Up early at 6am and got myself ready (or ready enough) to go to Gary’s camper and rap on his door. He was up quickly and we took his off-road vehicle to the baseball fields where the balloonists were preparing to launch their balloons. There were only 3 of them, but we found one that needed assistance rolling out the balloon from the bag in which it was stored. Then we held the front of the balloon high enough so that Judy (the owner and driver) could send in hot air to fill the balloon by firing up a gas flame pointed into the front, inside of the balloon. In about 1 minute the balloon was standing. Judy brought aboard two others who had assisted with the set-up. She said there might be a chance that she might be able to bring me up on the next ride. Cool!
Judy applied more gas flames into the balloon and away she and her riders went. It looked like such a peaceful experience as they just floated so easily into the air. There was no wind this early in the morning, so the conditions were perfect. However, the temperature began to rise, such that Judy had to apply more heat to keep the balloon up in the air. In fact, she decided that it was not a good idea to go for a second lift-off with new riders, as the temperature was getting too warm to sustain float-ability in the air. Oh well, at least I got to participate in the preparation and learned about launching hot air balloons. I also assisted with breaking down the balloon, and rolling it up into the storage bag. It’s not very difficult to put one in the air… just make sure you prepare *carefully* as not to create any holes/rips or it could be a bad ride. I ate breakfast with Judy and her friends at the local diner in Panguich. They were really cool people and we exchanged info (in case I need a lift on a balloon at some point).
Then I went back to the campsite and packed up for a big ride today. I hopped on my bike late today (12:30pm) as I was downloading pics from my camera as well as Matt’s. I took Hwy 12 (a.k.a. Scenic Hwy 12) all the way to a small community called Escalante (about 70 miles away). It was scenic alright! The hwy was adorned with beautiful sites….the Red Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Dixie National Forest, etc. It seemed everywhere I turned there was another beautiful sight to see. It was so awesome…and I had never heard of this Scenic Byway, Hwy 12. I met some Japanese, English, Russians, and French tourists along the way (apparently *they* were aware of the significance of this area—but not the American!). My speed, endurance, and mental fortitude (especially climbing difficult mountain passes) has increased, and a 70-mile bike ride is not as difficult a prospect — even at these high altitudes, in the mountains—as it used to be. I now see a huge 2-3 mile steep incline ahead of me, and I now have this thought, as I did today…”I’m going to attack the crap out of you” Sounds arrogant and pompous on one hand, but I just have a certain confidence that I didn’t have before. Although I didn’t dread the long steady climbs over the mountain passes, they were almost demoralizing at times, as there were so many of them, back-to-back. But now I feel like I can handle them, and it doesn’t try my persistence/fortitude whatsoever. It’s great… and I just pump the heck out of the pedals—and leave those mountain passes disappointed that they didn’t even come close to breaking me. I prefer to break them instead.
I rolled into Escalante at about 7:30pm, and immediately saw Matt at our campsite, Outfitters. Matt told me it was a free stay for us, as the owner learned that part of the sponsorship contributions goes to two charities (www.surfrider.org) and (www.kidsagainsthunger.org). So she said we could stay for free. Nice! Thank you!
We walked a few blocks to a local eatery for dinner. I chowed down on a huge spinach salad with hard-boiled eggs, while Matt just had a snack. Of course we both had a craft beer! We met a couple from Jersey who said we should stop by the brewpub that they frequent near Morristown, when we get to NJ. Sounds good! Back to the campsite and bed around 10pm. Nitey nite.