Indiana (Continued)


I ascended steadily, moving toward the west. As I rose up past a thousand feet, my speed picked up, until my GPS was registering ten, then fifteen miles per hour. Looking back at the airport, I finally saw Bill lift off and drift off cautiously at a few hundred feet, while some of the other balloons finally started to inflate "Oh sure, get the guy with all the toy balloons to go first," I grumbled. Just as the airport was fading out of sight in the haze, I saw some of the other balloons start to launch.


The countryside below was wonderfully pretty and green, with farm fields bordered with trees on gently rolling hills. I talked to my chase crew: they had just pulled out of the airport, already miles behind me.



I leveled out at two-thousand feet. My speed was now about twenty mph. Every so often, solar heating would start me into a gentle ascent, and I would release one of the small three-foot balloons to level out again. It was a beautiful day, different shades of green from horizon to horizon.


I checked in with crew from time to time. The local roads were not the perfect grids of somewhere like Kansas; they curved and jogged and dead-ended, and after half an hour my crew had still not caught up with my twenty mph straight line to the west. It was a little disturbing to be moving out so fast, but on the other hand, there was no point to dropping in to looking for a landing site until crew had managed to get out ahead of me. So I sat back to enjoy the ride.



A traveler, fleeing a tiger who was chasing him, ran till he came to the edge of a cliff. There he caught hold of a thick vine, and swung himself over the edge. Above him the tiger snarled. Below him he heard another snarl, and behold, there was another tiger, peering up at him.... Then in front of him on the cliffside he saw a luscious bunch of grapes. Holding onto the vine with one hand, he reached and picked a grape with the other.

How delicious!

Zen Buddhist Parable



Finally, nearly an hour into the flight, my crew radioed to say that they were getting pretty close to catching up with me. I had been descending steadily for the last twenty minutes, and was now at just a few hundred feet. Ahead were several large corn fields, with a line of trees and a stream running through the center. A road ran from the main road out to a bridge that went over the stream. I described the location as best I could to my crew. They seemed clear on what main road I was talking about, but not clear on the exact location.

I was still moving fairly briskly. I didn't want to wait for the windspeed to increase on the surface, so I decided that I would land -- easy enough if crew was there to grab me, probably unpleasant if I had to stop myself in the corn field. I released a balloon to drop in farther, dropped a little ballast to level out again. I was into the corn field, then I was moving along the tops of the trees. I saw vehicles on the road into the corn field -- crew was there! They pulled up out of sight, where the road crossed the stream and the line of trees. "Dropline," I yelled. "Dropline-dropline-dropline!" Clutching the roll of webbing strap, I cleared the last of the trees and saw people down on the road, one of them with a pink hat.

Chris Howell, Bloomington Herald-Times


I threw my drop line down to Ernie. He caught it and slowed me down. I swung out over the corn and burst some balloons so my crew could reel me in for a gentle landing. I was very happy they were there. For that matter, I was pretty happy about everything, just then.


We tethered the cluster in the shelter of the trees for a while, then put away my toys for another day.





Whisked away by the wind over this rich, rolling, green-on-green earth-- who would have thought that Indiana would be such a fine place to seek enlightenment, whether through worship and meditation, or with a bouquet of helium-filled balloons?


Bloomington Balloon Fiesta (Celebration XIV and XV)

Crew Chief: Ernie Hartt
Chase Crew (C-XIV): Steve Vencel, Dennis Dunham, Bernie Parker
Chase Crew (C-XV): Bernie Parker, Dennis Dunham, Kathleen Oliver, Stacy Schinnerer, Chris Howell
Principal Inflation Crew: Tim Fulton, Dennis Dunham, Ryan Holmes, Jimmy McElroy, Ken Campagnella
Inflation Crew: Travis Vencel, Pat Newell, Mike Baker, Karen Keith, Andy Richardson, Jim Silberstein, Lanelle Newell, Bud Dylan, Ray Chevelier, Gene Roegiers, Greg Roegiers, Shannon and Cassey Donnelly, Dallas Beall

Special Thanks to Bill and Kathleen Oliver; Oliver Winery; Travis Vencel; Rex Hinkle and Cook Aviation; and Chris Howell and the Bloomington Herald Times.

Photography: Ernie Hartt, Bernie Parker, Chris Howell (Bloomington Herald-Times) and John Ninomiya


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