Category Archives: Hot Air Balloons

Two, Two, Two Flights In One Day

Saturday, Motor Man and I helped our hot air balloon-pilot friend, Mark, and his crew with two flights: one in the morning and another in the afternoon.

It was a beautiful autumn day, perfect for a  balloon flight. Or two.

This is a common sight in our county these days: cotton, all picked and baled. It will soon be picked up in a huge truck and delivered to one of the local cotton gins.

A little fall foliage in the foreground…

And flying over the Pagan River, one of our many estuaries.

This is Smithfield Station Restaurant/hotel/marina, located on the Pagan.

The morning flight landed at the edge of a field near an old barn.  Understandably so, a neighbor called 911, thinking it had crashed.

A deputy responded, confirmed with the pilot and all the passengers that the balloon had indeed NOT crashed and went on his way, wishing us all well.

If there’s one thing Motor Man and I have learned about hot air ballooning, it’s that no two flights are ever the same.

Saturday flights, like most of them,  did have a couple of things in common: very nice passengers and a gorgeous day to fly. (Or take pictures from the ground.)

~These Days Of Mine~

 

 

Full O’ Hot Air

That would be a good description of our weekend.

Early Saturday morning, we helped our balloonist friend, Mark, with a launch.  Once again, it was another beautiful morning.

After nearly an hour-long flight, Mark landed near a cotton field.  The farmer is a friend of ours and just happened to be in the field that morning.  He took this photo as the balloon was landing and gave me permission to share.

Photo courtesy of J. Oliver

Once the balloon was back on the ground, Motor Man and I took off on the 5-plus hour drive to Statesville, NC for the Carolina Balloon Fest. A coastal storm forced cancellation of the activities scheduled for Saturday afternoon and evening.

But, by lunchtime Sunday, the storm had passed.  Between those gorgeous blue skies with the white clouds,  and the vibrant colors of the balloons, it made for quite the photo op. There were a total of around fifty balloons at the festival; about half of them had flown early Saturday morning.

Many of the others launched on Sunday afternoon.

Not all of the balloons launched: some did what’s called a “candlestick”, where they just fire the burner. Another photo op.

Sometimes the balloonist “burps” the burner, and I was able to catch this poof of fire during one of those times.

Mark put us in contact with a friend of his who was at the festival, and he allowed me my first chance to “fire” the burner.

Then Motor Man had a turn.

There were so many beautiful balloons, including this…cheetah (I think).  The afternoon sun illuminated it perfectly after its launch.

And, in keeping with the season:

So, yes, our weekend was full of hot air….in a good way.

~These Days Of Mine~

 

Birthday Balloon

You may recall that Motor Man and I have a friend, Mark, who is a hot air balloonist. We’ve taken a few rides with him, and have helped with many launches and landings.

I enjoy taking pictures and sharing them later with the passengers.

Saturday, our friend, Donna, had the opportunity to ride. She had been on a short balloon flight several years ago, but this one was probably about an hour long. And the timing was just about perfect: her birthday is next weekend.

As the crew was preparing the balloon for the launch, Donna was ‘hands on’, helping hold the envelope open as it was being filled with cold air.

And, of course, we had to take time for a quick selfie.

The balloon flights are usually VERY early in the morning; sunrise shots are worth the early wake-up call.

And I never tire of taking pictures of the “fire in the balloon”.

Soon it was time for take off. Donna shared the ride with a sweet couple celebrating an anniversary.

Bye!  Have fun!

It was a beautiful morning for a flight, and it was fun to “chase” the balloon. Their flight took them over some of our county’s beautiful cotton fields, just waiting to be picked.

After the flight, Motor Man and I joined Donna and the balloon crew for brunch at a local restaurant.

l-r: crew chief Luke, Donna, pilot Mark, myself and Motor Man

Donna shared with us that, during the flight, Mark and the other passengers sang “Happy Birthday” to her.

I’d say she’s getting this birthday celebration “off” to a good start.

