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Archive for September, 2008

50 and Flying Away

It’s been several weeks, but I’m back from my blog sabbatical. Last month I turned the big 5-0, and JoAnn got me up early that morning and drove me out for a hot-air balloon ride. I think the idea was to get some altitude corresponding to my age.

The balloon is impressively large when you stand right next to it. This one held about 10 people and flew around a half-mile high.

balloon

Balloon, filled with cool then hot air

Take-off

Take-off

Fly away

Fly away

One key point about hot air balloon flights: You’re almost completely at the mercy of the winds. Usually those move the ballon 5 – 7 miles away. In our case, we just had some light winds blowing at different directions, so we basically circled around close to our take-off spot, roughly as shown in this map trace.

Route map

Route map

The most exciting (as in dangerous) part of the flight is the landing, given that thing about being at the mercy of the wind. Our pilot was hoping to get into the church lot just across the freeway from our take-off location. The wind did different things at different elevations, so we had to hover around the freeway median, maybe 100-200 feet high, before getting the wind to move toward the church. He had to clear a fence and then land before running into the trees, which he did manage. (Although it might have been more interesting if he had hit the trees.)

Here’s the close-up of the take-off and landing sites, unusually close together. The tracking crew on the ground didn’t have much to do on this trip.

Landing

The Landing

After the customary glass of survival champagne, JoAnn and I went back up to right near the take-off spot for breakfast at the Maltby Cafe. Excellent place to eat, just make sure you’re really really hungry.

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