Hot air balloon ride

Who has taken a hot-air balloon ride? My community hosts a pretty substantial festival every August and I’ve signed up for a ride this year. Launches are scheduled early morning or early evening, and my scheduled ride is Friday morning. $185.

Tell me what to expect. What have your hot-air balloon rides been like? I’m not scared of heights or flying in airplanes, but the thought of being out in the open and up so high (or low) is a little unsettling. I’ve even had some dreams about it.

What are your experiences?

I have been up in a tethered balloon but not really gone up and away. My Father went up on a balloon and the landing was hard enough to break his leg.

Don’t let that discourage you though. I know plenty of people who’ve been up in them and not been hurt. In Albuquerque they have a huge Balloon festival, and it’s so much fun to watch the balloons come down all over town, in people’s back yards, everywhere. It’s really neat.

Hm, do we live in the same community, I wonder… I’ve always wanted to go for a ride but the thought of the balloon going over the river scares me to death, so no go.

Hey Ms. MAINIAC Pumpkin, perhaps we DO live near one another. Does the name Great Falls mean anything to you? How about Bates College, Davinci’s Restaurant or the Auburn Mall?

Well, great falls is for graffiti artists, Bates is for self-entitled emo-kids with too many of daddy’s credit cards in their pockets, Davinci’s is in my part of town(yay, me), and the Auburn “mall” is teeming with 14 year olds, last I knew. :wink:

I took one a few years ago, in Lancaster, PA. I think it cost about $150/person then.

It was a wonderful experience! We got to see the sun rise while aloft, and I think the best part was watching our shadow pass over the fields as we slowly drifted along.

It was very quiet as we floated except when they had to put on the burners so we could rise up over some tall silos. My dh was a little spooked by the holes in the basket we were in - we could see right through the weave to the ground below.

We had a very smooth landing, and afterwards were treated to mimosas.

All in all, a very cool experience!

I went a few years back on an evening ride. My husband and I had a great time and it was truly spectacular. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

I was a little apprehensive, but I am really glad I did it. It wasn’t scary at all, even over the river.

I went on a balloon ride about 10 years ago, it was a birthday gift from my wife. The weather couldn’t have been perfect, upper 40’s and clear skies. There were 4 passengers and the pilot. The ascent was fine till about 700 feet when the pilot noted that we were going in the wrong direction, we should have been going west but were heading north. A few miles from where we started what breeze went away and we sort of hovered. The pilot took us to almost 3000 feet to catch a breeze. It was also about 20 degrees colder, no one had dressed for freezing temps. After an hour flight, the pilot made a perfect landing on a school playfield, the chase vehicles were there waiting for us. The best part was watching a bunch of cows take off running when we drifted by about 200 feet above them. I was a bad boy too, I brought a pocket full of pennies and spent the flight trying to hit a variety of objects.

I seem to be the resident balloon pilot here.

Festivals are great times to go for a flight. Lots of other balloons around, the community knows what’s going on, lots of balloon-friendly people all around.

Don’t worry if you’re afraid of heights. I can barely get on a ladder, but I love to fly (I fly airplanes and gliders too. If you can handle being in a plane, you can handle a balloon… They’re much easier on everything.

I got a nice camera last Sunday, so I’ve taken a few pictures (and had a few taken of me) You can take a look here.

If you’ve got any questions, I’m happy to answer them. I suppose one of these days I’ll add an “Ask the Balloonist” thread.

It means something to me! The funny thing is that I opened this thread because the topic brought back memories of my visit. I was there for the balloon festival in 2003, though I didn’t take a ride. My best college friend lives in the area and I was visiting. He was somewhat involved in local politics for a while, so you may have even heard of him…how weird is that?

In any case, you should go, and take lots of pictures. I’ve always wanted to go up in a balloon, it looks AMAZING!

I went up about 30 feet in a tethered balloon once. It was really neat, as I recall; I was maybe 12 years old.

And to make up for my lack of worthwhile input on the topic, here’s a really cool video: Time-Lapse Albuquerque Intl. Balloon Fiesta

I’ve been ballooning in Calgary. We stayed quite low the entire time, starting below the Resevoir and heading south to Fish Creek Park, then following the valley straight toward the Bow and onto the heights on the other side. It was a really awesome experience – it’s alternately very quiet and very loud as they put on burners. The view below is lots of fun (we saw some deer in Fish Creek Park, of course, but the city was neat too.) Since you move precisely as fast as the air around you, there’s no wind to speak of, so it’s a lot like being in a moving skyscraper.

I hope you enjoy your flight!

