Up in the air

This was my first time taking a hot air balloon ride so you can tell I was excited. I woke up at 4:45am, took a quick shower and headed on to The Westin Kierland hotel lobby for an early morning pickup. Rainbow Ryders, Inc. were my trusted company for the adventure while flying over the Phoenix-Scottsdale area.

Till this day I had no clue about the intricate details that go into flying a hot air balloon. First, you have to check the direction of the wind and identify a launching location accordingly. This can take some time as you may need to travel to several different locations before settling for one. After the blessings of the clouds and winds, we pulled up on the side of a road (across from a Dunkin Donuts) which had vast empty fields.

Second, came the process of arranging the baskets, hooking up the pipes, unwrapping the nylon, turning on the fans and inflating the balloons. We were carrying everything we needed to fly our balloon in the back of the trunk in a box! The experts at Rainbow Ryders got to work immediately and within a few minutes had everything set up. I helped as air was fanned into the 120,000 cubic feet envelope. It slowly began to take form of a giant balloon spanning quite a distance.

Next hot air was blasted using propane tanks which caused the balloon to rise. Now, us (the passengers and the flyer) had to get into the basket quickly. There is no door or latch, you just have to jump in. Since our basket was very small (3 people), we had a rough take off. The basket shook, shivered, went up in the air and came back down several times before we were finally floating above ground. All I could do was hold on tight and laugh at the balloon’s animated behavior.

Once in air, it was smooth sailing. I could see the arid Arizona landscape with mountains, open fields, giant cactus’s and some dried up creeks. It was quiet and peaceful. The sun was also rising into the horizon which caused reflection on the hills, creating a picturesque Kodak moment. You could see other balloons in the air by now, of different colors and sizes. We probably flew for 45 minutes. The balloon needed constant fuel and direction, which our experienced guide Richard provided.

Like takeoff, landing was a bit rough too. “It all depends on the wind when we get to the ground” said Richard as he gave as security instructions under high and low wind landings. In the end, no one was hurt and I had a lot of fun! The riders from other balloons met up in the field for champagne and breakfast after the beautiful morning flight.

Would I recommend it? Absolutely! It is a once in a lifetime experience that you will cherish memories of forever (although I would love to do it again).

Rainbow Ryders offers hot air balloon rides in Arizona and New Mexico to individuals and groups. Their pilots are FAA certified and have over 150 years combined experience with  15,000 hours of balloon flight time.