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. (www.hotairexpeditions.com)
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.