I left the house! I left the house, I went out into the world at 5:45 in the morning and I took a hot air balloon ride. Now, if you know anything about me you know this is a plethora of things I don’t like: fire and loud noise right next to my head, movement, flying, the outdoors, the morning, etc. But I did it and it was AWESOME. Someone asked me what it was like and I said it was the closest I’ve ever gotten to feeling real, Harry Potter magic. I snapchatted the whole thing and put it all in a video. You will note in the video that I begin with much trepidation but as soon as we lifted off I was hooked.
Here’s how it works for people who have never been: You pull up at the takeoff area (in our case it was a small airport in Orange County, NY) and the van pulls in with a trailer attachment carrying the basket. Several strong burly men pull an enormous bag out of the back of the van that looks like it could hold a child’s trampoline. That’s the balloon. The manly men tip the basket on its side, pull the balloon out to its full length and hook it to the basket. Then four industrial fans come out and blast all the air in the world into the balloon. Once the sufficient amount of air is in there, the propane burners go on and heat that air which causes the balloon to rise and the basket to tip up. That’s the cue for the people who are riding in the balloon to run to the basket and hoist ourselves in because we are what keeps the whole situation from floating away immediately. Once the passengers a.k.a. bags of sand are in, the guy in charge (ours was named Chris) blasts the flamey truck-horn-pull thing and… you kinda lift off the ground. You don’t even notice. If you have your eyes closed you would have no idea, it’s that tranquil. In addition please note in the video that any jerky movements are my hands, the ride was buttery smooth. I spent the whole time quietly staring off at the mist rising out of where the glacier cut through 10,000 years ago. (Fun fact: Chris told us the valley caused by the glacier has the perfect kind of soil for growing onions. The Germans who moved here recognized the soil type from back home and was like, “We got this. Hermann, plant onions.”) We drifted up to 1800 feet in the air but you could have fooled me. I had no clue. It all happens so slowly that your ears don’t pop. Landing is pretty neat. Since you can’t control where you go in a balloon and the wind carries you, the van follows you on the ground and when Chris gave the signal he was coming down the van hustled to meet us where we ended up. Where we ended up was in some rich lady’s spacious front yard. Chris said most of the people in the area are psyched to see him land. This lady sure was. She came out in her PJs to greet us. Chris gave her a bottle of champagne as is the tradition. When the two first guys to do this ballooning started in France in 17-something-something, when they landed in a farmer’s field he attacked both them and their balloon with a pitchfork, thinking they were the devil. The two French guys realized at some point that if they greeted the farmers with a bottle of champagne the farmers were far less inclined to attack them with sharp equipment, so the tradition continues. Within ten minutes the manly men had loaded the now deflated balloon back in the trampoline bag and put the basket back on the trailer attachment and we were back on our way to our cars at the airport. I enjoyed every second of it. Even the landing was pleasant. It was a joy from start to finish.
If it wasn’t so pricey I would do this every week. If you live in the NY area I highly recommend the company we went with, Above the Clouds.