Hot Air Ballooning was on my bucket list for some time. It just sounded so freeing and exciting, an adventure that one wouldn’t forget easily; a bit nerve-racking – maybe.
After some research we settled on a company that has served the Coachella Valley for over 20 years. You can truly say that ‘Balloons Above’ is taking you to new highs in the desert, and we were looking forward to flying over Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley in a hot air balloon, an experience of a lifetime.
The morning flights are usually easier and safer as the desert winds have not set in yet. And so we arrived at the site on a chilly morning, 6:30AM sharp, waiting for the sun to rise, bundled up in warm winter clothes. We expected it to be cold ‘up there’.
The owner Wil LaPointe, is a friendly sounding man who saw his first hot air balloon in the Tulsa, Oklahoma area. He was a sales man at the time and immediately realized the potential of drawing a crowd with this visual monster. He purchased a rooftop type to advertise his business and after a pilot he met at a festival convinced him to take his first flight; he was hooked on flying the vessel himself. Wil became a licensed pilot and became quite successful at competitive racing, eventually being ranked #5 in the entire country.
Knowing this bit of history, we felt quite comfortable to accompany him or one of his pilots on our sky ride. We met our pilot, ‘Wild Bill’, a 37 year veteran of Hot Air Ballooning, when he picked us up and we knew right then that he would take care of us perfectly. ‘Wild Bill’ was a character full of life and adventure and it was obvious that he has been having the time of his life introducing people to the joy of hot air ballooning. However, he made it clear that he was the captain of his ship: listening was the key to flying safely.
The flight direction is determined by the breeze. The only control the pilot really has is up or down. The pilot researches the weather patterns on-line before the flight, but mostly he listens to the wind, and adjusts the height of the vessel to catch the thermal as needed. We had chosen a perfect day with only 3 MPH winds and lifted off the ground gently. To our surprise the higher we got the warmer the air felt.
Drifting in the beautiful desert skies is one of the most peaceful experiences you’ll ever have. While floating effortlessly in the colorful hot air balloon, you will view breathtaking vistas of some of the most picturesque landscapes in California. If weather permits, you can see for miles, from the Salton Sea to the San Bernardino Mountains. We flew over a small fighter plane airport, golf courses and date palm orchards, and watched a flock of birds way below us. All in all we traveled a total of about 12 miles.
We were instructed to hold on tightly for the landing and set down in a soft dirt patch – sideways. Yes, we ‘crash landed’ with roaring laughter, but it was certainly worth it.
The company offers custom flights for all occasions.
Contact: Balloons Above, Phone: (760) 347-0410