June 12, 2008
After months of frustrating postponements due to adverse weather conditions, Jacqueline and I finally went on a hot air balloon ride this morning -- entering the "Fifth Dimension." This time, the weather was perfect, making the long wait worthwhile. We launched from a Church of the Brethren located a few miles west of Woodstock. (Virginia, not New York.) I was surprised how quickly we gained altitude, and was almost as surprised by our slow horizontal pace, drifting along at less than 10 miles per hour. Our maximum altitude was about 1,300 feet above ground, and we came within inches of the ground once (deliberately), and passed within a few feet of the tree tops another time. Except for the periodic blasts of flame above our head, all was silent as we cruised above the lovely Shenandoah countryside. The experience had a sublimely soothing effect on us. No birds approached us, but we did spot a few interesting birds while aloft, and several dogs barked as we passed overhead. I had always thought that ballooning was purely haphazard, with no real control over direction, but Don Warner of Valley Ballooning proved otherwise. He showed his expertise by deftly guiding the lighter-than-air craft over the tree tops, gaining and losing attitude in order to catch the winds going in the right direction, and finally into a flawless touchdown in a residential subdivision near Mauertown, covering about ten miles altogether. After landing, we helped deflate and pack the balloon into the big duffel bag, and even the local residents were eager to help.
For anyone who loves the outdoors and has a sense of adventure, I highly recommend taking a balloon ride, and you can't go wrong with Valley Ballooning. It's well worth the money, and I'm quite certain we will do so again before long.
This photo has been posted on the new Summer 2008 photo gallery page, and others will be posted there soon.