While over at Lingerie and Dishpan Hands I was reading her post about the things she wanted to do before she died. Her post reminded me of a certain incident – a hot air balloon ride – that I had taken. Yeah, one of those things you want to do before you die – or in my case, almost get killed whilst doing it.
Once upon a time, actually about twelve years ago, my sister and I befriended a couple of men. One of these men was in the “ballooning” business. The hot air balloon business was a very lucrative business at the time as rides were going for $200 per person. My sis and I had always wanted to ride in a hot air balloon but didn’t have the cash at the time to afford such a lavish adventure. So, we chatted up our friends at dinner one evening and somehow managed to talk them into taking us up in the balloon – for a free ride. Woo hoo!
It was a lovely July evening. The weather was perfect, not a cloud in the sky. My sister and I made our way over to a spot near the lake where the balloon was waiting. They wanted to take us over the lake and then up towards the hills. Great. We were excited…and a bit trepidatious. I wasn’t exactly keen on the fact that the only thing between our bodies and a 500 foot drop to earth was a mere wicker basket. But, I was young and adventurous and off we went!
We arrived as the men were preparing the balloon for take off. They were very professional, explaining all the steps as they prepared the balloon and gondola, and answering any questions the two of us had. And of course, my only question was, “Have you ever crashed?” The pilot assured me that he, indeed, had never crashed but had had some ‘rough’ landings. That set our minds at ease and we climbed aboard adn were off. Believe it or not, I was able to round up some photos of the event:
My sis and the guys readying the balloon…while I stand back, watch and take photos.
My sis and the back of my scraggly head (hey, it was windy up there, what’s a girl to do? Ick, and what’s with the nasty washed-out blond color? Why didn’t anyone tell me it looked heinous?) as we approach the lake. Hmmm…the pilot is obviously taking this photo…oh no, who’s flying the thing?
So, we have a lovely take-off, cruise all over the country side, fly over the lake, and scare the crap out of handfuls of cattle, horses, deer…and some dogs on our little adventure. The pilot has a radio so he is in constant contact with ‘the chaser’ – the person on the ground driving around waiting for us to land. The ride is going smoothly as we head toward the hills. And then, suddenly, a gust of wind comes from nowhere. We are soaring slightly lower than we should be, the pilot shouts, “Everyone grab onto something, hold on tight and DON’T let go!” Oh crap. As those words come out of his mouth the wind jags the balloon and sends us careening toward the ground. The basket of the balloon hits the side of a hill and we start to spill on top of each other as the basket tips sideways. We bounce, drag, tip, bounce a bit more. As the basket bounces off the ground once more the pilot hits the blast valve and gets us back into the air quickly. We start to right ourselves and climb off of one another. We all inspect ourselves for injuries. Everyone is unscathed…except me. I’m not terribly injured but as we crashed I managed to slam my leg into the fire extinguisher. A huge gash on my leg is bleeding pretty badly. Luckily we have a first aid kit so we grab a handful of bandaids adn patch me up. Good as new.
As we are climbing into the air the pilot suddenly realizes that he has lost the radio in the crash. We have to back track to the field above the hill, land the balloon and all climb out and search for the radio in a field the size of two football fields…in the dusk. Talk about a needle in a haystack! Fortunately, the chaser has spotted us so she starts to squak on the radio and I eventually am able to pinpoint the location and grab the radio. Yay! The sun has almost set so we reluctantly climb back into the basket and are off into the skies again…this time, hopefully, without any mishaps. We do make it back to base safely, but are a bit shaken from the experience. I vow to never ride in an air balloon again as we head to the bar for drinks to calm our nerves!
The last photo taken as we head past the lake and toward the hills to our fateful crash landing.
Honestly, it wasn’t a dreadful experience, I can look back now and laugh about it. At the time we were a bit traumatized but I do think I could manage to take another balloon ride. It was probably my big mouth asking “Have you ever crashed?” that set the stage for this ride.