We do have the good fortune to meet some awesome people! You just need to travel slow and see instead of looking. We were passing through Mexican Hat the other day, you know, the $30 steak town (hope he never reads my Blog as… you will never believe this but offered me a job cooking 4 nights a week as I met him while he was crossing the street…), and I saw some balloon baskets behind a couple pick up trucks on some hydraulic ramps. Of course, a U turn, my favorite maneuver, and chat a bit. It is a yearly rogue event, ballooning at The Valley of the Gods. I have seen balloons fly but never up close and personal. The hitch is that they were meeting at 6am… I must be getting softer… it was cold leaving here at 5am to meet them! Only a 20 mile ride…
A nice group of people, another hobby discovered, a fairly simple operation but requiring a lot of friends on the ground! We met a few miles from Mexican Hat, some little balloons were let up to check the wind, not a good spot obviously as everyone got back in their vehicle and we drove into The Valley of the Gods half way through. Same scenario, again everyone back in and this time came back not too far from our starting point. This is when it was interesting witnessing how these giant balloons were going to take off.
First a big fan and many people holding the balloon to blow some cold air in it. Amazingly it did not take that long to fill it.
A few shots of liquid propane, lit, which felt really good on this cold morning, and slowly the balloon started standing up, not a one man operation, everyone around holding on to it… including myself! Spirit?… well, he was asleep in his sidecar!
You can tell that I am working real hard at this! When alone with Spirit we are the ones that make the day, it is not too often that we tag along with a group, but then it is the people that make our day when it happens and hopefully vice versa. From the first instant we met the balloonist that day we stopped in Mexican Hat, it was with open arms for us to join them. There was not an instant of "uncomfort", awkwardness as sometimes it will happen when within a crowd maybe with a different behavior as it is all within. Sometime I do think how this Journey would be without Spirit on my side. I have taken many trips in that fashion, I have to honestly admit that it was not the same. He does open up up door in people’s minds… curiosity… has become a people lover… I am a lucky guy!
With only three people per basket and for each balloon a few more on the ground, you have to have some mutual affinity to help each other for those few hours gliding over the Mesas and being somewhere up there unique to so few. With only the sound of their released propane they float catching the currents and for the first time I started wondering, maybe a bit more, desiring to be up there also. How incredible that should be…
The day was not the greatest one for pictures! I like clouds, darker blue skies and the couple pictures that you see with a white sky are only over exposed pictures! Mistakes in other words… and they turned out to be my favorites. Maybe there are no mistakes if that is the way the camera captures the images. They went up one at the time, mostly all on the same route. One balloon went up a bit higher than the others and started going the other way mostly catching a different current. The trucks were rolling back and forth in constant radio communication to finally find out were they were each going to land!
They each tried to land as close as possible near the road, and when it did not happen, can we call it the "captain", I think it should be "the pilot", with such grace releasing just a bit of flames to keep the balloon off the ground just a foot for all to help move it near the truck! Like a ballet just tilted a bit, step by step they all made it back.
Just beautiful, a great morning with much learning. They invited us to their tailgate party a bit further in The Valley of the Gods, but suddenly as we arrived with many tables covered with food the winds picked up ferociously. Everything was put away, they had to unfortunately throw some of it out, filled with sand, and they headed to Mexican Hat for more shelter. We came back to camp… an afternoon nap was more than welcomed for the both of us. Will try again to be here next year, just a great community as most even "thanked us" for being there!
We have been feeling pretty good lately. My disappointment in the weather patterns, well, not much we can do about it. Sunday topped it all by meeting KC and his soul mate Mia from the Expedition Forum, a real cool place to hang out. They had spend the night in The Valley of the Gods camping at my favorite spot! They live in Wyoming, not too far from Yellowstone and they will be my contact for that area. Great times… much talk… thanks for visiting us! Always nice to get as much information as possible from the locals. Stop and talk to them, ask them how they are doing… be genuinely interested of the area as you should be… they are the ones that will guide you better than any Tour Book you can buy!!!
With some sadness of course we will leave here Wednesday morning and will camp out in Needles for a while, the southern entrance of Canyonland. I have some GPS coordinate for good and free BLM camping. It will be then time to get back to Moab and see what is happening there. Eventually… Wyoming and Montana… I think we will come back through here in early September… catch up on what we have missed this time around.
You be well and stay well… Ara & Spirit
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Ara Gureghian 853 Vanderbilt Beach Rd #245 Naples, Fl 34108