up up & away

It's been on my bucket list before I had even heard of bucket lists. When I was in elementary school in Brookings, South Dakota I watched a hot air balloon being blown up at a fair in the park. You could buy a ride right there on the spot. I imagined myself floating through the sky under that beautiful balloon. Ever after that, each time I saw a balloon I'd say to myself and anyone listening, "someday I want to ride in a hot air balloon."

My someday came last Sunday.

There's a whole team of people for each flight. They help inflate and deflate the balloon, and during flight they follow the balloon to see where it will land because as much as you can guess where the wind will take you, you never quite know. Of course we took a pre-flight photo with our pilot, Mike. Our basket was a racing basket and it was quite small. It just fit the three of us. There wasn't any walking around in that thing.

And we're off!

When our basket went in the water, I let out a laugh that sounded like a scream. That was something I didn't expect on a hot air balloon ride, to get my feet wet to my ankles. Mike called it a "Splash and Dash." As we floated back up into the sky, over the people on the paths around the lake we heard people yelling at us "that was awesome!" It surely was.

When we flew towards the woods Mike descended again so we could pick leaves from the tops of the trees.

We landed in a soybean field on the northeast part of town. The team walked to us through the rows of soybeans and carried the balloon over to the driveway of the excited onlooking neighbors.

And then, the ceremonial glass plastic cup of champagne after the flight. Traditionally they share the champagne with the owners of the property where they land, but it turns out that the Islamic church owns that land and we couldn't find who was renting it for soybeans, so we had the whole bottle to ourselves.

Before we toasted, Mike read us the Balloonist's Prayer:

The Winds have welcomed you with softness.
The Sun has blessed you with his warm hands.
You have flown so high and so well,
That God has joined you in your laughter.
And He has set you gently back again
Into the loving arms of Mother Earth.

Now, when I see a balloon in the sky I'll say to myself and whoever is listening, "I got to fly in one of those!"


Many people have asked how I liked it. I LOVED IT! It was completely worth the substantial cost to have that experience.

People have wondered about the whole scared of heights thing. First of all, I'm not terribly scared of heights, but I have stood at the edge of the five-story building I work in and have gotten down on my hands and knees because I suddenly felt dizzy and didn't want to fall off. That said, I was really surprised that I felt so safe at such a high height with only a basket beneath me. We got up to just over 1,000 feet at our highest and I felt completely safe. (In fact, a was a little disappointed that I didn't feel more of an adrenaline rush.)

How long did it last? We were in the air for exactly 58 minutes. But the whole experience was longer because we watched them inflate and deflate the balloon, then we tried to find the land owner/soybean farmer, then they drove us back to our car.

How do they determine where you fly? It's completely based on the wind direction and speed. The pilot said he puts about 5 hours into every flight studying the weather and determining the best place to take off and try to land while maintaining a flight path over the major attractions. For that reason, we didn't know where we would be taking off from until the day of the flight. The pilot changes directions by going up or down because the wind blows in different directions at different altitudes.

Finally, people have asked how to get a balloon ride. If anyone in the Rochester, MN area is interested in going for a ride, I highly recommend Lesmeister Balloon Company.


Dawn said...

someday i am going to do that!!! my love for hot air balloons started way back in elementary school, too. the last three aprils have brought SO MUCH JOY as a small balloon festival has come to the next town over. we haven't gone up yet, but we have helped out on balloon crews- setting up and taking down! and of course, when the sky fills with color, we dream. i love your photos and your story. what an amazing day it was!

Mindy Whipple said...

Wow what an adventure and the pictures are just beautiful!

Anne Bickle said...

There was a balloon festival in NY where we spent a couple summers with baseball and it truly was JOY to see the sky filled with colorful hot air balloons. I hope you get to do it some day! It's so fun!

Anne Bickle said...

Thanks! xo

Danavee said...

This made me almost emotional! I LOVE that you got to do this. Touching down in that lake!??! MAGICAL!!!!!!!!!!!

Anne Bickle said...

I KNOW, right?! That was my favorite part because it was so unexpected.

Janet Beagle said...

It was the perfect time of year to do this with all of the leaves changing color. Beautiful photos. I wish I were brave enough to do this.


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