Saturday, August 28, 2010
UP UP AND AWAY
After a very busy month, or a hectic week, sometimes I just feel like "gettin' the heck outta Dodge" for a few hours. Alone; to clear my head; just to drive - driving is relaxing for me. I used to drive long distances more often, like last year when I drove to Texas.
Friday night was one of those nights!
I read my news online, so while looking at a television news website, some words of a story caught my eye. I was directed to The Columbus Dispatch and read the article with great interest. A festival called Balloons and Tunes was going to be at Beulah Park in Grove City Friday and Saturday nights. There was a link to a website about the event group so I checked it out. It turned out to be something on my BUCKET LIST.
I arrived at Beulah Park around 5:30 p.m. on a beautiful sunny evening with calm winds and a great crowd in attendance. The first thing I did was take a few pictures, as the band played music, then got in line to purchase my ride ticket. The line was long, but moved along. I got talking with a woman in front of me with her niece and son. Since we were in line for almost 50 minutes, we got acquainted.
I had taken some pictures when I first came through the gates, but the ones that followed were incredible. I found myself in a line, in our group of four, watching 20 hot air balloons rising gracefully off the ground with their bright colors shining in the sunlight. The Real Adventure Hot Air Balloon Company had about 20 balloons of all different colors covering the infield at the Park. Some had taken advance reservations for the long distance flight offered at a cost of $175 per person for about an hour excursion over Grove City. The rest of the balloons were available for a "tethered flight" offered for only $5.00 per person. Some of the balloonists were from the Central Ohio Balloon Club from Bolton Field Airport.
After reading their website in great detail, I learned, then observed, that the hot air balloons must be tethered to a heavy vehicle on the ground, sometimes two vehicles (pickup trucks or vans), then two (or three, depending upon wind velocity) heavy rope lines staked into the ground. The tether lines allow the balloon to rise 100 feet off the ground for a great view.
Each balloon has a wicker basket with a foot-step cutout on opposite sides for entry and exit. One foot in - throw a leg over the side and drop down into the basket. It stood 4 persons comfortably, (5 if two are smaller individuals or children), as the pilot sits on the side of the basket and operates the burner. As one person exits the basket, one enters on the opposite side, while one company assistant holds down the basket on the opposite side of the pilot, and another assistance holds one of the tether rope lines. Once inside, the pilot fires up the burner and the balloon gradually and smoothly rises from the ground affording time for a great view and the feeling of floating on a cloud. After a few minutes at 100 feet above the ground, the air begins to cool inside the balloon (bag) "envelope" and it gently glides to the ground. Then comes the "bump" as it lands, but the pilot warned us as the bump approached. With slightly bent knees, it doesn't bother you at all.
After sundown and all the balloonists were back on the ground, untethered and ready, the "night glow" began as several, or each in turn, fired their burners and the balloon glowed against the darkening sky. The announcer with the band then called for the total glow and counted it down so the pilots could get ready, and then the infield was aglow as all together they showed their various colors against the dark background. It was a "shining" sight!
It was a great learning experience and opportunity that, for me, comes around once in a lifetime. The event coordinators had to cut off the waiting line shortly after we got our tickets, because hot air balloons are only allowed to fly until dusk and must be on the ground when the pink hues line the trees of the horizon. Otherwise, they could get fined pursuant to FAA rules and regulations. The best times to fly are two hours after sunrise and two hours before dusk, according to the hot air balloon informational websites I read before attending the event.
I also learned that in the United States a pilot of a hot air balloon must have a pilot certificate from the Federal Aviation Association and go through extensive training, as some pilots just love the joy of flying. To carry paying passengers and attend balloon festivals, each pilot must have a commercial pilot certificate.
A hot air balloon has three essential parts: the burner, which heats the air; the balloon envelope, which holds the air; and the basket which carries the passengers. To keep the balloon rising, the burner heats the air in the envelope using tanks of compressed liquid propane. Each modern basket carries two tanks of propane. As the air cools, the pilot fires the burner again for a short time. As the balloonist fires the burner, the liquid propane flows through tubes and reaches the pilot light and changes to gas form and is ignited, causing a glowing blue flame.
Hot air balloons are the oldest successful human passenger carrying flight technology and date back to the year 1782 in France. The first modern day hot air balloons were made in the United Kingdom, and these balloons are now used primarily for recreation. The largest manufacturer of hot air balloons in the world is in Bristol, England. The second largest manufacturer is located in Spain. America's manufacturer in South Dakota was ranked third until it closed in 2007. There are two American manufacturers now, located in North Carolina and Georgia. Canada, Australia and Germany also have facilities. The envelopes can now be made in many specialty shapes and sizes, such as hot dogs, rocket ships, and commercial products. Baskets are made in various sizes from 2-person capacity to the large 30-person size.
I'm just glad the little 6-person basket of the ReMax hot air balloon I rode was able to get me UP UP AND AWAY from my busy week, making me forget my troubles and give me that "floating on a cloud" feeling for my five minutes of opportunity. I LOVED IT, and completed another item on my Bucket List!