Arkansas (cont'd)

 

Initially there was not much in the way of wind, but as I got up past a thousand feet, there was a wind to carry me northwest at 10 mph or so, which higher up shifted more straight to the north. The sun was coming in and out from behind a thin layer of clouds; the horizon was lost in the haze, but I had a good view of Hope as I drifted slowly across the town.

 

 

On the far side of town I floated past Wal-Mart, which probably edges out Bill Clinton for first place on the "famous things from Arkansas" list.

 

Off to my west, I had a hazy view of the 10,000 FEMA trailers at the Hope airport.

 

 

The countryside surrounding Hope was very green and beautiful.

 

 

 

I called Brian on the radio and asked him to check weather again. He said that nothing more had popped up on radar; the nearest rain was still 50 or 60 miles away, and just light stuff, green on the radar map. Relieved, I kicked my dangling feet and let my colorful balloon bouquet carry me on to the north.

 

 

 

I could see Brian and Travis (Hubert) pulled over at the side of the road.

 

 

After about an hour in the air, I was floating over some woods, heading north. To my east was a huge pasture; beyond that there seemed to be fewer fields and more trees. I decided it was time to land, and radioed my crew to try to get to the north side of the pasture. I ascended for a bit, where the wind direction was a bit more straight north to angle me out of the woods and into the adjoining fields. Once I was sure I was well into the pasture, I dropped in rapidly.

Crew rolled up on the north edge of the field, and jumped a gate to get in to where I was landing. That startled some cows, who began moving in my direction, making me wonder if I would be the first cluster balloonist to be killed in a stampede. But fortunately they rumbled past with a just few ominous moos, and I landed gently where my crew was waiting.

 

 

Crew walked me back to where my truck was parked. Pat, Hubert (Travis) and a number of others had the chance to do a little tethered cluster ballooning. Then, as the sun set and the mosquitos began biting, we put the equipment away in my truck, and Brian drove us back to Hope. Back at the park, the hot-air balloonists had just finished a balloon glow, illuminating their balloons with the burners for the crowd.

 

Hempstead County is a "dry" county, which in addition to making great deal of money for liquor stores located just the other side of the county line, also puts a damper on the balloonists' traditional post-flight champagne. However, back at the Super 8 motel, the balloonists were treated to a feast of Hope's finest watermelon. I believe in a place called Hope.

 

 

Banquet Room Mural, Western Sizzlin Steak House; Hope, Arkansas

 

Celebration XLVII

Crew Chief: Brian Shafer
Principal Crew: Travis (Hubert) Estes, Sarah Shafer, Greg Jackson

Special Thanks to: Balloons of Hope/Sentimental Journey to the Southwestern Proving Grounds (Pat Rhoads); Airgas Midsouth, Hope AR.

Photography: Becky Marx, Alan Lawson, Pat Rhoads, John Ninomiya

 

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