Someone bought my wife and I a hot air balloon ride for our anniversary. Riding in a hot air balloon was something I had always wanted to do and in fact was on my “Bucket List”.
I looked forward to it for weeks. I couldn’t believe that I was going to get to do something like this. I’ve seen many balloons over the years in balloon launches and occasionally driving down the road getting a glimpse of one. I remember the balloon in the Wizard of Oz at the very end of the movie when Dorothy is going to be taken home by Professor Marvel whom, as it turns out, didn’t know how it worked. Now I was going to get to experience it.
They were launching from the yard of the home of the people who bought us the ride. We could see the balloon laid out when we drove in to the driveway. Doing things like this just simply doesn’t make me nervous, but I could tell that my wife was just a little.
The pilot was a very confident guy, almost arrogant. It was a party atmosphere. Several families were there, eating hamburgers and enjoying the evening.
I noticed that it was a little bit windy when we got out of the car but thought nothing of it until the pilot said, “It’s a bit to windy but we’re going to try it anyway.” I wasn’t sure what he meant.
It only took a few minutes to blow up the enormous balloon with a big fan and then started to heat the air with the burner which shot flames up into the envelope. The balloon started to rise off the ground but was held down by several people.
They told us to climb on board so we hoisted ourselves over the side of the wicker basket…and before we knew it we were in the air. The balloon soared upward and south very quickly. The wind was coming out of the north.
We were moving fast toward the south, but I didn’t know how fast we should be going. It seemed fine to me. He did a few little tricks like taking us down and touching the tops of corn standing in a field and then back up high. We traveled around 20 miles or so until it was time to land.
It was very peaceful when we were in the air. All we could hear was the wind rushing by our ears. We got closer and closer to the ground when the pilot said you might want to hang on, this is going to be a rough landing. We were moving fast when we hit the ground with a thud with the balloon still being pushed by the wind. The basket tipped to it side and the balloon drug us along the ground. When we hit and tipped, my wife fell on top of me hitting me in the face and broke my glasses.
We finally came to a stop and crawled out of the basket with bruises, some scraps and a pair of broken glasses. After the pilot secured the balloon he walked over to the van we were sitting in and said, “Sorry about that.”
I’ve had a lot of crashes in my life. Family, ministry and professional. Sometimes you fly high and all of a sudden you’re crashing. My advise is get up, brush yourself off and move on. All the failures I’ve had scream in my face that I’m a loser. I’ve learned to scream right back at them…”You are just a stepping stone to my next balloon ride!”
It was very exciting to crash a hot air balloon. I would do it again in a minute if I had the chance.