Showing posts with label hot air balloons. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hot air balloons. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Valley from above

From a hot air balloon over California's Coachella Valley, you can see several geographic fault lines, including the San Andreas (2nd image, details here). You can also see Mission Santa Rosa, a private olive farm (3rd image). But the owners of that farm have sued the local balloon companies, including Steve and Cindy Wilkinson of Fantasy Balloon Flights (1st image), for additional guarantees of privacy. Their legal actions - and the 24' high, 4' thick security walls, guard turrets, and signs warning that trespassers will be met with armed response - are fueling speculation about the reasons for their seeming paranoia. The Marrelli family, owners of the 80-acre property on which they built a compound in the style of a Moorish castle, are annoyed by the nuisance of up to 20 balloons a day overhead, and are trying to protect the privacy of their VIP guests and their R&D secrets. They are succeeding, and have forced more than a dozen local hot air balloon companies out of business despite the fact that none of them were breaking federal aviation law. Balloonists also point out that the are forced to go where the wind takes them. One local pilot who closed down his business said, "It's pretty much the worst spot to be if you don't like balloons." In their defense, the Marellis explain, "Stories...only partly detail how we have unwillingly become a featured tourist attraction from the air....On any given day, over the past few years, we have been awakened as early as 6:30 a.m. to the sound of balloon burners as they drop down as low as window level of our top floor. With it comes a basket of people shouting hello and snapping pictures of us. We might be in our pajamas or trying to enjoy a cup of coffee on the patio, and suddenly there are people gawking at us and trying to converse as if they were just passers-by." But the Marrellis also had objections to low-flying planes and brought suit against a crop-duster, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the FAA. The family has dropped their lawsuit against the Wilkinsons, whose business is now down 80%, while at the same time applying for a permit for their own helipad.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Up in the air

I saw a great fireworks display last night, right from the deck on the side of the house, compliments of the next-door neighbor. Fireworks, as most schoolchildren know, originated in China in the 12th c. Remembering the "John Adams" miniseries, I wondered if Colonial Americans celebrated with fireworks. Yep, they certainly did! The earliest settlers had brought fireworks with them from England, and their use predates the Revolutionary War. They were used to mark the inauguration of George Washington in 1789 and, before that, John Adams foresaw their use to celebrate Independence Day, writing to his wife Abigail in 1776, "The day will be most memorable in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival....It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade...bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore."
Also in the miniseries, John and Abigail Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin witness a balloon ascension in Paris in 1788. This was the first free flight by humans, accomplished in an untethered 60,000-cubic-foot hot-air balloon designed by the Montgolfier Brothers. It rose aloft 3,000' and carried two people 9km in 23 minutes. I went on a hot-air balloon ride some years ago and most remember the surreal sound of dogs barking on the ground while I soared so far above them. For Christmas, I gave my sister and family a gift certificate for a hot-air balloon ride that they will redeem on my niece's birthday, so I hope to post some bird's-eye view photos in August!

HALLOWEEN-Click for captions