To a year of soaring travel adventures

A ballooning eclipse over Phoenix. (photo credit: Susan R. Pollack)

A ballooner eclipse over Phoenix. (photo credit: Susan R. Pollack)

Last January, a year ago this week, I had one of my most memorable 2014 travel experiences on a Hot Air Expeditions balloon ride over the cactus-spiked desert north of Phoenix. But fear almost kept me on the ground.

Lucky for me, the seven other passengers persuaded me to join them and, with seconds to spare, I clambered awkwardly aboard the giant wicker basket. My initial feelings of apprehension soon gave way to exhilaration as our colorful balloon lifted off and gently carried us nearly 3,000 feet up, up and away into the wild blue yonder.

The morning ride, which lasted about 90 minutes, was punctuated by whooshing sounds and bursts of heat as our veteran pilot, Patrick Stevens, blasted the propane burner and expertly steered the balloon. Though we floated ear-poppingly-high, it was quiet enough to hear dogs barking below. Someone spotted three coyotes on a hillside, and everyone snapped photos when another hot air balloon drifted past, creating a “ballooner eclipse” that temporarily blocked the sun.

It was surreal. And it was a great way to check out the local real estate, liberally dotted with swimming pools.

Back on terra firma, we toasted our high-flying experience at a champagne breakfast, complete with a traditional balloonist prayer and a smattering of ‘hot air’ jokes. (

All of which explains my New Year’s resolution: don’t let fear get in the way of adventure — embrace those special travel moments whenever and wherever they come!

Watch for my next post on renewing wedding vows in Bridal Cave in Lake of the Ozarks, MO., a 2014 low that actually was a travel high-point.

Hot Air Expeditions takes passengers on balloon adventures over Phoenix. (photo credit: Susan R. Pollack)

Hot Air Expeditions takes passengers on balloon adventures over Phoenix. (photo credit: Susan R. Pollack)

Looking upward from the basket of a Hot Air Expeditions balloon adventure. (photo credit: Susan R. Pollack)

View from the basket of a Hot Air Expeditions balloon high above the Phoenix desert. (photo credit: Susan R. Pollack)

Susan R. Pollack
Globetrotting journalist and former Detroit News staff writer Susan R. Pollack has covered travel since 1985, visiting scores of countries on five continents, 49 states, six Canadian provinces and hundreds of cities, islands and outposts along the way. From Alaska, the Galapagos and New Zealand to South Africa, Thailand and Wales, she has suffered the occasional lost luggage, jetlag and Montezuma’s revenge but still delights in sharing travel adventures with readers. In addition to The Detroit News, her award-winning stories and photos have appeared in major newspapers including the Dallas News, Toronto Star, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Chicago Sun Times; and magazines including Delta Sky, Midwest Living, Long Weekends, Experience Michigan, Jetsetter, Home & Away, Lakeland Boating, Hour Detroit, Prevue Meetings and Group Tour. She has contributed to several books including "Rand McNally 2008 Ultimate NASCAR Road Trip Guide." She also writes for websites including, and