Monday, November 15, 2010

Becoming an Aeronaut

We went ballooning this weekend, courtesy of Kathy's brother and his wife. They made it a family affair, beginning with an overnight stay at the wonderful Ridge View Bed & Breakfast, taking off the next day from the B&B's back yard. There were 8 of us, so we required two balloons. Kathy and I, our sister-in-law and our nephew were in the foreground balloon (with the yellow lightning bolts).

We took off around 7am and landed around 9am 20-minutes drive to the north of Madison, Virginia. The weather was cold at first, so we bundled up heavily. But by the time we landed, our coats, scarves, hats, and gloves were off and laid in the backseat of the chase vehicle.

We were denied landing permission once, could not get the trucks through a gate at the second landing place (where us passengers in our balloon disembarked), but found a welcoming crowd (including one experienced ballooning enthusiast who followed us from his farm) at the final landing location.

Perhaps the funniest landing story comes from when the first balloon set down (we were in the second). A very nice lady stepped onto her back porch wearing her nightgown, was hailed from above by the balloonist asking permission to land in her yard. She gasped in awe and surprise, spilled her coffee, then fully embraced the moment and enthusiastically said yes! Then she went in calling to her family to come out and see, emerging just a minute later fully clothed in jeans and a shirt.

Ridge View is located in the center left, with the balloon support trucks in the center at our takeoff site.

This picturesque location is also great for astronomy. Jupiter and his moons were wonderfully visible through my telescope (sorry, no pictures), which delighted my 8 year old nephew considerably.

The balloonists returned us afterward to Ridge View for champagne and a splendid breakfast.

The autumn foliage was in its peak as we skimmed the eastern edge of the Blue Ridge mountains. Drifting north and looking northeast, we passed this remarkable ridge.

If you are interested in a delightful adventure, contact Mandy Rossano at Monticello Country Ballooning. They will work with any B&B in the area to take off locally, but do consider the delicious coffee and frittata at Ridge View (not to mention the excellent hosts and rooms) plus the excellent backyard launch site.

More pictures in later posts. Good night!
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