Thursday, October 7, 2010

Napa Valley, Part II

On Monday we did the other recommended Napa activity -- took an early morning balloon ride. We were downtown by 6:30, and after waiting to see what the fog did conditions cleared and we were taken to the Balloons Above the Valley takeoff site -- not surprisingly, an unused parcel of land in a vineyard.

Another company already had their balloons in the sky when we arrived, and it was oddly annoying. As if the ride were a race and we were behind.

Giant inflated bags of color make you want to take all sorts of pictures.

Notice the pilot muscling the basket upright, after starting on its side for the burner to inflate the balloon.

Like so.

Blue sky + bright fabric = fun pictures.

Early morning light really does bring out more vivid colors in photos.

The view looking up into the balloon from the basket.

I don't know why I was surprised to see our shadow on the ground when we took off, but I was.

It was a really gentle ride -- light breezes, and gradual ascents and descents. I think we maxed out at about 2,500 feet.

Looking north up the valley with Mount Saint Helena (not to be confused with Mount St. Helens) at the far end. The estate of the late Robert Mondavi is on the hill in the middle distance.

Looking west, with the Sonoma Valley just on the other side of the ridge.

The urge to take pictures of other balloons is like that to roll down your car window and yell "Moo!" when you pass a herd of cows.

Danelle somehow took this picture of a balloon below us with her camera upside down, which makes me queasy because it looks like you're standing outside the basket.

When we landed, one of Napa's finest was waiting to write us a ticket for trespassing. Apparently we had landed on private property, although nobody was complaining. It was like she needed to hit her quota for balloon tickets. Just ridiculous.

All in all, the ride was really a great experience. Peaceful with beautiful views. Like climbing a mountain without that strenuous climbing stuff!

Click here for Part I.

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