Balloon over Kissimmee...
We often breakfast
poolside when at out villa early morning before we've acclimatized to the 5 hour
time difference between UK & US. It's not an
uncommon sight to see balloons slowly drifting by & a balloon flight was
high on my birthday 'wish list'.
There are lots of balloon operators around the Disney area offering slightly different options. As there were four of us we decided that we would prefer to fly in a basket carrying just ourselves plus a pilot - some bigger balloons can carry up to 16 people !
We duly reserved our flight with a 'phone call from the U.K. well in advance of our trip & were informed that we would have to be at a pre-arranged pick-up point at 6am - Balloons apparently only fly at dawn..... No problem, as we arranged our flight very early during our holiday so 6am US equals 11am UK..... We would be 'phoned the evening before our flight as confirmation.
We were duly 'phoned on the eve of our flight, set our various alarms, were up & raring to go at 5 the next morning only to receive a call at quarter past to tell us that as the wind had picked up overnight & our flight had to be postponed to the next day...TWO 5am starts in 2 days !!!
The next morning, we again dug ourselves out at an unearthly hour, piled into the car,& headed for our pickup point - Best Western Hotel just across the 192 from our villa where we were met by our pilot, Tom Green of Painted Horizon Balloons. He explained that takeoff points varied according to prevailing wind direction & speed before we joined him & his ground crew in his minibus - the balloon being in a trailer. About a half-hour drive took us to a suitable field South of the 192 down Poinciana Boulevard where the balloon & it's basket were rigged & inflated before we were invited to take our places.
Four in a basket gave us a corner each, which allowed us all a decent view & the ability to take 'photos. A very gentle ascent to about 500ft & we were slowly drifting West parallel to the 192. To be honest, there wasn't much to see apart from an awful lot of trees and the occasional sink-hole, but that didn't really mar the occasion. The sensation of being held aloft by nothing more than hot air & the complete lack of sound made the experience unique...
We learned that the wind changes it's speed and often it's direction at different heights, which allows a balloon pilot some control by changing altitude.
After about an hour in the air we gently landed beside the Cracker Barrel cafe next to the I27 where we were met by Tom' ground crew who had been following our progress by radio & who had set up a buffet breakfast. We toasted the flight with champagne & each couple were presented with engraved champagne flutes & a commemorative flight certificate. The balloon was deflated & repacked in it's trailer. We then headed back to the Best Western & picked up our car.
With grateful thanks to Tom Green and his team from Painted Horizons Balloons.....