While we were visiting family in France last year, we happened upon a hot air balloon flying rather low over the vineyards near my in-laws house. We chased it for awhile. We all agreed that seemed like a fun thing to do and wondered how much something like that would cost.
Just before Christmas, Groupon had a deal for a ride for two in a hot air balloon, so I bought it as a Christmas gift for Jerome...and ME!
I'm not one to like heights at all but I figured that he got me to ride in a float plane when we were in British Columbia, so how bad could it be and besides, when I fly in a plane my favorite part of the trip is the take-off and landing, only because you get such a nice view.
Jerome was very excited about the gift and we called to make our reservation in May. Unfortunately, there was a family emergency for one of the pilots on the day that we had chosen, so we had to reschedule. We ended up rescheduling three more times because of the weather. They won't go up unless the weather is perfect - which is a good thing. As one pilot said "you'd rather be on the ground wishing you were in the air rather than the other way around". So true and wise Mr. Pilot!
Well, we finally got our chance this past Saturday and WOW! It's REALLY COOL!
We were the first to arrive at Captain Phogg's Balloon Quest and we were surprised as more and more people began arriving.
We watched as the helpers pulled out the baskets, the bags with the balloons in them and the gas powered fans. The launchpad was right there and three balloon were on their sides being filled with air from the fans. The baskets were on their sides as well.
We went inside and signed our waivers. I think that was the scariest part. So many things could happen (and obviously have for it to be stated on the waiver), such as falling out of the basket while you are up in the air, landing in water and/or just a rough landing...YIPES! I don't think Jerome wanted me to read everything because he was rushing me to sign and hand it over to him so he could turn it in. We then watched a little video about ballooning that they made in the late 80's. Very dated clothing and hair, but the message was still current. We are of the rare few that actually will have gone up in a balloon. How many people do you know who have ever gone up? They guess that we would not know anyone that has, but like I said, this was made in the 80's, so nearly 3 decades have passed. But anyway, I only know of 2 others and that was only found out recently.
We were assigned our pilot and our balloon and asked to go out and wait by it since we were ready to take-off.
Our balloon had 13 people (including the pilot). The basket is sectioned off; 2 sections for 4 people, 2 sections for 2 people and then a section for the pilot in the middle.
Once the balloon was sufficiently filled, we had to climb in. There are cut-outs in the basket for you to use as steps. And then up we went!
It's slow, the weather is fantastic, the visibility was more than 50 miles, the winds were at 9-13 mph. Just gorgeous! It's mostly quiet and serene...until the pilot runs the burners and then it's loud and hot. If you're not ready for him to use the burners, it is a bit startling...every time. Not that you move any faster, it's just that you're not expecting this loud noise behind you and the rush of hot air on your head and the back of your neck.
We were heading north east and could see Mt. Holly, Chrysler Tech Center and even the Renaissance Center in Detroit in the distance.
We landed in a field that hadn't been tended to in quite some time. The chaser van met us and we deflated the balloon and packed it away for its next flight. I think he said we flew 9 miles...in an hour.
Once we were back at Captain Phogg's, we enjoyed a small glass of champagne and received our certificates and a pin.
I remarked to Jerome that it's funny, we go to places like the CN Tower or Sears Tower and they have you encased in glass with nets below you...in a balloon, you are all out there, wind in your face, no nets and the basket comes up to just above your waist. Crazy.
I dreamt about it last night, and not the way I dream about flying in a plane - this dream was pleasant and relaxing.
It's really cool people - it's one of those bucket listers that should really be done.