My dad was a man who loved adventure. Loved to travel. Loved new experiences.
For his 70th birthday, I bought him a new adventure. Something he had always wanted to do, but hadn’t had the chance.
A hot-air balloon ride.
I drove the family to a field on the outskirts of our town where the balloon was laid out on the ground, almost impossibly big. The bag trembled and shivered as it began to fill with hot air. Soon it was rising into the air, taut, straining at the tethers. Ticketed riders climbed into the gondola, laughing and excited. The rest of us watched, some of us wishing we were going as well.
The pilot spoke a few words about safety and off they went, mounting majestically into the sky. Craning our necks to watch them fly, we waved and shouted good-bye. My mom, my kids and I sprinted towards our van, and off we went in hot pursuit. What a blast it was following the multicolored balloon, trying to stay on the right roads and keep it in sight in order to be there at the landing! A few times we lost it on the curvy back roads, but ultimately got there in time to see it descend onto a muddy field, and my dad climb out, smiling big.
I got to thinking about that journey as I read an article in the newspaper the other day. Two men, one from the USA and one from Russia, took a journey of almost 7,000 miles in a hot air balloon. A record-breaking journey, may I add. They flew from Japan across the Pacific and landed in the sea off the coast of Mexico.
My dad spent two hours in a balloon, going 10-15 miles across the Pennsylvania countryside and for him that was an adventure undertaken, a dream realized. How much more so for these two gentlemen who spent 15 years readying for their journey of a lifetime!
Rather than a chase car (a little hard across the Pacific, don’t ya’ think?) they had technology. Tracking and monitoring equipment aboard the balloon verified the 6,646 mile journey, which took them 6 days, 16 hours, and 38 minutes.
Further and longer than any other recorded balloon flight.
Rather than standing in a small gondola for a couple of hours on a sunny June day, Tom Bradley and Leonid Tiukhtyaev lived in one for six days. Sleeping bags, a small heater, and a chemical toilet were the main necessities. Plus oxygen masks and warm coats to counter the high altitude and cold.
Two balloon rides in two different geographic areas, two decades apart. One shot, one long, One old school, one high-tech. But the sense of adventure, of a journey anticipated and enjoyed is the same. It’s what journeys are all about.