My husband gave me a gift certificate for a hot air balloon ride for Christmas in 2006, but a variety of scheduling difficulties and weather issues prevented us from taking our ride until this week. In this photo several of my fellow passengers watch the crew set up and inflate the huge balloon.
Our pilot, a congenial man who was born in Wisconsin, moved to Arizona where he learned to pilot balloons, and now has moved back, took us a mile high, then flew low enough over fields and tree tops that we could see deer, rabbits, turkeys and sand hill cranes. Water-logged fields made the extent of damage from our recent flooding very clear. The view here is of Lakes Mendota and Monona.
The burners threw so much heat that I sought shelter under the heat shields. When the burners are not throwing flames, the ride is whisper quiet.
While I don't have a photo of the inflated balloon, I enjoyed watching our shadow as it passed over the countryside.
At the end of the ride, after we landed, packed up the balloon and returned to our point of departure, the crew put out champagne, strawberries, cheese and crackers. We heard a bit about the history of hot air balloons, and then were sent on our way with this familiar Irish blessing:
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
And rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.
If you'd like to see an image of the balloon, or find out about the company, here is the web address for Token Creek Balloons: