After 20 years of piloting her own hot air balloon, Valerie Favicchio sold her balloon in anticipation of a move to Malaysia with her husband and young daughter.
"I know they have a balloon festival in Kuala Lumpur," she said early this morning while piloting the borrowed Spirit of Boise hot air balloon to a stop above the Boise River. "They use butane fuel instead of propane over there, so I'm not sure about that."
As my pilot on the second day of the annual Spirit of Boise Balloon Classic, Favicchio showed her skills at keeping a mammoth dirigible full of hot air from straying into dangerous territory—like the not-so-distant towers of downtown Boise.
Instead, she tried for finesse.
Favicchio pulled at a long rope attached to the side of the balloon and goosed the trigger for more propane. She hovered 20 feet above Ann Morrison Park, trying desperately to perform a "splash dash" by kissing the basket to the top of the fountain below.
"We're too light," she said with a tsk. "The first to touch the fountain gets $100."
Though we missed out on netting the $100 prize, we did attract waves and smiling faces while hovering near Fairview Avenue.
"I've always wanted to try landing on the top of a parking garage," said Favicchio.
Though the valley's air was hazy, the views were spectacular. The light refracted through the smoke as the sun rose, casting the other 20 balloons as silhouettes.
But instead of landing on a parking garage, Favicchio maneuvered the balloon to a soft landing right back where we started in Ann Morrison Park. This is no easy task for pilots, as evidenced by the two balloons that ended up landing south of the river near Broadway Avenue hours later.
The Spirit of Boise will continue the mornings of Friday, Aug. 31-Sunday, Sept. 2. An evening event on Saturday, Sept. 1, won't include flights, but will show off glowing balloons lit from within.