Our Spirits Soared, But the Balloons Did Not

Southern Leisure Travelers
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It has been one entire year since the Southern Leisure Travelers have been able to gather for a rally – one whole year. We started planning this trip in August 2019. Originally, 49 people signed up, because we were going to the Natchez Balloon Festival in Natchez, Mississippi. However, as time went by, the pandemic began and still continues. Several couples had things come up and several did not feel really confident traveling. We ended up with 14 coaches and 28 people, which turned out to be a great group of friends. We missed those who did not make it, but understand.

By October 15, 2020, 12 coaches had arrived, and we anxiously awaited the last two. Serendipity strikes again. When everyone starting arriving, they noticed a Leisure Libero already in the campground. It was a couple from Baton Rouge who were in Natchez to pick up a car they had purchased. They were a very nice couple; we talked with them, and they decided to join Southern Leisure Travelers – new members!

Later in the day, we visited and caught up with friends, and met the new people in our group. Dinner that evening was on your own, but after eating, we gathered in a large circle to continue our conversations. It was wonderful getting to be with everyone and just talking. Topics varied greatly, from what everyone had been doing, to coach repairs, travels, and the list goes on. It was a relaxed, fun evening that everyone enjoyed.

On Friday, it was determined there would be no morning balloon flights because the wind was too high. We heard different wind speeds for “too high” – one was above 6 mph and the other was above 10 mph. Not sure which is correct, but we all started scattering to see Natchez and enjoy its hospitality. There is plenty to see and do. Some people went to the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians, some walked old downtown Natchez and Bluff Park overlooking the Mississippi River, some went to visit some of the beautiful old homes, and some went to learn about Forks of the Road Slave Market, once the second largest slave market in the United States. After lunch, which was on your own, people started coming back to camp, and we visited some more. That never gets old.

Several LTVers who were intent on seeing a lift-off went to the city’s visitor center to “attend” a pilots’ meeting, in an attempt to learn when the next flights might occur. Still, the weather was the determining factor. We depended on text messages from the local newspaper to let us know (not always in advance) of flight possibilities. There would be no flight that evening because of wind. Later, several went downtown and found some very delightful balloon “glows”, where the pilots and crews lit up their burners to lift and illuminate their tethered balloons. Very nice.

Capping off that evening downtown was a very nice fireworks display, launched from a barge in the middle of the Mississippi River. Our positions in the park on the bluff overlooking the river provided a great view. And since the crowds were less than normal years, traffic didn’t cause any problems getting back to camp.

Our last full day, Saturday, was spent by most of us at the campground, visiting and checking on where people were headed next. There would be no balloon flights this morning because of wind. We also enjoyed a late lunch in the campground, a delicious BBQ that we picked up at a favorite local restaurant. Some members added their own desserts to the meal, enhancing it greatly. This meal also provided the last gathering for us to visit and say goodbyes, and to briefly discuss Club business. Also, there were some very nice door prizes from the LTV Store. Since this was our Rally Coordinator’s last rally with the group, we presented her with a small gift and good wishes for the future. She and her husband will be missed.

We got a notice that some balloons would fly that evening. Some went back downtown to watch, but many of us decided to stay at the campground. It turned out there were no balloon flights that evening.

The next day, it was time to head to our next adventure or home. Two couples were getting to stay an extra day. We understand that on Sunday evening, balloons were finally able to fly. Some things do not always work out for the best and it will be a good excuse to go again to see the balloons take off. All in all, it was a great rally and we enjoyed getting to see everyone again.

Southern Leisure Travelers

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