This one was a bit of a cheater - we did take a ride in a balloon, in the air, but it was filled with helium, not hot air. And it was tethered to the ground, which seemed to be much safer than the free-floating, dependent on air current, hot air balloons. And, it was much, much more affordable :)
Anyway, enough with the excuses. Central Indiana is lucky enough to boast a Smithsonian Affiliated historical park - Conner Prairie - that not only houses a great living history museum, but also happens to have an attraction called the "1859 Balloon Voyage", which is where the helium-filled balloon ride comes in.
We hopped into the large, circular gondola that's attached to the balloon, and the pilot (who also pilots real hot air balloons) explained how the whole ride was going to work. Basically, he starts allowing the balloon and gondola to rise, to about 20 feet above the ground then brings it to a stop. This is to give everyone a feeling of what the hard stop at the top will feel like, and to make sure everyone feels comfortable enough to continue the ride to max height. The stop at 20 feet was a little bumpy, but no big deal, and everyone on our trip was cool with continuing. The pilot told everyone to hold on to something solid when we neared the top to steady themselves, and to avoid gripping the netting surrounding the gondola.
We made it safely back to terra firma, and thanked our pilot for the informative and safe trip to the top. If you live around here or are ever in the area, check out the balloon voyage! It was a fun time :)