Hot air balloon ride. Check!
A few weeks ago Aaron was between jobs & he decided to go grocery shopping while I was working at the Library. I keep a grocery list on an app called Evernote, which is free. Evernote has both a phone (mobile device) app & a desktop program so if I’m sitting at my computer, walking around in my kitchen, or at the gym I can put stuff on my list or take it off & it’s there for me on my phone when I go to the store. This way I never lose or forget my list unless I’ve lost or forgot my phone. I love it! So Aaron got on my computer & was looking for that grocery list when he came across my list of “Things to do before I’m 92.” Some people call it a life list or a bucket list (things to accomplish before kicking the bucket). I posted about it here. If you turn your attention to #32 you’ll see it says ride in a hot air balloon. Aaron went through the list thinking he could pick something & surprise me with it for my birthday.
If you’re looking at the list a lot of them don’t fit into the birthday surprise category, but #32 did. He was amazing at keeping it secret. Even the evening before when he said we’d have to get up super early & I was asking him what clothing would be appropriate & what hair style would be best for my “secret surprise.” Secret surprise was exactly how he’d put it in our shared calendar. We’d been driving for about a half an hour & I still didn’t know. I didn’t know what we were doing until he turned into the airfield parking & there was a big sign saying, “Hot Air Balloon Rides.”
Best secret surprise ever.
It was still very dark when we parked the Smart car & went into the Portland Rose Hot Air Balloon office. It was also super cold, but not rainy or windy so that meant we could still go up. I’m glad Aaron had thought to bring our coats, hats & gloves. We all used the restroom & signed the waiver. The thing I remember the most about the waiver was the possibility of a water landing & the possibility of being arrested for trespassing. All that just made me even more excited.
I’ve trespassed plenty, but I’ve never been arrested for it.
We left the office & went out onto the airfield where the crew had the balloon all stretched out on some tarps & the basket on it’s side. They picked Aaron & another passenger to help with the set up. Awesome! Aaron held open the balloon so the big fans could fill it with air. Once it was about halfway inflated they turned on the burner, which is both hot & loud. This is when the balloon starts filling with warm air making it float up. Then they have to start tipping up the burner too otherwise the burner would burn up the balloon.
The rest of us move in & hold down the basket with our armpits. No really they told us to hook our arms over the sides & keep it down with our armpits. The crew also said that if it actually starts to rise that we should let go & not dangle off the side. That was one thing I had no interest in doing. Balloon Dangling. Behind me is the pilot Derek Hancock he’s from the UK (not Australia like I originally thought). It always seems like it’s those fur’reiners that are doing these crazy things in our country. I wonder if it’s Americans doing crazy things in other countries.
One at a time every few minutes they loaded us on as the balloon filled with warm air. Now we could hold the basket down with our feet & not our armpits. As we all climbed into the basket the most amazing, colorful sunrise happened. The picture on the right is the first time Aaron realized he should have encouraged me to braid my hair that morning & not let it go all wild & curly. It was in his face the whole rest of the trip.
I was a lot happier than I look in that shot. Another reason why I never hand over my camera to other people. Once I had my camera back all the sudden we were slowly rising up. The crew scrambled a little to push us away from hitting the chaser van, but in another second we were clear. The first minute or so I had this huge rush of adrenaline aka I was scared, then it was the most amazing peaceful experience to be floating along in the air.
In the basket there are several little padded compartment areas. Aaron & I had one to ourselves & next to us was a family of four, our pilot Derek was in the middle with the flammable fuel, & on the other side were 3 couples. We were on the East side of the balloon heading North so we got the sunrise all to ourselves. From time to time Derek would put on the burner which is really loud & hot. You & the air would get all warmed up & then off again it was so quiet & kinda cold. Of course we were floating over farmland most of the time so there really wasn’t any traffic noise. I loved all the patches of fog & evergreen trees. I took a million, literally, (ok not literally) pictures of the view.
I think we were all in awe about the experience we didn’t talk much & if we did it was in hushed voices, that is until the burner was on then you had to yell to be heard. You would start saying something, BURN, so you’d start yelling & then he’d turn it off & you’d catch yourself yelling something inappropriate like, “but what if the chicken won’t wear the nylons!”
(Are you pondering what I’m pondering?)
When flying a hot air balloon you have control over few things. You can control up & down & you can turn yourself around. (That’s what it’s all about.) The higher you go the faster the air is moving, so if you want to go really far in a balloon go up really high. We didn’t want to go really far so Derek kept us super low to the trees as you can see in that picture we were right above them. Officially we did brush the top of one tree. That is not as scary as it sounds. The tops of the trees aren’t scary it’s the middle parts that make me nervous. More on that later.
These pictures capture what has to be my favorite part of the hot air balloon ride experience, old people. Not just any old people, old people in their robes & slippers. Like I said we were brushing treetops here so we were pretty low & the burner is pretty loud & the balloon is pretty big, imagine that flying over your pretty house. I’m sure you would be outside gawking at it in your robe & slippers at 6 AM too. It all started with that car in the street. They stopped when they saw us & opened their sun roof. Spontaneously I waved down to them. They waved back. I was addicted. There was a group of landscapers who at first acted like they were too cool to wave, but as I kept waving enthusiastically & with a huge smile on my face they did finally wave back. After that is was every old person I could see in that retirement community. Lots of people took our picture with their phones. It was then that I felt like the Wizard of Oz. My adventure into the upper atmosphere! It was just like being in the Beaverton City Parade, except I didn’t have any books to hand out & I wasn’t walking.
This is as close as I could get to the feet pictures I take of everyone all the time. I love how close we were to the rooftops.
Tune in next time for the exciting finale to our high flying tale!