As my last post anticipated, a week or so ago my son and his grandpa went for a hot air balloon ride. On Friday they were instructed to meet at 7:00 a.m. at site “W”, a church in West Salem. (The church has a sign that says “Drive-In Church”. I’m still trying to figure out how that works…) The balloon van arrived and the crew started unpacking. The whole process of unpacking and blowing up the balloon took about a half hour – I’m always impressed when people accomplish such big things in so little time!
The whole balloon is in this bag!
Cold air is blown into the balloon with a fan:
The burner is fired up and hot air is blown in:
Balloon is up and they’re ready to go!
I had planned to spend the morning checking out some estate sales, or rushing home to take photos if the balloon was going to come our way. But, the winds were “light and variable” and the balloon floated off toward downtown. I was snapping away when one of the crew asked if I wanted to come with them in the chase van. Yes!
When they call it a “chase” vehicle, they aren’t exaggerating. There’s a sign on the back of the van that says “Warning: Frequent Stops and Indecisions!” While we zoomed and stopped and looked and went around the block and zoomed the other way, Dad and Ben were floating over the river looking down at the Oregon State Capitol building with the Gold Pioneer on top, and all of downtown Salem; and listening to the balloon pilot, Jim Desch, guide them through their aerial tour. Jim, who owns Balloon Flying Service of Oregon, has been flying since 1989 and knows every possible landing spot in the area. They estimated that this spot would work so Cecil pulled the van in here and stopped:
But…oops! The winds changed direction and we had to jump in the van and take off to the east, where there was a nice big field next to the city shops.
It cleared the wires effortlessly (although from the ground it looked like they were coming in right on top of them!)
A perfect landing!
Time to pack up…
At the top of the balloon – it’s 200°F on this end!
They wrap straps around the balloon and then pack it into the bag…
They have to squish it so it will fit in the van!
When everything was packed up we all rode in the van back to the launch site, and took our cars to Wallace Marine Park in West Salem for the traditional champagne or sparkling cider breakfast. Jim graciously invited me to join in, (but only those who flew in the balloon were allowed to have champagne)!
Setting up for breakfast.
Ben wanted to go throw a rock in the river (ka-bloop!)…
Before breakfast, Jim introduced the champagne toast with a history of ballooning…
…and presented Dad and Ben with framed Certificates of Ascension! (They also got to keep the champagne cups with the little balloons on them!)
Breakfast included croissants with strawberry cream cheese or chive cream cheese, crackers and a cheese spread, chocolates, and brownies. For beverages we could choose hot chocolate with whipped cream and sprinkles or coffee. Everything was delicious, and I was enjoying the meal and the conversation (mostly about Jim’s former career – monument making) so much I completely forgot to take any photos of the food!
I JUST realized that the whole time Ben and Dad were on their balloon ride and I was in the chase van, I didn’t once think of the song “Up, Up and Away” until just now when I was trying to invent a title for this post. Can you believe it?
(Sorry about the weird fonts in this post. I can’t figure out what happened, and it won’t let me edit the font sizes!)