Festival of Balloons!
It's hot! Is that why I can't sleep? I've been tossing and turning for the last three hours with no luck. I just CAN'T get to sleep! For the moment I give up and pace around my room for a bit. There's a breeze, my floor is messy. So many thoughts are racing through my mind, like a complex Formula One race track - complete with random crazy turns and the occasional pit-stop! I haven't been this excited for something in years! Thinking about tomorrow won't help though. I focus on my pacing instead. Fast-forward about four more hours, and now I'm lacing up my biking shoes, strapping my helmet on, and I open the garage. The dark street suddenly lights up from the glow of my bike light, and with that, I'm off!
There's something oddly comforting about biking in the dark. Maybe I feel more comfortable knowing cars can see my lights from miles away? Or maybe I like how generous cars are when they give me space, as there aren't any other cars on the road. I don't know. Anyway, it's awesome. I cruise over to the launch zone where the Tigard Festival of Balloons is taking place, sign in, and get a badge! As people sluggishly meandered around the field, Bill and I began setting up the basket, followed by about a dozen other balloon pilots and their crews. You could feel the energy in the place escalate as the balloon skirts started unfolding and color filled the field.
As the sun's rays pierced the top of the trees, the first balloons started making their ascent. Suddenly I'm being blasted by heat from the burners above me, and in one magical moment, I was one of those balloons people saw rising in the air! Everywhere I looked I was facing cameras! And tell you what, that was weird. I turn to watch Bill again as he pumps the fuel, sending another hot flame into the colorful balloon above us.
You may be wondering how on Earth I managed to get a ride on a hot air balloon, and I don't blame you! In this festival there are absolutely no paid rides, no friends and family rides, nothing available to the public. Pretty much the only people who got rides are news reporters and city managers. Well, and me.
It just so happened that the night before I was bartending at the hotel for a group we had staying with us. I didn't realize this at first, but I was bartending for the pilots! Realizing I may have a chance now, I listened in to the conversations of the people around me. I figured out which lady schedules the riders, bided my time until it was a good opportunity, and slyly made my approach. "Hi, I heard you are sending some people up in the balloons, is there any chance you want a photographer to up too?"
And as the people on the cool, damp, field became smaller, I thought about the previous night and the question I asked. How in the world did I luck out so good?! Well, because there's no such thing as luck, that's why. Also because I was eavesdropping. But that's not the point.
We didn't go as high as I thought we would - since this was supposed to be a shorter flight - but Bill did do something awesome. It's called a 'splash and dash'. Basically he lowers the balloon to the river, for a quick second lets the basket tap the water, and takes off again! I don't know much about ballooning, but I assumed this was difficult.
This was a ride I will cherish the rest of my life, and a good reminder to be open to opportunities, even when they don't seem likely to ever happen. Because you just never know.