Vermont: July 2017: Day 4

20 07 2017

Woken up super early this morning with a phone call asking where we were. Seems our hot air balloon ride is RIGHT NOW! We got dressed and out the door in super quick time, driving to the launch site, which fortunately was less than 5 minutes away (normally up to 30 mins away).

We stood by as they prepared the basket and balloon for flight, then it was time four adults and the pilot to get into what seemed to be a TINY basket! (the basket is meant to hold 6, and surprisingly, we weren’t crammed in, as we expected to be just looking at it from outside). Once the balloon was mostly inflated (using huge fans), the gas burners were started to finish off the inflation, and it was time for us to get into the basket.

Next thing we knew we were off the ground! It was so seamless and unobtrusive, it was hard to believe we were on our way. Up and over the trees and buildings in front of the launch site, and then into the sunrise over Mallett’s Bay in Lake Champlain. Wow! What an experience. Except for the occasional blast of the burners, it was SOOO quiet and peaceful. No noise, no sudden movements, no motion sickness inducing moving or swaying, no sense of ‘fear of heights’, no apparent wind. I don’t do most fair rides — the carousel and perhaps a ferris wheel are my limits — and I have a fear of heights, so I was unsure how I’d cope with a balloon ride. I coped super well and enjoyed every moment, even when the pilot skimmed the lake wetting our feet, and skimmed some trees, allowing us to grab some leaves — these were very deliberate actions by him, and were well controlled, even though both made me feel a little uneasy at the time.

We headed out over Lake Champlain, getting a unique perspective of this magnificent water feature in Vermont, eventually reaching a maximum 4800 ft altitude, then heading over land, seeing farmland, forests, roads etc. and the planes taking off from Burlington International Airport in the distance (yes, the pilot radioed in his position to air traffic control!). It was a perfect day for it — clear skies, calm lake waters, rich green landscapes, etc.

 

After an hour, we’d travelled some 10 miles, and it was time to land. But where to land? The company has permission to launch and land at several sites, but today the winds took us away from those, so we found a prospective field next to a house and headed towards it. The owner had spotted us (heard the burners?) and came out and was taking photos of us. Jeff, the pilot, yelled out asking if we could land in the field. He said yes, and in we came. We were told to bend our knees and to expect two or three small bounces. We got none of that — you could hardly feel the landing at all!

After getting out of the basket, it was time for the support crew to deflate and pack up the balloon, while Jeff talked to the home owner and set up for the after-flight food and champagne. The home owner had to go off to work, so Jeff left a bottle of champers for him — seems it’s a tradition going back a couple of hundred years.

And then it was all over. We got into the support vehicle and were driven back to the meeting point where we paid for the trip, exchanged photos via phone, and  said our goodbyes. Wow — what a fabulous experience, one I’ll never forget. I highly recommend doing this — I have a fear of heights, I get motion sick, and I don’t do rides, but I could do this. I enjoyed every moment of it.

(I took heaps of photos, all of which [except for the people photos] are here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rhondamadeit/albums/72157686470421115)

So, what do you do for the rest of the day when it’s now only 8:30 am and you’ve been up experiencing Vermont as you never thought you would? You start by having home-cooked pancakes with Vermont maple syrup, of course!

Later in the day we took the boat into Burlington (about 30 mins), had a long lunch at Spot on the Dock (the place with the wonderful jalapeno-infused margaritas!), then headed back home. A quick dip in the lake (it was a hot and humid day), then it was off to share a taco meal with some of the other summer residents in this ‘family compound’, before being eaten alive by mosquitoes, and heading back to our cottage for an early night.

Our red ski boat

Our red ski boat

I slept like a log!


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One response

21 07 2017
treadlemusic

Wow! What an adventure and those pancakes sure do look awesome!!!!!

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