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October 8, 2000 - Pleasure flight

"Auntie" Mary's ride flight (!)

[Click on thumbnails to see full size pictures]
Today we're flying from Spring St, alongside Robert, Matt, Santo, and Diane Tomassetti.

My parents and my mother's sister Mary are visiting from Ireland, and we're delighted that the weather is working out to see the balloon in action. I offer my father the option of a ride, but he defers to Mary, explaining that, as a more frequent visitor, he can take a ride at a future date. A likely story. I wonder what his excuse will be next time? <g> That's Mary at the left, pictured earlier in the week at our house.

After we've stood the balloon up the wind kicks up a little, and we consider deflating, but then it calms down again, and we launch. We climb fairly slowly to about 1300 feet, where we're moving along fairly briskly at about 20kt. Then the GPS battery gives up the ghost. That's a pity as I like to have the recorded ground track, but I may be better off today not knowing exactly how fast I'm going! The technology ambush continues; after Mary takes her first picture, the battery in her camera dies, so this is the only picture we have from the flight.

We continue the moderately fast pace as we head directly into the sun, flying over the ridge just south of Shuttle Meadow Reservoir.

Crossing the ridge we're still zipping along even after descending a bit to see what the winds are doing lower down. We see Santo and Macarena drop below the ridge in front of us, and slow right down, so we follow them lower in preparation for landing. They've landed in a neighborhood and we're a couple of hundred yards further to the north, still heading east. There is a left turn in the wind close to the gound, and we use the 90 degree variation between several hundred feet up and the ground to navigate toward a spot in a neighborhood with lots of large yards.

As we approach one back yard, we ask the homeowner for permission to land on his property. After receiving an enthusiastic "of course," we fly over the house, moving very slowly now, and descend onto the front driveway.

The homeowner and his family, as well as several neighbor families (half of them still in their pajamas!) and a couple who were passing by in their car, come to share in the spectacle. We're out of radio contact with our chase crew as they're still on the other side of the ridge. Seeing our failed attempts to make radio contact, one of the neighbors offers me a cell phone, after giving us our precise street address, so we can call our crew, who also have a phone. Everyone then eagerly pitches in and helps us to deflate "Big Green" and pack up.

By the time Eric and my father arrive with the trailer, we're ready to load up and head off to Gene's for breakfast. We've covered about 4.5 miles this morning in approximately 50 minutes aloft.

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