Tuesday, June 25, 2013

10th Anniversary in Asheville: Tale of a Trip on a Hot Air Balloon

Item #47 on my list of 66 things to do this summer: something that scares me.  This was it... for Jon, as well. :)  We had the ride planned for months, booked as soon as we knew we'd be venturing to Asheville for our tenth, and wanting to celebrate the milestone with something pretty special.  Jon is not a huge fan of heights, and I am not a huge fan of potentially orphaning our children, so, um.... a hot air balloon ride seemed like a good idea. ?

We awoke at 5 am to arrange to meet the shuttle driver at the corner of Wall and Otis just after 6. We were the first ones on the shuttle, having not made time for breakfast.  We questioned the size of the giant bus, as we were expecting maybe one more couple to accompany us on the ride.  Surprisingly, there were ELEVEN of us on there by the time the thing pulled out.  Questions were swirling in our heads: HOW big is this wicker basket?  How much do all these people weigh?  Has the balloon pilot even considered all of this?!?

Hungry and caffeine-deficient, we were delighted that the driver stopped at a convenience store to allow us to head to the bathroom and get a snack.  When our coffee/chocolate milk/little chocolate donut total rang up to $6.66, we got a little edgy, once again.  But, the clerk helped us laugh it off.

The drive to the launch site reminded me so much of WV: rolling hills, crazy curves taken a little fast on a two-lane road, and occasional feelings that we would never actually reach our destination.  After about 15 minutes, though, we were there.

We were doing this.  No turning back now.

The pilot and crew were setting up as we carefully inspected the equipment and their mental faculties from afar.

Jon checked out the floor of the wicker basket to which we were about to trust our lives.

Simple.  Air blown in by fans, then heated.  And when I was a kid, I thought helium was involved.  Duh.

Addison, the gentleman in the basket, would be our pilot and told us this was the largest balloon in NC.  We were thankful about this because of the eleven people that were about to be hoisted into the air.

A member of the crew snapped this right before take-off.  Nervous = understatement.
Up, up, and away!

This was approximately the moment when two very obnoxious outspoken passengers asked our pilot how many patches he had put in his balloon to this point, to which he awkwardly answered, "A couple."  NOT THE TIME OR PLACE for those questions, peeps.  Nervous passengers up in here.

Our pilot, Addison

Handsome Jon was relaxed by this point.  So was I.  Nothing swayed or rocked or felt bad at all.
We just went about 4 mph, wherever the wind wanted to take us.
It was peaceful and beautiful.

These are major close-ups because it was crowded in there!
No one wanted to lose their camera or phone or sunglasses.

This was taken at about 2000 feet, right after my phone rang.  It was Grandma Diana's number.
I answered (weirdest place I have ever been on the phone, btw), and Ethan replied, "Mommy?  Hi! What are you doing?"
 I could barely hear him over the burners.
Mom then grabbed the phone and let me know he was the one who had called, not her.
We considered his sweet little random call to be a good omen.

I was comforted by the fact that Addison's equipment looked very new and shiny and up-to-date.  And I couldn't help being moved by the fact that my dad would have loved observing the science involved and experiencing it.
He so would have done this.

Addison had been radioing his ground crew about our approximate landing site and after about 45 minutes, we began our descent.  I hung over the side (a little) to snap a photo of the tops of trees.
It felt as if we could reach down and grab them.

I also snapped the top of a house that we rookies feared we might land upon.  Surprise!  Big hot air balloon on your roof!  But, Addison knew his stuff and we glided on past it.

We landed perfectly and peacefully in a hay field.  

The crew was amazing.  When we landed in the hay, the three of them grabbed sides of the basket while Addison heated up just enough air to get us to glide.  They then dragged us to a grassier part of the field.  Then, as pictured, they grabbed a rope on the end of the balloon and gradually pulled it down as it deflated.

The eleven passengers... Addison served us "landing champagne"
and entertained tons of questions about his business.

So, the justification of the tenth anniversary balloon ride is thus:

Any marriage of ten years will have had its ups and downs.

Ours have mainly been ups.

Up, up, and away!

No comments: