Balloon Ride

Filed under:Cool,It's My Life,Photoblogging — posted by Anwyn on July 11, 2008 @ 8:56 am

My sister, who comments here as Bumble, and I were taken up in a hot-air balloon yesterday morning. It was absolutely as fantastic as you always thought it would be. Silent, still, views like the ones off the Sears Tower but without the heat, noise, grime, smells, and concrete. There are photos below the fold, but if you want to skip the narration and go straight to the in-flight pictures, they are here.

I was nervous before we went; not about flying or the height, but since I became a mom, reasonable fears of accidental death have blown up into an occasional, irrational near-certainty that because I’m so careless and rude to my child as to actually take an adventure that has a small chance of possibly going horribly wrong, it will actually happen that way. I tried to wrestle this down with the assurance that our pilot, Dave Bobel, has been flying balloons for more than thirty years and is certainly not about to crash himself just to validate my midnight fears. You won’t catch me going skydiving, though. Details and photos after the jump.

The process of inflating and warming up the balloon was eye-opening. I’d have thought they’d need a specialized piece of equipment to pump enough air to inflate something that big, but no: They use a fan.

Granted, a fan that looked to be three feet in diameter with what sounded and looked like a lawn mower engine attached, and that thing put out enough serious air that the balloon was half-inflated in just a minute or two. A few minutes more and it was a great rainbow slug across the grass, rolling a bit with the breeze. (No, I’m not pregnant in the picture, that’s my camera tucked out of the way under my sweater.)

I helped hold the mouth of the balloon open and got a jolt when it came time to start the burner to make the balloon lift to the upright position: That is one long, wide, ragged tongue of flame that shoots past the people holding the balloon as it inflates.

(Photos above by Beatrice McNew, aka Bumble. Photos below by Buck McNew.)

My fears of something untoward happening during flight were nothing allayed by Mr. Bobel’s assurance that if the flame hit the fabric of the envelope (as opposed to the Nomex balloon mouth, which bore marks of previous flame encounters) it would “vaporize instantly.”

Happily, my nerves were vaporized almost as soon as we lifted off. Something go wrong with this ponderous envelope of gently floating warm air suspending us through the morning? Impossible.

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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace