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June 12, 1976 - Image 6

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Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1976-06-12

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Page Six

-THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Saturday, June 12, 1976

Hot ai baloons; A heal

:

By SUSAN ADES

P eRA1UTES, hang-gliders, sailplanes,
kitcr - In my loftier moments I fan-
cied' ntvef wingrek across the country-
side su'-nnded from one of those exotic
aerial creatures More often though I
kissed the ground cnd cherished the secur-
ity of knwing I'ci never have the means
te live out the drem. Yet, one day oppor-
timity id knock gad I soon found myself
bcneth a billowmg balloon which from
lONft feyl cast its majestic shadow over
a ratc;%«-)rk of midwestern farms and
fieW. itllooning, I discovered, was than
jus' a way to get -om the land of Oz back
to Kansas - ilo-ethy never knew what
she was missing.
Still, I couldn't blame her if she lost
inx' desire to soar through the air after
jeeing the wirarCs balloon wisked into
th( :-nitltuous winds of the upper strato-
sptfhre , before scores of screaming munch-
T- ea-r my fretful mind the day of my
er't ad' enture I searched for the truth
ti-n' blloon'ng ir the written word. Per-
us n' book on the history of the sport,
I only found iti e:ed with gruesome tales
of pioneers turned human meteors as they
t'lned to eat' solo . . . their balloons
lef+ hrm- on cloud somewhere.
J'ff V-'nilsteit the person who was go-
,g to Ahw me te world from this new
lterspctive, had sen flying balloons for
ne Sears an dcding the gripping elev-
enth hor belre flight time I tried to
remitd myself of just that. But the mem-
ory that he, a foriter aerobatics pilot, had
also set the world altitude record in bal-
laoricg onr wei1 before, by skimming the

he'sscns at 41,000 feet, was not the com-
fort I was searching for. For all I knew he
raw noting but a thrill-crazed zombie
with no particular attachments to such
as hy delights as being alive.
T1AT THUPSDAY AFTERNOON, ironic-
ally, was a great day to be alive. The
vind was so soft a leaf couldn't ride on it
and the sky was clear and inviting. All
the odds were :n my favor. -
No ninchkin entourage was at Hudson
Mills Park to see me off and no flying
i;onkeys were on hand to prepare the bal-
loan for takeoff. Instead about seven en-
thusiasts inclu"-isg Jeff, my photographer
friend Steve and iayself lent our muscle-
poite:r to-the inflation effort.
The propane burners spat flames into the
li-ip green and vellow nylon sac and the
bdltooin began to mushroom into the sky.
As the lot air breathed more and more
;i.- into the monster it became harder to
cntrol, rbich is where I came in handy.
i 'as relegated to the tug-of-war post
-sheg with three W'her volunteers, my job
thg 5" help direct the balloon into its
unright position I was just beginning to
feel the power of this heaven-destined
creatiire.
iutt it was not yet my turn to be swept
aw y by chis 'a.s of upward force. Two
14-year girls were first in line - friends of
eff who were getting the $100 balloon ride
free as a sort oh driayed Christmas gift. (I
dohddered when I was informed that the
bulk of the price goes for insurance. So I
stayed behind to witness the first great up-
isig from the ground floor. The balloon
,td off effortlessly as though it were a
roere soap bubble, the brilliant sphere

