Saturday, October 4, 2008

What a day -- on the Euphoira Chase Team!

We got up very early today at 5:00am to get to the balloon launch area. We were able to take a shuttle bus for 1 mile from our motorcoach to the launch area and were amazed at the traffic and people coming into the grounds. Orinda is amazed at the activity around at 5:30am!

Since we signed up yesterday as volunteer balloon chase team members, we went directly to our launch site, U7, where we met up with our pilot, Rich Jaworski who has flown over 2,100 hours in hot air balloons and holds several world records. His balloon is called the
Euphoria and hails from Nebraska. Rich patiently explained what to do and did a great job directing our novice chase team.

All around us, balloons were being unpacked and inflated. There were a special ground of balloons called the Dawn Patrol that took off before sunrise and were amazing to see as the propane heaters illuminated the balloon envelopes. These launched right over our heads.

We got busy with our balloon, the Euphoria, and followed Rich's instruction in assembling it. Rick's job was to hold the base of the balloon open as the fan blew cold air into the balloon to inflate it. Once we had that done, the propane burners were ignited (all 10,000,000 BTUS!) and we went "hot" and the balloon began to rise. Finally, Rich climbed on board and was off! The rest of us piled into the chase van and went after him.

Meanwhile, literally hundreds of balloons were being launched including this cow and Darth Vader's helmet! It was amazing to watch several hundred balloons in the air at one time. We kept chasing Rich's balloon and after about 12 miles, caught up as he landed in a vacant lot (at the same time as several other balloons). After re-packing the balloon, our crew took a moment to take a group picture (Rich is standing next to me in the second row) before we went our separate ways. A great day all around!

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