I Flew in a Hot Air Balloon and Cried….
When one of my dearest and oldest friends, Ariel, asked me to be in her wedding, I was not only honored and thrilled, but, knew that she would be planning some awesome bachelorette shin digs. A few months back, Ariel (who I have known since I was 10 years old. We met through the Suzy’s Zoo fan club newsletter under their ‘Pen Pals’ section, and, alas, the rest is history) posted that her bachelorette/birthday party would be…getting carried away in a hot air balloon ride. Skeptical, I agreed and figured, how bad can it be? Well, folks, fast forward to about 3 weeks ago when I bought my ticket. The realization set in that I would be easily at 2500 feet in the air depending my life on a stranger piloting a wicker basket under huge flames. It got real and, I was fighting horrendous migraines and panic attacks leading up to my trip.
I read countess articles (like this), and talked to friends. Some were quick to tell me do not do this with my level of fear, while some (like Ariel and my husband) kept re-assuring me I would have a blast.
Working with Wine Country Balloons of Santa Rosa, our journey began at 4:50 am when our pilot, Scott, sent us each a text letting us know that the weather conditions were great and that we were on to set sail in the sky. At 6am, we met up with Scott as well as Ben (our driver) and Michael (another driver plus pilot) at the parking lot of Kaffe Mocha, where we would return after our excursion for a champagne brunch. After you check in, they then have you gather at a Starbucks across the street before they round you up.
I was scared to death at Starbucks. This was feeling more real and I was questioning my sanity. How does that Eleanore Roosevelt quote go, Do something a day that scares you? Well, I certainly was!
We soon began our 50 minute shuttle ride to our departing field. While the road is extremely winding and can cause a bit of motion sickness, it still was a gorgeous route and beautiful to see the sun shining before 7am.
When we arrived, we got to meet our shining stars; balloons Bertha and Blue Star (ours). It was rather exhilarating, surprisingly, to see so much hard work and effort going into getting the balloons inflated and ready.
When Scott assured me what I was feeling standing in Blue Star on the ground was exactly how I’d feel when we were up a few thousand feet, I was skeptical. Then, before I knew it, lift off!
And, thus began one of the best hours I have ever spent in my life. At times, it felt like we were having a race with Bertha, who was at times much lower than us, or at a perfectly even level with us. Everybody was right, I feel anyone who is afraid of heights would be just fine in a hot air balloon ride. I never felt like I was as high as I was. I even looked down, saw cows, goats and Rhett, a local young boy who is out every weekend to wave at the balloons flying over his neighborhood! What made that even sweeter, is that Rhett is always the first to be at the balloon’s landing spot to greet the riders, too.
While a lot of the land was dry (and some parts even recovering from a fire 2 years ago), we still managed to see plenty of green and some breath taking vineyards and lakes. I was not scared AT. ALL. I would choose another balloon ride with Wine Country Balloons over a roller coaster like Knotts Berry Farm’s Silver Bullet or California Adventure’s Tower of Terror, any day.
The sweetest part of the balloon ride had to be when an adorable couple in the section across from us became engaged. We noticed the man kneel down, and, next thing we knew, his now-fiancee was wearing a gorgeous ring! There wasn’t a dry eye in the balloon, and, that’s when I was crying 😉
The most heart pounding part of our hour trip was definitely the landing. It is the one part of the trip that is not slow and steady; you rather ‘bang’ down onto the ground, so, be prepared to hold on or you may fall a bit. not out of the basket, though!
When we made our ride back to Kaffe Mocha, the pilots and drivers are on hand to pour you your champagne, and they keep the bubbly flowing. While getting breakfast is an additional cost and not included with the hot air balloon ride and champagne, us 3 ladies were quick to order some grub after our flying adventure. I chose the Kaffe’s famous Pesto Artichoke omelette and it was delicious; it boasts artichoke hearts, jack cheese, tomatoes and topped with their homemade pesto sauce. A foodie insider tip? I don’t really like tomatoes, but I am addicted to sun dried, so, I asked our lovely waitress if it would be possible to substitute. It was and it was incredible. They also have organic coffees and teas, too.
So, that is my story! I truly was sad to see the hour end and am already eyeing festivals like New Mexico’s up-coming weekend. Care to join me? xo
(*Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. I loved my experience with Wine Country Balloons and Kaffe Mocha and wanted to share my story. All opinions are my own.)