Archive | September, 2011

How to chase balloons

23 Sep

It’s balloon time in the Queensbury-Glens Falls region! While you may not be overly excited for the annual Adirondack Balloon Festival taking place near the Warren County Airport this weekend, here is a video and a recycled column on why and how you should get out and watch. (Bring your pet, too!)

For a schedule of events for this weekend’s balloon festival, check The Post-Star and it’s balloon-specific section.

Sportswriter Alex Matthews took her “Anything Active” column to the 38th annual Adirondack Balloon Festival, where she found out what it’s like to chase balloons.

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Post-Star commentary by Alex Matthews | Posted: Monday, September 27, 2010; poststar.com

As I rolled into the Glens Falls YMCA parking lot in complete darkness at 6 a.m. Sunday, I wondered what I was doing.

I had committed to hot-air balloon chasing – something not entirely “active” but interesting nonetheless – and my mom agreed to meet me before the Adirondack Balloon Festival’s 6:30 a.m. launch time.

Still, it was painfully early for a night-shift sportswriter, and I have no real fascination with balloons. Riding in one seemed almost less appealing than following in my own car.

So why did I do it? The balloon festival comes once a year, and we’re lucky to have it. Besides filling the sky with beautiful hues and bubbly shapes, the balloons are weekend-fillers that create activities.

Chasing one by way of rural roads is one of them. So I filled the gas tank, grabbed my car-loving puppy and left the maps at home for a new experience.

In reality, balloon chasing isn’t high speed and a few gallons of gas on a calm day should be sufficient. My mom and I traveled about 10 miles round trip from the Warren County Airport. Each balloon is typically airborne for about an hour.

The landing site on County Road 36 in Kingsbury was actually a little farther from the airport than others ended up. After chatting with our balloon’s crew members, the local Blacksheep Squadron, we discovered they launched independently from Route 4.

Balloon-chasing lesson No. 1: Pick an unmistakably recognizable balloon. I’d go with a cupcake or a fruit shape rather than a certain color. And don’t detour for coffee.

The day was a success regardless, and we were glad to have found a balloon with local ties and a smiling landowner to greet them.

For those thinking of balloon-chasing next year, here’s an outline of how the morning might go:

6:40 a.m.: Watch some 80 balloons launch from the airport in Queensbury. We chose an outside spot on a hill off County Line Road for a quick exit.

7 a.m.: Coffee stop. Skip it. You’ll get distracted and lose track of your balloon.

7:15-7:30 a.m.: A very slow drive to your destination. We stopped once to see if the balloon was moving.

7:45 a.m.: The landing. Run into the field if you want, but stay out of the way. The crew usually helps move the hovering balloon closer to the road.

8-8:30 a.m.: Talk to the balloonists and their crew members. Feel free to offer a hand in deflating the balloon and packing it up.

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Active Advice: Ways to actively chase balloons

– Follow on a bicycle: We drove, but the total mileage was only about 10 miles, and some balloons landed closer to the Warren County Airport launch site.

– Wear jeans or long pants and sneakers: If you’re planning on running through a field to meet the balloon.

– Ask the crew if they want help: They’re usually happy to have extra hands deflating the balloon and keeping it off the wet ground.

– Don’t expect champagne: First of all, it’s 8 a.m., and you weren’t really that involved. Bring a bottle of water instead.

– Inquire about riding in a real chase vehicle: Many balloon festivals seek local volunteers as guides to ride with crew members. Visit www.adirondackballoonfest.org to contact organizers.

Thinking about Vermont

5 Sep

A week after Irene swept the eastern coast, communities throughout the country are picking up the pieces.

While many of us remember holding our breaths as the storm touched our hometowns, it’s easy to forget about the effects once it’s long gone. Unless you’re living in Vermont.

Hurricane and Tropical Storm Irene devastated states, destroyed towns and left many without power for days. In central Vermont, and in other severely affected communities, some people are still without a way out. Roads remain closed indefinitely and the looming threat of flash floods with more rain makes it hard to be hopeful they’ll be open soon.

I read an article in yesterday’s Rutland Herald, “Life in isolated towns settling into new (ab) normal,” about the Pittsfield and Stockbridge, Vt. Pittsfield’s emergency management coordinator,Peter Borden, has three cell phones to field calls. The town clerk greeted a caller with the typical: “Hello, Town of Pittsfield,” followed by, “I’m sorry, the town is in a state of emergency. Can you call back in two weeks?”

I tried to get in touch with Spartan Race founder and Pittsfield resident Joe Desena, who runs a bed & breakfast at Riverside Farm. He was quick to get back with me with photos, but we weren’t able to catch each other by phone. On his end, it’s understandable why.

Courtesy Joe Desena -- Three children in Pittsfield, Vt., sit on road washed out by Tropical Storm Irene.

When Irene hit, Desena and his wife, Courtney, made their hilltop B&B into a rescue and relief center. One man was there with a wedding party from New Jersey and recalled the town’s collective efforts in a story on Minyanville.com:

On the first night after the storm, the US marshals came into our bed & breakfast and rounded up any males from the wedding party who felt able to assist in the rescue and recovery efforts. Town members from all walks—lawyers, doctors, the butcher the and even the shepherd quickly put everything aside to ensure the safety of those most affected.

On Thursday, Desena was assisting with cleanup, driving a backhoe with ruined carpet to an oversize trash container in town, the Rutland Herald reported.

For people in areas like this, it’s a long haul ahead. We should keep these people in our thoughts and lend a hand in any way possible.

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The Red Cross needs monetary donations.

Vermont has a hotline: 1-800-Vermont.

Killington is another area, just a few miles south of Pittsfield, that’s also in distress. (For a comprehensive map on Vermont flooding, closures and emergency info, click here.)

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I spoke to chat several residents for a recent FasterSkier story on the state of cross-country ski areas in the east following Irene. Most said they’ll be fine by the time winter rolls around, but more rain won’t help. We can’t control the weather, but let’s help our neighbors out.

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