Riding in a hot air balloon must be on every bucket list ever written. It certainly has been on mine and I could think of nowhere better for my experience than over the world famous vineyards of Napa Valley.
Rising early in the morning, we ventured over to meet our group for coffee and pastries. After the dutiful signing of the liability waivers, we received a brief introduction from the tour company, were assigned a respective pilot, and headed out to the site.
Fortunately, the conditions were perfect – around 53 degrees, light wind, clear skies. The sun was just beginning to rise and the pilots were beginning to fill the balloons.
In a very short period of time, our group of 10 climbed into the basket and gently lifted off the ground and began floating into the sky. I thought that I may feel a little scared of the height or dizzy looking down but instead felt completely relaxed and watched as the landscape opened up below us. In the early morning hours the fog still clung in the valley near the base of the hills, creating a softness and peacefulness in its wake.
As we floated along our pilot explained that there is really no way to properly steer a hot air balloon. Since air currents flow in different directions and different speeds at different heights, the most a pilot can do is to raise or lower the altitude and hope to catch a current in the direction they’d like to go. So we were literally at the mercy of the winds…
… and completely missed the landing site.
After checking out some other fields, a few different farms, and a school athletic field, it was clear that we were going to have to land somewhere suburban. The neighborhood dogs were clearly not happy about this as we heard the barking spread throughout the area. Some of the people didn’t look too pleased either and I’m sure were concerned about their roofs.
But our pilot and his team were phenomenal and managed to guide us gracefully to the end of a cul-de-sac among cheers and ecstatic squeals from the children.
Seriously, how exciting is it to have a hot air balloon land right in front of your house!
In true Napa style, we ended the morning with a champagne breakfast and toasts all around. The whole experience was magical and thrilling and I can’t wait to do it all again.
Have you ever been hot air ballooning? Did anything out of the ordinary happen on your flight?