RENO - In an uncertain world attempting to right itself beneath the weight of a disaster like none other, many are finding solace in the blue sky, laughter between family and friends and a hearty breakfast. And if you're of age - champagne.
The Lynches, of Temecula, Calif., are one such family.
This ballooning family, who are in town to compete in the Great Reno Balloon Race, are focused on good-spirited competition. Dave Lynch, the father and pilot of the Wishing Star, is teaching his 11-year-old son, Brian, the technical aspect of hot air ballooning.
Brian eagerly volunteered to take the line attached to the top of the balloon's envelope for mass ascension Thursday morning, after he had woken up from his nap inside the balloon's basket, which had been tilted on its side on the green field of Rancho San Rafael Park.
At only 17, Kristina Lynch is an experienced chaser. Her mother, Kim Lynch, is a rosy-cheeked woman who greets other balloonists with hugs and a genuine smile. The Lynches said they know about half of the 60 pilots gathered there. They're all friends - until it comes to the competition. "That's serious business," Dave Lynch said.
This year event officials have seen the highest turnover of pilots. A race official said rising fuel costs are the No. 1 culprit. But this has also sparked an opportunity. The waiting list for the Reno balloon race - which culminates with a bean bag throw at a giant target - can be as long as seven years. Pilots on the waiting list for years were offered a place this year.
Along for the ride was the Wishing Star's sponsor, Phil Holland, president of C.I.S. Inc. He wore a knit sweater, which got a little damp from condensation dripping off the propane gas coils when the pilot fired up the burner.
An appraiser and land developer by trade, Dave Lynch has piloted hot air balloons for about 23 years. His most memorable landing was in the back yard of a house during a SWAT team raid. He describes his most terrible ballooning episode as the time when they ran out of champagne. The bubbly is used to "baptize" first-time passengers.
"Ballooning is one of the safest forms of flying," he said, while the Wishing Star drifted over a green field, scattering the Canadian geese. "Certainly it's the most relaxing."
"There's a serenity to it," said Holland before Lynch squeezed the blast valve and the shrill roar filled the basket and toasted the air above their heads. "The noise of the propane sort of disturbs it, but just floating and getting a different perspective makes you feel alive.
"And how often do you get to wave to kids in their back yard?" Holland asked as he extended his hand and waved to a family below, who looked only a little taller than the geese.
If you go
What: 24th annual Great Reno Balloon Race
When: Friday's Mass Ascension is at 6:45 a.m.; Saturday and Sunday Glow Show and Dawn Patrol, 5 a.m.
Where: Rancho San Rafael Park in Reno
For more information: Visit www.renoballoon.com or call 826Ð1181
- Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1212.