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Floating Among the Clouds: A silent trip across the countryside
Posted by R. Wesley Lovil, Aug 19, 2012. 1053 views. ID = 5815

Floating Among the Clouds

Posted by R. Wesley Lovil, Aug 19, 2012. 1053 views. ID = 5815
This post was written in 20 minutes.
A personal account of our time in a hot air balloon

The wife and I often go to Sedona Arizona to relax and take in the sights. Sedona has a beauty that astounds you and their famous red rock formations are unlike any found on the planet. It is a hiker's paradise where you can go with a guide or by yourself on paths to Indian ruins, rock formations or even along Oak Creek Canyon with its tree lined banks and rustic cabins. As with most vacations spots, included with all the beauty are a bevy of businesses that are eager to take your money to show you the countryside and because of this, we try to stay out off the main drag of town as much as possible. However, one day we spotted a flyer offering balloon rides over Sedona and the idea fascinated us as a yet a different way to see our beloved paradise and have an adventure as well.

I dialed the number, then after almost chocking on the price, threw caution to the wind, and booked our first hot air balloon ride. We knew nothing of hot air ballooning and our first surprise was learning that the captain would be picking us up in his van at four AM for our ride. The balloon needs lift from thermals and they are at their best at dawn. We stood outside our hotel, half-asleep yet eager for our ride and when a van pulled up to the hotel I went over and opened the door to hop in for our ride. I'm not sure who was surprised more, us or the paper delivery person who had stopped to make a delivery. He was such a nice young man and after his initial shock, he even offered to take us where we were going after his deliveries. Luckily, our van pulled up and then we were off for real. We made one more stop to pick up our last passenger and then out of town to a flat piece of land to get our balloon ready to go. Our next surprise was that not only is hot air ballooning expensive, the passengers are required to assist in set up and take off as well, We spread the massive balloon out as the captain prepared and lit the gas burners that fill it. Next, we all attached the basket to the balloon and then we all waited as the balloon inflated. As the balloon began to lift skyward, we all climbed in the basket, the captain's wife released our tethers and soon, no longer earth bound we began our assent into the clouds.

Let me say ballooning is a breath taking way to view the scenery, other than the occasional blast of the heater to either refill the balloon or to give it more lift there is not a sound. You are not traveling so much as floating wherever the breezes take you for there is no steering a balloon and the only direction the captain has any control over is assent or descent. He dropped us below the walls of a steep canyon and we were so close to the sides we were able to see some Native American petroglyphs on a rock out cropping. Just for fun, he sat us on top of a huge pine tree and we picked pine cones fifty feet off the ground for souvenirs. Along with all the scenery, there were three or four other balloons in the air adding to the beauty of our morning.

Our next lesson in ballooning was because you can't steer them you cannot determine just where they are going to land. As our journey neared the end, the captain began communicating with his wife who was below us in the chase vehicle. It is called a chase vehicle because the whole time we were in the air his wife was chasing after us in the van. Successful balloon landings take coordination and no small amount of luck. Once again, we paying passengers were needed to help convince our balloon to stay on the ground as the captain ran around tying it down. The captain informed us that because each safe balloon landing is in the hands of the gods, even said by some to be considered a miracle (he's kidding right, please say he was kidding) they are all celebrated with a champagne toast.

Our balloon ride was fantastic and even me the cheapskate thought it was well worth the price. As I look back, I see we actually put our life in the hands of a person we knew nothing about except a phone number on an advert. We were lucky and I think we may have had the best hot air balloon captain in town but for sure for our next ride, I would do a little more research before booking a ride with someone.

Copyright 2012 R. Wesley Lovil. All rights reserved. has been granted non-exclusive rights to display this work. For permission to reprint this item, please contact the author.

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