Hot Air Ballooning prep in Hidden Valley, CA: We received our wake up call from our balloon captain, Captain Scott at 5am. We were up at 4:30 am. We pack up the RV and were on the road at 5:15 for the 30 minute ride to Santa Rosa airport. Our captain greeted us. "Folks, the Santa Rosa airport is fogged in."
"Oh no!" we (15 of us) exclaimed. Some shouted is was there 4th try and drove up from San Jose.
"Everybody hop in the van, we're going north to Hidden Valley. It's only 50 minutes away and it's up and over winding roads that switchback on those mountains over yonder and I'm going to drive that big ol shuttle van as fast as I can. What, Barbara forgot her dramamine. Too bad, ladd, we're rolling Quick everybody take a pee, we're out of here in 5."
Captain Scott, we would soon find out, was an interesting dude. We followed like lost sheep, we wanted to ride the big puffy balloon soooo bad.
We arrived in the valley to clear, still morning skies in what I think was a much better flight zone than by the Santa Rosa airport. It was a gorgeous valley with a mix of farm lands and vineyards. There was another balloon already up. Sheeze, what time did they wake up. (Editors note: two weeks after this adventure the valley was struck by a huge forest fire that touched 500 homes. Tragic)
We found the barren spot where the gear truck was sitting the crew was already unpacking the 650 lb balloon and our basket for 16. Captain says this is all private land in the valley and the company has a deal with several land owners to launch and land.
It took us about 45 minutes to fill that sucker up with a lot of air. For some reason I was volunteered to be instrumental in the hot air department. I turned on the Go Pro, placed it on the ground and started taking snaps with my trusty Nikon. They need more hot air so I handed the Nikon to Barbara. She snapped away while I did what I know how to do.
Then it was time to board the baskets, two couples in a corner. I grabbed the Go Pro and I was in first. Maybe I could get a good position. Barbara followed with the Nikon, lens fully extended, strapped around her neck. WRONG. I should have relieved her of it. Riders had to climb into the basket leaning over it. She got over okay, but it appears the she put her weight on the lens. It was fully caboobalated. Completely useless. I tried to fix it as we started to ascend and then finally put it away and used the GoPro and the iPhone to video and take a some stills.