Yesterday, for my birthday, Tim and I went for a ride in a hot air balloon.
Back when I worked in Woodinville, every summer I would see them floating over the valley. Somewhere along the way, I decided it would be a fun thing to experience.
We chose the Sunrise Flight. Both of us tend to wake up quite early, because of work but also we are just naturally inclined that way. So it wasn’t a hardship for us to meet up at 6:00 am.
Before we left the house, we received an email informing us that the ride was a “go.” Sometimes, because of weather, a ride may need to be rescheduled. Lately, smoke from Canadian fires has been a compromising factor.
At the meeting location — the McDonalds in Woodinville — everyone was sorted into three groups and driven out to a field behind the Maltby Cafe where the balloons and gondolas were offloaded and the balloons inflated (not “blown up”).
First, a powerful, gas-operated fan blows air into the balloon. When it is about 80 percent inflated, then two propane burners attached to the gondola were blasted into the balloons to heat the air and cause them to rise.
The gondolas were righted and we all climbed in.
There were three compartments in our gondola — one for the operator with the propane tanks and two for the passengers. Besides us, there were four other adults and one child. More propane was blasted and we took off.
We were told that you can’t really control what direction the balloon travels in. That is completely subject to the wind. The operator can only make it go up or down, or make it rotate. Sometimes we were above the other balloons, sometimes below.
Even though it wasn’t as smoky as it had been earlier in the week, it was still kind of hazy. We did get a glimpse of Mount Rainier, however.
As we drifted eastward, we ran into some foggy clouds.
The clouds got thicker, and we could see the balloon’s shadow.
After about 45 minutes, we were over Cottage Lake, and we headed toward a landing just north of the lake.
One of the other balloons landed in a different field nearby.
After touchdown, the balloons had to be deflated and everything packed back onto the trailers.
The trip concluded with a champagne toast.