guide the balloon out of and into the cart. He even thought to attach the handles high, so you wouldn’t have to lean down to pull it.

The genius balloon cart

The genius balloon cart

Once the balloon was out strewn across the field, Ted set up a fan to get the balloon inflated. Jeff and I held either side and watched as the huge stained glass nylon got bigger and bigger. Eventually, the balloon was inflated enough to be heated. This was the only part that scared me, the fire. He shot huge flames into the balloon. Each shot of fuel made me jump.

The lift off of a hot-air balloon is incredibly smooth and quiet. Before we knew it, we were floating in the air. Ted told us we were just a piece of the wind. I felt I was standing on the air, like Lois Lane when she first flies with Superman. Soft, quiet, peaceful. And the views! We could see so far. But it was difficult to understand where we were. Ted pointed out landmarks to us. He said, “Trees are our friends. Power-lines are not.” I understood the power-line problem. I later asked him why trees are our friends. He explained that the tops of trees can help to slow him down. They are not hard like the trunk. The branches are soft and bend easily.

The flight was over before I knew it. Finding a place to land was tricky. We had to find an empty lot with no power lines. We ended up landing in the side yard next to a house in a neighborhood. People were coming out of their houses to watch us. Imagine if you woke up one Saturday morning to look outside and see a hot-air balloon in your backyard. Some neighbors brought us water. Taking down was harder. It was hotter, and we were standing in thick wet grass with gnats. Once we had packed everything back up into the trailer, Ted invited us to breakfast at a local cafeteria. Sweet potato pancakes topped off my most perfect morning.

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