Balloon Adventure Chronicles: The Sewage Treatment Plant and Fire Fallout

balloonMy hot air balloon ride adventure began when the van I was in got pulled over for having expired tags.


The cop was in a foul mood and actually yelled at the hot air balloon owner/operator a few times.

Not nice.

Anyway, the error got sorted out and we were on our way, me sitting next to a very chatty driver named Ben.

Once we established that I was indeed taking a romantic hot air balloon ride BY MYSELF, he was all friendly and even told me I looked like Anna Nicole Smith.

Yes, I get that, I told him.

So we drive all the way to Middletown to escape the low laying fog in Sonoma.

You remember Middletown?

It burned to the ground in the Valley Fire of 2015.

Middletown fireSo that was our scenery when 30+ of us took off in three separate hot air balloons.

Oh, did I mention the sewage treatment plant? Yes, there was a sewage treatment pond below us as we surveyed the barren, blackened landscape.

sewageWas I freaked out?

A little, but not as bad as I thought I would be.

The sound of the propane jets gave me the willies, but overall it was a nice, floaty, pleasant hour long ride.

balloonMy balloon was named Bliss and it was a rainbow which I LOVED.

My pilot was a hot, bearded fellow named Jeff and I loved him too.

pilot jeffNot just because he was a good pilot and a funny guy, but because he handled the CAR FIRE WHICH FOLLOWED SO WELL.

More on that later. . .

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Nothing but an exploding bag of gas to keep me aloft

balloonNow that I’ve officially booked my hot air balloon flight, reality is setting in.

Like HOW THE HELL am I going to get to Santa Rosa at 6 am on July 3rd?

Obviously I don’t want to wake up at 2:30 am, drive 2+ hours in order to take a hot air balloon flight.

So I did the only thing I could think of. . . I booked an AirBnB for the night in the same zip code as the takeoff location.

That’s right.

Not only am I FLYING into the heavens untethered with nothing but an exploding bag of gas to keep me aloft. I am also going to spend the night in a stranger’s house.

I feel slightly comforted by the fact that the owners have a German Shepherd dog.

Anyone with a GSD is good peeps.

Also, they have upwards of 150+ great reviews from guests. So there’s that.

I also arranged to have dinner with my birthmom and her family the night before so BONUS! I get to see everyone and share a meal with them.

I’m totally excited.

I don’t get to see my birthmom enough.

Yes, I’m still nervous.

Yes, I’m still wondering what I’ve gotten myself into.

But listening to my friend Barbara describe how she loved her hot air balloon ride with her ex-boyfriend and how she wanted to take a ride with her mother makes me all the more determined to face my fear, swallow a few Xanax, and get the damn thing over with.

And if I happen to enjoy myself in the process – so much the better.


Floating into the sky

balloonsOMG! I DID IT!

Why it was easier for me to jump out of an airplane at 12,000 feet and run unprotected with 2 dozen stampeding bulls, I will never know.

But I finally did it.

I bought my champagne balloon flight from Sonoma Valley Balloons.

I’m still totally FREAKED out about it but I managed to finally click the “Purchase” button and buy my Groupon.

What’s nice is that I have family in the Sonoma area, so I can maybe make a weekend of this and visit my birthfamily in Santa Rosa.

I don’t get to see them enough.

It would be nice to play with my nephews who I haven’t seen in over a year.

And after all that family time, well I’ll just take myself down to the local hot air balloon airport and LAUNCH myself into the sky.

Remarkably, I’ve found something freakier than floating untethered into the cosmos.

What if I have to tell the pilot how much I weigh?

Let’s hope he’s not cute because if he is, I just may lie.


That would be dangerous, right?