A balloon ride to the heavens

Floating up into the heavens above signifies something most of us only hope for once we meet our maker. However, I floated up into the great big blue and I'm here to gloat about it.

The hours preceding a flight are always a bit nerve wrecking…will the balloons go up today is always the question du jour. Is it too windy, too hot and will it rain are among some of the questions the officials must consider before the 112 plus balloons get inflated with propane and lift off. The safety of the participants and the balloons are at all times paramount and that is why there has never been any serious incidents at The St-Jean-sur-Richelieu International Balloon Festival.

Finally, shortly after 7 pm the officials gave the event the green light and all of the crews began inflating their balloons; within 15 minutes most of the balloons were fully inflated. I flew in one of eight identical yellow, white and red balloons. These balloons are owned by the festival. The balloon I flew in was named after the pilot's initials (DD Balloon). We flew for more than an hour with Daniel Davignon at the helm; more about Daniel in tomorrow's article.

Soaring up into the great big blue in a hot air balloon is unlike any high I have ever experienced. Yes, I've flown in gliders, helicopters and various airplanes, non of these flying machines compare to the lift you get from a hot air balloon. The land below looks so astounding from above. Your view is not limited to a scratched up window (like any jet); instead your vision is completely unobstructed, a 360 degree panoramic view.

Some of the fields looked parched from a lack of rain late this year, from a distance Montreal looked engulfed in a bowl of dust or probably pollution. Watching the distant mountains, the herds of elk and cows that were glaring back at us and all of the other balloons was simply awe-inspiring.

Even though the flight only lasted about an hour, the time flew by. My perception of time had somehow become skewed or slowed down while I was observing vistas of heaven from a few thousand feet above the horizon.

Don't wait until you pass away to float up into the heavens above. Photos and personal affirmations will never express the majestic grandeur of a flight in a hot air balloon. Sunday's flight was my sixth flight and I can't wait to do it all over again.

Tomorrow, get to know balloon pilot Daniel Davignon and his family.

St-Jean-sur-Richelieu International Balloon Festival
August 12-20, 2006

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