Up, Up, and Away in My Beautiful (RE/MAX®) Balloon

J Webb’s lyrics, “Up and away, In my beautiful, My beautiful balloon” were playing in my mind on Wednesday morning as we gently lifted off in the RE/MAX® Balloon from a park in east Plano.

About 4 years ago Gina finished treatment for cancer and we had talked about taking a flight in a hot air balloon to celebrate the milestone. Life happens and it was placed on the shelf. We joined RE/MAX® in 2009 so the idea of a flight in the RE/MAX® Balloon seemed like the natural thing to do.

The morning flight started at 6 AM as we met with the Wayne Standefer and his crew. Gina and I climbed into the RE/MAX Balloon Team van and we headed for the launch site. We arrived on-site and Wayne and his crew went to work.

(Click on photos for larger versions)

 Preparing the RE/MAX Balloon for Flight  Prepaing the RE/MAX Balloon for Flight

After Wayne checked the equipment in the gondola, it was unloaded and turned on its side. The 80-foot canopy was slowly rolled out onto the lawn and meticulously attached to the gondola.  As the crew stretched out the canopy, a large fan was used to initially inflate the balloon. I was enlisted to help hold open the base of the canopy open.

 Tom Branch Holding Open the RE/MAX Balloon.

Wayne jumped in the gondola and fired up the heater to add some lift to the balloon. That first blast of flame and the rushing sound made me jump! The second blast was easier on me.

 Inflating the Balloon

Before we knew it the huge RE/MAX® Balloon was inflated. Wayne hollered at me to get in the gondola along with my gear (DSLR and a bottle of Veuve Clicquot on ice). I then helped Gina into the gondola and we were off on a new adventure.

As we quietly ascended into the early morning sky, I looked back to see the ground crew loading the van and preparing to follow us on the ground. The morning winds were gentle and taking us north. As we glided across US75, we had a good view of the early traffic as commuters scurried into Dallas.

Leaving the Ground and Chase Van Behind  Early Morning Traffic on US75 at Park

We passed just south of the Cinemark Theater at Legacy and US75. With the commercial areas behind us, we drifted over the Chase Oaks Golf Course and into the residential areas of central Plano. We were both amazed that there is still so much open space in the area.

Cinemark Legacy Theater in Plano TX  Chase Oaks Golf Course Plano TX

We floated along about 150 feet off the ground. As we passed over houses, people out for their morning walks or getting ready to leave for work would wave and call out, “good morning” to us. We waved and returned their greetings.

Gina Branch Riding in the RE/MAX Balloon   Well Kept Home in Plano TX

Our path continued to the north. We few over The Preserve in Allen, a new subdivision that Gina and I have been following. We were able to get some really good photos of the progress the developer is making.

The Preserve in Allen from the RE/MAX Balloon

As the end of our adventure neared, Wayne took a few moments to explain the landing procedures to us. I’m retired from the Air Force and still had not given the idea of landing much thought.  Wayne skillfully descended into a vacant field. The gondola touched down and as Wayne deflated the canopy, the gondola rolled over onto its side. Flight complete.

Within minutes the chase van arrived on-scene. As the crew packed up the equipment, Gina and I popped the cork on the chilled bottle of Champagne. Wayne has a special toast reserved for the end of each flight and we celebrated a nice flight and a safe landing.

Pop Open the Champagne - We're Safe and Sound on the Ground

The equipment was packed and we all boarded the van for the ride back to the launch site to say our goodbyes and pick up our RE/MAX® SMART car.

The Branch Team SMART Car

What a neat experience!

RE/MAX® has a fleet of more than 115 balloons located both in the US and internationally.  RE/MAX of Texas owns 7 of them.

Photos Copyright 2011 – Tom and Gina Branch

About Tom Branch

Tom Branch has written 597 posts in this blog.

Have you ever just met someone, but felt you like you'd known him for years? That's what most people experience with Tom. He has a knack for making folks feel right at home. After 21 years in the Air Force, loyalty and honesty are the foundation of everything Tom does. In addition to being a Texas Real Estate Broker, Tom is a Certified Distressed Property Expert (CDPE) and a Short Sales & Foreclosure Resource (SFR).