A couple months ago I went out for the first time with Michael Hill to go help crew for his hot air balloon flight. I had never done that before and I have some strange desire to try to learn random skills… just in case. I consider it 007 skills. I mean, what if! What if you just happen to find yourself needing to fly a hot air balloon, you may as well know how, right?
This time we flew Michaels new balloon. It was another new experience. These balloons seem so simple, but the devil is in the details. Yes, it is a simple balloon, yes it is a wicker (raton) basket and yes it is basically a bunch of strings wrapped around a balloon that makes this flight happen, but in order to make this all happen successfully you need to do everything in the right order, with the right technique. The toggles that hold the balloon seem very simple, but attach them correct and things go right, attach them incorrect and it is not ideal.
We ran a 7 mile flight in a perfect morning this week from Frederick Colorado. Take a look at some photos from the day.
They always say, one thing leads to another. Well, over the years I have been following Pikes Peak very closely. I work on cars, I take photos, make videos and more. It has all been really fun and I have met some really interesting people along the way. Drivers, tech’s, promotors and of course, more creative folk like myself. The funny thing about meeting someone at an event like that is that you know them for a very narrow area of what they do. So sometimes you learn a bit more about someone or realize who you’ve met. Peter Brock is a good example. I mean, I met him as a photographer on the mountain then realized… Wait. That guy designed the shelby daytona coupe! If you look for his accomplishments you will see that they are, simply put, a significant part of automotive history.
Each person you meet has more to their story and when I got a call from Michael Hill recently it almost wasn’t surprising that he mentioned that he flies Hot Air Balloons. If you have read anything I have written here I think you will figure out pretty quick that if it is something new I would like to try it out. So Michael asked if I would help out crewing for one of his flights and I of course said yes.
I honestly have never been around hot air balloons and really didn’t know what we would be doing so I went along looking for instruction. We set up everything, assembled the balloon and launched it. The balloon is so simple it is kinda remarkable. Wood toggles fit between rope loops holding a raton basket to a cloth “envelope.” When you look at it, it makes sense but when you think about it from the perspective of a climber it seems almost too simple. In climbing everything is double redundant and in ballooning it seems as though it is just made to be simple. It was pretty cool to see how it all works and I am sure I will go check it out again and hopefully at some point get a flight in as well.
Yeah, I don’t know what it is, but there is something about a Hot Air Balloon that will bring the neighbors out of their houses. People who have lived next door to one another for years will actually say Hi to one another because of this little event. Every once and a while they will fly from or land at my house. I am sure it is more often than I know, but there are some big fields nearby and they tend to make use of them when they can.
Today they flew in again and as I sat in my livingroom sipping my coffee I thought to myself. What is that sound? Then it occurred to me exactly what it was. I stepped outside and 4 balloons were in the sky and one touched down just 200 yards away. I looked outside and the neighborhood was beginning to emerge from their houses and I stepped out and grabbed my bike to go explore.
I passed by the first to touchdown because it had already been deflated when I got there so I rode onward to the next. I could see it just touching down in the distance and it was definitely a bit of a race to get there before they deflated the balloon. Of course the maze of streets that I was unfamiliar with in that direction proved to be a bit of a challenge. When I arrived the balloon was still inflated and the pilot was just beginning his sequence of deflating it. He hopped out and grabbed a rope then started tugging on it as another passenger in the basket was pulling a separate cord.
As the balloon quickly deflated it was pretty impressive to watch. One person seemed like a small crew to be able to handle such a large beast of material. I mean, I kite can be a handful for one person and here is a guy manhandling hundreds of square feet of material blowing in the wind. Pretty impressive.
When I began to ride away I looked back. It was interesting to see how many people had gathered! The crowd was pretty impressive and the pilot probably could have started signing autographs with how many people were approaching him!
Now as a side note. The last time that I shot some photos of a balloon landing by my house was a couple years ago. That time I woke up to a balloon probably 40ft over my house which ended up landing just 100 yards away in a field. Imagine waking up to a large pig flying over your roof as your house is engulfed in shadow…