Normally, I like to follow the mantra of Peace Pilgrim who once said, “Keep your feet on the ground and your thoughts at lofty heights.” Yet today, I find myself, scared of heights, and floating over Findlay in a hot air balloon. There are no lofty thoughts coming from the primal side of my brain that is sending messages of fear like “If you drop your phone, don’t dive for it” or “I wish the basket was higher so I felt safer leaning on it.”
Luckily, the analytical part of my brain is sending a stronger message that allows me to fully enjoy this experience. My pilot is Phil Clinger, a Findlay native and current Battle Creek, Michigan resident, and his hot air balloon company, Aerial Endeavors (http://altitudeendeavors.com/index.html), provides aerial advertising. Throughout the summer, Phil competes in various balloon fests across the Midwest proudly displaying a banner that says VisitFindlay.com to encourage folks to visit Findlay. This balloon is sponsored by the Hancock County Convention Visitors Bureau.
Today, through a serendipitous turn of events, I have the chance to join Phil as he competes in the morning launch of the Findlay BalloonFest. Just last evening, I had been walking with my husband near sunset and received a text that said there was a cancellation if I wanted to fly at 6:30 a.m. I was so excited last night that I barely slept. It’s exciting to think about checking one more thing off the bucket list.
Also along for the ride is Betsy Decillis, social media content manager for visitfindlay.com, who began the flight by saying, “I looked it up and very few people actually die in a balloon accident.” Both sides of my brain are happy to hear Phil say that no one is dying in a balloon accident today.
Soon Phil is busy maneuvering the balloon over four targets that are scattered throughout the town. Points are awarded based on the proximity of a beanbag thrown by the pilot to the target. Prior to today, I had no idea that the balloons were competing at BalloonFest. I thought they were just on a joy ride.
Betsy and I find ourselves in an extremely rare state: speechless. It is so calm and peaceful in the balloon. We can clearly hear the passengers of other balloons chatting. Below us, I see my husband Byron driving. I can even see my dog, Ike, looking out the truck window. Many familiar landmarks pass below me. At one point, I can see my house. As we approach the landing spot, we get closer to the ground and are even able to talk with people below us.
After two hours of total tranquility, we touch down near the Country Inn and Suites in Findlay. Once we are reunited with Mother Earth, we are anointed with a bottle of bubbly. I can now call myself a veteran balloon rider and my bucket list has one more check on it. Les Brown once said, “Life has no limits, except the ones you make.” I’m still afraid of heights, but today I overcame that to make a dream come true.