So today I had a chance to see a bunch of hot air balloons lift off. Temperatures here have been topping 100F, so the launch was very early in the morning. I got up at 5am, and drove a half hour to the launch site, a park I’d never been to before. My mom had encouraged me to bring my 36er, as this was supposed to be a fundraiser/awareness raiser event, and there might be some kids there. I’m still trying to train her…whenever she asks if I’m going to bring my “bicycle”, I have to politely correct her…but it’s getting harder each time . I arrived at the field well before dawn, which is very unusual for me, and already there was a balloon almost entirely inflated. The sun rise a half hour later was accompanied by the rise of about 11 other hot air balloons.
As I was unloading my 36er from the trunk, a man in his 50s mentioned to me that he used to ride a unicycle when he was younger, and while walking it across the field (the field was still muddy) I was stopped by another man who mentioned that his son knew how to ride and related to me his story about purchasing a giraffe for his son, and asked if the 36er was much harder to ride than that?
The setup of the balloons was really interesting to watch, and I was surprised how hot the torches are inside the balloon that heat up the air - from about 3 meters away, it felt like it was cooking my face. I was also surprised that all the baskets for the balloons were woven out of wicker. This seemed surprisingly low tech, and I was surprised to not find any composite baskets, such as fiberglass or carbon fiber. One of the balloonists mentioned a “cluster balloon” further down the row, and after a little walking, I saw it: a guy had a bunch of huge helium balloons strapped to himself as well as about 30 water ballast bags. While he was waiting to take off, he said he had 900 lbs of sand bags holding him down .
While waiting for all the balloons to heat up and take off, I decided to take a spin around the field, which was about the size of 4 soccer (football ) fields. I was greeted with an unusual number of comments, many simply “hey, (friend’s name), look at the unicycle!” and a few surprising mentions of a bicycle, though I looked around and didn’t see any . On the moist, shaggy grass, it was tough to pedal with my 114mm cranks, so after two meandering laps, I called it quits and got breakfast at one of the booths. While eating breakfast, I watched the kites and flying model airplanes.
All of a sudden, one of the balloons took off, then another, then the guy with the helium balloons, then the rest of them. The chase vehicles all took off after them, and we watched them float off with the moon still in the background, even though it was full daylight by then. I heard the announcer mention a magic and clown show, so afterwards I wandered over to the crafts booth, and saw the two clowns, Sparkles and Chewy (or something clowny like that). Excited at this opportunity, I introduced myself to them. They were both amazed at the unicycle - they knew guys who rode 10ft giraffes, but they had never seen one as big as the 36er. I asked if I could take a picture with them, but they said it was them who should take a picture with me! blush