Saturday, January 29, 2011

Scottsdale - The Desert Adventure- Balloon Ride

Up, Up and Awaaaay, in my beautiful balloon........

Ok, admittedly before I went to Scottsdale without really the desire to go up in a hot air balloon. But somewhere during the flight here, I saw in a magazine an article on hot air balloons and something clicked. I thought, THAT is something I'd like to do. So when I got here we checked into it and although a bit expensive, (isn't everything?) I decided I'd like to do it. I called my mom who was flying out and she thought it sounded fun too. So my mother and I signed up (Aerogelic Hot Air Balloons).

It seems anything I do turns in to an event and this was no exception. Balloon launching is never the same twice, it is very dependent on weather especially winds. So we met at the airport (it was me, my mother and a couple that lives in Mesa, retired from Minnesota) and went to launch location  #1 and there was almost no wind, so we left and went to launch spot #2. As we drive to the next location we are discussing launch spots and how difficult it is to find a spot that is suitable. We end up at a park - what is assumed public property, and he has launched several times from this particular place. They were getting everything set up and this guy, you know the type, a little bit of power he thinks he can parlay in to world dominance, anyway, he shows up and says we cannot launch from that spot. It seems it is actually owned by a homeowners association which he is head grounds keeper. Well, our pilot must be a miracle worker and slick talker because what we assumed was going to move us to yet another launch location, turned into the guy asking him to come back and tether in the park so people could could come see it. It could have had something to do with the crowd that has now gathered to watch the event.

We finally got the balloon aired up and permission to launch and after very climbing in the basket, we are ready to roll. Up we went, every time he opened the burners you could feel the heat, like a brief opening of a furnace on you. The winds were very light and variable so the rising was slow and very little movement. Before you know it, you are hundreds of feet barely gliding over the rooftops. Then something happens - people driving and pointing, cameras flashing, people coming out of their houses, children jumping and waving, dogs and livestock going crazy.........- transformation from simple passengers on an adventure to rock star status. It was Friday evening, tons of people in the outdoor restaurants and bars all cheering and waving as we pass over........that was just plain fun.

Then we went up even higher up to about 4000 feet, soaring and the thing that struck me was the quiet, the only noise was us, talking, laughing, ooing, awwwing and the whoosh sound of the burners. He gave us each a little parachute man toy and a  glider plane and we launched them and watched them go down, that was a fun little add on.

We went from Chandler to Mesa, not really the route he anticipated but the winds had a different idea. Since we got a bit of a later start, our times were all messed up and we watched the sun go behind the rocks we had to find a spot to land. He found a little park and knew the landing would be a little tight. He radioed the chase car and had him meet us there. Greg and his parents were also following and they as well met us there. They dropped a line to guide us in since the spot was going to be tight and it was amazing what happened then. People from out of nowhere suddenly appeared, men running and helping guide the balloon to a spot that was big enough. Children laughing and pointing, a big crowd gathered and we set down.  I was expected a bump but it was smooth as could be, no jolt whatsoever. We had to stay in the basket until we were cleared to get out- you know, the pilot turned off the fasten seat belt sign. :) By this time there was a huge crowd and .........the police. The pilot warned us that it seems there is a no launch, no land ordinance in Mesa. After getting out of the basket, he went and talked with the police and they were not upset at all, it had been called in as a balloon crashing. They left us to do our thing and we finished (or Cody the pilot assistant) packing up the balloon and they gave us a drink and some snacks.

A homeless man and a neighbor boy joined us for our snacks and then we packed up in the chase vehicle and headed back to get our vehicle at the airport. An adventure I'd never even really dreamed of now one I never will forget.

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