In June of 2005, Tracy and I went on a Hot Air Balloon ride over the northern outskirts of Phoenix. Granted, it wasn't really a "trip" in that we never left town, but it was certainly an adventure unlike any other.

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AT THE LAUNCH SITE: INFLATION

The launch site was near 7th Ave / Happy Valley, though I don't know the exact location.
We arrived there by van, from a meeting spot in North Phoenix at 5 a.m.

AT THE LAUNCH SITE: HEATING THE BALLOON

Start by adding ballast - first one, then two guys were placed in the basket for weight.
Slowly, the balloon raised itself to vertical.

LIFTOFF !!

Lift off happens with no drama, just suddenly you're off the ground.
It's a very calm and quiet (except for the flames to heat the balloon).

FLIGHT !!

There is NO wind or turbulence to speak of, because, unless you hit a cross draft, you're already flying along with the wind. You can talk, wear a hat, etc - no problem - even high up in the sky. The only sound is the occasional blast of flame shooting into the balloon to keep the air hot. You look out, and you see the ground FAR below, no seatbelt, no safety net, just you in a wicker basket. If you wanted to jump - nothing would stop you --- and yet, you feel strangely at ease (at least I did). It wasn't like being on the edge of a cliff, because the basket at least was waist high and you could lean over the edge without feeling you'd fall.

We flew over the interstate - which was neat to see passing by below us.Landing was the most interesting part - we were told there could be two types of landing: 1) little or not wind - the balloon sets down, deflates, we got out, done, or 2) we are moving in excess of 5 miles per hour and upon touching down the basket will tip over and drag until it stops, deflate, get out.

All in all there were 11 passengers + pilot in the basket, which had 5 compartments.
Landing was the most interesting part - we were told there could be two types of landing: 1) little or not wind - the balloon sets down, deflates, we got out, done, or 2) we are moving in excess of 5 miles per hour and upon touching down the basket will tip over and drag until it stops, deflate, get out. As our luck had it, we ended up with landing option 2 - you turn your back to the ground, hold on as best you can, and basically *crash land* at 5 miles per hour over grass/dirt/rock/whatever. Holding on is quite tough as it's bumpy and you're turned 90 degrees sideways, but no problems. (and no pics, as the camera had to be stowed for this landing!

ABSTRACTS and PATTERNS

* Inside our balloon, up into the inflated space (during flight)
* Inside our balloon catching a burst of the flame to heat the air
* Over the edge from far above to another balloon near the ground.


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