South Dakota



When we arrived at the park at 3:00 AM to start setting up, winds were calm. We laid out the helium tanks and set up the inflation gear. At 4:00 AM, when the majority of the crew was due to arrive, the wind came up to perhaps 4 or 5 mph. It was more wind than I was used to setting up in -- although I often fly when there's that much wind, I usually set up in an area with trees or some other wind shelter, which was totally lacking here. Brad the balloonist weatherman showed up and told everyone that his forecast models said that there would be 30 mph winds just 500 feet off the ground. However, I was determined to fly, so we began inflating the balloons. After the while, the wind rose to 5 or 6 mph. The inflated balloons that the crew had attached in groups to sandbags began to lean over and bounce around in the wind, but it was not quite windy enough for the balloons to start dragging the sandbags to which they were attached.


I held off on getting into my harness, seeing that once all the balloons were attached to me, I probably would start to drag around. Then, just before dawn, the winds slowed to almost nothing.




I got into my harness. My crew quickly attached the rest of my balloons to my harness, and walked me out onto the launch field.



Larry and my crew volunteers adjusted my ballast to get me ready for launch. The wind was still calm. It had the feel of that movie scene, where the one cavalry scout says it's quiet, and his partner says yes, too quiet, the moment before a flaming arrow suddenly appears in the middle of his chest.


But perhaps my own gambling blood was up, or perhaps the thought of returning for a fourth year of wind and/or rain was just unbearable. In any case, I signaled to the crew to release me, and my balloons carried me up into the the skies over South Dakota.



South Dakota Launch Movie (6.2 MB)