Even the clowns were impressed...

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 :slight_smile: . 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 :astonished: .

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 :wink: ) 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 :stuck_out_tongue: . 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

One of the few times I’ve woken before dawn and been active was to take a ride in a hot air balloon. Those people wake early by necessity. Only after you’re up in the air do they tell you that the landings are nothing more than a controlled crash. Gee thanks. Landing and then bouncing along the ground being dragged by a balloon isn’t my idea of fun. Fortunately our landing was not too eventful, but the balloon still had to skillfully avoid a muck pond in the field we landed in.

It is fun to go to a ballooning event and watch dozens of balloons take off.

I think the reason for wicker baskets is that the wicker can better take the “controlled crash” of a hard landing. I think a composite basket might crack, especially if it hits a big rock while being dragged by the balloon.

Thanks Onelesscar, I really enjoyed reading that. It makes a refreshing change from the usual crap posted in RSU!

Great Pictures!

Rock on!

When you saw the clowns, you should have shouted, “Are you on your way to the Muni weekend?”

I went in a hot air balloon once. The best bits were taking off and landing. When we took off, we barely missed the tree tops. It was like going up in an opne lift (US = elevator). The flight itself was disappointing because it was the sort of cold bleak grey* day you only get in an English summer. Every time they turned the burner on, we all raised our hands to warm them at the flame. We then landed in a field and were dragged on our backs for a short distance. Finally, the recovery truck got stuck in the mud and we had to push it out.

Excellent value for money.

*US = gray

Nice pictures.

It must have been good to see the balloons so close, they are amazing to watch, I would love a trip in one.

I read once, as John said that wicker is the only thing that stands up to the landings, lots of other materials have been tried, but nothing comes close to the properties of wicker.

It is cool being able to mix a bit of unicycling in with a trip like that. I am now very impressed with people who can master a 36" wheel, I am waiting on delivery of my KH 29", the 36" wheel just didn’t work out for me.