Nov 5, 2006


Another wonderful launch this morning with SkyBird and crew. And almost no mishaps.

Having asked and been told by Jim, SkyBird's Chief Groundcrewman and all-around swell guy, I felt better this morning in knowing that I now know just enough to not be a complete nuisance but not enough to be real helpful. *lol* It's good to know where you fit it.

I'm pleased to say that I'm learning new things. And if you know me at all, you know that a day without learning, for me, is a wasted day. I've learned a few more things about the genteel art of ballooning, and am well on my way to being a certified groundhog.

This morning's launch was a lot of fun, as they all seem to me to be. Call it silly, but there's just something about working as a team on a thing as esoteric as a hot air balloon, knowing the sensations and joy that the couple on board are about to experience, remembering my own first trip just two short months ago. The roar of the burner, that gout of orange flame, and the wash of heat pouring down on uplifted faces, the gentle stir and bump as the gondola gets ready to lift, and the sort of soar I get when David (the pilot) says "Weight off." That's when the magic happens.

More and more I'm coming to feel like a part of the team, and more and more I'm starting to see and feel the thrill that Jim, also the Chase Crew Chief, feels when he's carefully driving just ahead of the flight path, spotting dangers, finding good open spots to land, and sometimes waking landowners up to ask if we can borrow their large, open, well-mown back yard. It really IS like playing a very slow game of catch. The only differences being, of coure, that the envelope alone weighs around 300 pounds, not to mention the 250 or so pounds of the gondola, plus passengers, and the fact that even if you could find a catcher's mitt big enough to engulf that beautiful blue beauty I sure wouldn't want to be on the underside of it when it settles.

The best part of today? Not the smiles, or the waves, not even the sight of the gondola dipping very close to the Red River. No, it was having to venture onto a concrete-contractor's site, folks who build bridge pilings and such, trying to get a good line on SkyBird, and looking out the driver's side door to see JUST the bumper of an extremely large dump truck, and the mischevous grin on the face of the driver, some twenty feet in the air, who somehow managed to sneak up on two guys who just so happened to be staring intently the OTHER WAY.

And for the record it was Jim who cussed aloud, because he was on the sloppy side. Granted, had that dump truck hit us at anything more than 7mph we BOTH would have been on the sloppy side. It'd ALL be sloppy side--that thing was BIG.

But, all in all it was an interesting landing, involving a levee, huge piles of concrete shards, and the mosquitoes, all seventeen billion of them, who must have seen SkyBird come wafting in just over the trees and decided to see what was edible. Only a little portaging, and this time I got to hold the wicker ring that ties to the nylon rope that goes wayyyyyy up to the little steel ring at the very top and tug that monstrous blue beastie down onto her side neatly as the hot air (160+ degrees) came whooshing out. And then of course the process of 'snaking the envelope,' making her long and thin and empty of hot air, and packing her back into her big canvas bag, and working as a team to get everything stowed quickly and efficiently for the trip back to a convenient parking lot for champagne toasts, and me, looked upon now as at least a small cog in the machine.

Yes, it's good to know where you fit in.

At least they don't make me wear the bright orange T-shirt that says "BALLAST" across the back in big black letters anymore.


Nancy Dancehall said...

Glad to see you've moved up a rung from "Ballast" to "Balloon Burper". ;-)

Anonymous said...

This definitely beats the hell out of our "team".