Can You Take Me Higher? Balloon Flight Over Sonoran Desert
While my bucket list is loose, I do jot down a few dream experiences that I keep for my eyes only. You know, travel porn. It is not that these experiences are kinky; rather they are some pretty BIG dreams and goals. To balloon over both Wadi Rum, Jordan and Cappadocia, Turkey would be a few examples of what is written in that journal. In the meanwhile, if I die tomorrow…..part of this dream is to simply fly in a hot air balloon. This I could make happen today.
When I was about 17 years old, I climbed up an active volcano and rocks were literally flying at me, in these moments, I was scared. I made it to the top and remember thinking that the view was worth the climb.
Since this time I have had a “slight” fear of heights. Some activities have presented a challenge for me. For an example, I have had trouble with activities such as: suspension bridges, fire towers, jeeping on steep roads in the mountains, mountain climbing and the like. I do not know why but I was not fearful. I have since read that folks who are acrophobic are generally quite comfortable in a balloon.
I am not really sure when I first became interested in taking a balloon flight. My ever-fun Mother-in-law was planning to celebrate a big birthday and wanted to fly her five children and eleven grandchildren to the Phoenix, Arizona area to celebrate this momentous birthday with a hot air balloon flight. With grandchildren from grade school to college, you can imagine the logistical nightmare of making this happen. Although this trip was scrapped, I remember her telling me that balloon flight was on her bucket list and would I do this activity with her? I think I said “I don’t know.” Sadly she had a short and fierce battle with cancer and never made that dream come to pass. With an impromptu trip to Phoenix, I decided that I was going to fly for/with her. I convinced six other family members to come with me.
Although my first choice was be to fly in the gorgeous hills of Sedona,Arizona, The day that I had booked this flight, the winds gusted from 20-50 miles in this part of Arizona and subsequently all flights were cancelled. I scrambled to find another company that could accommodate this large group. True to “fly by the seat of my pants Meg, I do not take my own advice and research companies. By sheer luck, I met the pilot Kevin Flanagan at 2FlyUs.com of Phoenix, Arizona. Although Pilot Flanagan was able to get seven of us up in the air, it would have to be in two separate balloons. This turned out to be the exact right company for our group. The smaller balloons were able to go to places that a large balloon could not, enabling us to get views of a lifetime. After our flight, I read the reviews and was literally blown away (no pun intended) with the perfect reviews that this company has deservedly received. I do not know if I have ever seen this 5* perfection before. I too can attest to how wonderful and perfect this experience was.
I set out to fly over the hills of Phoenix, Arizona on a cool-brisk morning, the desert sky showed me a full moon and dancing stars. We met our pilots and chase crew of Phoebe and John, and we were off in a van to find our flight location. Something about wind being just right. Once the pilot found the perfect spot, we were out of that van and the sound of the still air was broke by the sounds of the crew taking care of the logistics of preparing for our safe flight. Although I thought we would show up and get into a set up balloon, we were able to witness this magnificent set up process. Bonus!
The photo below is my bad but does show the sun rising in the sky with silhouettes of other balloon companies. It really was a spectacular sight. I can’t explain the orb but we are in a vortex area.
Our pilot begins to take out the basket, harnesses and unroll the balloon.
First the balloon is filled with cold air by a fan. It is fascinating to see how large these flying contraptions are.
Our skilled pilot was named Rollie (?sp) and his chaser John even got my father-in-law in on the action.
Watching these magnificent and colorful balloons come to life was an experience that I had not anticipated. I really enjoyed this part of the process. It gave me a true appreciation for the dedication and love that these pilots have towards their life work.
The next part of the process is filling the balloon with hot air which causes the balloon to lift off of the ground. Repeatedly fires propane tanks and causes the balloon to rise.
Not only that, we were able to witness other colorful hot air balloon companies in the process from set-up to being inflated and then gently lifting upwards towards the heavens.
The moment arrived when we were able to climb in and take off.
The balloon gently lifts you into the sky. I was not scared AT ALL! The sights of the other balloons in the sky were mesmerizing.
We slowly floated over homes and you could see dogs, horses and cars. We gently drifted out over the Sonoran Desert , from this vantage point we could see coyotes running from the sound of the hot air balloon. On this trip we also jack-rabbits and a javelina. It was interesting to see the landscape from a birds eye view.
Pretty soon we rose high over the Sonoran desert. I was able to see a 360 degree view of the mountains surrounding this area. I mumbled something and my father-in-law said “That is The Valley of the Sun.” The most peaceful and serene feeling came over me. It was incredible.
Sometimes we saw civilization and other times the desert undressed as she should be.
It was fun to watch the topography change as the altitude did. At one point in time, we were over 7,000 feet high. You would be able to feel the air currents change. As you can see in the above photo, our other balloon was in sight. We were curious about the watershed system. Our pilot was very knowledgeable about the land. He was able to answer our questions and pointed out things as we flew over them. We saw urban sprawl and also land that was untouched. I believe that this land was owned by the Yavapai Nation. Although this was not Turkey, it is important to remember that these areas have been inhabited for thousands of years. Of course those visits are another topic and yet discussing this subject reminds me of the importance of land preservation.
As we began to return to civilization the wind took us in the direction of the gorgeous JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa.
I could not get that song “Little Houses” out of my mind. For you Showtime “Weeds” fans, you know the one. Here are a few of the lyrics sung on Showtime by various artists.
“Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky,1
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same.
There’s a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same……”
All good things must come to an end. Our pilot landed us near a recreational area. The pilot/owner Kevin Flanagan landed nearby and set up an area for us to toast my Mother-in-law, Ruth. We were told stories and history, ending with a champagne ceremony, baked goodies an Irish style blessing.. Slainte! Well done Pilot Flanagan.
I want to give a shout out to Phoebe of the 2 Fly Us team. As of this writing she was preparing for her pilot license test. Her enthusiasm for this profession is contagious. Girl, you are going to rock that jumpsuit!
MEGastars: I give this experience 5***** If I had more stars to give, I sure would. This experience will be forever with me. We live, we laugh and we love. This is why I travel.
MEGatips and information.
- In the winter, 2 Fly Us is in the Phoenix, Arizona area. In the summer, they are located in Kalispell, Montana. Do book with this company. Tell Pilot Flanagan hello from Meg!
- For specific information see the website. 2 Fy Us
- If you do go, I suggest being on time or a bit early. These folks are professional and work hard to make these flights perfect.
- Bring a camera!
- Weather permitting they offer early morning flights, afternoon flights and a romantic sunset flight.
- Trip Advisor Ratings.