Oh to be Forever Young
Hot Air Ballooning
Oh to be Forever Young.....
In a Hot-Air balloon you feel like the Wizard of Oz, Phileas Fogg, and Babar the elephant all rolled into one. They say you can not remain young forever, but I have discovered adulthood is optional. Ballooning for most is love at first flight. It is a sport dependant on emotion and not Athleticism. You either love it and make it a huge part of your life or you leave it.
What type of person would want to take a Hot-Air balloon ride? Better yet, what type of person would pilot and compete in a Hot-Air balloon? The individual who pays $100 - $200 for one half hour in a Hot-Air balloon is someone who wants to recapture a magical feeling of youth. There is nothing trivial about life's fulfillment. Who pilots and competes? A person who has the need to set a record, and a person who craves the feeling of exhilaration. This type of personality is that of a high achiever, extremist, someone who walks the edge of life. This person craves competition.
The individual who is an entreprenuer and gives Hot-Air balloon rides for money does it simply for the love of ballooning. The profits are less than magical. The opportunity to fly as often as possible is the main goal of any balloonist.
In January of the year 2000, I made the decision to finally take the ride of my life. I was super anxious in the beginning. This was an experience I had always craved, but for various reasons had never attempted. I believed this to be my time, my time to grab that exhilarating feeling!
As I pondered my decision, I began to reflect back to a very special time in my youth. A very dear man named Daddy, who had once owned his own private plane. Daddy would say "Scooter, let's go fly with the birds." These wonderful afternoons I will always treasure. So much so, that I wanted to recreate the feeling of freedom that my Daddy had shared with me on so many afternoons of my childhood. It was at that very moment that I made the decision to take the ride of my life and take my Artist with me. I wanted to introduce him to the magic of life, and to share the feeling of freedom. With my Artist I created a life event memory, only he and I shared.
I was anticipating an exhilarating ride at sunrise with my Artist. We were going to view the exotic Joshua Trees at dawn. We were going to have an unobstructed 360 degree view of our gorgeous desert.
With this thought in mind, I started my research. The first thing I learned about Hot-Air ballooning is how safe the sport is. It's one of the safest extreme sports out there, simply because you maintain a low speed level. Safety was an issue bigger than life for me because I planned to include my Artist.
As the February rains passed and March blew into the desert I began to search for the pilot who would fulfill my fantasy. Thursday March 16, 2000 was a beautiful bright Spring day in the desert. The birds were singing and the wind was a gentle breeze. This is the day I found Don Kissack. Don Kissack is the owner of "Don's Early Light Hot-Air ballooning. I discovered Don in a small strip mall at the corner of 45th Street West and Avenue L. Upon entering his office I was immediately entranced by all of the photographs of Hot-Air balloons. There were photos of Hot-Air balloons taking off and landing and balloons in mid-flight. The colors in the balloons were amazing. As I looked up for the first time I noticed all the tiny stuffed Hot-Air balloons suspended from the ceiling. Then to my dismay out popped this man dressed in the bluest shorts I had ever seen and a loud multi-colored Hawaiian shirt. His very presence commanded attention. I can not even begin to describe the kaleidoscope of thoughts that were bombarding my brain.
It was through this visit that I found out he had flown fixed wing aircraft in 1970. He explained he had been involved with ballooning since 1985 when he took his first flight for much the same reasons as I was. He was immediately hooked on ballooning. In 1989 Don and his wife flew their balloon in France for the bicentennial celebration of the French Revolution.
I was enthralled with this mans knowledge of ballooning. Safety was a very important issue for Don. He explained that his particular crew had 65 years of combined experience in chase and recovery. All crew members had their flight qualifications. Don informed me that My Artist and I would be taking our maiden voyage on the "Diamond Delight." As Don compared the interior of the Hot-Air balloon to the inside of a glorious cathedral lighted through stain glass windows, I knew he was going to be my dream weaver.
