There is no disputing the fact that we are definitely in the middle of nowhere. Southern Utah, away from the interstate, is a desolate, arid and mostly unpopulated place. It is also hot. Desert hot. Not the kind of place that we anticipated stumbling upon a festival that celebrates the majesty of hot air ballooning. And despite my proximity to many balloons and their pilots, how one steers a hot air balloon remains a mystery to me.
The aforementioned heat caused us to leave before sunrise. Riding in the dark, especially in an early morning where it is still vaguely warm, is a strange sensation. We could perhaps have better lights that would probably make it safer at least, putting your trust in the state of Utah to provide roads without potholes may prove disastrous.
Riding in the early morning is probably going to prove to be a fairly spectacular experience. Though, I don’t know if I’d like to make a habit of it.
Day seven-three provided us with wind, as always, a ferocious head wind. We made a few miles; we tried our best.
It was when I was riding having to hold my hat to my head that I started looking around for trucks we could put our bikes in the back of. This is cheating, in a way, but with Jo-Roxy still recovering from sickness, a death march–like boredom setting in (from sitting in motels all day) and the availability of such bike carrying capacity vehicles, we decided to start catching lifts.
Our first ride lasted only ten miles. A good start. We were dropped of at a gas station, walked to the end of the town and started looking for another ride. It didn’t take long, the second ride was about fifteen miles long. Again we were dropped in a town we walked past the town limit and found another ride. The third was a charm. Miguel pulled over, despite having two baseball players and his daughter in the car, ‘Are you going to the festival?’ he asked. ‘What festival?’ ‘Panguitch. The balloon festival. Lots of food, lots of people.’ YES!
Panguitch is a sleepy town that survives on its proximity to Bryce Canyon, a local tourist landmark. It’s a sleepy town every other night of the year.
Panguitch hosted some fairly rigged bingo in the town hall. I was unlucky but luckily Jo-Roxy did some winning. Her prize? Glow sticks. Rave to the grave, or in our case, ride in the night covered in phosphorescence.
The food wasn’t all Miguel had said it would be, but the fried bread was pretty good.
The highlight of the event was the shutting down of main street and having the balloons attach themselves to the ground, especially this year as the wind, even at night, was blowing strongly, and inflate and be pretty.