MOUNT GILEAD — Morrow County never looked as good as it did from a hot air balloon, 1,000 feet in the air.
A balloon ride has been on my bucket list for many years. So it was a real thrill to get this ride as a birthday present and finally get to go up with Allen last week.
It was a perfect 70-degree June evening with an occasional light breeze that carried the balloon over Morrow County from State Route 42 north of Mount Gilead, north over Candlewood Lake.
Our daughters and grandchildren came to watch and as the first whoosh of the burner lit up and the balloon lifted we heard, “Wow, oh wow. This is awesome.”
Pilot of Mid-Ohio Balloon Adventures, Gary Tyo, pointed out County Road 101 where Bob and Penny Brooke live and then pointed out a deer at the edge of a field. I got to grab a leaf from the top of a Cottonwood tree before we lifted to where the breeze could take us to a higher place to catch more wind.
Almost every corner of Morrow County was in sight from Johnsville to Mount Gilead and from Flying Horse Farm and Chesterville to the southern hills toward Marengo. We could barely make out the skyline of Columbus in the hazy distance.
But it is the late spring beauty of Morrow County that is so captivating from above. Lush, green woods make a patchwork with fields and toy size farms and homes make a perfect picture in the glow of the evening sun.
We felt very confident knowing that Tyo has 37 years of experience as a balloon pilot with between 1,000 and 1,200 rides under his belt.
He said his interest in ballooning came after attending a festival in 1972, where he helped a pilot launch a balloon. He thought it was a unique and fascinating experience and something he would like to try.
However, it was nine years later in 1981 that he purchased his first balloon and got his private pilot’s license. The next year he got his commercial license.
Ballooning has been a side interest for Tyo and his wife Kim, who is his assistant. She follows the balloon in a car on the ground. This summer their granddaughter McKensie Barnes and her friend Emilee Cochran are helping launch and land the balloon.
Tyo is a graduate of River Valley High School and worked as an engineer for the railroads for many years in Ohio and New Jersey before graduating from law school. He practiced law in Galion for several years before coming to Morrow County. He and Kim now live and work out of their home on SR 42 that was formerly The Inn restaurant owned by the Kimmey family.
Time in the hot air balloon has a peaceful aura. There is a whoosh of the propane flame from time to time that carries the balloon upward. But the noise of traffic is barely perceptible. We were warned that the landing might be a little bumpy. However, Tyo’s engineering experience brought us gently onto the bank of a pond at the far south end of Candlewood Lake.
Jim and Cheri Munroe were watching us descend and Jim ran over to drag the basket farther up onto his lawn. A few neighbors gathered until Kim came with the trailer and several helped gather the balloon and basket and load everything onto the trailer for the trip back to Mount Gilead.
As Allen and I reflected on our experience we felt fortunate have the opportunity to take the balloon ride right near home and see the sight of our picturesque county beneath us. It gave us a whole new appreciation for the special quality of our beautiful, rural county.
For information: Mid-Ohio Balloon Adventures, LLC, Gary L. Tyo, Pilot, Phone: 419-560-7535. Web: www.midohioballoon.com.