What if I were to tell you that I once took a hot air balloon ride and then landed in a swampy marsh jumping with hundreds of field mice.
Sounds like a hot air affair from hell...doesn't it?
I've always had a fascination with hot air balloons and, coincidentally, I don't do well with heights. However, I always thought floating gracefully to the horizon would be an awesome and romantic experience.
I love their bright colors and fancy varieties. Their enormous size are really quite captivating and especially when you see a cluster of them floating in the sky.
So, naturally, when I was given the opportunity to climb on board one of these giant balloons, I didn't hesitate!
There was a local hot air balloon rally and air fest that was part of a promo that my employer was sponsoring. Lucky for me, I got a free ride ticket along with a guest ticket.
We arrived at the rally and I felt like a kid that had just been dropped into a Willy Wonka movie scene. My eyes popped with excitement when capturing, up close and personal, the massive size and festive colors of each hot air balloon.
I clutched onto our golden tickets as we eagerly waited in line and watched while each balloon had to be carefully inflated. The weather conditions had to be perfect and pilots had to give their thumbs up of approval.
The anticipation was killing me! I didn't want to become the impatient brat like Violet from the infamous Willy Wonka scene. If you remember, her impatience and insistent attitude caused her to swell into a giant blueberry to be rolled off into the “Juicing Room.”
I didn't want my eagerness to chance putting me on the no fly list, much less, turning into a giant blueberry. So, we waited with our golden tickets like grown-ups.
Finally, we got the thumbs up signal and were instructed to our assigned balloon.
Handing the pilot the tickets, he assisted me into the wicker basket.
Surprisingly, I thought the basket was smaller than I had envisioned and I had to squeeze a little closer to the pilot so Mister O could climb aboard.
Just as Mister O was throwing his leg over to hoist himself in, the balloon pilot gave a startled look. "You're coming too?"
"Well, of course," I resounded. "Check the golden tickets!"
The pilot further remarked that this balloon was only meant for two people. He wasn't sure why we were assigned to this particular one if both of us were going.
With my posture about to stiffen into an ungrateful "Violet" episode, I responded “well, now what?"
Motioning for Mister O to get in, the pilot said "hop in; we just won't be able to go very far." "With the extra weight on board we'll need to ride lower and take a shorter trip."
I was disappointed, but it seemed to be our only option if we didn't want to miss the experience.
The three of us crammed shoulder to shoulder awaiting an eventful flight. I prayed with a merciful glance up to The Heavens as the flame ignited the balloon to take flight into the cool breeze of the big blue sky.
Somewhat nervous with our situation, we finally reached a comfortable height and we were smooth sailing amongst a dozen other balloons.
It was surprisingly peaceful and the gentle cool wind that kissed my face was exhilarating.
Floating effortlessly over the treetops and drinking in the astonishing view was mesmerizing.
Just what I had imagined!
Just what I had imagined!
I was absorbed and sucked into my own little fantasy world, when suddenly I heard the pilot say "we're overheating, I'll need to take it down for a landing."
"You're kidding, we just got started,"
Violet I screeched!
The pilot explained, "with the extra weight we're carrying, we'll need to land sooner than predicted."
I could feel my inner "Violet" temperament beginning to rouse. However, I knew it wasn't his fault. At least, I had been delighted with 20 minutes of balloon floating bliss.
His decision was probably a good one, I didn't exactly want my fantasy trip to end whirling and spinning down to terra firma in a deflated balloon!
However, the Willy Wonka world I was experiencing did have a brief hiccup and like Violet, I was about to discover that not all fantasies have a happy ending.
As we were making our descent, the pilot gently landed onto what we thought was solid ground. Just as the basket hit the thick brush of weeds, we sank through the weeds to a hidden swamp of water and muck below. If this wasn't bad enough, we also disrupted the varmints that lived within! Hundreds of field mice were jumping and surrounding our wicker basket.
This was something out of a horror movie! A rodent of any type is definitely on my creep list of worst fears. Additionally, to be surrounded by an army of them with every desire to gnaw on my ankles and draw blood for a juicy cocktail was enough to make my neck hair stand on end! Actually, it straightened EVERY body hair follicle with fear!
A mob of mice spring boarding from the dark murky swamp below will forever be engraved in my mind and the vision NEVER to be forgotten!
The pilot shocked by our discovery, quickly fired up the torch to have the balloon rise up out of the bog and drift us over to safer ground. At this moment, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to punch him or kiss him!
My Hot Air Affair had somewhat of dreadful end, but it could have been much more disastrous. I just have to remember the beautiful parts of my 20 minute tour and be thankful we didn’t get sent to the “Juicing Room!”
Just be aware, if you ever get the chance to receive your long awaited “Golden Ticket,” there’s always a slight possibility it’ll test your highest expectations. Don’t be greedy! Just enjoy and remember all the good parts!
Ultimately, one day I'd like to experience the grand Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Even if it's as a spectator or I happen to scoop a golden ticket, I'll jump at the chance. Let's just hope it's rodent free!
Have you received your long awaited golden ticket? Did it meet your expectations?
“If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it.” ~ Willy Wonka