Saturday, August 18, 2012

Flag Counter

I saw an interesting app on a friend's blog that I thought I would try.  Flag Counter shows the number of visits to your blog and the country of the individual visiting.  I decided to show the top 100 counties.  We will see how it works.  Of course, the counter is starting from scratch so the previous 35,000 visits won't show.  It should be fun.  The counter is located on the right hand strip and may require scrolling down to see.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Our Hot Air Balloon Ride - August 14, 2012

Riding in a hot air balloon has been on Sigrid's bucket list for a long time.  We have talked about it and researched it for over a year.  This spring, Sigrid saw an Groupon coupon for a ride and purchased it.  We started trying to schedule our ride in May.  Time after time, we had to change the date due to bad weather.  For a balloon ride, any kind of wind over 10 mph or threats of rain constitute "bad weather".  Even extreme heat can cause a cancellation.  The balloon operator had to quit offering rides in the late afternoons due to the many 100+ degree days this year.  In order for the balloon to go up, the air inside has to be hotter than the surrounding air by enough to cause the difference in weight of the air inside the balloon to create lifting force.

On Monday, Sigrid and I watched the weather for Tuesday off and on all day.  In the afternoon, we got a call from Becky, the balloon owner and pilot, saying that everything looked good.  She would do a final check at 4:00am on Tuesday and call only if we had to cancel again.....we got no call.  Our alarm went off at 4:00am so we could get to the Olathe, Kansas airport by 5:30am.

Assembly and filling the balloon takes 30 to 40 minutes.  Balloons are not allowed to fly until sunrise which was at 6:30am today.  After the basket and burner are assembled, you stretch out the balloon fabric and start to fill it with air from a gas power fan.

Once the balloon is fully expanded by the fan, you start the propane burners to heat the air up inside the balloon.

 Sigrid was a happy camper once we got inside the balloon basket in preparation for lift off.

 In this photo, we are looking down at the airport as we begin our accent.

Riding in a balloon is a very unique experience.  Amazingly, people with a fear of heights often do well in the balloon because of the slow and graceful way the balloon flies.  You feel like you are detached from the ground below and are floating on a cloud or maybe soaring like an eagle. 

 A view up through the burners to the balloon fabric.

 Sunrise on Olathe, Kansas.....a beautiful view from a balloon.

Before long, the sun slipped behind clouds as rain moved into the area.  This was not a problem for us since our ride was only for about an hour and we would be down before the rain arrived.

 As I recall, the maximum altitude we reached was 1,300 feet and we were down to only 200 feet at times.

Privacy fences don't work well when you are on a balloon's flight path.  No skinny dippers at 7:00am.

We landed on a field next to an elementary school campus....a great looking place until we realized that the area was fenced in and the chase van could not get into the field area to pick us up and collect the balloon.

The field just before landing.  We all helped "walk" the balloon to the chase van.  "Walking" means that the balloon let us off and then continued to float just off the ground while we all pulled it across the field and finally over the fence to where the chase van was located.

Just before we got out of the basket.

 We all helped disassemble the balloon and pack it away for transport.....another 30 minute job.  There were only two people with the balloon operator...the pilot and the driver of the chase van.  They could do all the work themselves but they invited us to help as a part of the experience.

 The entire balloon fits into this bag.

After the work was done, we all celebrated with the traditional prayer and champagne....what a great adventure!

If anyone viewing this blog is moved to want to take their own balloon ride, here is the information on the operator:  Balloon AD-Ventures is the company name.

The owner/operator is Becky Petrehn, a hugely experienced and award winning pilot.  Her phone is 913-915-8150.  Sigrid and I highly recommend her company.