Massachusetts (cont'd)


So I opted to continue south, eying the GPS a bit nervously and adjusting my altitude try to keep myself from drifting out of the valley completely. Eventually, three or four miles from launch, my efforts were rewarded: the valley broadened out, and I was no longer on the very edge of it. I relaxed, happy to be headed for "Kansas".




I floated on, enjoying the view of the Pioneer Valley. I passed over the Deerfield River, which flows in from the west to join the Connecticut River south of Greenfield. I began following Interstate 91 to the south.




Several miles behind me, I could see most of the hot-air balloons landing. I continued south along the west side of the Interstate.



I talked to my crew on the radio. I was flying over a wooded area that ran along the west side of the highway. A couple of miles ahead, I could see an area of open fields extending off to the west, after which there were more woods to the south. I decided that I'd try to put down in the open area. I let my crew know.

When I was half a mile away, I dropped in a bit to prepare for my landing. For the past 15 minutes, the spit test had shown the lower winds angling away from the interstate, so I expected to move off to the west toward my intended landing spot. However, when I dropped in, I picked up speed and zigged over to the east side of the highway. Surprised, I called crew and told them that I was now looking at landing on the east side of the interstate. Up ahead I could see a large warehouse building, with the letters "YCI". I described this to crew, and they said they knew the place, and would be there in three minutes.


I continued south along the east side of interstate. I was moving along at a pretty good clip now, which is what always seems to happen when it's time to land. Along my track there was a good-sized farm field coming up, then a road coming off the interstate overpass crossing my track, and then a line of trees before the mysterious YCI building.

It looked like I could probably put down in the farm field, but I wanted crew there, and there was still no sign of them. I called on the radio, and was told that they were just a minute away. I dropped in to about 75 feet, hoping they'd come roaring up in the nick of time, but I couldn't see anyone on the road ahead, and I was running out of field, and about to plow into the line of trees


I dropped a lot of ballast, watching the chase vehicles whiz past below me on the road as I climbed steeply to just clear the treetops. Over the trees I glimpsed a broad lawn before the parking lot and the big warehouse building, and I immediately cut away balloons to arrest my climb and get me into a descent. I saw the crew vehicles pulling up on the driveway at the far end of the complex, and crew ran in to meet me. I tossed a drop-line, just as insurance,but my descent took me down perfectly onto that wonderful lawn.




As it turned out, "YCI" stands for "Yankee Candle, Incorporated" the company that owns the Yankee Candle Factory, a well-known maker of scented candles; the building I'd landed next to was their warehouse. A young security guard came out, and kindly looked the other way, security-policy-wise, as a number of people went up on tether before we put the balloons away.



We drove back to the college and had a small libation to celebrate the morning's events. Paul, as it turned out, had disregarded his own advice about staying in the valley that morning. He'd gone high, and went zipping off to the west deep into the woods. But he poked around a bit, down in a valley, and eventually he found a place to land. Things have a way of working out.



Celebration XLVIII

Crew Chief Committee: Tim and Linda Taylor; Gary and Carol Weed; Peter Kagey; Jeff and Christine Ratcliffe; and Bev and Al Theodore.

Chase Balloon: Peacock (Susan Sparks, Jim Ellis)

Special Thanks To: Green River Festival (Paul Sena, Balloonmeister); inflation crew volunteers; Merriam-Graves, Inc.

Photography: Bev Theodore, Clyde Kessel, Ron Thornton, Carol Thornton, Jim Ellis, Cindy Smith, John Ninomiya.


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