Growing up in the SF Bay Area affords many things to do within a 3 or 4 hours car ride. Being the case, you often put things (to do) off almost indefinitely as you end up telling yourself “I’ll do it later” … how many times have we all fallen into this trap and end up never going at all?
With the aid of a few friends coaxing me on, there was no turning back or deployment of any excuses – it was off the races this past weekend. The annual Reno Great Balloon Race we go. Since old
enough to begin taking notice about this sort of thing, I’ve wanted to up to Reno for years to see what it was all about. A balloon race … sounds as exciting as weeds growing out back doesn’t? That’s exactly why I never really committed the time to make the 4 hour drive up there before.
Hotel booked, car pack, camera kit all in order – here we go.
Looking at the schedule, it appeared that a new event was inserted; something called Pre-dawn Patrol Ascension that began at 4 or 4:30am. Wait … hot air balloons in the dark? Isn’t that kinda’ dangerous? Come to find out it is just that and only a select few are licensed to do such a thing. We arrive at 3:30ish, got a fantastic parking spot (it didn’t help that one us had a handicap plaque to get special parking privileges),smade our way out to the field where few spectators dared to go thiss
early, but a ton of activity from Ballooner’s readying themselves to put on a show. What was cool was you weren’t hampered to a particular location. You had free rein to roam amongst the Ballooner’s. Pretty cool. Having done hours and hours of Street Photography in Shanghai, it was second nature to just dive in and be amongst them make images Sports Illustrated style! What I found were friendly faces with much appreciation for mys
showing interest in their passion for ballooning. These aren’t professionals, all enthusiasts. Well trained enthusiasts passionate about this and taken very seriously. It’s likened to obtaining your private airplane license as you become a part of a community of sorts. As the Ballooner’s were making their last minute checkpoints before liftoff, I usually like to get in close, but not too close as to being the way. Just when I thought I was close enough, I was invited to come in closer by just about every Ballooner! 4:30am is now, which means time for liftoff!
What a show in the pre-dawn! Wow! As the elite Ballooner’s leave the ground, the
required hot air produced from quick bursts of flames by the Ballooner’s produced a surreal experience as you lie on the cool grassy field looking the skyward as this light spectacle high above. What a treat. What skill. What a moment. As they drift off with the wind, the rising sun was just beginning to break the horizon, only enhancing the experience with burst of it’s own colors in the sky.
With the sun fully up, it was time for the main attraction, the Mass
Ascension. Some 100 balloons take flight at nearly the same time is quite the sight in itself. Once the balloons are fully in flight, it’s really not all that interesting, but definitely worth the hike up here from the Bay Area. So good that we decided to stay the night and do it all over again the next morning!
The fun’s not over yet … We decided to make our way over to Virginia City about 30 mins away. They were having their annual Camel & Ostrich Races … yes, Camel race! Not to say here,
except it was quite the spectacle. Of course, we had to stay the night in this old Mining town. When the sun goes down, there’s not much else to do here, but we found an old Cemetery with some pretty cool tombstone dating back a couple hundred years. It was a little eery walking amongst the tombstones not only for what they represent, but it was pitch black; no lights
except our little headlamp and barely lit moonlight night. As time passed, we grew used to the silence and darkness, then we heard this loud scream – like the bloody murder scream in the movies, then it got quiet. Real quiet. Freaked out we’re totally frozen as if we’re waiting for something to happen. That didn’t last too long as I was the first one back on the road to the car! See
I highly recommend making the trek to Reno for the races. It’s good, light fun and one of the largest in the country from what I understand.