temecula balloon & wine festival 2012
Today marked my 5th year of attending the Early Bird Launch at our local balloon & wine festival. Instead of shooting the event from the ground as I had the previous four years, this year I booked a flight for myself and two friends, Myra and Debbie. Although apprehensive, my excitement won over any fear I had. I was comforted by the fact that our pilot, Doug, had 36 years of balloon experience under his belt, and is a regular participant of the famous Albuquerque balloon festival. The balloon lifted up gently and gracefully. I was hoping we'd take off over the lake for some fabulous balloon shots, but the heavy fog prevented that, and we had to move to a sunnier location. With the exception of the occasional whooshing of the burners, it was very quiet and peaceful . . . until the end! On our second tank of propane, Doug announced we needed to find a place to land quickly. There were no breezes at our elevation, so we had to do a "bomb drop" to get down, and we were soon approaching the sage-and-boulder-dotted landscape. At this point, the wind picked up and began to push the balloon and basket. Pre-flight we had been told that in case of emergency we were to bend our knees and brace ourselves against the basket. Little did we know, we'd be using those instructions. As we approached our landing, Doug called out, "We're going to hit that rock! Bend your knees and protect yourself!". We ended up grazing the rock, then bump, bump, bumped across the sage. The balloon's canopy pulled the basket and its passengers onto its side and into each other. The ground crew came and righted the balloon, pulling us to a better location, but the wind dumped us again. We all began laughing and ended up crawling out of the basket on our hands and knees, then celebrated the end of our trip with a glass of traditional champagne! Doug told us the history of champagne toasts and hot air ballooning, some of which can be found here: www.questacon.edu.au/indepth/ballooning/
This photo appeared in Angeleno magazine's July issue!
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