Friday, November 6, 2015

Chasing Balloons

With my Ragnar Relay run behind me, it was time to get back in the saddle and ride. I decided not to ride with my team since I hadn’t been on the bike in a month and I’d been sick with a cold for much of that time.  I had no idea how the body was going to feel so instead of chasing my teammates for 50 miles (assuming I couldn’t keep up), I decided to do my own thing.

Now, I just had to figure out my route.  On Thursday, I checked my saved routes in Ride with GPS and came up with a 45 mile route with plenty of bail out points.  On Friday, I changed to a different route.  Saturday morning I changed it again and by the time I finally started rolling I probably changed my mind 3-4 more times.

Balloon and moon.
Eventually, I ended up on the Santa Rosa Creek path heading out towards Willowside Road.  Of course, once I reach the road I have no idea where I’m going next.  Then I saw the hot air balloons coming my way.

There were three of them in close proximity out enjoying a simply gorgeous fall day.  They were also very low.  So, since I didn’t have a plan I could follow, I decided to ride to them and take a few pictures.  I cruised down Olivet Road heading north where I caught the balloons.  However, there were lots of wires and such in the way so I didn’t like the photo options.  

Balloons over the vineyards.
The balloons were heading south, which meant they would be crossing Guerneville Road over the vineyards.  This is the photo I wanted.  So, I made a u-turn and headed that way.  Once I reached Guerneville Road, I rode up and down the road, while constantly watching their progress, looking for just the right photo.

About this time I saw the three chase vans and realized the balloons were going to land near me in an open field.  I’ve actually never seen that although we see balloons in the air on almost every ride.  So, I decided to hang out for a bit and watch the landing.

My next target.
With the balloons on the ground, it was time to roll.  I immediately noticed two things after I started.  I had ridden a whole 10 miles at this point and I was back to not knowing where I wanted to go.  Then, I looked to the north, saw another balloon towards Healdsburg (about 15 miles away) and took off on the chase.

If you look at my Strava map, you would think I was drunk.  I would start down a road, realize it was putting me close enough so I would turn around and head back.  It was also hard to see the balloon due to trees and hills so I actually lost sight of it for while.

The final landing.
Once I found it again I realized I had gone too far north as it made its way south faster than I anticipated.  So, the chase is still on.  On one road I actually made three u-turns as I tried to determine which road got me the closest.  I finally caught them on Olivet Road and watched it land on the baseball field of Olivet Elementary School.  By the way, this was almost exactly 1-mile, as the crow flies, away from where the first balloons landed.

It was an awesome ride.  In the end, I managed 37 miles (50 would have been way too long) and I didn’t have to think about my route.  I simply made impromptu turns, and u-turns, based on what roads brought me closer to the balloon I was chasing.  It was a blast.

I hope to do more rides like this in the future.  I just hope the balloons will be around to guide me.


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