North Carolina (cont'd)


It was a beautiful fall afternoon. I followed the hare balloon over some residential areas on the south end of Statesville.


Statesville is located in the Piedmont region, a plateau between the coastal plains and the Appalachian mountains. Beyond the airport, I could see some lines of hills rising up to the west.



North of me was the center of Statesville. To the south, the Catawba River flowed into Lake Norman.



The hare balloon stayed low and continued east. Since I wasn't competing, I decided it would be more fun to stay high and go south for a better look at Lake Norman, although I knew it was too close to sunset to try to fly over the lake.




After half an hour, I dropped down to about 500 feet and headed more east again toward the town of Troutman. To my north, the hare balloon had landed, and now all the rest of the balloons were trying to fly by his landing spot to throw markers for the competition.






My balloons took me southeast over woods on the outskirts of Troutman, and past a finger of Lake Norman. I crossed over I-77, passing the new Lowe's store at the south end of town.




The shadows were lengthening, and it was getting to be time for me to land. I passed over some residential areas, heading southeast. Gary and Carol were nearby in the vehicle, trying to get out ahead of me for landing.



Unfortunately, as I headed out further into the country, the roads were more or less random rather than any sort of grid, and crew were having trouble staying with me. So I descended to the treetops and started looking for a place to set down. After a time, I saw a small field, and released some balloons to drop in for a landing.

The lady who owned the land came out shortly, having been alerted to my arrival by a neighbor who had seen me flying in. She gave me the address and some direction, which I relayed by radio to my crew. They arrived a few minutes later.



We had time for crew to fly on tether before it got dark.



The owner of the property where I'd landed accepted a balloon as thanks. Then we drove back to Statesville airport, where hot-air balloonists who had seen me fly off to the south were telling everyone that I'd landed in a state park at Lake Norman and was paying fines to unfriendly rangers. Balloonists love a good story.



Celebration LIII

Crew Chiefs: Gary and Carol Weed

Principal Crew: Ben Burbridge, Jay Pharr

Special Thanks to: Carolina Balloon Fest (Executive Director: Marsha Treacy; Balloonmeister: Scott McClinton; Pilot Coordinator: Kristie Darling), inflation crew volunteers

Photography: Pat Tinkley (Wedding and event photography, Winston-Salem, NC,, Tony Moore (, Debbie Barr (Winston-Salem, NC), Carol Weed, John Ninomiya

Pat Tinkley


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