Once upon a time, in the not too distant past, I had the opportunity of going on my first hot air balloon ride.
Our story takes place in Snohomish, WA at Airial Balloon Company. My friend Jeffrey and I arrived at the company office to see many others awaiting the same opportunity that we were. Waivers were signed, dues were paid, groups were formed and captains were assigned. We piled into vans with our assigned captains and headed to the launch zone, which happened to be in a field only five minutes away.
Once arriving, Captain Bob introduced himself and briefed us on the events to follow. He informed us that:
the balloon will be blown up using primarily a fan, followed by the torch
once the balloon is standing upright he will call us to jump in
we won't notice the balloon lifting off
water will drip from the torches and we shouldn't worry
the torches are loud and will interrupt conversations
there are no brakes, so the landing will consist of dragging the basket on the ground
They asked for volunteers to help hold the balloon open so that the balloon could fill with air. My buddy Jeffrey and I didn't hesitate at the opportunity. We wanted to be a part of the team. Once the balloon stood upright, Captain Bob called for us to hop in. Our basket held Jeffrey, myself, two couples, Captain Bob and a crew member. Any chance of romance for the couples was probably killed by us.
We took flight! Immediately everyone in the basket asked Captain Bob for stories of previous flights while we took pictures of the mountains, the sound, the sunset and each other. Captain Bob had stories from in-flight weddings, to someone crashing their balloon. I guess you tend to have a lot of stories when you've been flying for well over 20 years.
After a couple hours it came time for us to land. We aimed for soccer fields but the wind denied us that direction. Passing over fields of cows and goats we braced ourselves to touch down in an empty field. After making contact, we were dragged for about 10 yards and then we tipped over. Everyone safe, we had a good laugh, packed up the balloon and headed back to their office where a celebration was waiting. We were told the history of hot air balloons and how the French would throw a small party after a successful flight. Champagne was opened with an old sword and plates were filled with dips, crackers and cheeses. We were given a certificate and wished safe travels.
I told Captain Bob that I'd be back to learn how to fly and he told me that I can come up anytime. He may have thought that I wasn't serious, but I wholeheartedly plan on calling him for lessons. All in all, I left the day with a lot of laughs, some great photos and pleasant memories.
-James Leggett, TWIF Social Media Coordinator