Editor’s note: News-Journal editor Yoleyne Romero took her first hot air balloon ride on Friday. Here is his experience:
On Thursday night, I made sure to go to bed at a decent hour because I had to get up early the next morning.
I laid my head down and tried to slow my thoughts – they raced with the possibilities of what Friday morning would bring.
In the week leading up to Friday, I was impatient and didn’t question my decision. But as the day approached, I could feel my mind starting to betray me.
It was undeniable: I was nervous about my first hot air balloon flight. Not just nervous, but I slowly drifted into a petrified, nervous mess.
Should I step back? What if I panicked in the sky? I’ve never even been on a plane, and the closest I get to being in the air is Superman’s vertical ride at Six Flags. Needless to say, this was going to be a first experience of its kind.
I ended up not getting much sleep, and the few hours I had were spent tossing and turning relentlessly while checking how many hours I had left until I had to get up.
Five o’clock came quickly, and before I knew it, I was getting out of bed, brushing my teeth and petting my dog for good luck. I spoke with my mother and my sister who encouraged me and told me how happy they were for me and what a unique opportunity I was given.
Even my mother, who I thought was terrified of heights, said she would jump at the chance of a hot air balloon ride.
“Can you see if they can get me into one?” she asked me jokingly. The cheers of support from my family finally broke my apprehension and gave me the boost I needed to know that everything was going to be okay. It always has been.
My pilot was Pat Harwell, and his balloon was the Maverick. He and his team accepted me with open arms and assured me that I was in good hands. Their competence was never in question – I knew I was among a qualified and experienced company. My own fears and discomforts were what troubled me.
I assumed before the ride that when the time came and I was in heaven, a barrage of thoughts would leap into my head. But as I stood in the basket, floating above Longview and gazing at the graceful hues of the pines, my mind was silent. I couldn’t think of anything and I didn’t want to. It was serenity.
Admittedly, it was a torrid and sweaty serenity, but a serenity nonetheless. Of course, I had to come out of my reverie from time to time to take photos as part of my job, but, on the contrary, capturing the earth from above as well as the other balloons flying alongside us improved the experience .
I have seen buildings that I drive every day on my business trips. I saw people in their yards below taking pictures and I waved at them (some waved back.)
At one point, we almost touched the surface of a small body of water, and although I couldn’t swim, I wasn’t scared. Instead, I was impressed with how my pilot controlled the ship. Occasional pulls on a rope and lighting the burner steered the ball in the direction it wanted.
As the balloon descended and the flight drew to a close, Harwell reminded me to brace for impact as the landing could be rough.
I used to live in fear of the unknown, and for the most part I thought I was past that type of thinking.
When things happened, however, fear kicked in and almost stopped me from accepting the adventure of my life. I am proud to say that in this battle against my fear, I won.