New Jersey

(Continued)

 

I drifted away from the fairgrounds, moving at only 5 mph or so. Mary Beth Young had launched early with me, to try to get some photos.

 

 

 

 

I floated slowly over some hills and past the outskirts of the town.

 

 

I went up a few thousand feet, but there was not much wind at any altitude. The sky went from clouds to a kind of murky overcast, and I wondered how far away the rain was.

 

 

Rural New Jersey

 

Dropping back down, I found myself headed toward the local power plant. It made me a bit nervous, not knowing if people at the plant had heard about my apprearance at the balloon festival, or if I would be mistaken for some new kind of terror superweapon and shot at by some seventy-year-old security guard.

 

 

Luckily, at a few hundred feet I found another wind that took me away from the plant, toward the Delaware River and neighboring Pennsylvania. I decided to continue across the river. I called Ernie and Roland on the radio, and told them they'd need to find a place to cross.

 

 
Crossing the Delaware
 

On the Pennsylvania side of the river was more farm country. Ernie and Roland ended up having to go some miles away to reach a bridge, but I was moving fairly slowly, and they caught up with me again before I'd gone too far.

I'd been in the air about an hour, and it seemed likely that the rain would be here before too long. I descended and began looking for a place to land. For my first attempt, I had a good line on some open fields, but when Ernie stopped at the farmhouse to ask permission for me to land, a woman stuck her head out of a window and yelled "No balloons!." Ernie reported this to me. It's always sad to meet people who don't like balloons, and with the skies getting darker, this was a particularly inconvenient time to have that happen. I flew on.

The next farm on a track looked pretty good, too -- there was a nice alfalfa field, bordered on two sides by corn. I was coming in over the corn, headed straight toward the alfalfa. I released a balloon to descend, and called Ernie to ask if he'd found the landowners -- no luck. Hoping that he'd find someone, I cut loose a balloon to descend. As I dropped in, my track shifted left -- I'd expected this from the spit test, but it was a harder turn than I'd expected, so I was going to barely clip the corner of the alfalfa field before heading back over the corn. The skies were looking like rain now, and I really wanted to be on the ground. However, given the reaction of the last landowner, I wasn't going to land without permission.

I was at about 50 feet, crossing the corner of the alfalfa field and heading toward the corn again. I was about to get on the radio to tell crew to drive on, when Ernie called me, saying the farmer had said we were welcome to land. Saying some things I won't repeat, I burst two of my larger balloons to drop in rapidly. The ground came up a little faster than I like, but I was still moving toward the corn and I overcame my desire to drop ballast until the very last second. I landed hard but on my feet in the alfalfa, about thirty feet from the corn. I immediately cut another balloon away to keep me there, and radioed to crew that I was down. Relieved, I began hopping my way up the field, and the truck pulled up a minute later.

 

The farmer drove up with some of his family. He turned out to be a nice older man who was friends with some of the local balloonists. His adult son told us that they'd been talking about it at work that day, something in the paper about a guy flying with helium balloons at the Farmer's Fair.
Then it started to rain. The farmer and his son helped up deflate the balloons and put our equipment away. We were soaking wet by the time we were through, but the rain actually felt pretty good.

 

Celebration XXI

Crew Chief: Ernie Hartt
Principal crew: Roland Escher; Dick and Mary Beth Young; Dave, Sue and Teri Lee; Bob and Chris Mohr; Lou
Nisivoccia, Kenny Adamsbaum and Barb Bartwitz
Special thanks to: Warren County Farmer's Fair, Fred Grotenhuis, Giulia Ianitelli.

Photography: Ernie Hartt, Roland Escher, Dave Lee, Teri Lee, Barbara Bartwitz, Bob Mohr, John Ninomiya

 

 

 

 

 

 

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