Going up and down in a hot air balloon is pretty simple. You either add more hot air to go up or you let some out to descend.
Steering a hot air balloon is a bit more tricky because it’s pretty hard to float upwind. You either go with the flow or you land.
Those minor details won’t deter the folks who take part in the 41st Annual Helen to the Atlantic Hot Air Balloon Race that’s drifting along until Saturday, June 7th in Helen, Georgia.
The actual race started at 7 AM today (June 5th), but Helen will be hot air balloon heaven each morning and evening all week long.
Few things are as elegant as gently ascending in a colorful hot air balloon on a summer morning or evening, gone with the wind … headed for the beach.
Helen, Georgia, is an amazingly cool town any day of the year, but it’s especially scenic when flocks of hot air balloons fill the sky — with the weirdly Bavarian-themed town’s magnificent hills in the background — as they “race” toward the Atlantic Ocean powered by the breeze.
According to the rules, the winner of the race is the first balloon that crosses the finish line: I-95, anywhere between Maine and Miami. The race’s website says,
“The shortest distance is 225 miles and the race usually takes two days. It has been done in one day, while some races have taken as many as four days. Six to ten balloons will be competing in the cross country race.
It is a race where both the pilot’s and crew’s skills are challenged. A balloon can only go the same speed and direction as the wind. The pilot must find the altitude which gives him/her the best speed as well as direction towards the finish line.”
The Helen to the Atlantic Hot Air Balloon Race is the oldest balloon event in the South and the only long distance hot air balloon race in America.
You can take a ride in a “tethered” balloon that’s (probably) much more safe than the one seen in The Wizard of Oz.
Or glide over the area’s many waterfalls and wonderful hills for an hour or so … with a spot of champagne to quell any concerns you might have if you believe you can see dancing scarecrows and/or cowardly lions down below.
Flatlanders might prefer to park themselves on a bench by the rushing Chattahoochee River to let their spirits vicariously soar with the balloons … so their worries will float away with them.
Want more good news? I could not find (after a very brief search) any prohibition in the rules to tying a few dozen balloons onto a lawn chair to enter the race.
Please Note: Check with your doctor and insurance company before trying to fly your lawn chair. Thank you.
Helen’s hot air balloon race is almost as exciting as NASCAR, but without all the noise, wrecks, motor homes, smells of gas and burning rubber and long waits at the rest rooms.
Fly away to Helen before the last balloon takes off.
Robert Sutherland is a freelance writer enjoying life in Gainesville, GA. Robert has two adult daughters, six grandchildren, one Kawasaki and a loving girlfriend. Robert’s e-mail address is: RJS@RobertSutherland.com.