~These Days Of Mine~

 

Love Is In The Air

Early Sunday morning, Motor Man and I met our friend, Mark, who owns the hot air balloon business that I’ve written about several times recently. He had a very special flight booked: a marriage proposal.  How romantic!

(And thanks, Mark, for the title of today’s post.)

It was another beautiful morning for a just-after-sunrise flight.

Of course, the upcoming proposal was top secret (well, I think the bride-to-be was the only one who didn’t know).  Before the flight, I smiled as I noticed a ring box in the back jeans pocket of the groom-to-be and how he kept pulling at his shirt-tail to conceal it.

After the balloon is inflated with cold air, it’s time to light the burner to fill it with hot air. Then it rises to an upright position.

A few minutes later, Mark and his passengers climbed in, and we had lift-off.

Their flight was just about an hour long.  Flight times vary depending on many conditions, mainly the wind.

Motor Man and I don’t drive the official ‘chase vehicle’, but we keep track of where the balloon is and, of course, I take lots of pictures of it in flight. It’s always fun to experiment.

When they landed, the question had been “popped”, and she said yes! I wish I had gotten a clearer picture of her ring.

The balloon launch was at our county fairgrounds, and we noticed this LOVE sign when we arrived.  Since our county is very rural, the hay bale, tractor tire, corn stalks and farm gate are very appropriate elements.  The county fair was last week, so most likely this was put on display for that event.

Even without knowing in advance about the LOVE sign, Mark chose the perfect spot to launch this particular flight.

We wish this sweet young couple much happiness.

~These Days Of Mine~

 

 

Early Morning Ballooning

Motor Man and I first met Mark, our friend who has a hot air balloon business, back in 2013. Since that time, we’ve gone for three balloon rides and been at many launches and landings.

We enjoy meeting Mark’s passengers, most of whom have never been in a hot air balloon.  I take pictures of them in the basket before their flight and sometimes after the landing.  And, of course, I take pictures during the flight.  I usually get their email address and send the best photos to them. And Motor Man usually helps with the launch. (It’s rather involved.)

Although Mark has flown many times in our area, most people have never seen the balloon in flight.  Perhaps that’s because he prefers to fly early in the morning, just around or a little after sunrise. So it’s always fun to see folks stopping, sometimes pulling over on the shoulder of the road, to watch.

I thought I’d share some pictures from recent balloon flights.

This is one of Mark’s balloons; he named it “Spectrum”. It’s a beautiful balloon, or “envelope”, as it’s called.

One of the most fun experiences we’ve had was a few weeks ago, early in the morning. Mark was flying the balloon very low.  If you’ve never seen a hot air balloon in flight, you may not realize that it is SO quiet, except for the occasional few seconds when the burner is activated. This was an overpass on a country road, with thankfully, no traffic. (The white van is Mark’s “chase vehicle”, being driven by a ground crew member, and it was stopped, as were we.)

It doesn’t happen with every flight, but it’s always fun when the  balloon flies directly over us.

With so many of the flights being at sunrise, it’s easy to get really pretty photos.

And water reflections are always nice.

There are opportunities when the balloon is low enough that you can actually see and talk with (and wave to) the passengers.

What we do is called “chasing the balloon”… we’re watching for it  and driving in the direction we think it will land.  That isn’t always easy: we often lose sight of it,  and the roads don’t always go in the direction we need.

And as much as everyone loves a balloon flight, there’s one aspect that similar to a plane flight: it’s always good to have a nice, smooth landing.

Here’s a short video I took of a recent launch.  That’s Motor Man’s voice you hear at the beginning. (Make sure your speakers are on.)

I know hot air ballooning isn’t for everyone, but if you ever have the chance to go….

~These Days Of Mine~

 

 

 

 

Our “Fourth”

Well, actually our “Third” and “Fourth”.

Our little town has its fireworks show on July 3, so as not to interfere with the event in a neighboring town in our same county.

This year, for the first time, our Ruritan club rented a local venue for a cookout with music and a great view of the fireworks.  When Motor Man and I learned of this, we immediately bought tickets.

