In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. ~ Proverbs 3:6

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

California Road Trip Day 6 Part 1 - Hot Air Balloon Ride over Napa Valley

Awhile ago, I posted here about the planning ofour California road trip. You can read more out this trip by clicking on the follwowing posts: Day 1(San Diego) , Day 2 (LA), Day 3 Part 1 (LA), Day 3 Part 2 (Yosemite), Day 4 (Yosemite) and Day 5 (Napa).

When we were planning our California trip, one of the things that I really wanted to do was go on hot air balloon ride over Napa Valley.  Everyone who has done it says that it’s a must when visiting the valley, but it isn’t cheap.  I was doing everything that I could to try to fit a balloon ride into our budget.  Unfortunately this became difficult when I was having a hard time finding lodging in Yosemite and San Francisco.  Basically, those two places put me at the top of our budget, and Matt pretty much told me that we weren’t going to be able to fit a balloon ride into our trip:(

 I was a little sad about that, but right before I was leaving for the trip, someone gave me a check and told me that the only way I was allowed to take it was if I spent it on something that I really WANTED….not needed on….AND it had to be something that wasn’t FRUGAL…something that I would NEVER buy with my own money.  Right away, I knew what I wanted to spend the money on:)  The money didn’t cover all of the cost of the balloon ride, but it covered enough of it, so my husband agreed to let us go on our little adventure in the sky. 

Balloon rides aren’t cheap…..they’re $200 a person.  In my mind, I justify that price, because the balloon ride was the ONLY thing that we bought for ourselves other than a cheap magnet from each stop of our trip and the basic essentials of our trip: food, lodging, gas, flight tickets and a rental car.  I would have rather gone on the balloon ride than bought the usual souvenirs any day.  I don’t like t-shirts or other tacky souvenirs cluttering up my home, but the balloon ride was something that we would always remember. 

The hot air balloon ride over Napa Valley was possibly the most romantic thing that we’ve done as a couple….it was certainly the most adventurous thing we’ve done.  We had to wake up really early to go on our balloon ride at sunrise.  We were up by 4:00 and had to meet at 5:00.  We flew with Balloons Above the Valley.  Coffee and pastries were provided as passengers met together before being loaded into vans and taken to an open vineyard.  One thing that I learned about hot air balloons is that they are much bigger than I thought.  The basket actually fits twenty passengers and a captain.  The other thing that I learned is that hot air balloons are very unpredictable.  While the ride is supposed to be about an hour, it all depends on the wind currents.  Some rides can be as short as thirty minutes.  Our ride ended up being two hours, because our pilot had a difficult time finding a safe current to get us back down to land.  He tried to land a couple of times, but failed.  By the way, I really feel sorry for the young fellas who chase the giant balloons down in the field and help pull it in.  They have a hard job!  When we finally did find a place to land, we got stuck in a tree….lol….what are the odds of that happening on OUR trip!  Our captain said that it was the most exciting landing he’s ever had.  It certainly wasn’t planned that way, but I didn’t mind it really.  It actually made for a more exciting morning.  After such a rough landing, they finally got us out of the tree and we went back to our meeting spot for a delicious brunch that is included in the cost of the balloon ride.  And then of course, since we did stay at a bed and breakfast, we made it back in time to enjoy the food that the inn provided for us. By the time we left Napa mid-morning, I was stuffed:)  I’m really glad that we got to go our balloon ride.  It was a once in a lifetime thing for us and one of my favorite memories from our trip:)

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