While on a trip to Arizona I had the opportunity to fly with Hot Air Expeditions. I called the resort we were going to stay at and the concierge recommended them. I was picked up at my hotel (at 4:50am :-) and taken out with other folks to that day's liftoff site. The pilot, Patrick, was outstanding. He even gave me the opportunity to photograph the inside of the balloon as it was being inflated by peeking through a panel in the side of the balloon. Setup of the balloon and preparations to lift off were smooth, efficient and fun to watch.
Once aloft Patrick gave us a lot of information about flying the balloon and what we were seeing as we floated along. He initially skimmed some nearby hills, rising over them and decending softly into a little valley beyond them. He seemed to hold the balloon still as he waitied for another balloon from their company to make it's way over the same hill. Quite a sight to watch. While we floated gently among the hills Patrick pointed out the many plants and other interesting things we could see from only about 50' feet up.
After a little bit we lifted out of the little valley and rose up into a beautiful cloudless sky. Without realizing it we rose up to a little over 7,000 feet. While in the balloon there is no sensation of movement. Not the elevator experience I expected. In fact, later, while we were on our way down (we didn't know it) Patrick asked for a business card from anyone and when he got one he folded it into quarters and demonstrated how it would fall from the balloon. To our surprise, the piece of paper rose above the balloon. Patrick explained that the paper was really falling, but we were decending faster. We couldn't feel it at all. There was the occassional flutter of our hair or collar on our shirt. He explained that it was only when we picked up another air current and were gently being nudged in another direction.
Landing was a couple of soft bumps. Then the ground crew arrived and we left the balloon. The crew quickly and efficiently packed the equipment away. But we were still busy. A very nice breakfast of quiche (warm too) and fruit, pasteries, cheese, orange juice and of course champagne.
When all was done we were returned to our hotels where the memory of a great adventure was played over and over in our heads.
If you have the opportunity, TAKE IT!!!!!!
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