Arkansas (cont'd)


The day of the flight the weather forecasts were calling for a 30% chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon -- a common weather pattern in the summer in a lot of places, although not something I was used to back in California. It was not a small concern -- even thunderstorms many miles away can generate sudden bursts of wind that can be deadly to hot-air balloons. Fortunately, Brian was familiar with these types of conditions from flying in Texas, so we reviewed the weather data on the internet together. There were thunderstorms to the west in Texas, but they seemed to be moving north; the closest rain was some showers near Texarkana, 35 miles away. The forecasts were for the chance of rain to decrease as evening approached. Based on this, we decided to proceed with inflating the balloons.


Balloons of Hope took place at the Hope Fair Park. We had use of the Coliseum building, an auditorium/gymnasium that was large enough to inflate the balloons in -- the air conditioning was a welcome relief from the heat and humidity outside. Some juniors from the local high school lent a hand with inflating the balloons, along with other fesitval volunteers.



The crew moved the balloons outside. The afternoon was hot and still beneath a hazy sky-- I was glad I was wearing shorts. One of our crew volunteers had a weather service on his cell phone; the radar image showed green and a bit of yellow fifty or sixty miles to the west, headed north, but nothing in our immediate area. Brian helped me get into my harness and the crew began to hook the balloons to me.




We adjusted my ballast until I was just a tiny bit lighter than air, with my toes just leaving the ground. Then crew released me, and I floated up into the sky over Hope.