In November I attended the Page-Lake Powell Hot Air Balloon Regatta. This wasn’t a usual balloon rally trip, I didn’t have a balloon, Ernie or the dogs with me. I hitched a ride with our local balloon repair company, Pacific Southwest Aerostats, who were participants in the rally. The last time Ernie and I attended a rally in Page was in 1992 when it was call Page-Lake Powell Air Affaire and was held in the spring rather than the fall. I was looking at this as a photography trip and was going to act as pick up crew for whoever needed me.
We arrived on Wednesday with Thursday being an optional flying day. Within a few minutes in the hotel parking lot I had been snapped up for crew the next day by Judy Holt. Not only did I crew but I also got to fly with her and another pilot who was taking this opportunity to photograph as well. After landing in a school yard and going to the local favorite spot for breakfast it was out to Horseshoebend for a short hike and more photo ops.
I had a fun time surprising people at the pilot dinner who didn’t expect to see me especially without Ernie and 2 Great Danes. The weather turned iffy for flying with some low level winds and grim forecasts so it was off to breakfast again and later the traditional house boat parties.
Saturday was windier and colder, the upper 20’s, so of course we decided to stay on the launch field and tailgate. A bonfire helped remove the chill but coated everything in ash. When we had enough of the cold and smoke we headed back to the hotel and later took a drive out to Lee’s Ferry for some more hiking and photography.
The glow Saturday night is staged along the main street through town. It was still windy so a candle stick was done which allowed for more local participation. Since there was no envelope overhead to worry about, Kent Barnes, who I was crewing for this time, allowed his sponsor’s daughter to operate the burners and gave kids the same opportunity before they were given a balloon card.
Sunday was sunny and calm with balloons launching from any location around the city that the pilot wanted. I was crewing for Dan Montgomery and again was in the balloon instead of on the ground. Dan did a great job of flying to the target but I botched the throw thinking a gravity drop was going to do it but I let it go to soon, we still took 3rd place. We also had a third pilot on board visiting from Germany. Dan let me take the burner and play along the cliffs for a while. We were trying to use up all the fuel since the balloon was getting shipped to Leon, Mexico after the flight. After looking at that really big dam for a while we decided we didn’t want to get any closer and found a road to land on.
For a trip with no balloon I spent more time in the air than if Ernie and I had gone with our balloon and less behind the wheel having 3 drivers in the van. It was like the old days being ‘generic’ crew.