Kacie Blogs

Sail the skies for an unforgettable experience above the valley

277795986_10216715871608357_2640009568484322703_n

Welcome to Arizona. Our beautiful rock formations, cultural hubs, trails, and food have made our great state one of THE places to go to knock out bucket list items.

Recently, my husband turned 30 years old. A modernly-momentous birthday I thought would be the perfect excuse to work in one of these bucket list items into our schedule. After a lot of pondering on what he would want to do I decided to kind of combine two good gifts into one.

Right when the pandemic shut down started a couple years ago, Sam’s birthday was very last minute thrown together as my gift was having a good friend of his fly out and surprise him. Obviously it was cancelled and it’s never had a chance to reschedule because- life happens. Flash forward to today, I thought I should make good on that. I extended the invite to two friends of his that I am close enough to hitting them up out of the blue isn’t weird. Due to schedule conflicts, one was able to make it and the friend from before was once again not able to. (*For a good reason, he got a new job! yay!*)

This guy, Cal, is an adventurer so I knew I could convince him to check-off a bucket list item with us. After figuring how much things cost, and our insanely high prices a the pump and in the grocery now, I decided a hot air balloon was in budget for us.

277729110_10216715871888364_7461884090314757462_n

Now this wasn’t settling. Our home happens to be right by a launching/landing site they often use so we see the balloons nearly daily by us. It’s become a little game at the house. Sam always says something about how we “gotta try that sometime.” Here goes nothing!

I spent a long time dottling on booking because I wanted to be thorough with my research. i felt like because I hadn’t seen some terrible articles about someone dying on one that I hadn’t looked hard enough. Turns out, they are just pretty dang safe. You are way more likely to be injured in your car or even on a plane. I went with Rainbow Ryders off of reputation when I had mentioned their name to people, the lack of articles saying anyone was hurt, their website provided lots of information and was well designed, and their online presence was active so you could see lots of images of people going up and coming back down daily.

Booking was incredibly easy and they don’t take the payment until after you land. Almost like, “hey, promise you’ll live- see, I still need your money!” And I mean that as a compliment.

Once you book you get a nice email detailing the adventure and instructions for check-in the day before (via call) and arrival the day-of. The call to check-in took literally 30 seconds, I could not have been more pleased as I hate phone calls. We booked a sunrise flight so our check-in was 5:15am. YIKES for some people but know that even my husband said the get-up time was worth it. That man SLEEPS.

When you get there, they greet you with excitement but not so much that it’s annoying at that early hour. They chat with you for about a minute and give you the information waivers to read and sign at your own pace. The pilot collects them before loading you onto the van which takes you to your launch site.

The launch site varies from day-to-day based on a ton of environmental factors but primarily the wind. Where did we launch? Couldn’t tell you. I am SO geographically challenged and was too excited to pay attention to the drive. We wind up in the middle of a huge patch of desert terrain. Free of things like power lines and airport landing paths.

We hop out and they guys begin setting up the basket and balloon. My husband actually wanted to help so they tasked him and he got to help inflate the balloon!

277667442_10216715790886339_7108129911298304407_n

Our pilot’s name was Jesse. He happened to be weirdly way overqualified to be flying a hot air balloon. Formerly an electrical engineer and commercial pilot, he now prefers the serenity of being 6,000 ft in the air for a sunrise. The perfect man for the job of flying my husband and friend for his birthday, as they had MANY questions as their little engineer brains worked together. We got way more than our money’s worth in that aspect and learned so much on our adventure.

When you get into the basket for launch, you do have to climb using some foot holsters but is is not challenging. Jesse gave us some instructions and then started firing her up. It’s loud the first once or twice you hear it but then you don’t notice it at all. Just as you don’t even notice beginning to float up.

You’d think, surely you can feel yourself being lifted by nothing but a basket? Really I didn’t notice until I saw the other groups seeming further away.

277769226_10216715871968366_4411308472296451948_n

The float up doesn’t take long. You frequently change elevations and if it weren’t for the mountains, it would be hard to tell you were because you don’t feel any difference between 3,000 and 6,000. It was breathtaking to see the valley from this height. The sun just peaking over the top of the mountains and starting to kiss the desert floor. Animals retreating back into their holes while others were waking up to start the day. And if you were wondering, yes, we could see my house and here is a picture of our balloon from my house taken by my mother that morning when I quite literally called her from 6,000 ft to say, ‘hey mom! look at me!”

You get about an hour up in the skies. It goes quick if you could use a minute of peace and quiet. It’s like a mother’s dream. Just 1 hour of serenity. I felt very at peace after but also like I had fun. Maybe that was the landing. That will always be a little bit of an adventure with balloons. Rainbow Ryders has it down as much as you can with a whole team of people following you so they can jump on your basket and counterweight it as the heavy balloon begins to fall and drag you to your sides naturally. It would actually be normal for it to naturally tip to the side for the landing but the counterweight they do makes a huge difference! We did not tip and actually I don’t think I saw any of the balloons in our group tip over. Click HERE to see a video of the landing.

277747647_10216716008491779_2457673512590554823_n

After, a champagne toast is set up for us. It’s a tradition. Jesse tells it better than I will, but here is a poorly recited history lesson. Back in, let’s say the 1700’s, hot air balloon travel began. The first time it landed, it freaked everyone out and the villagers stabbed it and everything inside. The next time, they added champagne to the basket and the villagers the welcomed the basket and all that was inside. So every time champagne would be sent, for safety? Anyway, now it’s a tradition but almost kind of a good luck charm if you think about it. Jesse brought several bottles and pours everyone a glass before giving us an official toast.

“His hands have welcomed you with softness.

The sun has blessed you with his warm hands.

You’ve flown so high and so well, 

the god’s have joined you in your laughter and sent you gently back into the armed of mother earth.

Cheers!’

 

Everyone should try this. It is not scary, it is blissful. I am a worry wort and had a lot of anxiety right before this- because that’s how I work- and felt silly for wasting all that time worrying by the time we floated up. I would LOVE to do this again over a different area. I think it would be the COOLEST way to get to know an area your visiting or a way to fall in love with your hometown by getting a fresh point of view.

Have a question about my ride experience? Send me a DM HERE.

Book with Rainbow Ryders HERE.

 

 

Bye, Friends!