Part One: Balloons float over the river like bubbles blown from child's bubble wand.


Every Memorial Day, Decatur, Alabama hosts the Jubilee Hot Air Balloon Festival at Mallard Point Park. The launch area is close to the Tennessee River. I tried for four years to get this photograph, finally on the fifth try, the weather cooperated and the balloons launched early Saturday and drifted in the right direction: over the water and this was the winning shot that is in my book Tennessee River: Sparkling Gem of the South.



We flew around the cluster of balloons for over an hour. That's why I use this airplane that allows me to fly this low and slow, I almost feel like I can hover!



More balloons, but this time over Alabama farmland.


Feeling playful, some of the balloonists tested their skills and touched the water with the balloon baskets.


The late Clay Smith, center, was owner and fixed-based operator of Pryor Field in Decatur, welcomed us after tying down Cloud Chaser. We based the plane at the area’s busiest regional airport, Pryor Field and camped in the parking lot with the RV. This FBO (airport office) was populated with a cast of human, canine and feline characters that are the stuff of aviation legends. More on this airport experience coming in Part Two.

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