Wednesday, December 28, 2016

30 Before 30: Ride in a Hot Air Balloon



I think that riding in a hot air balloon is just one of those things that seems so interesting to do. Well, until recently when there was that fatal balloon ride.

That didn't stop my sister and me. Both of us have always been intrigued by riding in a balloon. There are hot air balloon festivals every year in Colorado Springs, so we grew up watching them rise with the sun, gently gliding against a mountainous backdrop. It seemed incredibly peaceful.

For Nicole’s 27th birthday and for my 30th, our mom gifted us a balloon ride!

The starting point was in southern Colorado Springs. We met at a hotel where we were then transported to an open field where the balloon baskets were unloaded and the balloon itself was inflated.

It was actually a really interesting process, one that I volunteered to help with. Basically I held the balloon open while a powerful fan blew air into it. I’m basically a balloon captain now.

After the balloon was inflated, Nicole and I, along with 10 new friends, used a step stool to get inside of the basket. This is where it started to get real for us. After everyone was loaded, we were given safety instructions. Which basically consisted of letting us know that the probability of us tipping over the basket when we landed was very high. What the …

I didn’t think it was thorough enough but everyone else seemed pleased with the amount of information they received for a new, often rare experience they were having…

It was time to go.

The captain blew a few powerful puffs of fire into the balloon to lift us off the ground. We were bundled up because it was so early but it was like sitting next to a roaring fire- it got quite toasty!

The captain explained to us that he can control the balloon to go up and down but that’s about it. Where we actually go and land is up to Mother Nature. The lack of control seemed very stressful to me. He went on to tell us that there was a “retrieval” van following down below so they could pick us up after landing.

Right after lifting off the ground, Nicole and I literally squealed with delight. What a unique, surreal experience. A brief feeling of weightlessness. We soared high above the buildings and trees and had an phenomenal view of the sun rising in the East and the light morning glow of Pikes Peak to the West.

It was southern Colorado Springs, so beyond those views and few herds of animals, the view was a little anticlimactic. After about an hour, it was time to land. The captain dropped the basked lower to the ground, but couldn’t find a good place to drop us as we ended up in a cluster of neighborhoods. He finally found a clearing and directed us there. At this point he was instructing us to brace for landing, because if you remember, there was a large chance we were going to tip over and the way he was steering us, it looked like the side Nicole and I were on was going to be sandwiched between the ground and the other side of the basket full of people.

I think I may of blackedout because I don’t remember what happened, just that we were close to the ground one minute and I was climbing out the next.

As our handlers packed up the balloon, our captain poured us each a glass of champagne. It’s a tradition to drink champagne post hot air balloon ride. It started back in the 1800s. When people would land their balloons in an open field or farm, the farmers would come rushing out with pitchforks and weapons thinking the foreign object was a dragon, an alien, or an intruder. People started bringing champagne on board to wave to the farmers and thank them as they landed in their fields.


It was a really fantastic experience! 


















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