In Spiral City, I mentioned that my next adventure might have something to do with fire. I had something in mind and it actually came together.
As the last part of my anniversary celebration, I decided to do something I've always wanted to do. First, it should be said that I'm petrified of open heights. An airplane? Perfectly fine. A ferris wheel? Never been on one; never could muster the courage. I hyperventilate, get panic attacks, scream in a high-pitch. (My siblings have taken great glee in torturing me on swinging bridges.) While I don't think never being on a ferris wheel has had a tremendous impact on my life, there are things I do even though I'm terrified, because they're a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I did go to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the top of the Duomo in Florence, and I climbed all the steps to get to the top of La Familia Sagrada in Barcelona. (I contained my screaming, but there was some hyperventilating involved...)
Anyway, despite this fear of heights, I've always been intrigued by hot-air balloons. I've never seen one up close, and I've certainly never ridden in one. Until now.
One of the suburbs has a huge festival with a carnival, bands, foods—and hot-air balloons. They even offer rides in a tethered balloon. I decided this was my opportunity. The balloon would be secured to the ground so we wouldn't go too, too high, and it would only last a few minutes. If I freaked out, I could survive by shutting my eyes and holding on for dear life. If I decided I liked it, then I could plan something bigger, longer, untethered.
So we went on Saturday night. We watched them blow up the balloon, which didn't seem like much when it was on the ground, and even just beginning to blow up.
When it was fully blown up and standing in front of me, only a few yards away, I felt my first familiar tingle of panic. My husband was with me. We had been waiting almost an hour in line, and he said there was no way we were going back now. He knew I needed the little push. Although I knew was going to do it no matter what.
Our turn came and we climbed in the basket as the previous riders climbed out. Up, up, up we went. It was a slow, smooth ascend. I took a picture while we started going upward—it's blurry; I refused to let go of the basket to steady the camera with two hands and the one holding the camera was a little shaky. I took another couple quick shots looking up inside the balloon, then put the camera away to hold on tighter as we went higher. It only lasted about five minutes, then we began to descend. I climbed out as the new riders climbed in. I did it.
I did it, and I liked it. It was a smoother ride than I thought. It was louder than I thought—the flames shooting into the balloon. But the husband and I both decided if we got the opportunity, we would go for a full-on ride. (With a fully licensed, very nice, very capable, professional balloon company with plenty of good references and an excellent, no-fault safety record.)
Afterward, we watched them blow up about a dozen other balloons, including the Energizer bunny balloon, rumored to be the biggest one in the U.S. (it was about four times larger than all the other balloons). As a bonus, we got to listen to a Bon Jovi tribute ban in the background and drink ice-cold beer from aluminum bottles. All-in-all, a lovely day.
And guess what? I rode in a hot-air balloon.
As always, more to come...