Paul's Chateau d'Oex Journal

The 1998 Swiss Alpine Hot Air Balloon Festival

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Monday, January 26, 1998

Too few hours passed before it was time to get up. We had to hit the road early in order to get to Geneva for our flight back home. Alf, Elisabeth, Annie and Cindy were all able to continue in their peaceful sleep, but the Chateau d’Oex mission was over for the rest of us.

I had pretty much completed packing before I went to sleep, knowing that I wouldn’t want to do it in the morning with time at a premium. This morning, just tossing my toothbrush into the suitcase completed the task.

I also completed my last Internet check. Before going to bed, I had checked the Super Bowl score. At halftime, it was not looking very good for the Packers. Now the game was over, and there was no joy in Cheeseville. Poor Cindy. Well, she still had several days in Chateau d’Oex; that would ease the pain.

I disconnected my computer for the last time and took the special "alligator clip" cables across the hall, where I slid them under Alf’s door.

After a quick breakfast, we hit the road. A couple of the crew guys drove us and our luggage back to Geneva in Buddy’s big Mercedes van. They arrived at the Ermitage a bit late; apparently they had been out a bit late Sunday night, too. We had a quiet trip: We were all pretty tired, and there was dozing as we traveled the Swiss highways.

We arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare before our 12:15 flight, so we wandered around until it was time to board. After the cold and wind of the last couple of ballooning days, I was in need of some Chapstick(tm). After wading through some European products that may or may not have been similar, I found the genuine article and achieved quick relief. I also picked up several newspapers. Back home, I go through several a day, and so my withdrawal was becoming intense.

The plane to New York was pretty empty – much more than the flight east had been. Linda and I sat together in the back and compared notes about our last night in Chateau d’Oex. (Hers had definitely been more interesting than mine.) Indeed, we went over the whole trip, recalling the escapades of our little group over the past ten days.

This would be a long day: After leaving Chateau d’Oex in the morning and driving to Geneva, our Swissair flight would take us to New York, and then our Delta flights would take us to our respective homes. With our clocks bumping back an hour with each 15 degrees of longitude traversed, Monday would be long enough to allow the completion of our trip all the way home.

We landed at New York Kennedy at about 3:00 – once again, well in advance of our next required flight. The Floridians had a flight out at about 4:30; mine wasn’t until 5:50. Once again, we spent some time wandering around an airport. Linda and I made some phone calls and sat around in a semi-sleepy state until it was time for the Fort Lauderdale flight to board. I bid farewell to her and Susan as they walked onto the plane.

I still had over an hour before my flight, so I headed upstairs, where I could have a beer and read a New York Times. There, I ran into Rosemary and Richard. I told them that their flight was boarding, and they scampered quickly downstairs.

My flight to Seattle was very lightly loaded. I was delighted to have a set of three seats all to myself: By the time we took off, it was midnight in Chateau d’Oex, and I my sleep reservoir needle was bumping against the "Empty" mark. After sampling a little of the inflight dinner, I spread out across the seats, pulled a blanket over myself, and drifted in and out of sleep for much of the flight.

It was nearly 9:00 when we landed at Sea-Tac – 6:00 a.m. in Chateau d’Oex, and almost twenty-four hours after I’d gotten out of bed. After retrieving my luggage, I called for the Quality Inn shuttle van that would take me back to my car.

For several weeks before leaving home, my left front tire had been leaking air. Every few days, I had to stop at the Texaco station at the corner and fill it up. Now, after more than ten days, I knew that it would be low indeed. It was. But it still had enough inflation to get me a couple of blocks to a pump, and then I was on my way to Interstate 5.

The drive home was luckily uneventful. The hour was late, and traffic was light. Heading through Gorst, the lack of sleep began to catch up with me. As I neared Silverdale, I was close to nodding off. But I made it all the way back home alive, and everything was back to normal. My long adventure was finally over. Tomorrow, I would wake up in the United States and read the local papers.

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