A BIRDS-EYE VIEW FROM A BASKET
The alarm blared at 4:15 a.m. I contemplated whether being suspended 1000+ feet in the air was worth getting up on a Saturday. Of course it was.
I dragged myself out of bed and got ready for one of the most extreme weekends I’ve had in a while. I was going on an adventure of a lifetime with Middle Tennessee Hot Air Adventures, taking a hot air balloon ride around Franklin on this very early morning. I’ve had it on the top of my bucket list with a couple of stars next to my scribbled writing ever since I saw “The Wizard of Oz.”
The drive to Franklin was peaceful, quiet and dark which made me want my pillow even more. Maybe they would have one in the balloon basket? Hey, a girl could dream, which reminded me of sleep.
Anyway, I arrived in downtown Franklin and met Logan Bedford, the captain. His dad started flying in the 1970’s and Logan grew up flying in balloons and learned to pilot them at an early age. He even retold a story of how he fell asleep in the basket and when he woke up, his dad and he were about 1,000 feet in the air. Logan has been all over the world from New Zealand to France and Mexico.
We drove to the launching site, a large field surrounded by trees and the sound of twittering birds waking up their neighbors. The sun made its lazy rise as Logan and his crew assembled the balloon. The passengers (there were six of us) were welcome to help but we were too busy taking photos of the process to lend a hand.
While we were snapping photos, Logan and the crew attached the burner system to the basket and then the balloon envelope and began inflating it using a powerful fan. Once the balloon was inflated, the burner flame was blasted into the mouth of the envelope until the balloon inflated all the way.
Logan waved us over and told each of us when to get in the basket so the balloon wouldn’t float away. The actual launch was smooth and I didn’t even notice we were in the air until we were about 50 feet from the ground, maybe because I was too awestruck by the view.
To keep us aloft and climb to a higher altitude, Logan pumped the burner flame into the balloon by opening the propane valve. He caught different wind currents to change the course of the balloon, giving us a chance to snap photos of different views. Tennessee’s rolling hills never looked so gorgeous. Below us, neighborhood rooftops were slowly doused in sunlight as the sun made its slow ascent into the clear blue sky.
The only part I was a bit hesitant about was the landing. We were told, upon coming in for a landing, we were to hold onto the bars of the basket and slightly bend our knees to prepare for the impact the basket would make as it landed.
Never to worry, Logan made a softer landing than I expected or imagined was possible. Two bounces and we were safely on the ground. The crew grabbed a cord attached to the top of the balloon to help us stop. When we were all safely out of the basket, the photos continued while the crew pushed the air out and stuffed the balloon back into its travel sack, much like you would a sleeping bag.
It’s safe to say I wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything in the world. Middle Tennessee Hot Air Adventures also does sunset rides as well as rides where you ascend while it’s still dark to watch the sunrise from the basket.
Have you ever taken a hot air balloon ride in Tennessee? Share your experiences in the comments below!