Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Up, Up, Up & Away

Monday, September 6, 2010

On Monday morning the alarm went off around 4:00 a.m. so we could get up and get ready for my hot air balloon ride.  We had to meet at a hotel at 6:00 a.m. and from there we rode in a van to the field we were launching the balloon from.  Shawn wasn't riding in the balloon, but was staying with the ground crew in the chase vans. 

Once at the field, we got to help set up the balloons.  There was only 6 people going up in the balloons the morning I went.  Originally there was supposed to be 16, but 10 of the people didn't show up and didn't call in the night before to confirm their flight.  The other 5 people in the group was a family so they went in one balloon and I got to ride in a balloon all by myself.  It was sweet!  Well it was me and two pilots...Doug and Kim.  Back to helping set up the balloons, that was alot of fun.  They got the balloon out of the envelope and unrolled it, then they had a huge fan running to blow up the balloon.  It probably took about 10 to 15 minutes to blow it up.  Shawn and I both had to hold the base of the balloon open so the fan could fill up the rest of the balloon.  It was freezing cold standing in front of the fan and it was blowing my hair a mess and kept blowing my shirt up.  I'm sure I was a sight!  Once the balloon was blown up, they attached the basket to it and in I hopped.  Well, more like climbed in.  It was alot easier to get into than I thought it would be, however, if they would make baskets with doors, it would SO much simpler.  LOL!  I had my big camera with me so I could take pictures, and I left the little point and shoot with Shawn on the ground so he could take pictures and videos.  The flight of the balloon was so smooth you couldn't even tell you were moving.  I never felt the lift-off, and you couldn't feel it moving in the air.  The only time I felt it move was after we landed and the basket rocked back and forth some.  It was such an amazing experience and something that I have ALWAYS wanted to do every since the first time I saw a hot air balloon.  We were probably in the air flying for about an hour and 10 minutes and I saw such amazing scenery.  In addition to the balloon I was in and the other one with our group, I saw 5 or 6 more in the sky off in the distance.  The guys even dipped the basket and we skimmed along a pond.  I was glad no gators got me.  LOL!!  After we reached our landing spot and landed, we helped get the air out of the balloon and pack it back up, we had a champagne/OJ toast and recited the Balloonist Prayer. 

The winds have welcomed you with softness
The sun has blessed you with its warm hands
You have flown so high and so well that God has joined you in your laughter
and set you back again
into the loving arms of mother earth.

Then everyone loaded up into the van and we headed back to the hotel for a free breakfast buffet, where we also got our "first flight certificates".  Along the way we stopped at a roadside citrus farm to buy products.

The ride was a bit pricey, $185 per person to ride in the balloon and $20 per person to stay with the chase van, but definitely worth it and I wouldn't think twice about paying or doing it again.  If you are ever in the Orlando area and want to go for a hot air balloon ride, I would definitely recommend Thompson Aire Hot Air Balloon Company.  They were a bit more expensive than other companies, but their website had so much more valuable information on it, along with videos, pictures, and testimonials.  And from experience, they are very knowledgeable, friendly, and a great group of guys to work with.

After the hot air balloon ride and breakfast, we drove into Lakeland, about 30 minutes away, to have Shawn try on his tux and pick it up from the Men's Warehouse.  Well it was huge on him.  Come to find out, the people in Evansville measured him wrong.  They had to re-order the pants, jacket, and vest.  Everything else was fine.  They said it would be in by Wednesday and they would call us to pick it up.  (Later as I blog, you'll find out how much I DISLIKE the Men's Warehouse!).

We went back to the house and I went swimming in the pool for a little bit while Shawn went fishing in the lake behind the house. Shawn hadn't been out fishing all that long when I saw him coming back in the house with his pole and fishing box. I noticed that he was moving fast and high stepping it through the grass, but I didn't think anything about it. That's when he busted in the door and yelled "there's a gator out there!" LOL!! Now I know why he was moving fast! I was intrigued so I went outside with him and took some pictures of it. We saw that gator quite a bit throughout the week and he never caused any harm to either of us.

For dinner that night we went to the Texas de Brazil, a Brazilian steakhouse and it was ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL!  A few months ago when Shawn flew to Florida, a guy on that plane told him about this all you can steak and seafood place and every since then Shawn wanted to go.  I excepted it to be some big buffet and when I googled it online, it was nothing at all like that.  Once I read about it and and the price, I was less than impressed to go, but Shawn wanted to so we did.  I'm glad.  It was DELICIOUS!  I have never eaten so much delicious food in all my life!  In fact, we both wanted to go back again before we left, but didn't get a chance to.  If you are ever in the Orlando area, or any area that has this restaurant, you MUST treat yourself!  I found out that there is one in Chicago, so I can't wait to make a trip there, especially since I have been wanting to go to Chicago anyways.

After that meal, we drove to Winter Haven to visit Dan and was there until about 11:30 or midnight.  We had a great time visiting him and hanging out and was excited to be in Florida and to be a part of his wedding on Saturday!

Me & Pilot Doug

Me with Pilots Kim & Doug

This is the other balloon that went up in the air with us.

One of the ponds we skimmed over.

This picture and the one after are of the field we landed in.

The other balloon landing.

During out descent, we brushed the tree tops and reached out and grabbed some pine needles. 
It was really neat.

See Shawnie in this pic? 

Do you see me in this pic?  I'm leaning over the basket taking a reflection photo.

You can see the balloon in this picture just in the left of the lake.

There was such beautiful and amazing scenery to be seen.

There is Shawnie, waiting on me to land!

The crew rolling up the balloon I was in.  Once they got all the air out, we helped them stuff it in its bag.

After the flight, we had a champagne/OJ toast and recited the Balloonist Prayer.

Here I am  helping hold the balloon while it is filled up with hot air,
and let me tell you, it was HOT!  You can see me running away in the next picture.

Here is my balloon coming in for a landing.

This is the lake behind our house where Shawnie was fishing and met his friend....

Mr. Gator!

This restaurant IS the devil!  It was sooo---->> GOOD!

1 comment:

Perri said...

Wow! What an experience! Beautiful pictures. I thought the same thing when we were helping inflate the balloon. It was HOT!!! I thought surely I would have no eyebrows left.