Santa Fe (crew)
I hate heights.
I\’m only 5\’\’3\”, and that\’s really as high up as I ever like to go. Our office is on the 12th twelfth floor, and I can\’t go near the windows. It\’s bad, not even a fear really, but an all-consuming, shaky legs, cold sweat terror. So it makes perfect sense that I\’m about to go up in a hot- air balloon.
We\’re in New Mexico and for the past week, I\’ve been more than content to take in the scenery from ground level. In fact, I was all ready to take some great photos of the crew lifting off. I was even going to wave!
But, no. Website photos need to be taken, and it\’s my job and … ohhhhh, man.
Getting into the balloon is surprisingly harder than it looks, and, of course, I trip on the way in and land at the bottom of the basket. Liftoff is surprisingly smooth. At least, I assume it is. My eyes are squeezed shut, and I\’m clutching the sides of the basket so hard, I can\’t feel my hands. I\’m actually not afraid of falling or crashing into power lines or rabid pigeons, and with my eyes closed, I don\’t even feel like I\’m 150 feet in the air.
(Did I mention I got up at 4 a.m. to do this? Insult to injury, that\’s what that is.)
(I\’m sure the good people down below in Albuquerque are also glad I skipped breakfast.)
Ten minutes into the flight and our pilot takes pity on me, dropping the balloon lower (I\’m sure it had nothing to do with us needing a shot of Sam from up above.) I manage to take a peek, and we\’re now less than 10 feet off the ground, floating over a lake, which is fine with me. I figure if anything goes wrong now, all those swimming lessons at the JCC Day Camp will come in handy.
As we drift along, skimming the treetops, I manage to pick off a few shots here and there (one-handed, there\’s no way I\’m letting go of the basket.) I figure if I can survive indoor skydiving in Orlando, this is at least less windy. The view is amazing, and I manage to hold it together as we begin to climb higher. Passing over the freeway, semis honk at us as we sail by, and each time our pilot pulls the cord, the neighborhood dogs bark up a storm.
A wide field comes into view, and our pilot lets us know it\’s landing time, noting we might want to secure all lose objects and hang on tight. Landing a hot air balloon is a lot less graceful than taking off, and our basket crashes into the ground, bouncing and skidding across the dirt. We finally come to a stop, and it tumbles over, dumping us out. At last, I\’m on solid ground.
We crawl away from the basket, and get ready for Sam\’s landing. The wind shifts and her balloon sails over us, out into the distance. There\’s no way I\’m going back up to catch her.