What is that sound? I wondered as I opened my eyes on Sunday. I had already been woken up a half hour earlier by the sound of one neighbor across the street firing up his John Deere lawn tractor before 7:00 a.m.
I couldn't quite put my finger on this noise, however. Maybe it was my next-door neighbor trying, unsuccessfully, to start his lawn tractor in the garage after a winter of sitting idle. Yeah, that must be it, I reckoned.
Give it up, dude, it's not going to turn over. At this point, I was fully awake, so I got up and went downstairs. The noise continued in regular bursts, about every 20 to 30 seconds. I cranked open the windows over the sink to discern which direction it was coming from. To the left, there was only a parking lot full of cars at the Lutheran church for sunrise service. Straight ahead, I could see nothing unusual in the athletic field beyond the trees.
With the windows open, it sounded like a rush of gas (no, not that kind), and it seemed to be coming from the right.
I turned my head to see the cause of it, rising up over my neighbor's house.
"Whoa, it's a hot air balloon!" I yelled to my husband who was still in bed, trying to catch a few more winks. "I'm going out to see it up close."
After all, it's not every day you see a hot air balloon a stone's throw from your house!
I stood between my neighbor's arbor vitaes, trying to be as unobtrusive as an extremely tall woman still in her PJs with bed head can be. The balloon was tethered in the empty lot that I walk through on my way to work. In a few minutes, an older woman walked over to me and introduced herself. She lived in the next block and said her son was visiting from Rhinelander, Wisconsin where he had recently started a ballooning business. They were having a family reunion this weekend, and he promised his nieces and nephews he'd take them up in his balloon. The kids had apparently decided to sleep in, however, as they weren't there yet.
One of the men in the balloon was giving his wife below his coffee order, as she was going to make a run. It was surprising how clearly you could hear him from that vantage point. He hardly had to raise his voice above normal conversation level. There was absolutely no wind.
The sun illuminated the bright design on the balloon, named "The Sleeping Mexican." The story was that the balloon had been purchased from a former test pilot. The test pilot, an Hispanic man, was known for taking his aircraft up to 80,000 feet, putting it on autopilot, and taking a nap. When he retired, he had this balloon made, nicknamed it after himself, and enjoyed it for several years before deciding to sell it to its new owner, the man currently ordering coffee from the basket.
I'd never given much thought to a hot air balloon ride before today. Seeing how peaceful and relaxing it seemed to be, I think it'd be a blast.
I walked home after a few minutes, and the sound continued for about another hour and then was gone. I hope the kids got their rides!