Saturday, December 13, 2008

Some Days The Bear Bites You

And some days you bite the bear.

This morning was gorgeous. A sunrise that coloured the sky all roses and pinks and purples, a gasping cold temperature that makes for excellent ballooning, and no rainfall. Great for being out, but lousy for ballooning, because we had a steady 15 knot wind blowing.

Ah well.

We had a nice young couple out this morning to meet us at 7. They found us standing around the parking lot of Burger King stamping and blowing in our cupped hands and wondering aloud, repeatedly, why in the name of all that was right were we standing in a parking lot in the cold wind when we had a warm vehicle right behind us. We never answered that question. Nor, strangely enough, did we ever get back in until it was time to go.

After a brief confab on why the young lady was sitting in the back seat while her beau drove we adjourned to IHOP for breakfast. Since we were already up why miss a good opportunity for some breakfast? And that's when the fun started.

One of the reasons I hang out with this bunch of hooligans is the company. Excellent teachers, ample opportunity for hard, rewarding work, lots of beauty and the stories. Oh the stories. Four of us sat (myself, Cookie, Sky and HotAirHarley, aka David and Jim) and over pancakes and scrambled eggs and a BLT for Cookie and the biggest freaking spinach and cheese omelette I've ever seen in my life, David and Jim started with the stories.

Tales of woe and incredible humour. Tales of how to use the Red Line, an emergency-only red nylon strap, and how it nearly got David pulled out of the gondola when he forgot to ATTACH it to something. Stories of becoming becalmed over a lake and having to be towed back to land, something that I'm sure made someone a rather surreal photograph. Tales of a certain new pilot who managed to get the handle of his crown line caught in the crotch of a tree, and how many people and how many rounds of ammunition it took to shoot through the line, and how high this new pilot went once he became suddenly free and the immense heat and lifting power of his balloon was unleashed.

It went on and on. Laughing, sharing stories, talking about ballooning and old cars and their idiosyncrasies and more. Bonding. Fellowship. Whatever you want to call it, I got a good glimpse into why balloonists tend to hang out in large, gregarious groups: the stories.

One other thing popped to mind while sitting there. All the stories we shared seemed to stem from an event that, when it was happening, WASN'T funny, but with the benefit of time and distance and the ability to see the funny in any situation they all turn out hilarious. After the fact.

I'm just saying this--if I ever solo and become a hot air balloon pilot, I hope I don't generate any stories for a very, VERY long time.