South Dakota




After about an hour in the air, I decided it was time to start thinking about landing. I released a few balloons and started down.



As I dropped in, my track swung more to the south, and I sent Larry and Steve in the chase truck out ahead of me in that direction. I passed to the east of a small town. Larry reported that the wind was still calm on the ground. At 1000 feet I was still doing aout 20 mph, but that dropped slowly as I desended, to about 15 mph at 500 feet, and then down under ten at 200 feet.



The crew were south of me, on a north-south dirt road a short distance to my west; Larry warned me there was a creek along the east side of the road, but luckily there was enough west in my track so that I'd angle across the road by the time I reached them. I leveled out at about 50 feet, enough to clear some powerlines up ahead, and pulled down a balloon to cut away for my final descent.



I cleared the power lines, and when I was sure that I would angle across the creek, I cut away the final balloon. I dropped in at about 25 feet over the road where crew were waiting. Rather than make them run into the field beyond, I tossed down a drop line and let Larry pull me down onto the road.




Some farmers from the neighboring farms came out, and told me I was in Iowa. I'd crossed over into Minnesota about 12 miles east of Sioux Falls, and then had crossed south into Iowa just before landing -- my first tri-state flight. We gave some of my balloons to the farmers and their families. Today was the Flag Day parade in nearby Hills, Minnesota, so they decided to march in the parade with my red, white and blue balloons, something I wish I could have been there to see.



We finished loading up my gear and drove back to Sioux Falls for breakfast. I heard from the other balloonists that the wind had come up again after I launched, making it a struggle for the hare balloon in the hare and hounds competition to get inflated. However, after the hare balloon was away, the wind began to slow both on the ground and in the air, so that few of the balloons were able to make it to the site the hare balloon had flown to in just half an hour. It was different from the weather forecast, which had called for the surface winds to continue through the morning. No one complained, though -- good weather was rare enough for the balloon race that it was welcome to drop in, expected or unexpected.



I am generally pretty conservative when it comes to ballooning -- as the old saying goes, "I'd rather be on the ground wishing I was in the air, than in the air wishing I was on the ground." However, I guess anything very interesting that you get to do in life has some element of chance in it -- that chance element, and the skills you apply to modify the odds in your favor, being what makes the whole thing interesting. Maybe if I lived in Sioux Falls my need for this kind of excitement would be met at my friendly neighorhood casino, and I would not need to fly with balloons at all. Or perhaps there is something about South Dakota just brings out the gambler in each of us, each in his or her own way.



Celebration LV

Crew Chief: Larry Vandenberg

Logistical and Volunteer Coodinator: Stephen Parezo

Special Thanks to: Great Plains Balloon Race (Susan Scott), Sioux Falls Ballooning Association, A-Ox Welding Supply, Vern Eide Motors

Photography: Stephen Parezo, Larry P. Davis, Rachel Engelbracht, Craig DeWit, John Ninomiya

Videography: Craig DeWit











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