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Sunday, January 29, 2017

Bucket List Buster

There was a secret at the reunion, that was well kept. When Carol politely asked why Donna was to buddy up with her, Ideaa and myself at our motel, we flat out lied. "Well, Donna has been sharing a bed with her Mom at Rhonda's. Grace is really tired and needs a good nights sleep so Donna's going to stay with us tonight."

When the unexpected alarm went off at 5AM, Donna, Idea and I lept up and bustled about the room. Carol, sleepily asked, "What? Are you going somewhere? What time is it?"

Again. We lied.

Ideaa shot me a look, and told her mom, "Claire is taking us birding." Yeah. That's the ticket. Everyone urged Carol to get up and dressed, right sharp, and we were off in the dark.

Rainbow Ryders office
I parked us right in front of the Rainbow Ryders office. I turned off the car. I assured everyone - mostly Carol - what I'd dragged everyone out to see was spectacular. But it was too dark to get to where we could see it just yet.

Carol, puzzled, chatted quietly in the back seat with her daughter. Conversation slowed to a stop. We sat in the dark car. Five minutes passed.


Yep! Somehow Carol had been in the dark about her birthday surprise and we all laughed as she happily expressed her delight. It was a busy morning after that. We were checked in at the office, had instructions on ballooning as no one is dead weight on a ballooning ride. Formalities done, we were driven in the early dawn out to the Sonora Desert where several vans from several balloning companies prepared for rides.

Carol wonders what daughter Ideaa's gotten her into 
The balloon crew unloaded the passenger basket and laid it on its side.

The crew starts unfurling the massive balloon
Next the crew stretched the giant deflated balloon out to its full length.

Anyone who wanted to help was encouraged to hold the side lines. Soon the crew had large fans blowing air in to the balloon to keep it open as the burn shot hot flames at the balloon interior.

Donna watching and filming as the balloon starts to swell 
The interior of the balloon could have easily held a couple of hundred people, but we settled for one.
Thumbs up as the balloon filled
The balloon up and overhead, it took lots of men to hold it steady, while we, the stalwart passengers were shown how to climb into the balloon's big wicker basket. Getting in was fun, requiring climbing over the basket rim, there being - for good reasons I'm sure - no doorway. And then the ropes were loosed and off we went!

We soared 5,500 feet high over the beautiful Sonoran Desert. Our pilot was a hoot and we plied him with questions. The most interesting bit he told us was how the basket wicker works way better than fiberglass or any other material. For a while the sport adopted fiberglass which isn't as shock absorbing as wicker, so there were lots of chipped teeth and broken ankles. And better yet, the pilot said if wicker breaks, all he has to do is soak wicker reeds and work them into the basket.

The square black holes on the wicker on the right are footholds for getting into the basket.

I don't know about Carol, Ideaa & Donna but my favorite bit of the ride was, of course, the wildlife. We watched a mama Javelina, her litter of piglets racing at her heels along a hillside. Before landing we were instructed how to stand braced so when the balloon landed we would be safe. It was a cooperative activity. We were ten miles from where the ride began. I wondered how long it would take to land the balloon, and how do you get the thing to land?

Suprise, suprise... something began to happen at the top of the balloon. The view shown is of course looking up from the basket.

The pilot opened a ring at the top of the balloon 

The top hatch open, the hot air began rose from the balloon - our gentle descent began.

Didn't take long before we were landlubbers once again. The flight crew, which had followed us in a van, helped us out of the basket, and set up tables for a champagne brunch. Before we sat to dine on fruits, dips and assorted cold cuts & crossants, our pilot addressed our party. He said he was going to say the Irish Ballonists prayer, which they used to say prior to flights - but it freaked out too many people (HAHAHAHAHAHAA!)

                    Irish Balloonist Prayer 

The winds have welcomed you with softness
the sun has blessed you with it's warm hands
You have flown so high and so well
that God has joined you in laughter
And may he set you gently back again
into the loving arms of Mother Earth

This video below sums up an hours ride and the champagne breakfast at the end of the ride in the just three minutes, 6 seconds. The best bit is the music, which I hummed for like a month before & after the event. Would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon? Yeah... me too.

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