Well, we did this almost two months ago, but think it’s high time to share it. My in-laws gave my wife and me a hot air balloon ride as an engagement gift a number of years back. We finally decided to do it this winter, and I thought that since I’m working on the Kickass Guide to Skiing and Riding Vermont we might as well use the ride to get good aerial shots of one or multiple ski areas.
We decided to choose Balloons of Vermont out of Quechee. We met Darrek our pilot and Jeff our balloon chaser early in the morning at Quechee, VT. We climbed into his big extended cab pickup and drove over to Killington, then Rutland and back to Killington before the weather finally cleared. We drove up the Killington access road to an empty restaurant lot. Quickly, we pulled out the basket and the balloon, as well as a generator, big fan, burners and propane tanks, which all fit in the back of truck.
Within ten minutes the fan and propane had filled the balloon (I actually think it’s called the envelope), we jumped in and were off! They skies had cleared, and even though it was in the teens that day, with very little wind and a ton of sun, and the propane burners going off intermittently, it was actually pretty warm.
Interesting tidbit: Darrek says most people are surprised at how calm balloon rides are because the balloon is traveling at pretty much the same speed as the wind, so in effect there is no wind chill!
We slowly floated up towards Killington peak and the K-1 gondola. There was ample time for photographs and shots of Middleton’s Irish Whiskey, which at $150 per bottle, is a purchase that we treat ourselves to once per year. While we were serenely floating over Vermont’s second highest peak, Darrek maintained communication with Jeff in the chase vehicle.
As we were floating over Killington, we noted that they had stopped the Superstar high-speed quad chair as well as the K-1 gondola. Soon a snowmobile chased us up the mountain and yelled “what are you doing?!” Darrek yelled back “we’re flying!” which we thought was pretty clever. Apparently Killington was nervous about us being so close and they actually shut down the lifts for over ten minutes. According to Darrek, we need to be at least 500 feet above buildings or things on the ground in rural areas, and it seemed to me that we were. Oh well.
My experience self-publishing has been very positive. It’s true that many people think self-published books will automatically be of a lower quality than those produced by a major publisher with a substantial amount of funding behind them. Personally, I couldn’t disagree more. Self-publishing allows one to create a product exactly how the writer/photographer/artist wants it. True, we are limited by financial considerations, but having the freedom to produce something without sacrificing quality in the name of “marketability” will almost always result in a better outcome. In the end, I believe the quality of the product will drive long-term sales while at the same time providing a much more positive experience for the creator.
My next self-published book (Fresh Tracks Publishing) I hope will be the first in a series of books entitled The Kickass Guide to Skiing and Riding ______(you fill in the blank). I grew up skiing in Vermont, currently live here, and believe that the best skiing and riding east of the Mississippi can be found here in the Green Mountain State. So it makes sense that my first book in this series is going to be The Kickass Guide to Skiing and Riding Vermont. Fingers crossed, I hope that this book will be published in August of 2012.