A Sky Aglow: Up with the Great Reno Balloon Races Dawn Patrol

Like paper lanterns rising to the heavens in the Far East, the radiant balloons twinkled in unison during the Dawn Patrol that was to precede the Great Reno Balloon Races.  Only seven balloons – those which were qualified to fly in the dark – participated. The flying conditions at night can be dangerous since atmospheric conditions can change quickly once the sun rises over the hot Nevada desert.

As music played in the background, the sky changed from jet black, to midnight blue to steel grey, with a hint of gold. Unfortunately, weather conditions prevented the 80 or so balloons from ascending together after the sun had risen. Though we were disappointed, the beautiful Dawn Patrol event made our 0400 wake-up so worthwhile!

Reno Dawn Patrol hot air balloons
Reno Dawn Patrol hot air balloons
Reno Dawn Patrol hot air balloons

“For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.”

Leonardo Da Vinci
Reno Dawn Patrol hot air balloons
Reno Dawn Patrol hot air balloons
Reno Dawn Patrol hot air balloons

“Heights by great men reached and kept were not obtained by sudden flight but, while their companions slept, they were toiling upward in the night.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Reno Dawn Patrol hot air balloons
Reno Dawn Patrol hot air balloons

“The reason birds can fly and we can’t is simply because they have perfect faith, for to have faith is to have wings.”

J.M. Barrie
Reno Dawn Patrol hot air balloons
Reno Dawn Patrol hot air balloons

“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.”

J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
Reno dawn patrol hot air balloons
Reno Dawn Patrol hot air balloons

“There is a trick to flying. The angels told me.” He had smiled at my wide-eyed awe. “You need to forget everything you know as a human being. When you are human, you discover that there is great power in hating the earth. And it can almost make you fly. But it never will.

I had frowned, not quite understanding him. “So, what’s the trick?”

“Love the sky.”

Anne Fortier, Juliet
Reno dawn patrol balloon races
Reno hot air balloon races dawn patrol
Reno Dawn Patrol hot air balloons
Reno dawn patrol balloon races
Reno dawn patrol hot air balloon races
Reno hot air balloon races dawn patrol
Reno dawn patrol balloon races

“I will never stop trying to fly, because I’m not convinced that anything is impossible!”

Matt Scott
Reno dawn patrol balloon races

Where in the World?

Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

Published by Tricia A. Mitchell

Tricia A. Mitchell is a freelance writer and photographer. Born in Europe but raised in the United States, she has lived in Valletta, Malta; Heidelberg, Germany; and Split, Croatia. An avid globetrotter who has visited more than 65 countries, she has a penchant for off-season travel. Tricia has learned that travel’s greatest gift is not sightseeing, rather it is the interactions with people. Some of her most memorable experiences have been sharing a bottle of champagne with distant French cousins in Lorraine, learning how to milk goats in a sleepy Bulgarian village, and ringing in the Vietnamese New Year with a Hanoi family. She welcomes any opportunity to practice French and German, and she loves delving into a place’s history and artisanal food scene. A former education administrator and training specialist, Tricia has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in international relations. She and her husband, Shawn, married in the ruins of a snowy German castle. They’ve been known to escape winter by basing themselves in coastal Croatia or Southeast Asia. Her writing has appeared in Fodor’s Travel, Frommer’s, and International Living.

44 thoughts on “A Sky Aglow: Up with the Great Reno Balloon Races Dawn Patrol

  1. This took my breath away. It felt unreal. An incredible dream of colour and sky. Then you inserted the perfect quotes. Tricia you turned the ordinary into the amazing. Ballons will never look the same again. Virginia

    1. Virginia, if only I could’ve captured the chill in the air, the anticipation among the audience, and sweeping tunes being played in the background. The event was one of those moments when you ponder what beautiful things can be achieved when you have positive energy, and a crowd full of dreamers!

  2. Extraordinary experience, Tricia, watching these balloons ascend … stunning photos capturing it. Weather conditions have a way of changing the game plan and at least the dawn patrol of seven got to lift off.

    1. So true, Lynne! The Dawn Patrol was magical enough on its own. Must admit that I would’ve loved to have hopped aboard one, even though I do have a fear of heights. Do you and Ron have an interest in ballooning?

      1. We did a hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti.Wonderful experience. We have photographed a couple of small festivals, but the weather grounded them. What you were able to photograph was stunning.

