Wednesday, August 25, 2021

I Spent My Forty-Fifth Birthday in a Hot Air Balloon

It was the best birthday.

It was also a surprise, with Matt refusing to tell me where he was taking me, and refusing to confirm it EVEN WHEN I TOTALLY GUESSED CORRECTLY (we're going to ignore the fact that my correct guess came in the smack middle of 1,400 other incorrect guesses). 

But when the hot air balloon people drove up with hot air balloon baskets in the backs of their trucks, I knew my 7,000th guess had been correct! 

You might recall that hot air balloons are one of my Special Interests (read: low-key obsessions). I once got so excited pulling off the highway to watch hot air balloons that I forgot to put the car in park and Syd had to shout at me from the passenger seat, "Um, MOM?!?" so I could chase my car, hop back in, and keep my child from rolling into a pasture. I have read all the hot air ballooning histories, even the boring ones. I have watched all the hot air balloon movies. I follow every hot air balloon crash on the news. 


And for my birthday, Matt took me to ride in one!

We drove with the balloon operators out to a field south of town, and started setting up:

Here's our balloon operator, and one of the baskets that his company weaves by hand.

They unfurl the balloon across the field, then tip the basket over to face it.

There were other hot air balloons launching in our group:

As we watched the balloons get ready, and our crew let us pretend to help our own balloon get ready, I had the sudden, sick realization that Matt does NOT like heights.

"Um, are you coming with me?" I asked him. Because riding in a hot air balloon is definitely going to be the best experience of my life whether or not he's with me, but it would be maybe not the best possible experience I could ever possibly have if he wasn't with me.

So, was he coming with me?

He WAS!!!!!

The balloonists attached the balloon to the basket with cables and carabiners:

And then they got the propane going and started inflating the balloon!

And we got to help hold the balloon open!

Here is the only photo of me on this entire adventure. I was absolutely beside myself with excitement, and I was reluctant to give my camera over to Matt even for this photo because it meant taking my eyes off the balloon for a half-second!

Okay, back to work!

Finally, the balloon had enough hot air in it to start rising:

Everyone else's balloons were ready, as well, so off we went!

Welcome to the best moment of my life:

I am absolutely giddy with joy for the entire hour-long flight. There's me, Matt, and our balloon operator in the basket, and I am free to step wherever I want as long as I'm not in the operator's way. I can look straight up into the belly of the hot air balloon, straight down past the edge of the basket to see the ground, and out to all the horizons:

I imagine that, to the first balloonists, flight must have been a dizzying sensation, but desensitized as I am by cars and theme park rides and airplanes, the motion feels very calm and peaceful. If I couldn't see where we were going, I wouldn't know we were moving at all. 

These tall guys can hang onto the rigging at the top of the basket:

Here's our local university off in the distance:

We got a LOT higher than the other balloons in our group!

We flew over the stable where Will takes horseback riding lessons!

I was a little disappointed when we started flying over neighborhoods instead of forests and fields, but then I realized that this gives us an unfettered look into people's backyards!!!

And sometimes there are people looking back at us!
See the van in the photo? Crew in several vehicles followed us during our flight.

When we reached town, our balloon operator started looking for a convenient backyard to land in:

And then the balloon got deflated and rolled up, the basket unhooked and set back in the bed of the pickup truck:

Afterwards, we drove back to the company site for champagne and an impromptu tour around their facilities, including their sewing machines (I really, really, REALLY want to sew hot air balloons for a living!), their giant fabric printer, their patterns for novelty hot air balloons (they're currently sewing a giant gorilla balloon), and the baskets that they're weaving.

Our hot air balloon ride was SO FUN. It was everything you could want in an adventure--beautiful, magical, exciting, joyful, and with my favorite guy with me and not in a chase car down on the ground. It was a dream come true, and the best possible way to celebrate turning forty-five.

Although the takeout pizza and grocery store cake that we shared with the kids later that night was pretty great, too!

1 comment:

Tina said...

That sounds like the best day ever! Happy birthday!