The Hot Air Balloon Ride: Checking it off the Bucket List

Ah, the bucket list. Don’t we all have one as we look back on our lives, and start wondering what other adventure to have while we are still able? As seniors, we start thinking about time being such a precious, limited quantity.

So, two of my brave women friends from Sun City, Jennifer Galloway and Betsy Davis, and I signed up for a hot air balloon ride with Nostalgia Ballooning Ltd. out of the Hampshire, Sky Soaring Airport just down the road.

Mary. (Photos provided)

Mary. (Photos provided)

Yes, we were excited, nervous, anxious, and joyful as we contemplated our trip.

Ballooning is very weather sensitive, so the first attempt was cancelled as fog rolled in covering the airfield, and us. Our pilot, Chad, of course put safety first, and that was fine with us. Visibility needs to be 5 miles. It was only about a block that morning. Wind cannot be more than 8 miles an hour, which is another limiting factor.

Watching the preparation of the balloon is an experience in itself: unfolded out of a truck, hooked up with hoses, inflated with cold air first and then the hot air. We were amazed at how huge the balloon became when it was filled with air. Seven people can fit in the basket for this balloon which has two footholds to assist your climbing in and has a padded top rail. Five of us were passengers that day plus Chad our pilot and his puppy, Wilbur.

When it was time to go, Chad called us to quickly get in and we scampered into the basket as gracefully as we could.

It was a gloriously clear September morning with a bright red sunrise – perfect for ballooning. We flew up to 7,000 feet and the views were awesome. We floated over the cornfields, farms, trees and quarries. We could see as far as the Chicago skyline in the mist in the east, and the Byron plant in the west. We picked out landmarks and even spied our husbands in a car, which seemed very tiny as they attempted to follow our progress.

When flying low, we could talk to people on the ground and some of them waved at us. There were birds flying around — even a kingfisher. It was very quiet, heightening our senses. Besides sight-seeing, Chad added additional thrills of skimming the trees and brushing the corn in the fields. We did a “splash and dash” on the quarry getting our feet a little wet and then rising again. All the height is controlled with the burners and hot air. The adventure, though, is that the balloon goes where the wind takes it so every balloon ride is different. And you never know exactly where you are going to land.

Balloonists (left to right) Betsy Davis, Mary Kozy, and Jennifer Galloway from Sun City Huntley (on 9/13/17) after their successful flight.

Balloonists (left to right) Betsy Davis, Mary Kozy, and Jennifer Galloway from Sun City Huntley (on 9/13/17) after their successful flight.

Our ride lasted about an hour and then it was time to land, Chad looks for a safe place where he has permission from the owner. It is traditional to thank the landowner with a gift of a bottle of French Champaign.

Landing is the tricky part of ballooning. There are hand holds, and we were positioned in the basket for safety. Instructions are given to bend your knees and brace yourself. We came down by a quarry in Marengo and bounced a couple times and our landing was just fine. We emerged from the balloon with huge smiles on our faces. We were thrilled.

Later, back at the airfield, we participated in a Champaign toast with authentic French Champaign and ceremony where Chad shared the history of ballooning with us. It was a spectacular day!

If it is on your bucket list, just do it. For more information: Nostalgia Ballooning Ltd. 773-766-7663.

1 Comment

  1. Kevin Galloway, Jennifer’s husband, created an exciting YouTube video from the pictures & movies we took of the Hot Air Balloon ride. See them in your internet browser. CLICK: