I’m an early riser, but 5:00 AM came a lot faster than I expected. With our hats on (I insisted we wear hats so our hair didn’t burn up in flames. In hindsight a completely unfounded and ridiculous fear) we clumsily threw on layer after layer and headed out for our hot air balloon ride over Napa Valley.
The take off field was littered with brightly colored nylon balloons draped over the rolling green hills. I was struck by the size of the wicker baskets, able to hold 25 passengers including the pilot (or as we affectionately renamed him, the balloon-atier), and absolutely mesmerized by the process of getting the balloons upright and ready for flight. The open flame straightened the balloon and basket, leaving us just enough time to clumsily scramble inside. I didn’t even have a free moment to process my fear of heights as we glided peacefully off the ground.
A calmness washed over me as we rose above the clouds and our shadow grew smaller and smaller. The balloon-atier pointed out the contrasting crops below while Jenny and I relished in the moment. We had already spent some time marveling at the beauty of Napa’s countryside, but to see the same landscape from a birds eye view was absolutely breathtaking.
We felt a little nervous to land, especially since our balloon-atier seemed rather nonchalant about how and where we would touch down. This was one of those rare instances where our worries were not unfounded. Without warning, we violently crashed into alfalfa fields then skidded over to a field of baby tomatoes before the basket nearly tipped completely. I’m doing a poor job describing how frightening this experience really was – but picture Jenny and I squatting in the basket clutching on to the side for dear life while the balloon threw us vertical. I’m still shuttering a little thinking about it.
With our feet firmly planted on the ground, we enjoyed a lazy brunch (well I enjoyed it because I’m not afraid to try foods – Jenny got scrambled eggs) then drove through the vineyards, stopping along the way to snap photos and pick grapes. Around sunset we drove over the Golden Gate Bridge, threw in the 90s mix cd and headed South for Santa Cruz.
It was fun to have the down time to really catch up with Jenny face to face. We’re both at such a pivotal point in our lives and things are happening so fast that often by the time she replies to my letter I’m worrying or stressing about the next thing. Belting out the best of the 90s… the songs we grew up sharing with one another, was almost surreal. Not to mention sharing the experience of the balloon ride together, now really …how cool is that!!
TODAY’S BUCKET LIST CHECK OFF:
Balloon ride over Napa Valley – check
Not falling out of the basket – check
Taking car dancing and singing to the next level – check
Rolling vineyards and hills of Napa – check
Ok off to explore downtown Santa Cruz. Yesterday we lied and said we were doing a special on crocodile migrations and thats why we were being followed by camera crews.. lets see what kind of absurdities come to us tonight..
Oh I almost forgot – Jenny keeps “faking” sick (ok.. she is wicked sick — and I do feel quite guilty that I keep dragging her around and expending her fleeting energy reserve). I’m extremely nervous she’s going to pull the sick card when we wake up for surf lessons tomorrow morning. Not only are we both afraid of the ocean and miserably uncoordinated, but it’s going to be a crisp 60 degrees and raining. Worse, we’ve been talking such a big game that we will stand up and ride a wave no problem on our first try. All I can picture is the show cutting to us both crying.. covered in sand.. and shivering. All the more reason to celebrate tonight I suppose.