ANGOLA — I rode in a hot air balloon for the first time. It was a warm, bright morning; even from the ground the sky was beautiful, perfect for a hot air balloon ride.
Balloon pilot Dennis Hall took me in his balloon, Perfect Calm, and Perfect Calm is a great way to describe what it was like when we got into the air. This is Dennis’ first year at Angola Balloons Aloft, but he has been flying since 2007. I was very excited about the ride today because I love heights and seeing the world from as many perspectives as possible and Dennis m gave a new point of view.
To get into the hot air balloon, start by getting into the basket and put everything in place. Dennis had many different devices to measure many things like the altimeter. The pilot was surprised at how comfortable I was with the balloon and even tried to scare me with the noise of the burner.
I found every part of the flight experience fascinating from setting up, flying and taking down. Each step was new to me and all I could do was observe and ask questions. He talked about his balloon piloting experiences and his work through the Michigan Balloon Flyers. Dennis got his start with balloons because he was offered a free ride once and found a love for it.
Once all the tools were ready to go, we started our takeoff. Taking off in a hot air balloon was very graceful and I barely felt us move. However, for the crew assisting Dennis, it may have seemed a bit more difficult as they held on to ropes and helped send us in the right direction. It wasn’t until we were pushed by the wind that I even knew we were moving forward.
Off the ground, it was magnificent. We started our ride at Angola High School and got to see the city from above. The treetops and forest views were probably my favorite part. I’m in the trees a lot and never got to see the intricacies of the canopy like I did up there. The skyline across Angola was amazing with the morning sun shining on the buildings. It was one of the most serene moments I have experienced.
Then Dennis went to the radio to get clearance to land at Commons Park. He took us very low and then slowly made his way to the parking lot just outside the park and recreation office building. The descent was quick and we landed solidly in a parking spot. The landing was easy. I felt no anxiety when we found the floor. It was like jumping off the bottom step of a staircase; a fun little drop.
Dennis’ team met us in the parking lot and some park department staff, including Bobby Allshouse, came over to help get the ball back in the truck. I had my own chase vehicle, so to speak, when my boss, Mike Marturello, came to see the ball after we landed.
I want to thank everyone involved with Balloons Aloft for letting me experience a hot air balloon ride and Dennis Hall for taking me. It was a wonderful experience and I hope to do it again soon.