Anthony and I have always been about experiences. Having all of the ‘stuff’ we need to make our house a home, we’d rather go out and make new memories than collect more things that we don’t really need that will eventually end up in storage. Because life is crazy, and time just slips away (how is it almost June already?!?!), we haven’t gotten the chance to do this as often as we like. So when Anthony sent me a text asking if I had any plans for that coming Thursday after work, he told me to be sure to leave the evening free because he had a surprise for me.
For the next two days, he would drop me little hints about what we were going to do but never gave it away completely. The anticipation had me on the edge of my seat, yet I loved the thrill of not knowing what he had up his sleeve. On Thursday, he would text every half hour to forty-five minutes, counting down until ‘surprise’ time. And I never did guess or find out until it was time and a jeep pulling a small trailer with ‘Columbus Aeronauts‘ on the side pulled into the lot in which we were parked, waiting. I caught a glimpse of the words hot air balloon before the words ‘holy shit’ slipped out of my mouth, a grin lighting up my face.
“Are you surprised?” Anthony asked, “Do you know what we’re doing?”
All I could do was nod, as no words would come to me. He got out of the car to speak with the crew who would be taking part in our flight, being told that we should be in the air within half an hour. We stood by as they assembled the balloon on its side, filling it with cold air that was blown in by an inflator fan before using heat from the burner to make it tip upright and rise high into the sky. We were guided into the basket, given a quick rundown, and within minutes, we were leaving the ground. I would be lying if I said I didn’t have a sudden onset of nerves take over for a few seconds. I think Anthony was feeling it too. But those nerves were quickly quieted with the knowledge that we were in good hands with people who have been doing this for years, if not decades and thousands of hours.
The flight was smoother than you could ever imagine, hardly noticing gliding across the sky or rising higher and higher until houses were small specks dotting the ground below. We reached a peak of 3,800 feet with a spectacular view overlooking Dublin, moving into Plain City. We got to see the start of the sun setting off in the horizon, the evening crystal clear and picture perfect with just the lightest breeze. We got lucky with weather conditions that I don’t think could have been any better if we planned it. Being up so high with no obstructions was peaceful, quiet, and quite relaxing. We both stood, staring out, taking in as much as we could during the one hour flight.
When we started to come back down, it was difficult not to feel disappointment. Our journey didn’t feel like an hour had passed, and we could have spent another hour easily taking in what we normally wouldn’t be able to see. The landing was a bit bumpy, but we were instructed on what to do to prepare for it, so it was nothing to be fearful of.
The crew at Columbus Aeronauts was professional, personal, friendly, and made us feel comfortable. They explained the entire process from start to finish, answering any questions that we had. It’s impressive and comforting to know just how much training goes into being able to ‘fly’ a hot air balloon and how much goes into making sure the flight is safe. They track weather conditions and wind patterns as well as many other things. On top of the pilot (also called an Aeronaut), there is a ground chase crew that tracks and follows the balloon. The entire time, there is communication between the pilot and the ground crew to speak about whereabouts and potential landing spots so that they can meet up at the same place at the end of the flight.
Anthony’s surprise was romantic and something that I never expected, yet we’ve mentioned in passing how fun it would be to experience. Would we do it again? Most definitely, and I wouldn’t hesitate to use Columbus Aeronauts again. It was a night that couldn’t have been more perfect and an adventure that I feel everyone should experience at least once. The excitement definitely outweighed any nerves, and you forget how high up you are because the whole experience is just breathtaking.
Have any of you ever gone up in a hot air balloon? What was your experience?