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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Ballooning

October 1st, 2008 · No Comments

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When I lost weight, I promised myself a reward. When I got my book on Byetta published, I had another reason to reward myself.

I got down to a normal weight a year and one-half ago, and my book came out half a year ago. But until today I still hadn’t given myself my promised reward.

Either I was too busy or the weather wasn’t good enough or I wasn’t able to make a reservation. But today everything clicked, and I took the first hot-air balloon ride of my life.

“Before I started taking Byetta and got my weight under control, there were a lot of things that I couldn’t do,” I wrote in my book Losing Weight with Your Diabetes Medication: How Byetta and Other Drugs Can Help You Lose More Weight than You Ever Thought Possible. ”Some of them were simply because I weighed too much. One of these was to take a ride in a hot-air balloon, something that I have wanted to do ever since I saw several in the air  above me on the summer day in  2004 when I arrived in Boulder,  Colorado, where I now live. I checked it out and found that they have an individual weight limit of 250 pounds. Now that I am well below that limit, I’m going for one of those  rides. In fact, that will be the way that I will mark my dual celebration of my success in getting down to a  normal weight and having this book published.”

The trip was as memorable as I had hoped it would be. The only thing like it that I had ever done before was to take a helicopter ride above Kauai. That was the most dramatic scenery I have ever seen. But today’s flight above my town was even more exciting.

Unlike a helicopter or airplane, you are in the open air. Except when the balloon needed a shot of heat from the burner, we had absolute quiet.

When I made my reservation the day before with Jeff Meeker, the “aeronaut” who owns Fair Winds Hot Air Balloon Flights, I jokingly asked for a window seat. Of course, a balloon doesn’t have either windows or seats. We stood the whole time. And because I am so tall, my head was close to the burner. Jeff warned me about that, suggesting that wearing a hat would be a good idea.

He also suggested dressing in layers. That was also good advice, because at sunrise the temperature was cool. It warmed up later.

At sunrise I met Jeff on an otherwise empty field across the street from Twin Lakes, just north of Boulder. In the photo below that’s Suzy between Jeff and his balloon. Jeff and my SUV seem sorta small by comparison, don’t they?

Beginning to Inflate the Balloon

Beginning to Inflate the Balloon

In the photo below Jeff begins to heat up the balloon. When it was full of hot air, it expanded to become 80 feet high, 60 feet in diameter, and holding 120,000 cubic feet of air, he said. Each of the two burners puts out 20-25 million BTU.

Inflating with Fire

Inflating with Fire

Jeff has two assistants who remained on the ground. In the gondola were six of us: couples from Longmont and Broomfield, Jeff, and me.

Ready to Fly

Ready to Fly

Under completely clear skies and with nothing but a light four-mph breeze, we lifted off ever so gently and slowly. We climbed 3,000 feet to 8,600 feet. The wind took is 5 miles south southwest. While the amount of heat inside the balloon determined whether we climbed and descended, the wind decided where we went.

I'm Ready to Go!

I'm Ready to Go!

Looking up into the Balloon

Looking up into the Balloon

We Sure Have a Lot of Lakes!

We Sure Have a Lot of Lakes!

Looking Up Pearl Street to the Mall and Mountains

Looking Up Pearl Street to the Mall and Mountains

Looking Up Arapahoe Avenue to Downtown Boulder

Looking Up Arapahoe Avenue to Downtown Boulder

The University of Colorado

The University of Colorado

My Apartment is Almost Dead Center in this Photograph

My Apartment is Almost Dead Center in this Photograph

East Boulder Recreation Center (Resistance Training, Yoga, etc.)East Boulder Recreation Center (Resistance Training, Yoga, etc.)
Landing at the Rec Center

Landing at the Rec Center

Back Down: Jeff in his Balloon

Back Down: Jeff in his Balloon

Then, we got our exercise. All of us helped to fold up the balloon into a package so small that it fitted into the van with us. The van took us back to the launch site where we returned three hours after we got there this morning. What a morning!

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