Before you abandoned our ballooning bunch….we were waving at the wistful retirees. This first shot was taken by Derek’s camera on a pole. It took a series of 5 pictures one every 5 seconds. Since we were first I had little time to prepare & we had 4 pictures that looked just like this one & then one of us kissing. I thought I’d spare you that one. You’re welcome. I love living in the future. As soon as we were in the van we reviewed the pictures on Derek’s iPad & by the time we got home afterward Aaron had them in his email along with a GoogleEarth GPS track of the route we took in the balloon all mapped out.
As for the route we took….
Floating along we came across the Willamette river. (Now is that “Willamette you Yeti,” or “Willamette Dammit?”) This is the part in the trip when I was preparing/hoping for that water landing I’d read about, but no such luck. We did see an ambitious water skier though. Everyone hoped that they had a wetsuit on because it was pretty cold.
This early in the morning the water is beautiful & glassy. No rain or wind, at least not until later that day. No wonder they wanted to take full advantage of that. I couldn’t resist the fog coming off the trees like that.
Next up on our journey the famed brush with the tree tops. The first time was pretty uneventful. I didn’t even see it coming, I just felt it through the bottom of the basket. Later on however Derek took us right into the trees & I was sure that we couldn’t possibly lift fast enough to avoid them, in the very last second he poured on the heat & we rose like, well like a balloon.
Safe & sound.
I pipped up & said, “you had us worried there,” & Derek gave a careless chuckle. At this point we were still a good 15 minutes away from landing. Like I said in the last post, it was pretty quiet most of the time. There was this the time we floated over an acre of trees & I start hearing this howling. It sounded like a bunch of 10 year olds having a sleepover in the woods had spotted us & decided to act like dogs & howl at us. It kept going for quite some time & I realized it was probably actual dogs & not a group of 10 year olds on a sleepover in the woods.
I really could not keep that smile off my face. The stuff keeping us in the air, & that includes Derek’s hand on the bottom left. Since we have some time before landing, I thought we should go over the hot air balloon landing instructions. The proper way to land in a hot air balloon is to face away from the direction you’re headed, take a soft, bent knee standing position & hold tightly to the straps lashed onto the side of the basket. Also secure any personal items in the overhead bin.
Wait, I think that last part is for commercial airlines.
15 minutes later, after seeing a random pile of construction equipment, strange paths in the landscape & scaring both horses & sheep we spotted the chaser van next to the soft pillows in the field. I requested we land on those, but my request was denied. We were instructed to not immediately jump out of the basket & run away like scared sheep, otherwise the balloon would take off again with a lighter load & you’d be left with the other frightened sheep in the field to fend for yourself.
After an easy landing, Aaron leaped from the basket like a scared sheep. Actually he was instructed to get out & hold the basket down with his armpits. Slowly we were each allowed to climb out of the basket one at a time as the air in the balloon cooled & the balloon deflated. The crew drove the van & the trailer into this random unfenced field & laid out the tarps. One passenger was given the rope to the top of the balloon to guide it down to the tarps & everyone else slowly dumped Derek out of the basket.
The next trick was to get the deflating balloon to ignore the light breeze & land exactly on the tarps. At least that was the goal of the 12 passengers, 2 crew & 1 pilot. Nothing like balloon wrangling. No really there is nothing like it. When I was contemplating the ride, I could feel how sturdy the basket was & I could guess how much we all weighed together & looking up the balloon it looked pretty light & fragile in comparison, especially with a big hot flame burning in the middle of it. Once I started balloon wrangling everything changed. That balloon material is both hefty & resistant.
We’re finally punching that balloon down to size. When we’d beaten that old balloon into submission, it was in a long straight line. They had me & this other girl hold open the big balloon bag & everyone else, including the kids, lined up next to the deflated balloon & putting it up on their shoulders like a log marched it over to the bag where we stuffed it in. There are no pictures of the stuffing, because everyone was too busy laying on the balloon in the bag to take pictures. No really, we all sat on the balloon in the bag together to deflate it even more. After that we all hefted the balloon in the balloon bag onto the wheeled cart & they wheeled it up on the trailer next to the basket & fans. We all squashed into the van. All of us except the 2 crew members who had chased us across the county. They rode in the basket on the trailer. No joke. That’s the thanks they get, a cold windy ride back to the airport.
There’s that feet picture I needed. Whew! I feel so much better knowing I’ve got that out there.
Cheers! Back at the airport we were offered a brunch with champagne, mimosas, (which I found out are just champagne & orange juice) orange juice or sparkling lemonade. Not to be a whiner, but I’m not a fan of any of those drinks. I don’t do alcohol, I don’t like carbonation & I don’t like orange juice (or oranges, or chicken, but I do like orange chicken). Derek mentioned a toast & since I didn’t see any bread, I figured I should probably have a drink in hand. I opted for the sparkling lemonade & Aaron went for the orange juice. Derek gave us a little history first talking about how ballooning started back in 1783 in France. He went on to say the Balloonists Blessing:
The winds have welcomed you with softness,
The sun has blessed you with its warm hands,
You have flown so high & so well,
That God has joined you in your laughter,
& set you gently back into the loving arms of mother earth.
Yes I am using a plate to drink my sparkling lemonade. All the fancy people do it this way.