Join Waukesha resident Brien Lee and his blog, Sir Fido, as they explore the city and report on the interesting things they find.
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The Wisconsin Balloon Group's annual picnic was Saturday afternoon, and I was invited.
I crewed for one of five balloons launching from a driving range in Richfield that morning. I enjoyed it a lot because the weather was great, if cool, and colors are spectacular this time of year, even for crew members. I was very pleasantly surprised to see a familiar couple there for a ride.
Last week we got our balloon set up in Monches with passengers in basket ready to launch when we discovered an issue with the equipment. I felt sorry for the passengers because we scrubbed a flight they probably had been looking forward to for quite a while. Everything was perfect about the morning; fall colors, weather, good crew. Unfortunately, I knew, they probably wouldn't be going up until next year - long after these fall colors had faded from memory.
That's why I was so thrilled to see the couple again so soon. Not only did they get to still see the colors, the weather still great, but launching with four other balloons made it even more interesting. They also were closer to home in Richfield and saw many more familiar sights than they would have in Monches.
Many pilots brought their balloons to the picnic for a possible evening launch. Jim from Janesville was there with Yellow Fever, and we talked about my very first flight two years ago with him. He mentioned his difficulty finding good crew after a couple of them shipped off to Iraq. He also bemoaned losing his GM job at the end of this year.
After filling up on roast pork I was invited to take a ride on Free Spirit, Rod's balloon. It would be my first ride this year and third over all. I jumped at the chance. The colors would look great with my new camera.
The pre-launch was rather breezy and we bounced around even with several additional people holding the basket down. We took a bucket of golf balls with us for a ball drop contest and hoped no one on the ground would get hit with either the balls or the empty bucket. The ball drop was a Team Challenge to help raise funds to find a cure for ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. The winner of the contest would get a balloon ride. A fellow crew member has Crohn's disease and was terribly ill before a treatment was found for her. Doing much better now, she is now training to be a pilot herself and shared this ride with Rod and myself.
It's a smaller world from a balloon. I didn't want to go to the picnic in Jackson if I had to drive, yet one of the first things I saw from the air was the Milwaukee skyline. A different perspective. Crossing Big Cedar Lake as if a pond. Hearing people yell but almost too small to see. We were the envy of the birds.
Of the five balloons to launch we were probably the last to land, in an alfalfa field. Still a little breezy, we had a good hit and rode the basket like a wild fair ride as it skipped across the field. Today our chase crew, and my camera, had a decent work out.