Sunday, October 22, 2006

Up Up and Away

It was a perfect 65 degrees, not a cloud in the blue, blue sky. Perfect weather for a hot air balloon ride. The views were really beautiful. There were about 5 balloons in the air along with ours and because we were near the Charlottesville airport we could hear the air traffic controller repeatedly redirecting planes because of the balloons. Our pilot explained that balloons always had the right of way since we couldn't control where we went. Well, that was reassuring! Actually, the pilot could control up and down, just not side to side. While we were in the air, our "catcher" drove around keeping us in site. He and the pilot were in constant contact about where we might land; the catcher drove to three different places before the wind took us to an acceptable place. I found out some very interesting things; the approximate cost of the balloon itself is $75,000 and it is good for 400 trips. Our pilot ends up cancelling about 50% of his scheduled trips because the weather isn't right. In 35 years of flying, our pilot has only taken off and landed in the same place once. We watched a fellow pilot actually touch his basket down to the water - and come up with water streaming out of the basket. Our pilot wasn't quite that adventurous but he did run us into the top of a tree so we could pick leaves from it - pretty surreal.


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