I took the above photo as we were leaving for the event. We had a great time visiting with friends, enjoying the music, and the wonderful fireworks. But, unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures while we were there.

Our friend, Mark, who owns the hot air balloon, had been asked to bring the balloon to the tiny town of Ivor (in a neighboring county) for their July 4th celebration. The plan was to offer folks free tethered balloon rides.

There was some “iffy” weather early in the evening, so while we were waiting, we had time for a selfie.

After a brief shower, the weather cleared, and the crew set about preparing the balloon and giving folks rides.

Motor Man and I met Mark’s mom for the first time. There was a wonderful band providing music, and she wanted to dance.

Then, she and I spent some time together while Motor Man went to meet the folks in line for the balloon ride.

After just a few rides, another storm “blew in”, and the event was over for the evening.  There are plans to reschedule balloon rides and the fireworks for another date.

So it was an eventful Fourth for us. You could say it had its “ups and downs”.

Care to share how you spent your holiday?

~These Days Of Mine~

 

Flying High On My Birthday

Tiring of my birthday adventures yet? If so, you may just want to return to the blog, oh, maybe Friday of this week.  It was a busy birthday week.

You may recall that Motor Man and I are friends with Mark, who owns a hot air balloon. We’ve been to several launches, taken many photos, and, prior to last week,  had ridden with Mark on two occasions. If you’re interested in reading the previous posts, you can find them here and here.

A few days prior to my birthday, Mark called Motor Man and said that he was planning to fly EARLY Tuesday morning, alongside Reed, a long-time friend of his, who’s also a balloonist. Mark wondered if we could fly with Reed and take photos of Mark’s balloon.  He had no idea when he called that the day he planned to fly was my birthday. Surprise!

Hot air ballooning is VERY dependent on the weather.. and not just rain. The winds play a huge part in whether or not a flight can happen. So I was excited, but knew that there was a chance we’d have to cancel at the last minute.

Tuesday morning, the conditions could not have been more perfect.  Before sunrise, we met Mark, Reed, their ground crew, Rich and Luke, as well as the reporter and photographer from our local paper that were to be Mark’s passengers.

Our launch site was just a few miles outside of town.  Mark’s balloon is “Spectrum” on the left, and Reed was piloting the Remax balloon.

Motor Man and I signed up as crew members for the Remax balloon.  Our pre-flight job was holding the envelope (the balloon) while Reed first filled it with cold air, using a powerful fan. Notice Motor Man’s billowing jacket.

Once the balloon was filled with cold air, and while the basket was still tethered to the chase vehicle, Reed began filling the balloon with hot air from the propane burner. (This photo was actually taken during our flight.)

Soon the balloon was vertical, Rich released the rope tethering us, and off we went.

My friends have had varied responses when I mentioned that we went up in a hot air balloon. Some say it’s on their bucket list, and others say there’s no way they’d ever fly in one. I must admit that I had a few seconds of “angst” when our flight first started, but it was so peaceful and beautiful, I was soon enjoying the scenery.

Here’s a slideshow of photos from our flight:

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At the end of our flight, we enjoyed a very smooth landing.

Motor Man and I helped Reed and Rich gather up the envelope to be packed in its tote. Once that was done, the balloon and basket were loaded into the van.

We then treated our two pilots to breakfast at a nearby restaurant. I contacted Marshall, and was delighted that, even with such short notice, he was able to join us.

Mark, knowing it was my birthday, managed to “sneak” a cake into the restaurant without my knowledge. The servers brought it to our table after our meal and sang a cute little song to me: “If you’re good, you get your wishes. If you’re bad, you do our dishes!”. (Evidently, I was good.)

Nice…. the cake icing surprisingly coordinated with my jacket!

Sneaky Mark.

I had planned for this to be the final post regarding my this year’s birthday fun, but Motor Man asked that I write one more. So that will publish Wednesday. And after that, we’ll return to “regular programming”.

How about you?  Would you fly/have you flown in a hot air balloon?

~These Days Of Mine~