[balloon-makers] Sunday morning in Northern Maine

Mike & Tammie skyfun at ncia.net
Mon Feb 25 06:02:29 CST 2002


Three balloons showed up for the Great Northern, sorta annual, un-sponsored,
unadvertised, mid-winter, pay your own way, word of mouth, just show up,
Maine balloon festival. One balloon and its owner lives there, one used to,
and for us, we just like flying there.
We arrived in Washburn Maine Friday evening after driving 350 miles. Quite a
way to go just to fly, but accommodations are good at Tammie's moms house.

Saturday AM was marginal as far as the wind went, but the snow showers and
one mile visibility sent us all to breakfast without a second thought. We
swapped lies during the day, hoping for a PM flight but noooooo. No more
snow but, very gusty wind.

Sunday morning weather showed just above 0F for temp. Caribou calm, Presque
Isle calm, visibility +70 miles, ceiling blue. VAD winds from the NW at
10kts between 1000 and 2000 and nothing else.
I called Brian (used to live there) who was staying at Dena's (does live
there) and we decided on meeting at the Woodland schoolyard. Tammie and I
had our basket unloaded when the others arrived. Brian with Jim Rogers (of
New Brunswick I.B.S.) for crew, Dena had Bill and her brother Jeff. Seven
people, three balloons.... perfect, we have one body left over to drive. We
took our time setting up, helping each other stretch out the envelopes. Our
fan will not stay put on pavement so we borrowed a spectator and his son for
help. Dad held the fan and junior helped me hold the mouth. Once Fugly is
half inflated the mouth stays open by itself so I moved junior back behind
dad. Soon there were three balloons standing in the yard. Make that three
homebuilt balloons standing in the yard.

Tammie and I took off first at 8:15 followed in minutes by Brian & Jim  and
Dena & Jeff. We hope the photos do the scene justice. Our shadow on the snow
with Brian and Dena's balloons lifting off the yard lit by the morning
sun...... what a sight.
Steerage was good for the first hour with about 60 degrees to choose from.
We kept leapfrogging with Brian & Jim until we came to a frozen bog in the
woods. We hung out over the same patch of woods for about 30 minutes
watching the moose. Some were having breakfast in the woods and some playing
in the snowfield. We also got to scare up three or four rabbits and laughed
as they ran down their trails.
1:20 minutes into the flight we ran our first tank out. A while thereafter
Brian called on the radio that he was going to land near the next road. He
landed near the road and called us to ask whether Dena was still flying
since the chase truck was following her. We told him that she had landed but
the balloon was still standing and did he want us to get him a ride back to
get his truck. We err ah radioed Tammie's mom and she came out and gave
Brian & Jim a ride back to the school to get their truck and ours too. We
hung out at 1500 feet about a mile away and watched to make sure no one on
the ground stole Brian balloon while they were gone. We stayed in that same
spot for over 45 minutes watching the snow machines go zipping past below us
and the powered parachute on skis flying the country side. Both the other
balloons were now packed and in trucks and our truck had been brought to us
so it was time to land.
Just as we were landing a snow-mobiler came by who turned out to be a friend
of ours from the area. I asked him if wanted a short flight and he climbed
right in. We left the empty tank with Tammie and took off for a five-minute
flight across the road and back like we had been doing. Wrong. Out over the
woods we went, I radioed Tammie to tell the other goodbye and told her she
might just as well follow us to Washburn. We flew over a Christmas tree farm
and could feel some light thermals coming off the dark trees. We climbed and
flew past the area and landed in a snowfield behind Crab Umphreys house at
11:50.  Three and a half hours on two and a half tanks...  longest
(duration) flight I have made so far. Who said winters aren't fun?
Butch and I started packing the balloon while waiting for Tammie to put on
her snowshoes and pulled the toboggan out to us. You could stand on the snow
crust but every third or fourth step you would break through to your knees.
By 1:00 pm we were having breakfast at Tammie moms getting ready for the
loooong drive home.

Hope everyone else had as much fun as us this weekend!

Mike Lavoie, enjoying the winter.


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