In the quiet hush under a waning, quarter moon onyx sky, our group gathered… hoodies pulled up and hands shoved in pockets as we wiggled to stay warm in the cool Coachella Valley. Temperatures during the day were almost unbearably hot, yet incredibly, the desert nights were so easily transformed with just a touch of cold air.
Our crew from Fantasy Flights scrambled to lay out tarps and stretch the balloons to their full length. Baskets were tipped and hot air blasted from smaller propane burners, directed to fill and lift the mammoth nylon envelopes. Repeated gusts whooshed until the balloon gracefully took shape and lifted off the desert floor.
Passenger baskets tilted upright and we clambered on board as ballast. What struck me most was the absence of sound.
With no fanfare and almost a sigh, we began our ascent into the starry night… bidding farewell to our crew on the ground.
Justin Wilkinson is a second generation pilot, following in his father’s footsteps. I love that you can see and hear his absolute passion for what he does… it’s how I feel when I play the cello…
We were silenced by the majestic beauty of the sun as it began it’s own ascent above the Little San Bernardino Mountains to the East. We floated towards it and were blessed with a panoramic view of the earth awakening below.
We were silent witnesses, each of us lost in thought as we felt so fortunate to experience this moment together.
Dogs howled at the insult of the high-pitched squeal of the aerostat and ran tormented for cover. Drowsy dwellers wandered outside to calm their dogs and find the source of all the commotion… and waved a greeting in passing.
I have never felt safer, enclosed in our wicker cocoon with a master pilot steering our flight. I felt as though I had flown straight into the pages of a child’s fantasy book. It seemed surreal to be able to float… it was the closest feeling to the solo flight I had made in my dreams a few nights before. It might sound trite… but I felt closer to God that morning and a witness to the miracle that is our planet.
With bent knees and a relaxed grip, we made a completely effortless descent and landing. Our ground crew caught up with us in their trucks and anchored us safely back on earth.
We celebrated, with a simple glass of champagne and orange juice to toast our maiden voyage. I can’t wait to go back with my family. I’m so grateful that my friends were there to share in this experience. It’s so important to step aside from our day-to-day lives and to try something completely out of our normal realm.
I’ve started writing my Bucket List:
1. Hot Air Balloon Ride – check
Today’s recipe is a heavenly cranberry champagne cocktail, filled with sparkling bubbles like stars and as red as the flame in our balloon. It was shaken
not stirred over ice for us by my friend J from Blaylock Manor. A few of these and I promise you will be flying high♥
Aerostat Firefly Champagne Cocktails
1 oz cranberry juice
a splash of triple sec (thanks Cheryl)
2 oz vodka
1/2 oz Champagne
Pour only cranberry juice and vodka into a martini shaker filled with ice. Shake and pour into martini glasses about 1/2 full. Then top glasses up with Champagne. Garnish with frozen blueberries and raspberries.
To print a copy, click here: Aerostat Firefly Champagne Cocktails