In the early morning….
A couple Sunday’s ago, Jason had the opportunity to take his first hot air balloon ride. We got up super early to get ready and head to the meet site of by 4:45am; still perfectly dark outside in Las Vegas. Vegas Balloon Rides shuttled us out to the west side of town to an open lot where they had everyone help get the balloons ready. The stars were just starting to wink out as the eastern sky began to light up as we arrived.
Before lifting off, they sent up a helium balloon with a blinky-light to check the wind and then got set to deploy. They had three balloons going up simultaneously, and we all helped unroll the envelope, before we could turn on the big fans to fill them with hotair. I got to hold the side open while the huge fans fluttered the fabric open. Nothing quite like staring into the insides of the balloon with the brilliant pink clouds in the early morning sunlight! Once they got the burners firing it didn’t take long to get it upright and load all of us into the basket. A couple more strong firings and we were up, up and away!
Our pilot was a Canadian named JT who balloons on his days off from flying airplanes for Sky West
I was absolutely shocked at how smooth and steady the ride was, you could hardly tell we were moving. And when the burners weren’t firing, it was so quiet, not even that traffic at 7am on a Sunday morning in West Las Vegas could be heard. The winds were pretty still that morning, so we just toodled around the area we lifted off from, that’s the funny thing about hot air balloons, no steering! You are at the mercy of the winds, only really able to go up or down to catch different winds at different levels.
It seems like the perfect platform for photographers, still and steady with great expansive views. We could see the sun rise over the mountains and over the Strip in the early morning haze. We could see Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Land (NCL), the light tipping the mountains pink and orange in the early morning light with the balloons providing a fun contrast to the jagged rocks.
A short hour later we were back on the ground in another empty lot on the opposite side of the highway, maybe only a mile from where we took off, and helped to deflate and roll up the envelope. They close out the ride with a champagne toast and a ride back to base.
The creation of the hot air balloon dates back to the 1700s, and the first flight occurred in 1783 in France. In 18th century France, people in the rural areas often had little contact and connection to what was going on in the city. Imagine you’re a peasant working in the fields and all of the sudden you see this thing floating through the air with fire coming out of it. Is it an attacker? For peasants who hadn’t heard of hot air ballooning, the sight of a balloon falling from the sky often frightened them; especially when they saw the pilot’s face covered in black from ash from the fire keeping the balloon aloft. To avoid being attacked by the people who’s fields they landed in, hot air balloon pilots carried champagne or wine with them as a way to let onlookers know they were human and to thank them for allowing them to land safely in their field.
Pictured above: “Fired Up” by ArgoShots by Jason