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Lazy, hazy days of summer

I have an odd hobby. It’s something I’ve done for many years, and really enjoy doing. It doesn’t cost any money, and is something I can do twice a day, from spring until fall, if I choose to do so. No, not that, get your mind out of the gutter. Besides, you can do that year round!

I’m a hot air balloon chaser. I love the thrill of the chase – exploring new territory, trying to predict where it will come down, and the rush of getting there just in time to watch it set down. I love the sound of the burners as they tap out a little more fuel to clear a row of trees, power lines or buildings. I love the look on people’s faces when they realize they’re about to watch it gently glide towards the ground and touch down right in front of them. I share that look, and that feeling, every single time. The excitement never fades for me.

In the spring, as soon as the weather starts to warm up a little, there’s an anticipation building inside me. I can’t wait for balloon season to start. Every year, when I see that first balloon, I feel like a little kid that’s seeing one for the first time. Every day, weather permitting, I hope to see the bright colors, and hear the WHOOSH of the burners. I immediately go giddy with excitement the second I see one.

I got my Husband interested in it, the first spring we were together. It didn’t take him long to feel the same way I do about it! Every day, on his way home from work as the sun rises, he keeps one eye on the sky for any sign of a balloon. In the evenings, about an hour before the sun sets, we can both be found sitting outside, searching the sky and feeling the wind direction. As soon as we see one close enough, we jump in the truck, and off we go!

Until September of 2007, a balloon sighting was unpredictable, and didn’t happen too often. Since we’ve moved to Paradise, though, we see one almost daily. As long as we have a little extra gas to spare, and we can see the colors of the balloon, we’ll go for a chase. But honestly, we wouldn’t even have to do that, most of the time, because they tend to set down within walking distance of our hosue.

Today, July 25, was no exception. At 6:30pm, we first noticed a ballon, not much more than a spec in the sky. The wind was blowing at quite a good clip, and within 15 minutes, we were sure it was heading towards us, and would most likely fly right over us and set down close to home again. At 7pm, my Husband took the food out of the oven (it would have to wait), and the three of us were up and running. Unfortunately, the wind had other plans, and started taking the balloon another direction.

This is the part where we have to weigh our options. Is it close enough and do we have enough gas to make it to where we estimated it to be? Today’s answer was a definate yes! We headed towards it, keeping it in sight as much as possible. But it was moving away from us almost as fast as we were moving towards it. We hit New Holland, and it looked like they were going to set down in the park. My Husband navigated the roads he knew very well, while Matthew and I watched the balloon’s progress.

We encountered the official chase team, which was no surprise to any of us, and had a good laugh as we followed them to what we thought would be the landing zone. Sitting at the top of a hill, we watched the balloon come closer and closer to the field where they wanted to land. Nope, not gonna happen, too many wires … and off we go again, the thrill of the chase.

When it finally did set down, it was in a field in Ephrata, and most of the locals came running out to see what the commotion was all about. That’s when I see people sharing the same emotions as I am feeling. The wide eyes, mouths hanging open, fingers pointing, and the huge smiles that eventually spread across their faces. Most people are too afraid to get too close. Not me, I get as close as I possibly can! And I’m not alone.

My Husband has become a regular addition to the chase team. There are times when he makes it there before the official team does. He does it for the love of it, not the money. But that’s all about to change. The other team members know him well, from our many encounters with them. He’s trusted, and well respected by everyone, whether he’s helping to set up, or helping to disassemble the balloons. He’s become a team member in their hearts, and they are forever begging him to get put on the schedule and get paid to do something he loves. It’s not much money, for sure, but the fringe benefits certainly balance that out. It would be a neat way to make a second income, too!

When he does decide to take the job (I know it’s just a matter of time), we’ve already been promised a balloon ride! I am ecstatic about the possibility of actually riding in a balloon, instead of under it for a change! I just hope the addiction to chasing doesn’t turn into an addiction to riding!

Check out my new picture album, Balloon Chasin’ for pictures of today’s adventure. Enjoy! If anyone would like more info about hot air ballooning, please don’t hesitate to ask or call the U.S. Hot Air Balloon Team for info or references to other teams if you’re not located near Lancaster County PA.

  1. osolynden
    November 27, 2010 at 9:21 am

    How exciting. Here in New Mexico we often get this experience. Balloons are so very beautiful.

    • November 27, 2010 at 4:31 pm

      One of these days we hope to go to the balloon festival in New Mexico. I’ve heard it’s the biggest and best in the world!

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