“Tremendous, Beautiful, Magnificent Failure!” That’s what Jonathan Trappe said about his amazing journey. We agree with all of that except the “failure” part. He was aiming for Europe and wound up in Newfoundland 12 hours after take off, but what a trip…all two years of it (including preparation)!
How incredibly lucky we are to have been connected with Jonathan Trappe’s glorious attempt at crossing the Atlantic under a cluster of helium balloons, and how honored that he chose the Portland Pudgy as his gondola. Some of the things we learned…
- The importance of whimsy and beauty in this difficult world,
- That that if one reaches out for help and fellowship as Jonathan Trappe did all along the way (most especially with the people of tiny Caribou, Maine, where he lifted off), help and fellowship will be there,
- That if you wholeheartedly pursue your passion, you can’t fail, no matter the outcome.
Trappe waited months in Caribou for the perfect weather system. There were a few times it seemed that it might materialize, but then, no. Finally, things seemed right. We got the word, arranged for a pet sitter, closed down the shop, jumped in the car, and headed up to Caribou, five hours north.
Turned out there were wicked fierce storms that day, but the following evening, the community of Caribou converged on the town’s soccer field, and started inflating balloons, and continued all through the misty night. Together we created a magic forest, a Druid temple, a Dr. Seuss fairyland of gigantic balloons:
Remember, each of these balloons is eight feet high and this is just a corner of the field!
Trappe and his lovely partner, Nidia, as well as several fellow balloonists/pilots, including the legendary Joe Kittinger (who, among other amazing feats, crossed the Atlantic in a gas balloon, 29 years ago), taught us how to inflate and then “harvest” the balloons, and directed the incredibly meticulous process of fastening them to the gondola (i.e. the Portland Pudgy).
Here’s the moment of lift-off. Trappe has just dropped the first sandbag…Nidia and Joe Kittinger watching. Minutes later the huge cluster disappeared into the low-hanging clouds (well, actually fog): It was a very moving and wonder-filled experience for us. As for the trip up through the clouds, the 60 mph shot over the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the yo-yo-ing from 21,000 feet to sea level and then back up, and the brilliantly executed landing at dusk in a remote spot in Newfoundland…what that was like, we can only imagine.