At home in France 5th June 2007

I'm glad to renew our acquaintance before I go travelling again. This time in Europe, continuing my plan of 2005. Very roughly my route will be Milan, Athens, Budapest, Salzburg, Prague, Munster, Holland, Duisberg, Nancy, Geneva then home. About 10,000 km total and maybe 2 or 3 months. It all depends on what I find to see and do on the way.

You're on my email list. If you want to be off it, absolutely no problem. No problem at all. Just hit reply to this mail. I'll ask that you take off the pictures in the reply though.

I have absolutely no idea whether on this trip I'll feel like sending out lots of emails as I've done before. Maybe, maybe not. But first I'll catch you up on what's been happening.

Basically I've been on vacation, from vacationing. It's been rather nice to get up in the morning and just vegetate, with no need to think where am I going next, and where am I going to sleep tonight. It's been rather nice not to be looking for photos, and writing diary. It's been rather nice to have the internet available whenever I wanted, and not just when I could find a connection. It's been nice to have a shower, no problem, and to watch TV. It's been nice to have space, and real plates. It was nice, in the winter, to sit in front of a log fire in the evenings. It's been nice to have people around, my neighbours, that I know. It's been nice, again, to have a cat cuddling up to me, purring. I like it here.

In terms of happenings, in January my daughter Eleanor went off to Sydney, Australia to study for her masters in International law, having got her law degree in Paris. So, she did her first degree in French, she's doing her masters in English. Me, I reckon that's pretty good in one language, never mind two. She has the idea eventually to work for human rights with one of the NGO's.

Sadly I lost my black cat. She used to sleep on my bed every night, but at the end of March she was run over, on the road. I had to scrape her up with a shovel, it was horrid. But I still have Eleanor's little cat, I'm looking after her while Eleanor is in Australia. Now Pica, Eleanor's cat, is intelligent. That is, as far as a cat can be intelligent. She has an amazing ability to get to places.

She's lovely.

What have I actually done myself? Well, not a lot, now that I come to think of it. A job that has been waiting a long time was the back wall of the house.

Originally

or from another angle, with work started on the right

It has now become

I've just recently made a couple of balloon flights. The first in my 30 year old balloon, Bert, was a little frustrating. There was a very light wind which took us very slowly in the opposite direction to the one that I expected, straight towards a nearby forest. There was not enough speed to be able to fly over it so after 15 minutes and about 1 km we landed. We were close to one of the corners of the forest and it looked as though, if we were 100 yards to the left, we would miss the forest. So we carried the balloon 100 yards to the left. The next part I hardly need to tell you. When we got there the wind had changed, taking us straight to the forest........

I didn't take photos so here's a picture of Bert 3 years ago near Des Moines with Danny Campbell's ReMax balloon.

A couple of days later I took out my slightly older balloon Carousel 2, which is 31 years old. I did get photos this time. First, just before launch.

Second photo, from a neighbour, just after.

My house is the one in the middle, behind is the garage that I built last year.

You can't see the new wall from this angle.......

Just while planning this trip I had some bad news. Hans Buker died suddenly, on 23rd May. He was one of the few people I was going to visit with on this trip, we had tried to meet up last year but we had both been in the wrong places at the wrong time. I met him in 1971. On my first night flight in 1976 (in Cologne) he came along to make it legal. I made my first Alpine flights in 1976 while holidaying with him in Bavaria. He was one of the most experienced and oldest of the Alpine balloon pilots. He originated and organised the first Chateau d'Oex meeting and has lived and flown in that area for almost the last 30 years.

In 1982 he was with me on our aborted attempt to make the first ever free flight in Israel. All possibility was lost when 2 terrorists flew over the border at night in a black hot air balloon and were shot down, whilst we were negotiating with the military for permissions. One time we flew in our two balloons from Gstaad in Switzerland, it was drizzling at take off, we went into cloud (oops) at 7000 ft and cleared at 13000, never saw the ground again until we cleared the Alps. It was so nice there we stayed in Italy 2 days before chucking everything into my small VW van to come back. Both 105's, Hans's and mine, about 16 tanks, plus all the junk you need to carry on such a flight, and 5 people. Baskets were hung on the back, one inside the other, Russian doll style.

Bye Hans. Happy landings.

I've just about got the van transformed again. First it was a van, then I put windows in and 9 folding seats, to make it into a 12 seater minibus. Then 7 of the seats came out leaving a 5 seater balloon retrieve. Then the remaining 2 folding seats came out to make a camper van, then the camper van stuff came out to make it into a builders truck. After a short period as 5 seater retrieve vehicle again the camper stuff is now going back. One touch of "luxury" this time - I've just bought a portable toilet! I would like a refrigerator but I'll make do with an electric cool box. I'm happy with the twin burner cooker and twin batteries to run the inside lights etc. I'd like the van to be another 50 cms higher, but, hey, you can't have everything. My website has photos of the interior as it was as a camper van, report number 5 in 2005, it is once again much the same.

Now I'm almost ready. But now I find that I don't want to leave this house! I'm homesick already! (Pica will be OK, she'll be looked after by neighbours, and with a couple of cat doors in the house she can come and go as she pleases, but I'll miss her)

I love it, everything about it, living here. But on the other hand my need to travel, to explore, is too great............

Best regards

David Barker
At home in France

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