The Great Reno Balloon Race
The Great Reno Balloon Race takes place annually on the weekend following Labor Day. Over 100 hot air balloons converge to provide a vibrant showcase for visitors from around the State. This free event starts at 5 a.m. with the Glow Show featuring balloons inflating in darkness before sunrise followed by Dawn Patrol which is a coordinated launching of 5 balloons in darkness. The glow of the propane flames make for a spectacular show as thousands of onlookers take in the experience in the perfect 57 degree weather. Spectators are allowed to get as closes to the balloon as possible short of getting into the basket. This provides ample photo opportunities to shoot the inflation of the balloons. The process of launching a hot air balloon is fairly simple. The balloon is laid out on a huge tarp. A large fan begins to blow air in to the balloon to inflate it. As the balloon inflates, hot air is introduced via large propane tanks mounted inside the basket. The difference between the hot air trapped inside the balloon and the cold air outside causes the balloon to rise and eventually lift the entire balloon into a vertical position. To move the balloon, enough hot air is introduced to lift the balloon just inches off the ground and people simply push it in the direction of travel. I was surprised at the precision and control they had in lifting the balloons.Our road trip-This was a surprisingly smooth trip. All the elements lined up just right and our timing could not be more perfect. We left Palo Alto at around 12:45 a.m. on Saturday and arrived at the park at exactly 5:00 am. By the time we got settled in and got to the main area, the Dawn Patrol segment was just starting. We missed the Glow show but we didn’t know it until we caught it the next morning. After the Dawn Patrol show, there is a 1 hour break while over 100 balloonists prepare for a simultaneous launch at sunrise. It’s quite an amazing sight as these balloons fill the air in a coordinated launch. The day ended with a competition on who can land closest to a designated target. After it was over, we headed over to Harrahs casino to have breakfast/brunch. Since we couldn’t check in to our motel until 4 pm, we decided to hang out at Harrahs to edit our pictures. We ended up staying there for 4 hours and actually ate again as they brought out new food for lunch. What a deal! After a quick rest, we went over to the Grand Sierra casino to catch Live Free, Die Harder for a mere $3. Amazingly, this casino had penny slots which I have never seen before. The next morning we were able to catch the balloon show again; this time catching the Glow show at the beginning. A forest fire nearby created a haze in the air which made it a bit difficult for photography but it didn’t seem to bother the balloonists one bit. We ended our trip in Reno with a hearty breakfast at local favorite Peg’s Glorified Ham N Eggs. A few notes: GPS came in very handy as we were able to navigate a strange city without hesitation. The motel we had included free internet access so I was able to upload all my pictures from the shoot overnight. On the four hour drive back, I was able to connect to the internet via my sprint mobile phone tethered to my laptop. That’s ultimate in connectivity. To able able to chat online while traveling down the freeway at 65 mph.Overall, a wonderful weekend trip. I would recommend it to anyone.A slide show with larger pictures is available for viewing here.