Barry Ginter: That was me up there in the balloon | NevadaAppeal.com
YOUR AD HERE »

Barry Ginter: That was me up there in the balloon

http://affiliates.mycapture.com/event.asp?eventid=611437&page=2

There’s a good chance you looked at me in wonderment on Wednesday morning and didn’t even realize it.

I was in a hot air balloon drifting over south Carson City, looking down at the hundreds of commuters worrying about their reports, deadlines and time cards. As I leaned over the edge of the basket in the morning sunshine and looked down at them, I wondered out loud how many of them were looking back at me.

Plenty, wagered pilot Aaron Dieringer, of Reno. “I don’t know how many thousands of pictures I’ve been in,” he said of the 500 hours he’s logged as a balloonist.

“Cool,” said I, a veteran of 0.25 hours of ballooning.

I’m not sure exactly why Stephen Lincoln, a RE/MAX Realtor, invited me as one of the two passengers on the hour-long ride, but I didn’t give him a chance to change his mind, showing up at the launch site (the RE/MAX parking lot) 15 minutes early. RE/MAX balloons all over the globe (more than 100 in all) were flying that morning to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the company’s first balloon flight.

The other passenger in the balloon that morning, Jeanne Rhoades, was also a rookie enjoying the beauty of the valley around us. She had a knack for asking poignant questions that balloon pilots probably hear over and over again, yet that proved especially … thought-provoking … to her fellow rookie. Questions like, shortly before takeoff, “Are we going to have bird problems?,” and the one right after we lifted off, “are you close to the front of that building?”

Aaron reassured us we had nothing to worry about from either hazard, and we drifted up and away at a speed of approximately 1 mph. He could have effectively stopped there with his efforts to inspire confidence in his passengers, but proceeded to tell the story about his fear of heights, how he’s terrified when he climbs a ladder.

But there truly were no worries. Not even when I leaned over and looked straight down to the ground, realizing I was standing in a basket not unlike those often used by housewives to hold potpourri, and not when I looked up at the 300 pounds of thin nylon holding us aloft.

“Today is actually about as ideal as you can get for ballooning,” he said, and I nodded in agreement.

Aaron answered all of our questions patiently. He told us how, several years ago during Nevada Day, balloonists had a little unscheduled fun by flying above the capitol, leaning over to touch the flag mast. It was not a wise decision, considering it was less than two months after the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Reportedly, some nervous capitol police below had guns drawn.

“We had the capitol police ask us not to do that,” said Aaron (who was not among the pilots that day).

If anyone has a picture of that, by the way, I’d love to see it.

The balloon drifted eastward over Carson as we talked, and Dieringer began to test the air currents at different elevations and scanned the landscape for places to land. The most obvious one, the one where the air currents seemed to want us to land, was problematic.

“The biggest issue I have is the prison,” Aaron said, referring to the sprawling complex below. While his voice didn’t betray any anxiety, I wondered how that situation would play out. I remembered a scene in a movie where a prisoner escaped in a hot air balloon piloted by accomplices outside the prison (later confirmed as Lex Luthor escaping in a scene from Superman II).

I was certain it was a movie that the prison guards down there, probably leaning on high powered rifles in their watch towers, had seen. Maybe more than once (and who knows, maybe they said to themselves as they watched, “I’ll never let that happen at my prison.”)

I happened to talk to Greg smith, a prison spokesman, later in the week on a different subject, and posed the scenario to him … what would a guard do if a balloon touched down in the yard?

“Clearly, we’d go into an alert status,” he said. “We’d secure the balloonist.”

But this crisis existed only in my head. Aaron deftly lifted the balloon to greener pastures, in this case Edmonds Sports Complex, where the landing was soft and the conversation friendly. There was even a sip of champagne, a tradition for first-time balloonists.

I thanked Stephen profusely for the invitation before turning my truck into the commuter traffic and driving back to the reports, deadlines and time cards that awaited me at the office, smiling all the way.

If you ever have an invitation to ride in a balloon, you should not let the opportunity escape. At least one chance will be just before the start of the Nevada Day Parade on Carson Street on Nov. 1. There will be 15 balloons, led by the RE/MAX balloon, to get the day off to a memorable start, and you will be able to purchase rides. Watch for more details in the Nevada Appeal.

Just don’t expect to get anywhere near the state capitol.

Barry Ginter is editor of the Appeal. You can reach him at 881-1221, or via e-mail at bginter@nevadaappeal.com. If you’d like to see photographs of his balloon trip, visit nevadaappeal.com. Just click on “Opinion,” and then this story under “columns.” You’ll find a link to the photos at the bottom of the column.

But there truly were no worries. Not even when I leaned over and looked straight down to the ground, realizing I was standing in a basket not unlike those often used by housewives to hold potpourri, and not when I looked up at the 300 pounds of thin nylon holding us aloft.

“Today is actually about as ideal as you can get for ballooning,” he said, and I nodded in agreement.

Aaron answered all of our questions patiently. He told us how, several years ago during Nevada Day, balloonists had a little unscheduled fun by flying above the capitol, leaning over to touch the flag mast. It was not a wise decision, considering it was less than two months after the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Reportedly, some nervous capitol police below had guns drawn.

“We had the capitol police ask us not to do that,” said Aaron (who was not among the pilots that day).

If anyone has a picture of that, by the way, I’d love to see it.

The balloon drifted eastward over Carson as we talked, and Dieringer began to test the air currents at different elevations and scanned the landscape for places to land. The most obvious one, the one where the air currents seemed to want us to land, was problematic.

“The biggest issue I have is the prison,” Aaron said, referring to the sprawling complex below. While his voice didn’t betray any anxiety, I wondered how that situation would play out. I remembered a scene in a movie where a prisoner escaped in a hot air balloon piloted by accomplices outside the prison (later confirmed as Lex Luthor escaping in a scene from Superman II).

I was certain it was a movie that the prison guards down there, probably leaning on high powered rifles in their watch towers, had seen. Maybe more than once (and who knows, maybe they said to themselves as they watched, “I’ll never let that happen at my prison.”)

I happened to talk to Greg smith, a prison spokesman, later in the week on a different subject, and posed the scenario to him … what would a guard do if a balloon touched down in the yard?

“Clearly, we’d go into an alert status,” he said. “We’d secure the balloonist.”

But this crisis existed only in my head. Aaron deftly lifted the balloon to greener pastures, in this case Edmonds Sports Complex, where the landing was soft and the conversation friendly. There was even a sip of champagne, a tradition for first-time balloonists.

I thanked Stephen profusely for the invitation before turning my truck into the commuter traffic and driving back to the reports, deadlines and time cards that awaited me at the office, smiling all the way.

If you ever have an invitation to ride in a balloon, you should not let the opportunity escape. At least one chance will be just before the start of the Nevada Day Parade on Carson Street on Nov. 1. There will be 15 balloons, led by the RE/MAX balloon, to get the day off to a memorable start, and you will be able to purchase rides. Watch for more details in the Nevada Appeal.

Just don’t expect to get anywhere near the state capitol.

Barry Ginter is editor of the Appeal. You can reach him at 881-1221, or via e-mail at bginter@nevadaappeal.com. If you’d like to see photographs of his balloon trip, visit nevadaappeal.com. Just click on “Opinion,” and then this story under “columns.” You’ll find a link to the photos at the bottom of the column.

http://affiliates.mycapture.com/event.asp?eventid=611437&page=2