Category Archives: Hot Air Balloons

Love Is In The Air

If you’re family, friend or (blog) follower, you know that our friend, Mark, owns a hot air balloon. We’ve flown with him three times, and have helped and photographed numerous launches and landings in the past several years.

A few months ago, Mark was contacted by a couple, Heather and Chad, who was interested in getting married during a balloon flight. They planned the wedding for this past weekend, but were flexible as to the exact date/time, because balloon flights are so dependent on weather conditions.

The flight happened Saturday afternoon, and Motor Man and I were there for the launch. Heather had asked if I would take pictures of the occasion, and I was honored.

Although there was a slight chance of a thunderstorm, the day could not have been more beautiful.

Their officiant was Reverend Potter, who also married Motor Man and me. It was Rev. Potter’s first hot air balloon ride, and he shared with us that it was one of the items on his bucket list.

Heather’s children, Jeffrey, Brittany and Parker, were there for the launch and followed us as we “chased” the balloon during the flight.

Their balloon ride lasted around forty-five minutes, and they traveled about 3 1/2 miles over our little town of Smithfield.  Once back on the ground, the newlyweds posed for a kiss.

Of course, Motor Man and I wanted a picture with the happy couple.

And they asked for one with their balloon pilot, Mark, and crew chief, Luke.

Afterwards, we were invited to join them for dinner at nearby Smithfield Station Restaurant. Of course, with the Covid 19 restrictions, dining is only allowed outside, but it was a gorgeous evening for dinner on the deck. And, later, the cutting of the wedding cake.

To end their special day, Heather and Chad were treated to a beautiful sunset.

They’re such a nice couple, and Motor Man and I were glad to play a small part in their wedding day. We hope they always find that ‘love is in the air’.

~These Days Of Mine~






Montgolfier Day

Yesterday morning, Motor Man received a call from Mark, our friend who owns the hot air balloon. Mark said that he had a flight scheduled for the afternoon. So we changed some plans (thanks, Marshall, for your flexibility) and joined Mark, his crew and his passengers for the launch.

And Mark gave us a brief history lesson.  Yesterday was Montgolfier Day.  (I’m guessing you didn’t celebrate…??)

It was the anniversary of the first hot air balloon flight carrying humans. This from Wikipedia:

On 21 November 1783, the first free flight by humans was made by Pilâtre de Rozier, together with an army officer, the marquis d’Arlandes.[10] The flight began from the grounds of the Château de la Muette close to the Bois de Boulogne park in the western outskirts of Paris. They flew about 3,000 feet (910 m) above Paris for a distance of nine kilometers. 

Wondering about the Montgolfier reference? This is from the web site Hot Air Ballooning News:

In 1782, the Montgolfier brothers discovered that smoke from a combustible material burned under a lightweight paper or cloth bag would make the bag rise into the air.  We know now that it is in fact the hot air that makes the bag rise but their mistake did not interfere with their research and inventions of the balloons.

The first ‘passengers’ to fly on 19th September 1783 were a sheep, duck and a rooster!

So what better way to celebrate November 21 than with a balloon flight? The passengers had no clue about the importance of the date to the ballooning world when they scheduled their flight for yesterday.

One of my favorite parts of the launch is when the burners are lit to fill the envelope with hot air.

Mark’s passengers were four friends, celebrating a couple of recent birthdays.

They were treated to a little colorful foliage during their flight.


The launch took place in late afternoon, which meant we were able to enjoy a pre-sunset sky.

A beautiful flight with a smooth landing: and that’s how you celebrate Montgolfier Day.

~These Days Of Mine~

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~