After the balloon was unwrapped and stretched out on the grass, King switched on a fan at the base of the balloon and we watched it balloon up. It didn’t take long and soon we were climbing into the basket amidst the blow of LP and flames shooting up into the balloon to make it rise.
Pretty soon we were floating up peacefully and quietly. The height surprisingly did not bother me. The highest we went up was 800 feet, a small distance compared to the 7,000 feet King travelled up to on one flight. As we soared over Knoxville, young kids and families ran out into their yards and streets to wave hello.
“My personal opinion, the best part of ballooning is the thrill of seeing people’s faces light up, especially kids. It’s great to see them smile,” King commented as he blasted more LP up until the balloon.
In less than 10 minutes we had passed over the VA facilities. We were travelling no faster than 10 miles per hour, but we seemed to be moving over the city and fields in no time. Turns out there aren’t many hay fields in between Knoxville and Pleasantville, which is where King always tries to land, so we travelled for quite some time looking for a good place to land the balloon.
King was practiced at his ballooning, and would skim close to fields looking for a place to land and take us back up if it wasn’t a good landing spot. You simply go where the wind takes you, so finding a spot to land is tricky. The pilot has a team down below watching your route, trying to pinpoint a good landing spot that is away from power lines, crop and livestock.
An hour and a half after takeoff and 12 miles later, we skidded to a stop in a bean field just east of Pleasantville. The Kissingers and I bent our knees and grasped onto the side of the basket as we skidded a few times to a stop, and then walked the balloon out of the field and closer to the road.