Friday, June 3, 2016

Erica's #17 - Ride in a Hot Air Balloon

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.

The balloon rises for several minutes, providing ever more sweeping views of the countryside, and even the skyline of downtown Indianapolis, 16 miles away.  We reached max height of 377 feet above ground level, and the tether abruptly jerked us to a stop, which sent a shudder through the whole gondola, and sent the balloon swaying quite a bit from side-to-side.  I always had the impression that taking this balloon ride was a mild trip, but it was actually quite thrilling and a little scary as we swayed to a more normal blowing in the breeze action at the top of the ride.  The view was great though, and we had an enjoyable time at the top taking in the scenery and enjoying the breeze.  The pilot mentioned that we had come on a great day when there wasn't too much of a wind - he said he's been up there when there was considerable swaying and tipping, which didn't sound fun at all to me.

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 :)

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