This post is part of a series of stories from our 2018 Spring Break road trip across New Mexico.
Click here for all posts.
I have a well-documented history of getting talked into trying things that make me nervous. So far, the list includes bungee jumping off Victoria Falls, hiking Half Dome, belaying off Mt. Whitney, and every bridge I’ve ever held my breath while crossing. So many bridges…
Hot air ballooning made me nervous, but early in our planning for this trip I realized we couldn’t go to New Mexico without doing it. The iconic New Mexico experience! We just had to.
No one can be uncheered with a balloon.
– Winnie the Pooh
As we arrived at the launch site our pilot asked for a volunteer. Colt shot his little hand up before he even knew what he was signing up for! Thankfully, it was a low-key job. He was in charge of holding and monitoring the balloon while it inflated.
Before long, we were fired up and ready to fly.
Once we were up there, it was magical. It was truly like floating. In my mind, it would be windy up there, but you don’t feel the wind — because you’re IN the wind. We floated all over town and the boys kept track of the other balloons flying with us that morning. It was snug in the basket, but comfortable. We had been told to wear layers — preparing for both hot (from the flame) and cold (from the early morning spring air) — but we were all quite comfortable the whole flight.
The flight was an hour of floating over the city of Albuquerque, our pilot Alfred acting as tour guide from 2000 feet in the sky and fielding questions from our basket of curious passengers. He was wonderful. He told us stories about his favorite balloon flights and his career as a pilot — it was obvious he truly loves his job.
And just like that, our dreamy balloon flight was coming to an end. We practiced getting into the landing position — which meant facing the same way in the basket and holding rope handles along the sides, bracing our shoulders against the side for a potentially bumpy landing. I’d seen videos of baskets tipping over at landing and Alfred told us that COULD happen, but he expected a smooth landing. And it was! We landed in a field of grass, and everyone cheered! The balloon chase crew that had been following us through town in a van and trailer was there to catch the balloon and weigh it down so we could all climb out.
Alfred popped open a folding table and a breakfast spread. He read the Irish Balloonist Prayer and we clinked glasses to a successful flight.
The winds have welcomed you with softness
The sun has blessed you with its warm hands
You have flown so high and so well
That God has joined you in laughter
And may he set you gently back again
Into the loving arms of Mother Earth.
– Irish Balloonist Prayer
Colt and I started a travel tradition a few years ago in New York — that if we have the chance to try a new “mode of transportation” that we DO IT. In NYC, you can try such a variety of transportation in a single day that we started counting and adopted it as a challenge. We’ve traveled by plane, train, bus, car, boat, subway, taxi, rickshaw, bus, aerial tram, limo, and now… hot air balloon!
A few tips if you’re ready to book a flight:
- Call Rainbow Ryders. There are certainly other companies, but I highly recommend Rainbow Ryders. They patiently answered my 72 questions on the phone when I booked, then took such good care of us from start to finish. They are pros.
- Be sure your kids are tall enough. Colt was juuuuust tall enough to see over the edge of the basket and enjoy the ride. Any shorter and he would’ve been frustrated with the view and holding him up would have been dangerous.
- Wear layers. We got this advice from the company, and it was perfect. We had a backpack at our feet with some extra layers if we needed them, since you’re committed once you take off.
- Skip this if heights aren’t your thing. It’s HIGH. And exposed. And there’s nowhere to hide. If any of us had been scared of heights, it would have been miserable.