called about needing a couple of people to
drive chase for him in the REMAX Chal-
lenge Gas Balloon Race. Sue Beavers and
Ivolunteered. Sue has been involved with
first gas chase.
5: 3 p.m. Front Range
sandbags then headed
off to the Marriott ho-
tel by Denver Interna-
tional Airport to attend
the pilot briefing. The
briefing was similar to
petition briefings, but
cus on the weather par-
tions overseveral days
acrossthecou ntry .
There was a dominat-
ing high pressure sys-
temov erColo rado
witha weak troughto
the east and slow mov-
was showing that the balloons would prob-
the briefing includeddiscussionon navi-
gating in DIA’s Class B airspaceor how
folks from air traffic control at DIA were
mostsupportive of and cooperative with
the race participants.
Saturday November 6: Noon (MST).
tion hold due to wind. Watkins and the
DIA vicinity are not necessarily known
for their calm wind conditions. Next brief-
ing scheduled for 3:00 p.m. Still windy,
but the wind direction is not sending the
balloons directly into DIA, looks likethey
will skirt the east sideof the airspace. Talk
crews, and friends.Inflationsfinallybe-
opening at 8:00 p.m.. A Herculean effort
systems stable, inspite of the gusty winds,
pilots patiently waited for their turn in the
Saturday November 6: 9 p.m. (MST).
buffeted in the winds for over 2 hours, it is
timeto moveDavid’s balloon to thelaunch
scootedthe basket acrossthe tarmac the
that are used during the launchbut were
still not buoyant. Now
ballast! After about3
tries at weight off and
sandbags we start run-
to compensate for the
false lift being gener-
test for buoyancy. Af-
sandbags, David and
crew picksup the ex-
cess sandbags and the inflation parapher-
nalia and we head home for about 5 hours
of sleep ina warm bed.
Su nd ayNovember7 :7:3 0a.m.
Scottsbluff and Alliance, Nebraska head-
vehicle withclothes,munchies, acooler
GPS, and a phone. We’re off! Thechase is
on! We head up Highway76 to Sterling,
Colorado to Despinassy, Quebec Canada and back
Balloon Race in Denver, Colorado.
David’s last coordinates. He is in South
Dakota near the Pine RidgeIndian Reser-
vation and still heading northeast. 3:00
p.m.., we are in Merriman, Nebraska and
we talk toDavid. He’s over Highway 183
just south of I-80 and heading northeast.
The guy at the gas station in Merriman
toldushe hadseen three balloonsfly over
hisstation around noon and that we were
the second chasevehicle to stop at his
station for gas.
(MST). Stilltrying to catch up. We blaze
upthroughSouth Dakota andjust outside
of Vivian, South Dakota we talkto David
again. He’s stillheading northeastand we
head to Mitchell, SouthDakota where we
stop for dinner. Unfortunately there was
no time to visit the balloon museumin
Mitchell. On to Sioux Fall and north to
(MST). After about 16 hours of driving,
we finallycatch up with David and Alan.
Theycross right overus just south of
ing northeast. We flashed our headlights
and David flashed hislanding lightsas he
passed over. Hecommented tousoverthe
radio that this was the first time he had
ever seen his chase during a gas balloon
flight. We stop to get gas and David is
gone. They are moving!! As we head for
Minnesota, we continue to play catch up
the theme for the entire chase. We caught
ourfirstglimpse of the NorthernLightsas
we stair-steppedour way throughwestern
(MST). We catch up with them again!!
North of Morris, Minnesota at the inter-
section of Highway 59 and27. Time for a
nap. We pull off at the intersection and
snooze in the vehicle for about an hour.
Up and on the road again. Local traffic
startspickingup around4:00 a.m. and we
are on the move. The next update from
northeast towards Grand Rapids.
Monday November 8: Noon (MST).
We divert from our Duluth heading and
go north to V irginia, Minnesota. (David
wanted togotoVirginia!)There we watch
DavidandAlanfly overus again.28
International Falls or east towards Thun-
derBay.David calls and says they’re
heading to Thunder Bay, Ontario. So it’s
off to Canada!! A gorgeousdrive through
northern Minnesota to Highway 61 fol-
lowing Lake Superior into Canada.
(MST). David contacts us to tell us they
are stillmovingnortheastandthey are just
north of Thunder Bay. We get intoThun-
der Bay at 6:00 p.m.. (MST)and call the
Command Center. Davidisheaded across
a reasonably desolate area of Ontario to-
wardsAmos. Where theheckisAmos??!!
The Command Center advises usto carry
extragas and to stockup on food and
water. So weget food,water, maps of
Canada and plenty of extra gas.
Amos is in Quebec. We head north-
east on Canadian Highway 11, the north-
ern most Highway across Ontario. Driv-
ingatnight, we’re dodgingloggingtrucks
careening down the Highway at incred-
ible speeds and watchingthenorthern
lightsdance. Theyput ona beautiful show
for us, startingasa narrow stream of light
shootingup from the horizon, and grace-
fully spreading out into a dancing wave
form. Unfortunately, there were no col-
ors, the but white light contrast with the
thought of David and Alan and the awe-
some view they must be enjoying, peace-
fully floating acrossthewilderness of
central Ontario on that crisp clear night.
We fly ondownthe road, Sue and I taking
another two hours of much needed sleep
as we head into Tuesday morning. Bythe
way, we were so grateful for the advice
from the Command Center to bring extra
gas. What few towns there are in north
central Ontario, they are quite small, and
there are no 24 hour gas stations.
Tuesday November 9:7 a.m. (MST).
We’re inMatheson, Ontarioandthe Com-
mand Center tells us that David is about
100miles tothe northeastof us and head-
ing southeast. Southeast is good,since
there are no roads northeast of his loca-
tion, save one secondary roadwindingits
way up toJamesBay. David and Alanare
stillheading for Amos and so are we. We
arrive in Amos around 10:00 am. (MST)
and David is stillheading southeastbut is
located northeastofAmos. Davidinforms
really on now!
(MST).We getanother update and we are
onlya few miles apart and they are stillin
theair. 11:30 am. (MST),DavidandAlan
have landed and we are just a few miles
away, heading the wrong way on a nar-
row, snow covered logging road. We fi-
nallyget turned around, we hada trailer in
tow which made turning around quite a
challenge on that narrow road! We head
watchingtheGPS astheminutes and
There’s the road! It’s an even nar-
rower loggingroad—withwater hazards!
Smalldamsareholdingthe water back off
the road; with water levels higher than
spilledover and flooded the road. That4-
wheel drive came in handy.Weget to
David and Alan about an hour after they
landed. They are just a few hundred feet
gently nestled in young pine trees, bent
over from the weight of the system. No
damage and not too far to carry out the
system to the waitingchase vehicle, now
covered inmudand outofgas. Goodthing
we had refilled those gas cans.
(MST). We’re loaded up and headed out
of the forestby dusk and made our way to
the nearest villageto get awitnessto
document the landing site. We arrived in
Despinassy, about 20 miles south of the
landing site in search of someone who
could speak English well enough to un-
derstand what we needed. Finally a hot
meal and a good nights rest! We got to a
meal,and amuchneeded nights sleep
after 2,400 miles and 60 hours of driving.
Then the drive back to Denver. We ar-
only 33 hours after we left Amos for a
4,500 mile round trip in four and a half days!
I’d do it again! It was so exciting to be
part of such a extraordinary distance race;
plotting their progress on the maps, plan-
after they landed was quite a challenge. I
figure we successfully met the challenge
when we found our balloon only an hour
after it landed in the northeastern Quebec
province woods after a 2,500 mile chase.