      2. Lynne, you and Ron have certainly done a lot of globetrotting! It’s fun to hear all the exotic places others have flown over in hot air balloons – from Antoinette in Cappadocia, Turkey to your Serengeti flight, to ours in the Loire Valley two years ago. Seems as though it’s a very temperamental sport, extremely dependent on weather conditions that may seem invisible to those of us on the ground!

    1. Thank you – certainly this event was very magical – not only because of the twinkling beauties, but because of the magic of flight. The quotes then, seemed very fitting. Hope you’re having a splendid start to the week, Sharon!

    1. Carole, what was also dramatic was the roar of the flame whenever the balloonist released more propane. My husband and I were lucky enough to go up in a balloon two summers ago for his birthday (during a golden afternoon) and it was just as magical as this Glow Show! :) Highly recommend it, despite my fear of heights.

  3. This brings back memories of my time as an exchange student in Australia many years ago. One of my host families had a balloon and took me to a festival where they did a night glow when all of the balloons were set up for a short time at night and glowed like dreams for the taking. None went up but it was still amazing. Also, great use of the quotes! Especially appreciate the thoughts from Barrie.

    1. Kevin, it was so fun reading your ballooning tale from Australia. Thank you for taking the time to share it! I love your comment, “glowed like dreams for the taking.” Beautiful! For how long were you an exchange student?

      1. I was an exchange student for six months in Adelaide when I was 15. I have had the opportunity since then to return for a few weeks with the BYU Young Ambassadors. I’ve always been obsessed with Australia and can’t wait for a chance to return.

      2. Kevin, though my family hosted four foreign exchange students, I was never one myself. How fun that you were able to spend so much time in Australia in an exchange program. Having not yet been to Australia, I’m curious if you can recommend any favorite spots?

      3. It was pretty cool. Anything particular you’re interested in? There’s a lot to see and I’ve seen a bit of it. Definitely make a trip to Canberra, the capitol, and if you can Tasmania and Adelaide. I can give you more specific suggestions if you give me a bit more info in what you’re interested in. Maybe I’ll write a retrospective post or two with some tips.

      4. Well, we don’t have a trip there in the works (yet!) but I would be thrilled to read your retroactive posts to gain more inspiration. Thanks so much for your willingness to help, Kevin.

  4. Tricia this post and your photos took me back to my 28th birthday last year in Cappadocia, Turkey where I experienced my first hot air balloon ride!! Loved every moment of it! Great post! And I concur, it’s totally worth the 4am early rise!

    1. Antoinette, what a memorable birthday for you! I wonder if you were as nervous as we were when we rode in a balloon on my husband’s birthday two summers ago in the Loire Valley? Our balloonist didn’t fly as high as he could have, but we think he tickled the treetops with the basket just to keep the passengers on their toes (we were rather nervous, but entertained).

      A friend of mine went ballooning in Turkey last year and said it was really special flying over the ‘fairy chimneys’ of Cappadocia. Do you have a post on your site?

    1. Thanks for your gracious comment, Ron! The da Vinci quote also spoke to me, and actually reminded me of our trip to da Vinci’s ‘retirement home’ named Clos Lucé in Amboise, France (in the Loire Valley). There, like little kids, we enjoyed exploring models of inventions that da Vinci sketched out. One was a model of a flying machine.

  5. I anxiously await your posts. It’s all so very beautiful!Your photos and the text uplifts my spirit.Thank you!Marie

    1. Marie, what a great surprise to hear from you here and to read your kind comment! It makes me feel good to know that my little tales brighten your days. Thank you.

      I hope you are well and enjoying the autumn there. It’s hard to believe that it’s almost been a year since we left. We’ll be back in Europe later this fall (at least for a visit, possibly longer if we find the right employment fit) and perhaps our paths will cross then. Take care, and thank you again for sharing your comment about the beautiful balloons!

  6. What a fabulous sequence. And I love it that you introduce birds into the last couple of frames. It’s a bit like the second turn in a sonnet, just before the couplet. Pure delight.

    1. Welcome, Juliann!

      It seems that balloon flights are extremely susceptible to sour weather! Whereas our Balloon Glow was a go, the mass take-off that was scheduled for the late morning was cancelled. I’m so pleased we saw the ‘Glow Show.’

      Wow – I’d heard of the balloon festival in New Mexico, but didn’t know there was one in Ohio too. They’re really catching on (or I’m behind the trend).

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