06 September, 2011

Would You Like To Ride?

August 12 was a great day. I was in the midst of my birthday week, and my girls (wife, two daughters) took me on a balloon flight over the horse, hunt, and wine country of Albemarle County in Virginia, something I had always wanted to do.

Enter Mandy Rossano, owner and chief pilot of Monticello Country Ballooning. She made this dream come true for me. So join me on this photo odyssey, not your typical Thom Brown post.

Dave's the energizer bunny of balloonists.
He's a pilot himself but today was Mandy's assistant -
helping get the basket out of the trailer,
mounting the suspension hardware and burners,
and ultimately driving the chase car.

My older daughter helps Dave prepare the balloon for inflation.

Mandy and Dave attaching the balloon and getting the fan ready.

Fill 'er up, and my wife begins to lend a hand.

In this case, we want swelling, and swell she does.
Why do I keep thinking of Woody Allen and
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex
But Were Afraid To Ask?

There were two other flights going up that day.
We're the middle balloon.
A couple was married in the right one shortly after lift-off.

Time to heat 'er up. Light the fires, big daddy.

All that hot air makes her stand up straight but still tethered to the ground.

We are the first to slip the surly bonds of Earth.
That's me looking back down at Dave who took the photo.

We're in the lead, but the newlyweds are close behind.

Up into a beautiful sky just at sunrise.

Chris Greene Lake. Charlottesville, VA.
If we leaned out, we could see our own reflection.

We drifted over farms of all sorts.

We were headed westerly toward the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Just beautiful.

We could see our own shadow as we blocked the early morning sun.

We crossed the South Fork of the Rivanna River
quite a bit higher than balloon three.
Note its reflection in the water.

Ever looked down into an abandoned silo?

We're coming in.

Mandy wants to land on that road, Ingleside Drive.

Taken from the road we're aiming for.

She's good - very, very good.
Over the water, over the trees and fence, down on the road.

We're down and out of the basket.
Now to deflate.

And stuff it all back in its bag.

Traditional post-flight champagne toast - in this case, Mimosa.

So check off one experience from my bucket list - if I had a bucket list, that is. If I did though, this would have surely been on it. Of course, that had me thinking about what might be on such a list. I have always wanted to go into space. That would have been on it.

That is not currently a possibility because of the high g-forces and my heart condition. Then a couple of weeks ago I read about a company planning to offer commercial balloon flights to the edge of space - certainly high enough to see the curvature of earth. That's what it's all about anyway, and I can easily tolerate those g-forces. Time to start a list.

Ahh. Hope springs eternal.