Up, Up, and Away For Mom's Big Birthday
April 18, 2011

A few years ago, my uncle turned 75 and decided to commemorate the occasion by jumping out of an airplane. When he asked his sister, who is not quite as adventurous as that but still a little competitive, what she would like to do to celebrate her 85th birthday this year, she replied that she wanted to ride in a hot air balloon.

Thinking that my mom would chicken out, arrangements were made anyway, and just after sunrise Saturday (6:30 A.M.) there we were, in a parking lot in Lancaster ready to go. Mom said she wouldn't do it unless I went along, and the balloon holds four passengers, so my cousin Korey also volunteered for the excursion. I, the youngest of the group, was the most nervous, but with two octogenarians there, couldn't possibly show it. Mom, who doesn't walk very well anymore and sometimes uses a cane, was more worried about getting in and out of the basket than the idea of soaring to over 2000 feet and not knowing which way the wind would take us.

It was a very calm morning, which is good for ballooning. Our pilot Don Kissack said he wouldn't fly if winds were more than five to ten miles an hour. But once we were in the air, it was amazing. You almost couldn't feel that you were moving, and it didn't take long before we were a thousand feet up. As long as I was holding onto the side of the basket I was okay. I felt a little anxious when I let go to take a picture, but after a short while I was even looking straight down. Mom, Uncle Marty, and Korey seemed quite comfortable, chatting with our pilot about all kinds of things.

You don't want a lot of wind at launch, but even once we got up, there was not much of a breeze. Because of that, we didn't travel very far, and about an hour after launch, touched down in a field. Don showed us part of an old brick wall, left over from the Jet Drive-In that was located there many years ago. We landed less than three miles away from the parking lot of the baseball stadium, which was our launch pad.

Don's wife Kamma drove the chase vehicle. The crew deflated the balloon, then drove us back to the ball park where we had a champagne toast, and a little nibble of food. We were also given certificates and lapel pins as momentos.

In all, a very short morning in terms of time (we were home by noon even after going out to breakfast afterwards), but a very memorable one. And it was all Mom's idea. Now, not only my mother, but my uncle, cousin, and I can say that we did something that not very many people have done. Happy Birthday Mom, and thank you for a great day!

Uncle Marty and Mom

The Antelope Valley from about 1000 feet

Back: Pilot Don Kissack, Geoff Flynn
Front: Martin Small, Carole Flynn, Korey Dudley

Mom in her victory chair

Top photo: Our balloon "Independence" inflated and ready to go.

Thanks to Don and Kamma Kissack and their crew. If you want to do this yourself, check them out at Fly Don's Early

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