Surprise Birthday - Day 2 - woke up at 3:30 a.m.!
There was no pink jeep tour!
Let's consider this more of a photo description of the morning since I have so many pictures and thought it was very interesting how everything happened.
Amy also has an account of our morning here. And Kevin has random photos from the weekend here. So far Andrew hasn't posted anything, even though I'd love to hear his account of this day since it was his birthday and he said he was a little nervous before going.
To start with, when we were waiting out in front of the hotel at 4:30 a.m. in the dark, the vehicle that greeted us was not a Pink Jeep, like Terry said, but an older model SUV pulling a trailer and guess what? The trailer was carrying a hot air balloon basket!!! For those of you who read my post about Day 1 and Item # 25 on my 50 Random Things About Me List, this is what I was suspecting and even hoping for. I've always wanted to ride in a hot air balloon and now I was so excited that it was going to happen with the rest of the family being able to enjoy it too. Now I'm not anything close to a daredevil but I never thought once about being afraid of going up. It just seemed like it would be so peaceful and beautiful...and it was, but I'm getting ahead of myself. BTW, for any of you who want to know more about hot air ballooning (as opposed to gas ballooning - there is a difference). Here's more info. The company we used was Northern Light Balloon Expeditions and we were very happy Terry chose them since the company with the larger baskets (that hold 16-20 people) didn't even get off the ground that day, probably because of a slightly higher wind than usual that morning.
Our pilot, Dan greeted us in front of the hotel and we loaded into the car. On the way to the launch site and thru-out the trip he filled us in on all manner of facts and trivia about ballooning, Sedona and any other topic that came up. He looked pretty young (maybe 30 at the oldest) but was very knowledgeable, helpful and friendly. We were glad we had him as our pilot. He even told us that he grew up in Sedona and was raised by his great-grandfather (who made him learn how to back up those crazy trailers in tight spots). It would have been interesting to hear the background on his youth, but he moved right along to other subjects.
So here are the basic steps that go along with the pictures:
We arrived at the launch site and the pilots released a small helium balloon (like you have at a party) to see how the wind currents were moving. At the first spot, the wind was moving too fast up at higher altitudes and would have taken us over the city limits (which isn't permitted) so we had to drive to a location farther west of town.
Arriving at launch site # 2 they did the same thing and seemed to be happy with the course of the little balloon, so our crew found a clear spot to start preparing to launch.
As we waited patiently (and tried to wake up - I would recommend a nice touch would be offering a cup of coffee here), they pulled the basket and the balloon (it was inside the big bag) off the trailer and tipped over the basket on it's side. It appeared to be quite heavy. Good thing since we were all going to be in it later. Then they spread out the balloon on the ground.
Next they asked for volunteers (Kevin & Andrew) to hold up the "throat" at the bottom of the balloon and turned on a good sized fan to start blowing air into it while the crew straightened the balloon and made sure none of the ropes were twisted, etc..
Once everything looked ready, Dan turned on the burners to heat the air in the balloon and make it rise just enough, but not too much to go up in the sky.
You can see 3 other balloons almost ready for take-off from one of the ground pictures here.
Soon we stepped in the little slot near the bottom of the basket and climbed into the balloon. (max capacity was 7 people plus the pilot and we had 5 plus the pilot) Seven would have been pretty cozy with the 4 fuel tanks that were also in there.
After lift off we went up to about 2000 feet at the highest. It was pretty awesome to see the other balloons so far below us and the gorgeous red rocks of Sedona in the distance. Since the city won't allow the balloons over city limits, they don't get too close to the rock formations, but it was still beautiful all the same. And we also got low enough to see jack rabbits running along the ground. We had a couple of visitors in the sky in who got close enough to say hello. Dan knew them both and enjoyed the company, I think.
I like the one photo of the balloon above us using the flames to make it rise higher. In the twilight of morning, it was kind of cool to be able to see the flames light up the inside of the balloon.
Unfortunately, since things were moving so quickly we didn't get a picture of all of us in the basket...oh well, you can't have everything. We have the memories.
We were in the air for about an hour and it was glorious! The landing was a little bumpy and actually pretty comical to watch everyone trying to hold on and not fall over onto Dan, the pilot while he was trying to do whatever needed to be done to actually land the thing. We all made it out o.k. though and I would do it again in a second. It was so much fun!
After the balloon ride we gathered with all the other folks who had gone up (in the other 4 balloons) and enjoyed a light breakfast of fresh strawberries, a cream cheese and marshmallow dip, danish and a mimosa toast, which was a nice touch. Then we headed back to the hotel.
Since we hadn't had much breakfast, we went out to Oaxaca to eat, thinking that they might have some good Mexican style breakfast food, which is Andrew's favorite. It was his actual birthday after all. They didn't really have much that was different and the food was pretty average which was a bummer.
Oh well, our dinner that night made up for it big time. I'll post about that maybe tomorrow...
Speaking of dinner, I better go make some since Terry's been working outside all day on the yard in 100 degree temps and is probably exhausted.
Hope you like all the pics. I tried to get a good sampling to give you an idea of what it was like, but if there's something else you want to see, let me know and I'll post it.
Thanks for your patience in getting thru all this.