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WGV Hot Air Ballooning

Send us your stories of your trips!


Chas Stamm & Dorith Stamm  Lakewood...King & Bear  Balloon Trip November 2007

Cool mornings are best.  Not for Floridians but for Hot Air Ballooning.  Sunday morning, November 18 at 6:00 am, my wife Dorith and I were picked up by our Hot Air Balloon pilot Dave Fuller.  We met Dave while riding our bicycles through the community of World Golf Village.  Dave had recently moved into the King and Bear as we had. He told us of his ballooning business and moving from Orlando to the St Augustine area.  Without my knowing it, Dorith booked a ballooning trip with Dave as an anniversary gift.  Our 30th anniversary.  Some weeks later, this was to be the day of our adventure!

We were a little nervous.  We had hardly ever seen  hot air balloons but when we did, often wondered what it would be like to go aloft and view the sites while floating high in the air.  This was something that you watched others do on the Discovery Channel but not something you did yourself.  Am I right?  Are you with me here?

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I must admit, the flames had me a little concerned

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Balloon filled and ready to go!

Our Pilot Dave picked us up at the swim and tennis center.  We hopped in his van and drove over to the new fire house next to Murabella.   He was looking at this vacant lot for our landing site.  This was our target. After sending a couple of small helium balloons aloft to check wind direction, we headed out to find a suitable launching spot.  A new soccer field on CR 210 looked like a good spot but after sending another sample balloon into the air, it appeared that launching from this location might float us too far to the west.   That would have us landing in the St John’s River.  Not a good thing.

So…further east we went, to a small clearing just east of I-95 on CR 210.  In no time at all, Dave and his assistant filled the huge balloon with hot air and off we went. .. Up, Up… and away!!

Our anxiety of flying in this tiny basket beneath the balloon were quickly gone as captain Dave brought us up and over the tops of the trees and cleared the large “Waffle House” sign on I-95.  Travelers on the interstate this morning got a good glimpse of us as we lifted off above the highway.

Apart from the roar of the heating element that shot flames into the center of the balloon, the ride was incredibly still and tranquil.  We were traveling at the speed of the wind so the ride was very smooth without any bumps or presence of any breeze at all.  And what a way to see a sunrise!

Captain Dave tells us the only control he has on the balloon is up and down.  No steering this thing to the right or left.  What he can do is try and find different wind directions at different altitudes.  That day we had more of a north wind at low altitudes and more of a west wind at the higher altitudes.   So, our captain would come in low to the tops of the trees from time to time and then rise high into the air to adjust our flight’s direction.  A hand held GPS unit gave our location at all times to give him an indication if we were on our flight path or not.

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Lifting off you can see the Waffle House Sign on the Left

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As we neared several housing developments dogs could be heard barking below. Some neighbors came outside in their bathrobes to see why those dogs were so excited.   Joggers waved as this giant multicolored balloon passed ever so silent overhead.

It is an odd sensation, having a conversation with a person in their back yard from the tops of their trees.  We did get close enough to talk with several neighbors.

Golf courses are simply beautiful from the air.  We have plenty of them in our area. The colorful greens, the water hazards, the sand traps all presented one heck of an image from our suspended wicker basket.

We sailed along for well over an hour.  At times we flew high enough to see both the Atlantic Ocean and the St John’s River at the same time.  There was plenty of forest and wildlife below to observe as well.

As we neared our landing spot, (remember the vacant field by the new firehouse we selected? ) we could see the World Golf Hall of Fame Tower off in the distance. It was further off to the east than we had anticipated.  The winds had taken us too far to the west.  About three miles off course.  Now we had to find a new landing spot… from the air.  Not a problem as this was all part of the hot air ballooning adventure.

We lowered our altitude and came in just above the treetops near the WGV.  We could see the main gate, and the new digital speed trap placed by the sheriff’s department along the Registry Blvd. We drifted over Bearsford and Kingsbury and past the circle with the windmill.  It was all looking very familiar.  We even drifted right over our own house!

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What a View!


As we descended, getting closer to the ground, we could see our chase vehicle following to help us with our landing.  He had been in radio contact and followed us all the way.

Finally Capt. Dave spotted a small opening in the trees and expertly guided us to it.  A slight gentle breeze brought us to a smooth landing and before we knew it we touched down.  Not with a crash, or a thud, but with a gentle tap of the ground.  His assistant came over and held the balloon in place while we took some final photographs of us and our colorful balloon.

We had landed out of everyone’s way and did not disturb a single blade of grass.  It probably took us all of about fifteen minutes to deflate the balloon and pack things away not leaving a trace of our escapade for anyone to be aware of.

After our adventure, as tradition has it, Capt. Dave treated us to a traditional champagne breakfast that takes place after your first successful hot air balloon ride.  Here we were, sitting outside at the swim and tennis center, 10:30 in the morning having champagne and mini éclairs to celebrate our successful adventure.   What a morning!

Give it a try!

Bugly is the name of Dave’s balloon. He is working on a new web site but you can contact him at his old site at www.ahotairballoonride.com …and he is one of your neighbors!

Dave tells us that cool mornings are best to fly his balloons as it is the heat difference between the inside balloon temperature and the outside air temperature that gives him his lift.

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Landing in a clearing near the 14 fairway


  So…this time of the year...the cooler months are perfect.  Give him a call at 407-897-5432.  You will not be disappointed. 

Dave is constantly searching out suitable places to land in our area.  This requires him to talk with many of the land owners before hand to get permission to land on their properties.  He is in that process now.  It’s all part of ballooning!