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Bucket List Adventure – Part 2

Saturday, September 7 was a perfect day to ride in a hot air balloon.  It had been on my bucket list for years. A previous ride was cancelled due to high winds, but this day seemed ideal. No wind and blue sky. Husband and I would be in the air about 6:00 p.m.

I didn’t like the balloon pilot’s 10:30 a.m. text message. Logan wrote, “We’re watching the weather – mainly the wind forecast to be sure we can take off.  Will update you around 1:00.” 

            Husband and I were shopping ten miles from the meeting place in Franklin, Tennessee, and the treetops weren’t moving.  What wind?  Logan’s 1:00 text read, “Sorry we are still watching the evening.  It could go either way. Right now, plan on meeting at 4:45 and if anything changes we will notify you as soon as possible.” 

I told myself we live close to Middle Tennessee Hot Air Adventures and I could reschedule.  Logan’s 2:30 text read, “We will see you at 4:45.”  I shouted, “Yes!” and threw both fists in the air.

            Logan met us in a parking lot, and Husband and I met Ken and his daughter, Katie who would also be flying.  Two crewmen loaded the equipment into Logan’s van, and we travelled to the launching site, a church yard.

            As he drove, Logan gave instructions.  “Stand back and watch while we spread out the envelope – that’s the balloon – and blow it up.  I’ll show you how to climb into the basket.  If we don’t take off immediately, the basket might rock.  That seems unnerving.  Just stay calm and still.”

            The 100-foot-long envelope and basket lay on the ground. Logan turned on an industrial fan to begin blowing up the envelope.  The blue, yellow, green, orange, red, and blue envelope blew up to its 120,000-cubic foot capacity – big enough for 120,000 basketballs.  After the envelope was fully inflated, the attached basket was set upright.  What a beautiful balloon!  What a small basket – only about 4’ x 6’.

Logan climbed into the basket; then we four passengers.  Logan nodded toward a nearby basket and said, “We’ll go up after them.  We’ll rock, but we’re tethered to the van.”  I struggled to be calm when the basket rocked.

“Okay, we’re ready,” Logan said.  He pressed a lever to turn on the propane burners.  Slowly, the untethered basket lifted.

Beautiful.  Exhilarating.  Awesome.  Riding in a hot air balloon was even better than I expected.  Katie and I waved down to children in their backyards.  “I’ve never felt like a celebrity before,” Katie said.  Dogs barked.  Deer ran to the woods.  Adults waved and took pictures.

For an hour, we floated over treetops, subdivisions, highways, open fields, and, as Husband noted, utility lines.  I concentrated to freeze this experience in my memory.  Too soon, Logan pointed and said, “We’ll land in that field.”

            Descending was gradual. The basket set softly on the ground. I felt like a little kid that gets off a roller coaster and asks, “Can I go again?”  Now, riding in a hot air balloon is on my wish list.

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Bucket List Adventure

Today is the day. Blue sky and a few white fluffy clouds.  A perfect day for flying, but not on an airplane – in a hot air balloon.

            I’ve wished for this experience for years. Long before Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman made ‘Bucket List’ an everyday phrase in the 2007 movie The Bucket List.  The words on the film poster stuck with me: “One day your life will flash before your eyes.  Make sure it’s worth watching.”  In the movie, a billionaire and a car mechanic are hospital roommates, and against doctor’s orders, they leave the hospital determined to see and do a list of things before they die. 

            January 1999 while in Tempe, Arizona, for the national football championship game, I scheduled a sunrise balloon ride. Remember that game?  The Tennessee Volunteers defeated the Florida State Seminoles in the Fiesta Bowl to win the first Bowl Championship Series.

            The fact that I was going up with five strangers didn’t squelch my enthusiasm; neither Husband nor friends wanted to join me. Imagine floating over the desert at sunrise. I’d ride under a brightly colored balloon like the many I’d seen flying the day before.  Anticipating a cold morning, I laid out layers of clothes, gloves, and wool socks and went to bed early.  My hotel room phone rang about midnight. Due to predicted high winds, the flight was cancelled.  Would I like to reschedule for two days later?  Unfortunately, I’d be home in Tennessee.

            A few years ago, Husband and I travelled to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.  It was the perfect opportunity to go up – amid the excitement of more than 500 hot air balloons and thousands of fans.  But practically kicked in, and I wouldn’t pay the exorbitant price during the event.   So, I stood close as balloonist spread envelopes, the actual balloons, on the ground and filled them with air.  I envied people who waved down from high in the air.  Sometime I’d be the one waving.

            Last Christmas, Husband gave me a surprise gift.  A Flight Voucher for two passengers from the Middle TN Hot Air Adventures!  After wiping a tear or two and hugging Husband’s neck, I asked, “Does this mean you’re going up with me?”   

            “Maybe one of our children would like to,” Husband answered.  Son said that his palms sweated just thinking about a balloon ride.  Daughter said, “Mom, it’s a perfect adventure for you and Dad.” 

            I held onto my gift voucher like the last best piece of candy in a five-pound box of chocolates.  It was wrinkled from the times I folded and unfolded it. Finally, I scheduled a late afternoon flight for Husband and me and then watched the weather forecast.

            On the morning of the flight, I was eager to receive an expected text, confirming time and meeting place, from the pilot. I didn’t like his 10:30 a.m. message: “We’re watching the weather – mainly the wind forecast to be sure we can take off. Will update you around 1:00.”  The treetops weren’t moving.  What wind?

            To be continued….