What an experience!!! I can honestly say for the first time in my life, “I went wherever the wind blew me.” In sailing you can always get where you want to go. The most asked question of all time when people find out I sail is... “When the wind is blowing toward you... how to do you go that way?” The answer of course is... “Tacking. You zig zag your way in that direction as opposed to going straight. Eventually you get to where you want.”
There is no 'zig-zagging' in ballooning. Only UP... and DOWN... catching wind currents as you go. Literally... you go where the wind wants to take you. The wind this morning blew me North-East. If I had my way I would rather have gone North-West more towards the red rock mountains... but the wind gypsies didn't ask me. However, my view of the Coconino National Forest was just as breathtaking... and certainly NOT disappointing.
It was so calm this morning... I was in flight for about 2 hours, yet only travelled about 3 miles. I can walk faster than that on dry land. Six balloons from the same company went up at the same time... and six balloons pretty much came down at the same time... although in different places.
The two man crew were so skilled they didn't even have to talk to one another to get the balloon ready for flight. A slight nod of the head, a look, a hand signal... and the next thing you knew the balloon was filling with air. A pull on the handle to release the flame... and the balloon was standing straight up. Tethered to the bumper of the chase van, the balloon didn't leave without us.
Climbing in the basket was the most difficult part for some of the travelers. One elderly woman in our group had a recent hip replacement and needed help... both in and out. The basket held a total of 7 of us... Six riders and one pilot, Doug. It was a bit too crowded for me. One less person would have made the trip much more pleasant. When I win the lottery I think I would like to go again... but for a personal flight... just the pilot, me, and a significant other.
We had a very skilled and soft landing. Doug instructed us to brace ourselves and be ready to bounce... but ground crew Matt grabbed the landing line and slowly brought us down while Doug hit the fuel just enough to keep us inches off the ground. PERFECT!
Once the balloon was packed and basket secured on the trailer again, we all rallied to a clearing in the dessert and shared a breakfast of strawberries with crème fraiche, sweet rolls, and mimosas (Champagne and OJ)! Certificates of flight were handed out stating I went up in the balloon named 'Estrella'... meaning STAR in Spanish. Who knew??
A fabulous time was had by all... especially me!
I only have two more things to do on my BUCKET LIST.
- Visit Tuscany, Italy
- Jump out of an airplane.Number 2 will be satisfied next summer with OTHS Class of '72 alumni. So... who wants to go to Italy with me???