Have I ever mentioned I'm afraid of heights?
As in, very, very, very afraid of heights?
In spite of my fear, I've wanted to take a ride in Orange County's famous "Big Orange Balloon" for a long, long time.
Last weekend, I did.
The above photo was taken inside the balloon when we were about 200 feet above ground.
Please note, I'm desperately clutching the side of the "basket." I clutched the inside railing of the hot air balloon basket the entire time I was up in the air. (Also, a total stranger had his arm around me trying to reassure me I wasn't about to fall to my death.)
I was totally about to fall to my death!
By the way, the giant orange balloon is tethered to the ground. I guess the tethering keeps you from floating out over the ocean where you'd fall and be eaten by sharks, but it certainly wouldn't stop you from dropping like a rock if the balloon popped.
(Yes, these really were the thoughts going through my brain as I risked my life for the purposes of a blog post and a few cool photos.)
The hot air balloon ride lasts about ten minutes. It's also free. That's right, it doesn't cost a penny to risk your life. (You do need to get tickets ahead of time at the Great Park Visitor Center though and tickets go quickly.)
I couldn't look down without hyperventilating, so I concentrated on looking straight out at the horizon and the, admittedly, beautiful view.
When we reached 200 feet, I was proud of myself for making it through the ride. Then our "pilot" informed me we had arrived at the halfway point and had another 200 feet to go.
As we reached 300 feet, the wind began to pick up and the balloon began to sway. It tilted somewhat to one side. Our pilot asked a few people to walk over to the other side of the basket to help balance it. They did.
(I don't think they wanted to plunge to their deaths either.)
At 400 feet the wind could really be felt.
Someone asked the pilot if people have "freaked out" once they're on the ride. He said yes and told us a story about a "big tall guy, at least six feet five inches tall" who laid down on the floor of the basket (face down) so he couldn't see out and would feel more secure.
Then I thought about laying down on the floor of the basket, but I didn't dare let go of the side railing for a second. (Because holding onto the side of the basket was helping to keep us up in the air!)
A woman on the ride with me decided to jump up and down hard inside the basket. Her jumping didn't have any affect on the basket at all. I begged her to please stop anyway because Omigod.We.Are.All.About.To.Die.
She laughed at me, but she stopped.
Who does that?
Who thinks it's funny to jump up and down inside a hot air balloon to see what it will do?
When you're 400 feet up in the air?
Rides on the balloon are cancelled whenever the wind picks up. It wasn't windy when we first took off, but I was (of course) convinced the breeze wind was about to tip us over and make us fall to our deaths once we were up in the air.
As we began our descent, the wind swayed the balloon more and more.
By the time we were back down to about 75 feet above the ground, the balloon was really swaying.
I breathed a huge sigh of relief when we finally landed safely.
And then, you know what I said?
"That was SO FUN!!"
And I meant it.
Next time, I want to go up at sunset.
Can you imagine how beautiful the city and harbor lights are at night?
© Twenty Four At Heart