Hot air ballooning! What was supposed to be one of my first dates with MSG ended up being date #7. It worked out better this way as it was probably a bit too much for a first date. That being said, it was hard to top date #7.
We picked a near perfect day for the adventure. Since hot air ballooning requires little to no wind conditions, we were lucky that our first flight booking went through. When we arrived at the meeting area, we found out that all the other groups had to deal with multiple re-schedules due to non-cooperating weather. One couple even had to wait a whole year (due to the short flying season) before having a chance to fly.
It was a hot evening and the skies were clear. Once we were driven to the launch site, we had to assemble the hot air balloon. The two staff members did most of the basket assembly and we were asked to help with the “filling” of the balloon. I volunteered to hold open the balloon as they blasted air into it. After many minutes of air blowing, the balloon was starting to fill out and take over the field. Holding the opening near the end was getting quite difficult as the sheer size of it made it difficult to handle. Soon it was time to add some hot air. They turned the burners on and forced hot air into the balloon. Soon enough, the balloon started rising and eventually it turned the basket upright. The thing was massive. Way bigger than I expected!
Everyone climbed in (there was 8 of us + the pilot) and after a few photos, we were off! Watching the ground get smaller and smaller was a lot scarier than I had imagined. Perhaps it’s because we were in a basket and not in the safety of something like a plane. We leveled off at about 1000ft in the air and we could see 360 degrees for quite some distance. It was quite a sight. As we drifted slowly in the air, we explored the city of Langley and just enjoyed the serenity of the ride. One surprising thing was how much you could feel the burners. It was so hot I felt like I was losing the hairs off my neck!
At times, we would lower our altitude a bit to change the view, but this really just allowed us to observe everybody’s houses in detail. We learned that nearly everybody in Langley has a pool/trampoline. If you don’t have one, you’ll have the other. We often waved at people who were waving at us or vice versa. Since they do flights twice a day, I’m surprised how happy they are to see the balloons. In fact, the balloons are probably quite annoying as the burners cause a high pitch sound that causes all the dogs to start barking and howling.
After about an hour in the air, we had to search for a place to land. As we searched for a landing spot, the pilot lowered us so we were barely skimming the trees. That was pretty cool. We eventually found a landing spot but it was a less than ideal landing area. It was amusing to see people on the streets follow us as we got closer to the ground. When we finally landed, the whole street was lined with cars that wanted to catch a glimpse of the hot air balloon. Long tall weeds/grass was a haven for mosquitoes and they were happy to eat us alive while we disassembled the hot air balloon. As it was getting dark quickly, it was a bit of a mess and we had to do a lot more grunt work than normal. However, it was definitely worth it to knock this one off my bucket list.