I love hot air balloons. Their beautiful colors stand out brightly against a dark morning sky. The silence as they glide along, broken by the intermittent bursts of gas and flame that keep them afloat. They are relaxing to watch, and thrilling to ride. I never miss a chance to experience the excitement of being around them.
My first hot air ride was in California, over the vineyards of Napa Valley. This was many years ago, so many in fact that the memento photos were Polaroids, and I was sporting an unfortunate 80’s perm. I will not be sharing those pictures with you.
Our second balloon adventure was two years ago, in Cappadocia, Turkey. From the air, Cappadocia looks like a fairytale city, dotted with towering boulders and cone shaped spires. The spires reminded me of the of sand castles I used make at the beach, combining water and sand, then squeezing it through your fingers to make “castles.” The spires in this stunning region of Turkey are hundreds of feet high, with glorious color striations of grays, pinks and whites. They extend for miles across the valley floor. Floating over them in a hot air balloon was like being adrift over a magic kingdom.
We danced on air for over an hour. When the sun came up, we caught a glimpse of the shadow of our balloon, cast against a white cloud. The only sound was the clicking of our cameras and the oohs and ahhs of our fellow passengers.
I laugh every time I see the name listed on my hot air balloon Flight Certificate. It reads “Tritey Hugan.” I had given up trying to pronounce and spell “Tracy” for the gentleman who was filling out the forms. I accepted the form with a smile and said, “Tesekkurler,” which is Turkish for, “Thank You.”
Our most recent balloon fest was in Albany, Oregon. Like many places around the country, it has a yearly balloon festival. My husband and I attended the “evening glow” with friends. We watched as pilots and crews all gathered with their balloons in an open field, surrounded by spectators in lawn chairs, eagerly waiting to see the show. The balloons were filled simultaneously, creating a synchronized dance of flame while a golden glow emanates from inside each one. A strong breeze prevented the evening from proceeding as planned, but it was well worth the visit to see them all ignite at once.
The launch early the next morning was thrilling. We were able to walk among the 100 balloons as they were being filled. Listening to each team as they shouted directions to one another over the loud blasts of propane, watching as the lifeless fabrics laying on the ground began to fill with heated air, and take shape. We joined in the applause at each successfully launch.
Soon the sky was filled with a dinosaur shape, a scarecrow shape and every color imaginable, all drifting gracefully above our heads.
The grandest balloon festival of all takes place every October in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It is the International Balloon Fiesta, with over 600 balloons, from more than a dozen countries participating. It is unofficially recognized as, “The World’s Most Photographed Event.” And I am thrilled to say that I am going! We will be there for five days of balloon magic, we have our RV site secured. I hope to see you there!