I’m blogging about this one a bit late, it’s been a busy summer despite not doing much flying. In June, we had a beautiful time at our first road trip balloon festival. The drive to Temecula from Phoenix is about five and a half hours, and winds through the San Bernardino National Forest for part of it. Despite the heat on the Arizona side, once we climbed the mountains into California, the temperature dropped a bit so we were in the low to mid 80′s.
The Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival is a weekend celebrating the wineries of Temecula as well as ballooning. I’m not sure how many balloons were there, but if I were venturing a guess, I’d say perhaps fifty or so. We spent the weekend helping crew for Happy Hour (Cameron 105K) and Calypso (Lindstrand 90K). Both balloons are owned by Tempe/Scottsdale commercial balloon pilots and good friends of ours.
On the Saturday morning of “mass ascension”, I got to log a flight hour which was quite exciting. Taking off when you’re surrounded by twenty other balloons close to you is a good learning experience. The trick is to watch carefully around you, try to keep an eye on other balloon shadows, and no rapid ascents. Pick your track and have a nice, gentle ascent while watching closely to see where other balloons around you are flying.
We flew out over a small lake, which was beautiful. And then the winds completely went away and we were becalmed. The winds died down to almost nil, leaving us out over the small lake and wishing for a breeze to take us back to land. I took us up to about 4000′ AGL (above ground level), hoping for some kind of breeze on a different layer that we might be able to use to get us off the lake. No such luck. After hanging out in the air for over an hour, there was FINALLY the gentlest of breezes that picked up enough to take us just off the edge of the lake and… onto the side of a small mountain. Good times.
Since we landed on the side of the mountain, Kim and I hopped out to start walking the balloon down to the road (with much effort as Mother Nature decided that NOW was the time to start blowing the wind up the side of the hill instead). I called Chuck, who was our chase crew for the morning flight. I said, “Hey, how are you doing?” He replied, “I’m doing better than you, I’m not the one stuck on the side of a mountain!”
All joking aside, we safely got the balloon down to the road and began to pack up. We landed on a nature preserve along with nearly twenty other balloons that had the same winds, and had to wait as our chase crew was brought in nearly one-by-one. It was a long, dusty wait, but we eventually got back to the launch site where we enjoyed a nice tailgate before heading back for an afternoon nap.
It was a fantastic trip, and we had so much fun that weekend. Looking forward to hopefully going next year as well, maybe finally as licensed pilots and bringing Sonoran Star!
Official Event Website: http://www.tvbwf.com/