Balloon rides were offered Wednesday through Saturday mornings by Gallup Chamber of Commerce head, Bill Lee (Extreme Lee Fun Balloon Rides and Promotions). Jim and Sherry were interested and talked with Bill. Sherry was apprehensive but did not want to regret missing out on this opportunity.
So they signed up for the Wednesday morning ride. We were to meet at 6:30, near our motorhomes. Bill read Jim and Sherry the instructions, told them what to expect and had them sign a waver or hold harmless agreement. A small test balloon was released to determine wind direction aloft. Bill decided to launch on the other end of the park.
The crew of six began setting up the basket. Poles are attached to the burner assembly and then cabled into place on the basket. So far, so good—until Bill pulled himself up into the basket as he had done many times before. SNAP! Two of the four fiberglass support poles broke. That was it for the day. Launch was rescheduled for Friday morning.
Daybreak on Friday we were ready. The balloon test determined that the launch should be on our end of the park. Balloon assembly and inflation went smoothly and soon Jim and Sherry climbed into the basket and were ready to go. A few more blasts from the burners and the basket with Jim, Sherry, Bill and three large tanks of fuel were rising into the cool morning skies. The balloon drifted on fairly calm winds, to red rock bluff adjacent to the launch site and gently rested on top for a few seconds. They rose again and slowly floated out of site beyond the bluff.
This photo taken by pilot, Bill Lee. “The Pyramid” can be seen in the background.