shrinking gradually against the sky as it
climbed.
OPPiNG INTO THE CAR, Steve and
I were off to "track" the balloon from
helow - a task reminiscent of trying to
catch a falling leaf. The balloon has little
mied of its own and is ruled tyranically by
the wind. Knowing no paved byways, it
sailed across fields, lawns and marshlands.
Our temptation was to graze along direct-
ly -Iow, bulldozieg the car through alfalfa
fields and rose-dotted gardens, we took to
the roads nonetheless in an effort to keep
a step ahead o' the balloon.
I.ike a rotund inanimate pied-piper, the
craft :-tracted a string of followers be-
Imv, some afoot, some astride bikes, but
most by car. The scene was replete with
born-honking, waving policemen and un-
forgettable expressions.
"One time in ny ballooning career,"
says Jeff who us used to being part of the
sper tacle, "I watched a guy (his car)
smasa right into the back of another guy.
One was stopped in the middle of the road
- it was a dirt road out in the county -
with his head ,ticrkig out the window like
this," he craned his neck out striking a
giraffe-lke pose, "and blam!l!" Jeff
macked his hands together for effect, "the
other guy who was looking, but was not
stopped, went smacko right into him."
Gallons of gas later, the balloon began
its descent into a bristling field of corn-
hsrk stumps. Abadoning the car at the
side of the road, Steve and I high-stepped
it thrugl to the balloon at a healthy trot.
We arrive on the spot just in time to act
as human anmhors to prevent'the balloon
frmm whi'nsicaity casting off towards the
clouds again.
IT WAS MY TURN.
ttefore I could itter my last prayers a
ielmet was placed on my head and I
climbed into the 4 by 5 wicker basket. My
eyes fixed upward to the cavernous inside
of the oalloon, 1 hardly noticed we'd left
the ground. I searched my emotions for a
trace of fear but found only exhilaration
as i watched n awe the ground fall out
from underneath roy feet.
Not a whisp of wind brushed my face,
not a tilt of the basket could be felt. This
was not the roller coaster ride I'd antici-
pated, not even the elevator ride designed
to transplant my stomach into my throat.
This was as tranquil as I'd imagined a trip
to heaven would be like as a child. This
was being on cloud nine.
I leaned over the side of the basket
and marveled at the world while Jeff ex-
plained the mechanics behind this peace-
ful ride. "The serenity is the great part of
it. You see, the balloon is moving in the
great mass of air, it can't go any faster
or slower than the air goes . . . conse-
quently we're always in the calm and the
little breeze you feel is the change in the
direction in the wind.".
SINCE THE ONLY power a pilot has over
the craft is in his ability to order it
up or down, Jeff and I shared the basket
with three propane tanks and an array of
temperature and altitude monitoring de-
siees which fascinated me though not
enough to distrct my attention for long
from the fantasy unfolding b helow. The
propane feeds the flame which keeps the
air inside the balloon sufficiently hotter
than the air outside in order to keep the
balloon rising. The release of fuel into the
brner is followed by a jetstream of fire
that roars so l1ud it can be heard for
miles around and in the dark illuminates
te balloon so it resembles a giant light-
bulb. Between blasts, Jeff talked about his
love affair with His sky-creature.
"Flying a balloon across a field like
that," Jeff said, scanning the surroundings
in n half-moon sweep of his helmeted head,
"everything's a challenge - to control it,
make it do what you want to do . . . get
is down to four or five feet above the sur-

face of the trees . - -" Coicis
chimp c'f elms reached up and bru
outtem of the basket at that very
snagging our soth motion te
Suddenly Jeff s face grew pens
hi eyes searched the terrain, ",Ir
seen it before," he exclaimed pot
a marshland brimming with wild
and exotic bird calls. "And its j
to get down into these places wb
body can get 1s-n and look, justs I
the voice trailed off as we spt
ducks in a pond below.
When we got to a height of aro
feet, Jeff assumad the role of a to
a-d as he pivoted slowly around
basket, I followed suit. He pointed
Ann Arbor Burton Tower and the
ing homesteads of Pinckney, Chel
Den-ter, all from one vantage pin
AFTER A HALF-HOUR of floati
the landscape, Jeff spotted a
site he couldn't resist - a small
larger than the diag and certainly
nizrre a choice. I thought he was
bit when he begar to maneuer '
tion I couldn't retrain myself fI
in, "Are you serious?"
"Sure I am," he replied with
gar, "We're going to get our
.. hw's that?"
"Iine." I lied not savoring the
of swimming aslnoee. To my extr
sre Jeff missed the mark bya
ret'rs and so we were off up i
anain
Tie blond-ha red, mustachioel
turer has had successful aquati
do-ns before, mae the time he n
balloon between the banks of t
River creating a traffic jam of
on a cross-bridge as far as the
see. Brt Jeff s first balloons
more tragic fate. "The thing a
Moby Dick and it landed up on
tom of tile Rum River," he lau
plaining that was in his former he
-linnesota.
CUTTING TOGE tHER his best
ei tone, Jeff told the story of his
l]ton encounter. "I was reading th
s ction in a Minneapolis paper
he began, "and advertised in it
air balloon for sale. Well this w
and there was no ,hot-air balloo'
on then . . . as far as the sport
cerned there was none. I don't
I just called and it was for sale
backs which was really cheap
The
Saturd
-Magaz
was cheap, it was oa-a-a-d news
letting the "bad ' drag until itr
ears.
"It didn't have any of the fa
ment like I've got 'ow," he
equipment being defined not onil
of 21st century gadgets but by
weight vehicle as well. By Jeff
the Moby Dick must have res
whale more than a balloon. It w
heavv - duty army surplus fa
tire truck burros of cast iro
"We never flew that thing
Jeff assured me, " was alwayt
death of it."
More recently however Jeff

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