In November I flew again at the WHAMOBASS rally in the small town of Coalinga, California.  I had help from my crew chief Ernie Hartt and his wife Jenny, as well as fellow balloonists Jay and Jane Jennings, and Tim Braly, who lives in Coalinga.  A lot of the same balloon pilots and crew who lent a hand last year showed up again to assist with the inflation.   It's fun to show my fellow balloonists how to put a cluster together, and balloonists are good at getting up really early and more or less following directions while half asleep, so they're a great asset for this sort of thing. 

We were joined this year by camera crews from Inside Edition, the syndicated TV tabloid, and from TechTV, a cable/satellite TV channel.  We were also joined by Louie Psihoyos, a freelance photographer whose work has appeared in National Geographic and Smithsonian, among other places; he was kind enough to provide several of the photographs used here.


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My crew have finished attaching all the balloons to my harness.  The last two dozen are attached to my legs and feet, and held in my hands, buoying me up to the end of my tether.

Clouds and mist are pushing in from the San Joaquin Valley to the east, but directly overhead, there's a hint of sunlight up above.  To the west, the sky is still clear.

I tell Ernie to release me.


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Rising through the misty autumn sky over the sleeping town.


Who is dreaming?



More hot-air balloons are inflating on the college athletic field.

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Jane Jennings and Jenny Wolf follow me up in their hot-air balloons, "Sunrise Serenade" and "Sex Toy".   We rise together into the murky sky.  The sun must be up here somewhere....


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At the edge of the cloud layer, the sun begins to break through...


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And then the clouds are below, and the sky is blue.

Coalinga (Cont'd) ]