I know I just said I was retiring from adventure activities, after I got the exhilarating chance to fly a jet plane, but this doesn’t count. This was a comfortable, relaxing little morning ride in the sun — at least that’s what people kept telling me. But to me, riding in a hot air balloon was all about conquering a decade-long fear, after a miserable ride ruined me for a life. Or so I thought… When Hendrick’s Gin offered me a little ride, and it happened to fall on my birthday, how could I say no? I was actually a little excited to kick that phobia in the rear end — even though I was expecting a rather uncomfortable few hours. I mean, just because I was willing to do something, didn’t mean I was going to like it. This was going to have to be one of the best hot air balloon trips ever if it wasn’t going to change my mind…
Our little group of daring journalists, including my esteemed coworker Sarah Feldberg, and liquor reps met on the Strip at 5:45 am. Yup, you read that right; we shivered in the darkness and waited for our ride out to the launch pad. There, we watched in awe how they blew up the balloon that would carry us through the sky!
The early call time was worth it. The early morning views were stunning. Plus, since I was so sleepy and in a daze, I sort of jumped into the basket without thinking, despite holding onto a hot air balloon phobia for seven years. It was as we were taking off, my heart started beating fast. But it was too late then!
The early departure time did not dissuade the Hendrick’s crew from showing off. A neat little to-go bar was quickly unfolded and set up between the two sides of the basket.
Mark Stoddard, U.S. brand ambassador and designated bartender for the basket, was the only one who arrived prepared for the party. His old-fashioned outfit was tremendous! He began unloading his groceries: fresh cucumber, tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, and of course the special small-batch Scottish gin, which is infused with Bulgarian rose. And then he got to work.
And in the early-morning light, the Red Snappers were poured. It was pretty darn close to a Bloody Mary, but with gin. In a word: delicious. And hey, what nervous birthday girl could say no to a little gin in the morning?
It’s already my year in the Chinese zodiac, and I got to start off my morning drinking gin in a hot air balloon. What an auspicious beginning to what I hope is a wonderful year!
The balloon itself was gorgeous, red and yellow with the old-fashioned designs that the brand has become famous for. They are a regular at the Balloon Fiesta in my hometown of Albuquerque. Loved that!
So about my phobia… I have been very vocal about how scared I have been of hot air balloon trips and now you might wonder how in the world I could ever be scared of this absolute loveliness. Well, it all started in Utah, in January 2006, when I couldn’t wait for the winter activities I had lined up. I was so naive! I’m a girl in love with the tropics. How did I think I would handle the bitter Park City cold? I couldn’t feel my hands or feet and was shaking so uncontrollably that strangers kept piling clothes onto me. Check out this end result!
Did I mention it was cold? (But stunning — looking at this so many years later, WOW!)
As we got higher and higher, I got so cold that I felt like a stiff icicle that was going to jostle once and just fall right out. The basket seemed so low, and I was convinced I was going to jake-knife right out onto the snow — which was very, very far down. It was the longest hour of my life.
So that is how I learned to stay closer to the equator… Or at least remain in the desert. Which brings us back to my Vegas birthday adventure.
Up, up and away! What a way to start my morning.
I was a guest of Hendrick’s Gin, but all opinions are my own.
Latest posts by Abby (see all)
- 3 Destinations to Escape the Cold this Winter - December 2, 2016
- 7 reasons Cape Verde should be on your holiday hit list - May 30, 2016
- Top Ideas for Day Tours from Jakarta - May 27, 2016