PROSSER -- Scott Spencer knows how to slow down a busy world.
All it takes is air heated to 125 degrees trapped inside a thin ripstop nylon balloon.
The whoosh of the dual propane burners is the only sound the balloon made as Spencer floated over Prosser.
This weekend, he will be one of about 26 Northwest balloonists to launch hot air balloons into the skies for the Great Prosser Balloon Rally.
But on Thursday morning, the ride was peaceful. Below, cars sped by, dogs barked and trains rolled down the tracks.
Get up about 1,200 feet, and most of those sounds disappeared.
Like sound, smells carry too -- from the sweet smell of apple orchards or the nose-wrinkling aroma of a wastewater treatment plant.
Spencer has brought a balloon to the Prosser rally all 23 years of the event. It's one of only five he and his wife, Laurie, attend each year.
The Boise couple own Lighter than Air America, and fly hot air balloons for companies such as Coca-Cola and Walt Disney, including a giant Mickey Mouse, which Spencer said is his favorite. In Prosser, Spencer was flying the giant red balloon emblazoned with the Coca-Cola logo.
The balloon alone weighs about 320 pounds, said the professional balloonist.
That's 1,500 yards of fabric and 13 miles of thread.
With the power of hot air, Spencer can inflate the balloon and carry a load of about 1,200 pounds.
Height is controlled with the frequency and amount of heat he pours into the balloon. When he gives the flame a boost, it feels like sitting too close to a campfire.
Spencer can make the balloon gently twirl in the sky by pulling a rope to open a vent.
But steering -- well, that's a matter of wind. And patience.
"Wind for us is a river in the sky," Spencer said.
Though moving at more than six miles per hour, there's no feeling of motion. Only when Spencer, or one of his three passengers moves, does the woven basket seem to shift in the skies.
"You don't perceive movement," he said. "You don't feel movement."
Well, not until the basket meets the ground with a thump.
Spencer said he still enjoys floating through the air, even though he started 42 years ago at age 14.
For Autumn Blount, 14, a Prosser High School freshman, Spencer's morning flight was her first time.
"This is amazing," said Autumn, who peered over the edge, watching Prosser float by.
Autumn said she would never have guessed how smooth it was.
"Can I go again?" she asked after the basket touched the ground.
-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; firstname.lastname@example.org