Last night I set my alarm for 5:00 AM. I know, crazy right? But it was for a VERY good reason. Why would I wake up while it’s still dark? To get ready for a 6:00 AM start with the US Hot Air Balloon Team, of course!
If you have never been on a hot air balloon ride, I’ll let you know that you don’t have to get up before dawn to catch a ride – they also have evening flights. When we arrived at the field that they take off from (almost directly across from the Bird-in-Hand Farmer’s Market), the balloon was already beginning to inflate.
If you’ve never seen a balloon inflate, they use one or two large and powerful fans to push air into the balloon. You can even walk around inside the balloon as it is being inflated. Once the balloon has enough air in it to hold its shape, the pilot adds hot air to make it rise in the form of flames.
There were ten of us riding, including our flight pilot, Lucas, who was on his 2,084th (or somewhere around there) flight. He is definitely experienced enough for me to trust him flying me up about 1 mile over the beautiful farmland of Lancaster County.
We went up pretty quickly, I was surprised. It’s funny – I’m not someone who would say I’m afraid of heights, but I’m also not super fond of them – but riding up in a hot air balloon, you almost don’t feel like you’re moving, because you’re going gently with the wind. It does get a little chilly up there in the morning, so you definitely want to bring a sweatshirt or light jacket. Lucas told us that later in the summer you probably don’t need that because it gets hot and humid so quickly in the mornings.
Something that I’ll always be amazed at, that was just accentuated by being up so high above it, is Amish farmland that looks like a patchwork quilt despite not using modern technology to plow the fields. The rows are so straight, and because the properties are all right next to one another, you get lines that are going different directions, and some fields that are still brown, and some that are green. It’s truly amazing.
At one point, Lucas flew low enough over some trees that my friend Kristen & I could grab some leaves off the tops – it was awesome. We waved to lots of people below on the ground, as we descended. We landed on an open field in farmland, and a few of the local Amish kids came running over to see the balloon that had landed in their back yard. The ground crew started pulling the ropes to get the balloon down, while Lucas pushed the air out from the bottom.
Once the balloon was packed back into the trailer (who knew such a HUGE thing could fit into a trailer tied to the back of our van?), we drove back to the launch site, and had breakfast with a mimosas toast. It’s definitely an experience that I would recommend, and make sure that when you take a flight, especially if it’s with Lucas, that you let them know you read about it here!
To learn more, visit their website: www.ushotairballoon.com