I have a half-dozen hot-air balloon rides. They are lots of fun, though I’m not sure they’re worth quite what’s being charged these days (the OP’s $185 is typical).

A suprise for most newbies is that the burner is quite loud; conversation is impossible while it’s on (hopefully not a huge percentage of the time). And (big surprise here) the burner is hot - you’ll probably want to wear some sort of cap for this reason.

In the hands of a competent pilot (i.e. one who can avoid winds, convection and power lines) they have a good safety record. I’m not competent to talk about fear of heights, as this never seems to affect me.

Because of their effect on livestock (especially due to burner noise) farmers are by no means always happy to see balloons at low altitudes.

They’re not all that easy on fuel - an hour’s flight accounts for a surprising quantity of propane.

Back in 1987 a local balloonist came to town to sell rides.

He offered to take me up for no charge.

I did 2 hours of my morning radio show from the balloon. Quite interesting, as I’m very tall and every time he fired the burner, I felt my hair singe. So I spent the entire ride on my knees.

I’ve been up twice. I’m not thrilled at heights without some sort of barrier, but I had no problem with a balloon. One more thing - no wind, since you are floating along with it.

Really, the only tricky part is landing, since the basket always seems to tip over. On my trips the pilot brought along a bottle of champagne for the owners of the property where we landed. Still, very cool and I recommend the experience.

I’ve been up once, in the Flying Tomato hot-air balloon used to promote a local pizza place where I went to school. One of my friends met the pilot and the two of us got a lift - this was skydiving so we went up to 6500’ and got out at the top.

Flight was very cool - quiet, calm, except as others have said when the pilot lit the burners. Then it became extremely loud and extremely hot. Like Xema said, bring a broad-brimmed hat…preferably something that doesn’t singe easily :slight_smile:

We got picked up by the chase van and met the pilot as he touched down. Landing looked very soft and it was extremely cool to watch him floating 10 feet off the ground while the ground crew knocked on the door of the nearby house to ask permission to land.

I’ve been up once also, and it’s exactly like what everyone has said so far. Mine was up in Maine during the fall, so we got to see all the fall colors as we floated along. One thing I didn’t think of was my 8-year old daughter. It was way too loud for her when he lit the burners. I had some foamie earplugs, but they were too big to fit in her little ears. So, she didn’t enjoy the ride as much as me and my wife did.

Also, as well as getting hot, I recall getting hit by some (I’m assuming kerosene) drip while he was lighting the burners–this happened all throughout the ride. And the drip was hot, so it was pretty uncomfortable. Definitely bring a hat.

Our landing was pretty good–wound up in some farmer’s back yard, and the basket turned over, and I somehow sliced my palm open as I was grabbing onto one of the risers. It wasn’t deep, and I didn’t even notice it until 5 minutes later when I saw the blood, but it was a bit surprising. But the landing wasn’t rough and no one else got hurt in any way, and overall it was a great ride.

I loved most of my ride. It’s weird to experience complete silence. For most people, it’s probably the only time they’ll hear *nothing. * The best part was Mr. K and Kid Kalhoun chasing the balloon. They did better than the official chase vehicle. The crash landing into the horse track and the ensuing shot-gun threats and “Daddy! Call the sheriff! I’m hoppin’ fuckin’ mad!” has made for a unique add-on memory. Yeeeeeaaaaahhhh…good times…

Very much not kerosene.

It’s water. Probably dirty water, but water nonetheless.

There are two sources for this drip. One is the combustion itself. Remember chemistry class? When fuel is burned, one of the products of combustion is water. There’s so much propane being burned, that the water that’s formed doesn’t just evapourate. That’s one of the drips. This one usually feels like a touch of warm/hot rain. The other source is condensation on the bottom of the burners. The propane expanding and moving through the hoses cools them a whole lot. On a hot and/or humid day, water will condense on the cold parts and drip down. This is usually big, cold drops of water.

If it were in any way flammable, that would be very, very bad. I have that stuff drip on me every day (the burners we’re using seem to get a whole lot of condensation on them). It leaves spots on my clothes (they wash out no problem) but that’s it. Propane is the only fuel on board, nothing else.

Thanks for all the descriptions and advice! I shall certainly bring a hat; probably wouldn’t have thought to do so without your recommendations.

Beautiful pictures, St_Ides! I hope my pilot is as competent as you. All I know is that his (or her) name is Varney. Sounds like a very competent name to me! :slight_smile:

I am eagerly awaiting my ride. I hope the wind takes us up the river. I know I’ll enjoy every minute.

Spot on, Ms. Pumpkin! I am out near Pond Road.