Kentucky (Cont'd)

 

 

 

I kicked my feet, relieved to be done with the inflation and on my way. The sounds of the balloon festival faded as the wind took me East across the southern part of Maysville. My speed rose as the balloons took me higher, until I was travelling at about 15 mph. The temperature dropped a few degrees as I rose, which was also welcome.

 

 

 

 

For the first ten minutes of the flight, a toy balloon drifted along with me, evidently released back at the college at about the same time I launched. It kept me company, floating about 100 feet away, until I slowed my ascent and watched it climb past.

 

 

As my balloons pulled me higher, I had a wonderful view of Maysville. I could see the Simon Kenton Bridge into downtown Maysville, and the William Harsha Bridge farther west. Climbing higher, I could also see the southern part of Maysville, the green, rolling hills of the surrounding countryside, and the gentle windings of the Ohio River.

 

 

 

 

Near the ground, my track was just north of East, which presented some risk of cross the river. To make things simpler for Phil, Debbie, Brad and the local crew volunteers following me, I stayed at about 2000 feet, where the wind took me to the southeast, where the map showed a good number of roads on which they could follow me.

 

 

I passed over a landfill, and more farms.

 

 

Back at the college, the hot-air balloons had started to launch, but from where I was, I could only barely make out distant specks.

 

 

The countryside was very beautiful -- not the big money thoroughbred farms and the related pretensions which the state seems to idolize, but real working countryside of a more modest and authentic kind. It was easy to understand why early settlers would follow the Buffalo Trace to settle here in this green and gently curving land.

 

 

 

After almost an hour in the air, I had left Mason County and was over Lewis County. This was off the edge of the map that the race organizers had provided, and none of our local crew knew any of the roads. Up ahead, the farms and rolling hills continued for a while, then gave way to larger hills and more woods. Although I still had some daylight remaining, I decided it would be a good time to land.

 

I radioed Phil and Debbie my intentions, and released a few balloons to start my descent. I gradually slowed from the 15 mph I'd been maintaining most of the flight to 5 - 10 mph a few hundred feet over the trees.

 

 

I could see my truck following me along a road running parallel to my track, a bit to the south. I had crew get out ahead of me, then turn onto a road running up to a church and a farmhouse that would intersect my path.

I dropped down low, passing over a small pond, crossing a line of trees, and landing gently in an alfalfa field where my crew was waiting.

 

 

 

 

The landowner and her sons came out of her house to hello, although the boys quickly became bored and went back into the house to watch High School Musical II, which was premiering on TV that evening. With the landowner's permission, we spent some time letting the crew go up on tether before putting the equipment away.

 

 

So, that was how I came to be the first balloonist to launch at the inaugural Buffalo Trace Balloon Race in Maysville, Kentucky. The event was a great hit with the community, and raised money for CASA, a child advocacy service. From a ballooning perspective, very few first-year events can boast hosting well over 100 balloons -- even if 90 of them were all lifting just one person.

As Rosemary Clooney might have sung:

"Come on-a Maysville, Maysville, I'm gonna give you Buffalo,

"Come on-a Maysville, Maysville, I'm gonna give you Cluster Balloon."

 

Celebration L

Crew Chiefs: Phil and Debbie Rutan

Special Thanks to: Buffalo Trace Balloon Race (Pam McGlone, Billie Barbour; Mike Wade, balloonmeister); Buffalo Trace Balloon Race inflation volunteers; Maysville Ledger Independent

Principal Crew: Brad Rutan, Gerald Woods, Joey Gallenstein, Zandy Stewart, Tommy Prince and Lon Schnauffer.

Photography: Phil Rutan, Lon Schnauffer, Chris Breeze, Tina Baker, Billie Barbour, Brad Rutan, John Ninomiya

Video: Robert Roe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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