Up, Up, and Away
Yesterday a friend who is living in Washington state posted a picture of a hot air balloon that she had seen while out driving recently. This reminded me about the year that for Christmas I gave my husband tickets for us to have a hot air balloon ride. It was an unforgettable experience. It took months, though, for us to actually get to go. You don't just call up and make an appointment for a given day or evening that suits your schedule. We started planning this excursion in the spring and it wasn't until late summer that we were finally able to have all the proper factors fall into place and really go up. You have no idea how just a little wind or "maybe" approaching storm can otherwise alter your plans. I think we had three or more appointments that were cancelled because of weather conditions before everything was perfect and we could go. But the experience was well worth the wait. You can't imagine what it is like to be quietly floating through the air looking down on the world below you. Except for when the pilot had to fire up the burners to add lift to the balloon, the world around you is silent. There is no real flight plan either because you are at the mercy of whatever breezes may be helping your balloon to move across the sky. I have always enjoyed looking at the world below when flying in an airplane, but because of the greater heights that airplanes fly, there is more of a sense of being disconnected from that world ups are seeing below than you get in the basket of a hot air balloon. You can actually physically feel the air moving around you. The entire experience can only be described as unique. People all over the world have love affairs with balloons. They are seen as symbols of celebration and happiness. And hot air balloon festivals are well attended every where they are held. While never able to live up to the initial hype of its inventors, Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and the Marquis d’Arlandes in 1793, of being a new mode of transportation with possible side benefits for industry and science, ballooning has been able to preserve the magic associated with it from the beginning. Authors such as Jules Verne and Mark Twain had ballooning themes in some of their literature. And in 1967 the Fifth Dimension sang their way to stardom and awards with their song "Up, Up, and Away," about flying with their love in a beautiful balloon. Thinking back on my balloon flight experience, I can best describe it as being much like life itself: unpredictable, with it ups and downs, but once done, you know you have done something special. It is, however, an experience that is both humbling and exhilarating. Our flight ended, much to their surprise, in the front yard of a farm family. I can highly recommend going up in a hot air balloon to anyone who has a bit of adventure in their soul. And I wouldn't mind going up again myself.