USA 46, 6th October 2006

Well it turned out OK to fly in the morning, and again in the evening. Here's Ed landing in the morning. The balloon is a little distorted I guess because he had just landed and the balloon was flexing. The balloon name is Stormy Weather, hence the lightning stripe the side. Ed has gained around 20 world records with this and his previous balloon.

In the evening I found a grumpy farmer. Ed landed in a cut field no problem. But when I saw the farmer he was milking, he said a balloon had frightened his cows some time in the past. He looked at Ed's balloon and agreed it wasn't Ed, but he was still grumpy. Don't want balloons again he said. There are some discussions you just can't win, so I left him to his grumpiness and went to collect Ed. With grumpy farmer's permission of course.

In the evening we went to the OK Corral. I managed to buy dinner. At last.

It was forecast OK in the morning, Ed had only 2 passengers, so I went along for the ride. It was faster than forecast. Much faster. None the less Ed passed control to me, I managed to continue for a good half hour without hitting anything - the winds were a bit - shall we say - squirrelly -then returned control to Ed for the landing. In these conditions I was much happier for the owner of the balloon to make the landing!

With a good solid application of Murphy's law, as soon as I gave control to Ed, whilst we were over a good landing field, possible landing fields dried up. It took almost 30 minutes before a landing spot turned up, we even had to fly over a lake, but eventually we dove in, into a little tiny patch of rough grass. Everything was fine, trees were not too far away, but nothing and no one was damaged. I would guess we came in at about 15 mph, with winds over the top of the balloon about 25 mph. Ed reckoned it was the fastest landing he had made with passengers on board after around 1000 flights with passengers. That's balloon passengers of course. We were way below the normal landing speed of the Airbus he flies as captain in his regular job.

It was time to leave. Thanks, Ed and Sandie. Super few days.

I headed off to Minneapolis to visit with Don Piccard, the father of recreational ballooning. Yep, he was there right at the start, after Ed Yost had made the first modern era hot air balloon flights in the early 1960's it was Don who saw the idea of doing it for fun.

Willie made a delicious, absolutely delicious, shrimp thing for dinner.

Next day I visited the famous flour mill museum. Well, it was impressive, mostly by the amount of money that had been spent on it. The lift, with tiered seats, which stopped to show a display at each of the 8 floors, must have cost a fortune. At one time Minneapolis was the largest flour milling centre in the world. There were lots of people visiting, maybe they will recover their costs from the entrance fees.

I took a drive around the riverside drives. Don and Willie live on the East Riverside Drive, what an amazing place to live. Just on the other side of the road are trees and trees, descending down to the river bank and yet they are almost in the centre of the city.

This is Minneapolis. The city centre - downtown - is behind me.

Sunday morning was the marathon which passed in front of the house.

Soon after the leading male runners passed the leading female runner appeared. There was a cyclist with her and we wondered if that was allowed, if she was a pacemaker? Turns out the runner, the eventual winner, was legally blind, the cyclist was her guide. Wow!

The photo shows a bunch of runners, much lower down the field.

I talked with neighbours of the Piccards. One appeared and proceeded to pour drinks of champagne and orange juice, hey, I can live with that.

Time to leave. It was great to visit with Don and Willie. I left, and stopped by a lake for the night.

I called in at the museum at Belmond. Whilst it was a nice museum I shall remember it particularly for a collection of strange medical instruments designed to explore the insides of various private places of the male and female anatomy. There were for example anal and vaginal speculums of various designs which looked even more frightening than they sound.

I could tell you what that is used for but I don't want to.

Changing the subject, I carried a box in for a nice old lady, (probably about my age!) she gave me a book she had written about a tornado 40 years ago which almost destroyed the town.

Next call was the museum at Clarion, suggested by someone I was talking with at Bismarck, North Dakota - hundreds of miles away. The place was locked up when I got there but there was a gentleman inside working on some new exhibits, he showed me round.

There were speciality exhibits on scale models, teddy bears, hats, and farm implements. Here is a tiny part of the model exhibits.

There were lots of horse carriages.

There were some huge tractors of designs I hadn't seen before, but I couldn't get photos, there were other tractors in the way!

I spent too long there and had to rush to get to Danny's. I had hardly been there five minutes before we hurtled off to a Mexican restaurant, for a good meal with friends, and a silly song from the Mexican waiters to celebrate my long past birthday. Thanks to Rick who picked up the tab.

It was flyable next morning, Danny and I took a flight over downtown Des Moines. This was soon after launch.

This was a bit later.

Now followed a camera problem. I had recently changed the quality on my camera, now I could only take 20 photos instead of 80 as previously. I took a lot of photos yesterday, mostly junk, and forgot to clear them last night. Well, it hadn't been important when I could take 80. So I ran out of space and had to delete some photos and I had to do that when I should have been looking at the view.

We flew right over the big tower in the photo but you'll just have to believe me. Here's the capitol. The top is gold.

It was even windier than forecast so Danny picked a big field for the landing. A REAL BIG field.

We actually landed just past the far end of the main runway, on the left of the centre line. Great flight, thanks Danny.

Next day I went to the balloon museum in Indianola. Much more my sort of museum than the balloon museum at Albuquerque. I've been here before but it kept me occupied almost 4 hours. This is the Channel Champ, the balloon Ed Yost and Don Piccard flew to make the first hot air balloon crossing of the English Channel.

Yep, they just sat on that board, The burner was rated at about 2 million BTU. Hey who needs the 30 million or BTU's so many of our balloons fly with nowadays?

The had some baskets, representing the major manufactures, these are the ones on the left.

Then I went to the Iowa Historical building but I hadn't left enough time. I shot around, I only had an hour, which allowed just about enough time to realise I should have spent more time there. One set of exhibits caught my attention. One local resident, a deaf mute, arranged sand. He collected sand of different colours and arranged it. This glass container is about 8 inches high.

The whole of that design is created with sand of different colours and looks more detailed in real life than my photo. (My camera is set to optimise landscape photos, close ups and interiors don't work so well) He used a pointed stick to arrange the grains of sand.

They even have 3 old planes there.

Lots of things there, it's an excellent museum.

I'm interested in Indian artefacts. Usually there are displays of Indian beadwork, using trade beads. But I am interested in their life before they had contact with the white man, before they had beads, or horses, or metal axes. Here they had some beadwork but made with dyed and cut quills and animal bones. Much more interesting.

Danny cooked again, and next day I left to head back up north. On the way I passed by the factory making John Deere tractors and took a factory tour. I would have liked to spend more time watching, I was fascinated. We watched the 9000, 8000, and 7000 production lines. Well the 9000 was stopped today. I asked the guide if the other two were running at normal speed. Yes he assured me, but we are not like a car factory, we only make about 100 tractors a day. I'm not surprised. As I watched, about half the staff seemed to be planning their next move, and the other half were working at a speed I would call lethargic. They should go visit the Zodiac rubber boat assembly line in France. There the machines are going whoosh whoosh whoosh and operatives work at close to running speed. But like I said, I was fascinated.

Here's a tractor.

I went to the museum in Waterloo. Not big, but nicely arranged and everything nicely described. Well, there was a minor oops in the description of this photo.

I chanced to talk with the curator. Charming young lady. She had suspected that the description may have been wrong but hadn't been sure. Now she is!

I drove on a little, looked at some places to stop, didn't like them, eventually wound up in an area used to store road materials. No beautiful views tonight, although all the cornfields round about are OK.

Best regards

David Barker
On the road in Iowa

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