We hauled out to Valley, NE after work yesterday, where the ground crew set the balloon up. Another balloon, Celebration, was launching close by. It's a long, complex process with a lot of key steps. (Many of which I missed because I was resting in the van.) Once the balloon was set up, we were off quickly, rising over the Nebraska farmland to cruise across the Platte River. We mooed at cows, watched deer, rabbits and fox run from us, inspected crops and railroad tracks, waved at farmhouses, and generally had a grand time.
The sensation of being up in a balloon is fascinating. Except when you're close to the ground, there's almost no sense of motion. You're moving with the wind, after all. The pilot lights hissed slightly, but we could hear all sorts of things from the ground, from cattle lowing to frogs peeping to someone's peacock calling. I found that I experienced vertigo when we were close down, but not above a few hundred feet from the ground.
On landing, as we came in over the contour of a hill, we even flew through corn. (There's a sentence I never thought I'd say.) Which is to say, the basket was cruising a foot or two off the ground through a cornfield, the plants hissing and snapping at the wicker as we flowed by.
The landing was clean and uneventful, though Emerald City's envelope got snagged on a barbed wire fence during takedown. Sadly, the good aerostat will be going in for repairs due to that mishap.
It may be a few days before I can post a good, solid photoblog of the event, but this might keep you happy for now:
Photo © 2011 Dr. C.
This work by Dr. C. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.