Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Orlando Hot Air Balloon Rides

We got up at 5:30 AM on a Sunday morning and drove down to Davenport Florida to experience an Orlando Hot Air Balloon Ride. This was a birthday present for Pam Schwartz. We often prefer experiences rather than things. We pulled up to what must have once been a Waffle House next to the highway. Inside we had to fill out releases and other paperwork. We were told that we must arrive on time, but people arrived late anyway.

Everyone then piled into the Orlando Balloon Rides van and we drove out to a a tiny dirt road that cut through a field. We got out of the truck and I immediately started to sketch a balloon being inflated next to us. We were herded like cats so I could not stray far. The balloon next to us was inflated rather quickly and efficiently. It was up in the air before our balloon was half inflated. Since the subject of that sketch had floated away, I turned my attention to our crew struggling to inflate our balloon. The flame in that sketch is actually a ripped piece of paper that came  up off the back of the opposite sketch because I closed my sketchbook before the paint was dry. I lived with the mistake and painted it yellow.

One person pulled a chord attached to the top of the balloon to keep it elongated at it was blown up. Since the balloon took so long to inflate, I had time to sketch the action. Our pilot sat in the basket keeping it weighted down and two assistants kept the mouth of the balloon open as the flame heated the air being blown in with a fan.

There were three separate compartments in the basket and each couple was assigned a quadrant to stand in. The center compartment was reserved for the pilot. Once we were all in place there was a final blast of flame which I think singed what little hair I have left. We floated towards the trees at the edge of the field and I thought for a moment that we might not clear the tree top. We slipped quietly over the highest branch clearing it by inches.

Dozens of balloons dotted the sky as the sun rose. We passed over a circus elephant refuge but non of the elephants were out and about. News footage showed the elephants are still handled with bull hooks. Fields created a crisp checkered pattern. The serine experience was interrupted periodically by loud and hot bursts of flame. We floated towards Wallaby Ranch where hang gliders were starting their morning flights. A motorized pilot plane pulled a hang glider behind it and they both lifted off into the sky. They circled together gaining height, and then the attachment wire was released leaving the hang glider to soar silently.

We were told we would land at Wallaby. The pilot specifically didn't want to land near the air strip but that ended up being precisely where we landed. We had to de inflate the balloon as quickly as possible since gliders were waiting to take off and the morning breezes can die down as the day drags on. A tourist woman kept taking selfies and primping her hair the whole time as everyone else helped break down the balloon and load it in the van. Pam gladly pulled the weight of two men. Overall, a fun experience for locals or folks visiting Orlando.

Orlando Balloon Rides
$199 for adults and $125 for kids.
Duration:   Allow 3.5 hours from the time we meet until we return to the meeting location.
Flight Time:   You will be in the air 45-60 minutes or longer depending on weather.
Occupancy:   16 passengers max. each.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

No comments: