Sunday, August 21, 2011

Hot Air Ballooning

It was 3:38 am and I had not slept much. I had been bothered by a dream...more like a nightmare. There was a being, neither male nor female in my bed tormenting me. I cast it away in my dream by calling out to Jesus...I awoke with the name of Jesus on my lips, however muffled it may have sounded. After a few minutes of prayer, I dozed off again to awake at 3:38 am. Regardless of the dream, I got up to have a shower and start my day. Nothing was going to hinder me today, not bad dreams nor lack of sleep...Today I get to fulfill a dream...a good dream!

St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, a little town in Quebec, Canada holds a Festival of Hot Air Balloons every year. I am now living less than an hour away (if the bridges are open) from this little town and I upon first opportunity, booked an early morning flight.

At the VIP meeting grounds, I waited under the moon and stars for the sun to rise and the pilot to call us forth. Of course, morning sunrise is my favourite time of day, so waiting was no problem for me as I lingered in the glory of the new day. Others - wandered around half asleep in and out of the quonset hut with coffee and donuts in hand, trying so shake of their drowsiness. Despite this, there was excitement in the air for everyone.

Once the sun was up, we met with our pilot and headed off to the launching site. There are launching sites all over the little town. Fields, parks, and parking lots that were empty in these morning hours were slowly filled with trucks and trailors carrying balloons, baskets, and people all ready rise up. 


The empty spaces slowly filled with baskets (that are not as big as one would think) and colourful material that would unfold and be filled with air on the ground before they are filled with propane in preparation for flight.

People with cameras, professionals and otherwise, were taking pictures left, right, and center as the balloons unfolded. The mass of colours were delightful to watch unfold in the morning light. Some balloons were characters and it became a guessing game to accurately predict what would unfold. I caught the expression of a couple of little girls as they saw one of our favourite balloons near finish filling:

The balloon they were in awe of..."When pigs fly..."

After our balloon was filled, we got instruction on how to get in and out, what to touch and not to touch...and then it was time!

 In we got and off we went...


Now, I am not afraid of heights, but there is a period of time where instinct takes over and in the span about the height of a skyscraper, in the first few moments of flight, I felt slightly unnerved...Once I got past that I was good to go.

The view was incredible and it was suprisingly peaceful...



For my fellow Canadians...a welcome sight any morning whether on the ground or in the air...

For my American friends...


There were all kinds of great balloons. Approximately 120 participate in the festival (...which I highly recommend!), and I took pics of a few outstanding:

Pepe le Peu...

Sharky...

Balloons at a lower altitude have the right-of-way.
Right below us, one of my favourite traditional balloons...

The balloons can fly quite low, and we skimmed across the cornfields for a bit, about 1-2ft above the tops of the corn. It is poor etiquette to drag your basket through the crops, and a skilled pilot knows how to read the wind and mangage the balloon so this is avoided.

Our pilot...Jim is from Connecticut...Pilot for 30 yrs and a balloon inspector as well. We were in good hands.

Another shot of the tranquil masses floating along...



Balloons beginning to land...

Skimming just above the corn before we land...

We landed safely with only three bumps to the ground, basket upright.

After we got out of the basket, we helped the pilot begin to deflate the balloon and wait for the chase team to catch up with us. Once the balloon was packed up, we drove out of the field to the farmer's house to present the farmer with the traditional bottle of champagne (which, this time, was a local apple cider) and a certificate for a brunch at a local resturant.

My dream fulfilled, I fully intend to fly again. It was a wonderful experience that I would recommend to everyone!


Next...gliding.... ;)

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