When I was 10 my parents and I went to New Mexico for my Dad’s 40th birthday. We went to Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and Taos. We saw where the Anasazi used to live, the colorful dessert, ate sopapillas, and one morning woke up to a hundred different sized and colored hot air balloons floating along the morning sky. We had happened to be there during the Albuquerque International Hot Air Balloon Festival. And I had never ever seen anything like it. It was surreal and spectacular.
And again, it was something that I never thought I would participate in. It just didn’t occur to me that I could or would ever ride in a hot air balloon. How would that fit into normal life? Who does such things. But as I continue to discover, it’s amazing how easy it is to do the things you think are hard, the things that other people do but not you.
Thank god for Google. Idle curiosity can so easily turn into concrete plans with a few key strokes. A trip up in balloons over Napa with our friends Margaret and Jeff was scheduled for their visit from Minnesota. Companies were researched, prices budgeted. This adventure was not inexpensive, though I’m sure there are cheaper areas – the Napa area, I have a feeling, can charge whatever they want and people will still line up for a ride. But Napa Valley Balloons begins the morning at Domain Chandon, and ends at Domain Chandon with a champagne brunch. It had the best website, and included a lot for the price. The money was well spent.
You know from Kamel’s post that we were up at 3:30 am and in the car by 4:00. You know how terrified he was and yes – he made my life rather uncomfortable for the week leading up to this adventure with this grumpyness and anxiety. But I really appreciate that he did something that made him so uncomfortable just because I asked, just because I wanted him to be there with me.
Because before I tell you anything else, you have to know – this was bar far the most epic activity I have ever done, the most gorgeous morning, the best early wake up I have ever had, and I am now completely addicted.
I want to preach to the entire world, to strangers on the street, to everyone in my life that you have to do this. You have to. It’s both serene and thrilling, it’s physics and magic and wonder all rolled into one. It’s just… glorious.
The sheer volume of the balloons is overwhelming when you first come upon them. For whatever reason their size doesn’t come across in most photos I’ve seen or even with the ones I’ve watched float slowly across the sky. When you’re standing next to one while it’s filling with air, though, it’s absolutely immense.
I was also surprised that I had actual fear as the balloon quickly rose into the morning air, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of feet up, almost 2,000 feet into the sky. It moved fast and I did have a few minute’s of panic thinking: Holy shit I’m in a goddamn basket floating away because of a shit ton of hot air… what am I doing?! am I crazy?!
This was the part in the program where Kamel didn’t look anywhere but his shoes. I didn’t blame him. But I found that if I didn’t look down and instead just looked out it wasn’t as freaky and I could still enjoy the amazingly beautiful valley. Plus! To my happiness, the basket was comfortably warm because of the massive flame periodically heating the air above my head.
And even though I had a moment of “Whhaaattt am I doing?” when we initially lifted off the ground, I never felt like I was in any danger. It was one of the most joyful experiences of my life. And! Just to show you how freaking awesome it really really was – all of the photos that don’t include me in them, I took. Me! Even with my total lack of photography talent, it really was that amazing.