WGV Hot Air Ballooning
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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
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?
I must admit, the flames had me a little
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.
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.
Lifting off you can see the Waffle House Sign
on the Left
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
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
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
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!
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.
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!