I scheduled our trip for April 16, 2000, only to have it canceled due to a storm that was supposed to be arriving with rains involved. We rescheduled for the 17th of April. However the winds were outrageous and our flight was canceled again. Realizing that April 23rd was Easter we rescheduled for April 22nd. I was notified by Don at 5:15 AM to go back to bed, conditions were unsafe due to high winds. I once more rescheduled for April 29th and once more due to high winds our flight was canceled.
I had envisioned preconceptions of my flight. I thought we would be flying close to the desert floor, 400 feet or below. I had dreamed of seeing them desert animals awaken, of the champagne at the end of our flight. But never once in my dream did I think we would have such a problem getting off the ground. My concerns in my dream were of landing and not lift off.
On Sunday April 30, 2000, the conditions were perfect and my Artist and myself met Don at the corner of 10th Street West and Avenue K at 6 AM on the site the old Sears building had stood. Don, his wife, and his flight crew began to prepare the balloon for take off.
The balloon itself was removed from the trailer and carefully laid out on the concrete flooring of the parking lot atop a blue tarp. The basket was readied by installing the gas tank into the balloon basket for the burners. The fans were buzzing as they inflated this huge multi-colored balloon. It was an awesome sight to see, this huge Hot-Air balloon fully inflated on one of the busiest corners in our gorgeous desert. This whole process only took 30 minuets to complete.
There were six flyers that morning. We were all there recapturing a part of our youth, all except for my Artist who at 16 years old still possessed his youthful nature. This for my Artist was an eye opener on the beauty of life. We showed him that morning that you can remain forever young in your heart.
As we all said our goodbyes to Mother Earth, we lifted off at sunrise. It felt as though we were in a slow elevator. There was hardly any wind at first, then we were the wind. Not one strand of hair blew out of place after we were aloft. As we rose above the desert at sunrise, the east was to my left. I turned and stood as if on a cloud. At 1200 feet above the desert floor I stood with my Artist and watched the most beautiful sunrise, at the altitude of the Angels. The silence was deafening, all you could hear were the burners. We were not cold, the burners kept us warm. As a matter of fact most of us removed our sweaters before landing. It was a very comfortable place to be, just like being in your comfort zone.
We became the wind and floated over the auto mall. It looked like little matchbox cars had been very carefully placed in different spots. Our desert is laid out in tiers and grids and this was so apparent at this altitude. It appeared as a beautiful patchwork quilt. Our parks are gorgeously landscaped and looked so lush and green from the air. I learned most everyone has a pool in their back yards. I saw a pool shaped like Mickey Mouse. In addition, I viewed some very dirty back yards and some super nasty pools. I wondered if they realized we can see their nasty yards and pools from the air.
Don showed us some of his flying techniques. We experienced touch-n-gos. We would softly land and then rise very gently back up into air. We traveled further west, the sun was up and the desert animals had awakened. We observed a coyote chasing a rabbit for breakfast. We saw a three dimensional view of our beautiful desert. I watched as people in cars and trucks would chase the balloon. The feeling is actually indescribable. Before I knew it our hour was up and Don softly laid the balloon down on the desert floor. It felt as though we had landed on a cushion. The landing was so gentle and soft.
The chase and recovery crew were right there and we all disembarked the balloon. Don being a kind and gentle soul loaded all the children aboard for a small ride and we became the chase and recovery crew. We then loaded the balloon and basket back onto the trailer and we returned to our launch site for champagne and hor de oeuvres. We would also be awarded our certificates which certified we were no longer of mortal status.We had more fun by 9 AM than most people have in their whole lives.
Why did I take my balloon ride? To recapture magic in my life. Did I? you bet I did! My Artist and I plan to fly with the birds and stand with the Angels once more in my lifetime. The magic feeling of floating, watching birds fly by, and to have the unique chance to stand with the Angels at sunrise.
Oh, to remain forever young!