The older I get, the more I see and understand the importance of experiences over ‘things’. It’s nice to spoil a special someone sometimes, but frequently those things get thrown, used then forgotten about. So, when my special someone was turning 26 last week, I knew I wanted to plan a little adventure for us to go on. I wanted him to remember his birthday for the fun we had not necessarily the things he collected. I racked my brain, weighed different options then finally settled on taking us on a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the wineries in Temecula. I was so excited, it was hard to keep my mouth shut and not let any hints slip.
Saturday morning, 3:30 am my alarm blared through the silent of the dark night, waking both Dave and myself. I tapped him a few times to ensure he was awake, reluctantly we both rolled out of bed, got dressed and grabbed a quick bit to eat. I was anxious and antsy, as the directions specially said to arrive no later than 5:45 am. I didn’t want to be late and wanted everything to be perfect.
In the car we sluggishly went, and started the quiet and dark drive up the 5 then onto the 15 towards Temecula. At this point, Dave had no idea where we were even headed. Thankfully he had enough trust in me and just went along with what I asked of him. Thirty minutes into the straight drive, I couldn’t keep my eyes awake any longer. I was excited but my eyes were growing heavy. Reluctantly, I agreed to switch with Dave so he could finish the drive. I desperately wanted to keep the secret but knew, we had to be safe about tired driving.
We pulled into the McDonalds in Temecula around 5:30am. If he knew what we were doing by now, he hadn’t led on much. That is until; a hot air balloon drove by us. Sheepishly, he turned and asked what time we are going on our balloon ride. Not ready to give it up, I quickly snapped back that I had no idea what he was talking about. I should have given it up then, but the stubborn side in me made me want to keep it a secret a little longer.
Around 5:45 I didn’t know what to do anymore, so we got out of the car and walked into the McDonalds. From there a man greeted us, “Are you here for a balloon ride?” Dave looked over at me and smiled. The cat was officially out of the bag. We sat down to fill out our paperwork and wait for our pilot to arrive. Snuggling up in the booth, Dave couldn’t keep the grin off his face, which left me very pleased.
When the pilot finally arrived around 6am, we loaded into a big van that took us to a field 10 minutes out from Temecula. There were 3 other groups aside from us: a family of 4, a brother and sister, and another young couple. We quickly learned that the basket was large enough to hold 16 people, but six had backed out which left us with our own space.
The first launch spot wasn’t received well by the pilot so he and his crew drove us a little further down the road to a popular launch spot of other hot air balloons. There were two being blown up with when we arrived and another one waiting for its turn. Our pilot and his crew quickly unloaded their tools, and started preparation for take off. It was amazing how quickly this giant (6-foot tall building!) balloon could blow. Even more amazing to me, how just a balloon was able to hold a thousand pound basket filled with grown adults and children.
Darting around left and right to quickly accommodate for the riders, the staff offered birthday and anniversary banners so you were sure to caption what you were celebrating. A little after 7 a.m., we were crawling over the four-foot tall basket side and settling in for take off. Grabbing Dave’s hand, I squeezed hard as we shared a smile. The secret I had been holding in for the past month was finally becoming a reality. I had always wanted to know what it felt like to glide above the land in a balloon and it was finally going to happen.
Our pilot, did one last check with his grounds crew, before we gently lifted off the ground. Slowly, softly, it was nothing like taking off in an airplane. This was the most graceful way I had ever entered the sky. Before I knew it, we were a couple hundred feet above the ground, looking down upon the rolling green vineyards.
For the next forty-five minutes we glided up and down, above the horizon. There were at least a dozen other balloons out for a morning ride, which added to the beautiful scenery. We were lucky-the weather was absolutely perfect. Seventy-five degrees and sunny, there was barely any wind which made for a graceful flight. I was surprised to look down and not feel nauseous as I thought I might. I didn’t feel any motion sickness, and the entire flight felt natural- like we were meant to be soaring so high above the ground.
As the sun rose higher, so did we. Radioing to other balloons, our Pilot was quick to inform us tid-bits and facts about ballooning and flight. The fire that kept us afloat was warm and blazed into the parachute. I was fascinated watching the whole process that went along with keeping us afloat. I couldn’t wrap my head around how it was happening but I sure was enjoying myself.
Close to 8am, after we had been in the air for nearly an hour, we began our process to land back on the ground. With the grounds crew chasing us, our pilot let the fire die slowly, enough to let us down but not enough to lose control. Finally, they decided on a spot and we were able to land. With three grown men on the ground pulling us down, they had to get the parachute on the grass and in control before we would be allowed to get out of our basket.
Once we were able to get out, the crew passed out mimosas and cider for a toast and celebratory drink. Cheers to my love, it was the most perfect way to celebrate a birthday in September. Our adventure for the day was not over just because the balloon landed. Back home to San Diego we went, time for breakfast burritos, a quick nap then to dance the night away at Kaaboo Music Festival.
So often in life, it is absolutely worth it to splurge a little, lose a little sleep, do something different, something daring and something just fun. Our weeks have been spent working us to the bone but we do our best to live those weekends as much as we can. We have so much fun planned ahead; stay tuned! I can’t wait to continue to share our adventures and journeys as we try to figure out what we’re doing here.