Friday, July 03, 2009

June 22 2009: Colorado Vacation w/Camelot Balloons and Grouse Mountain

We started Monday morning at 4AM. I awoke not knowing if Fran would be able to go through with our plans for a hot air balloon ride to celebrate her 50th birthday due to her bad cold. Her body was racked with coughing all night long and as a result neither of us were able to sleep more than a couple hours.

I had chosen Camelot Balloon rides for this morning’s adventure and they did not disappoint. The launch site for Camelot sits just north of the Eagle County Regional Airport or (EGE). EGE was closed to commercial traffic this summer but it remains a busy general aviation airport while they are expanding their runway capability. When reopened this fall it will be able to support large commercial flights from anywhere in the US. This is a great airport to get to Vail, Aspen and Beaver Creek ski resorts.

Camelot Balloons is owned and operated by “Merlin”. His flight crew chief “Sir Shrek the Red Neck” and three young men that served as his flight crew were all wonderful good old boys in the nicest sense. It was obvious that Merlin and Red Neck had worked together for many years and their stories, good humor and expert ability managing the balloon launch and recovery made our morning quite enjoyable. We were joined in our first time balloon ride by two other couples; two attorneys from Chicago and another from Charlotte, NC.

The flight consisted of rising to 1,800 feet above the launch site (which sits at 6,540 foot altitude) and going back and forth across a valley boxed in by mountains. Merlin would take advantage of winds that were different at every altitude … so to go west he would rise … to go east he would drop … to go north he would hug the tree tops. The time in the air was so pleasant … it was quiet … almost breezeless (as we were part of the air current) and very enjoyable. After our soft landing and return to base we were treated to champagne and a light lunch and stories. I highly recommend Camelot Balloons … it is not fancy but it is fun, safe and memorable! Merlin’s next adventure is to launch a balloon service in the Cayman Islands this fall where he will launch on one end of the island chain and land on a boat. One of his prior balloon clients is the general manager of the Ritz-Carlton in the Cayman Islands and paid for Merlin to bring his balloon down and test out the whole process including landing in a boat.

After a light lunch … and a manicure & pedicure we rested and took a short walk along the Gore Creek bike trail. The trail parallels the creek for many miles and provides a nice way to walk and enjoy the sight of a creek swelled by mountain runoff. Monday evening we went for dinner to Grouse Mountain Grill in Beaver Creek. GMG is breathtaking to arrive at and the food and service matched the first impressions. Fran and I were the first couple of the year to eat outside on the patio overlooking the mountains and the ski resort. BC is a beautiful ski resort community next to Avon nestled into a set of spectacular mountains. Our waiter was a free spirit and at 60 years old someone who had experienced Woodstock, and numerous late 60’s and early 70’s events that most of us only read about. He did have a story about traveling through Schenectady in 1973 at 2AM and pulling over for gas and looking into the car next to him where there was a lion and a poodle in the car. Turns out the driver was only one of a couple licensed owners of a lion in the country and he was taking the lion out for a drive (one of the lions favorite activities) … but he could only take him out in the middle of the night as his day time drives caused accidents from drivers to shocked to drive straight.

At the end of the day we were able to return to the Sheraton (just five miles from GMG) and admire our certificates of accomplishment signifying we had participated in man’s first aeronautical experience by ascending into the heavens on the hot air balloon “Caerleon” and piloted by the wizard of Camelot “Merlin”.

No comments: