WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Treading Skies: A Trip in a Hot Air Balloon

Sep 9, 2013

I’ve often wondered what it would be look to ride in a hot air balloon. Now I know.

Macomb Balloon Rally organizers gave members of the media a chance to take to the skies the evening before the rally officially started.

I rode with pilot Dean Carlton in his balloon, Ca-Zoo-ee.

This is a short video of that flight:

Carlton, his wife, Angie, and the other members of Team Ca-Zoo-ee set up the basket with the burners. Carlton then tested the burners, which fire a blaze of around 1,000 degrees.

Credit Chris Lovingood

From the sky, tree tops looked like fresh stalks of broccoli, and Macomb looked like a toy city, complete with vehicles that resembled a freshly opened pack of Matchbox cars. 

We passed the residence halls on the Western Illinois University quad and soon we were in the countryside. The farmland looked like grass quilts and the cornfields looked like bristles on a hairbrush. 

Credit Chris Lovingood

In the distance, the setting sun danced across the waters of Spring Lake, making it shimmer. The view is similar to what you see out an airplane window, but this was different because we were not confined to a cabin; we were in an open air, three foot by five foot cabin.

Carlton is no novice but still gets a thrill out of piloting his balloon. 

“I’ve done it about 700 times and still I get that giggle when the basket clears the ground and when you get that feeling in your belly it’s just awesome. Just awesome,” Carlton said. 

We had a bumpy landing in a hayfield just northeast of Spring Lake. Carlton’s crew couldn’t see Ca-Zoo-ee, so I was asked to get out of the balloon and push the hovering basket across the field so we could be seen. I pushed it about the distance of a football field before we were noticed by the crew. 

When the last part of the balloon was dismantled, the team and I chanted  “Ca-Zoo-ee” several times, as is their tradition after each flight.