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Rainbow Ryders Hot Air Balloon Adventure

Terror & thrill

Ahead of me was the both the thrill and terror of floating high above the earth in the open gondola of a hot air balloon - exhilaration, freedom, extreme height, raw natural beauty. To take on the mental battle of wills of my thrill-seeking-self with the rational you-want-to-do-what self, a good amount of psychological wrangling, fear-suppression and a willing partner to share the experience with was necessary. The reward was a spectacular experience - and another bucket list item checked off.

ballooning in Phoenixballooning in PhoenixWhile touring Phoenix and Arizona, the opportunity to experience the Sonoran desert-scape from high above at sunrise was an opportunity we couldn't pass up. The GoGirlfriend duo jumped at the opportunity to experience a sunrise, desert hot air balloon ride with Rainbow Ryders.

Setting up the balloons

seting up the balloonsetting up the balloonMeeting with the Rainbow Ryders hot air balloon excursion company began dark and early at 5am at their hangar near the airport for the trek to the setup location out in the Sonoran desert. Highway turned to side road to dirt road to bumping along off-road to get to our lift-off location. Cactus, scrub brush, jack-rabbits, desert flatlands and mountains dotted the horizon. The balloon teams began offloading the gear and setting up the baskets. That day about 15 balloons were to depart within minutes of each other.

hot air balloon festivalhot air balloon festivalThe show started with the unfurling of massive balloons across the ground then fans were positioned to fill the cavity and expose a kaleidoscope of colours. From the flat canvasses emerged behemoths that would carry us high into the sky. Propane burners were ignited with a massive "whoooof" and heat filled the grounded fabric as they began to disconnect with the ground.

Fear of the inevitability that we would have to follow through with this began to rise in my chest in tandem with the waking of the sleeping giants.

The ride of a lifetime

the GoGirlfriend duothe GoGirlfriend duoOur gondola held 10 people, the huge propane tanks and the pilot. I wasn't sure how we'd all fit into the gondola, nor how the balloon would be able to lift us off the ground. As the balloon rose into position, we were asked to quickly get into the gondola (more fear). Within minutes the tie-lines were discarded, the burners engaged and we were ready to go.


Soon 15 more balloons majestically and serenely disconnected from the earth and wafted away. The sunrise mountain sunrisemountain sunrisewas moments away. We rose about 100 feet and gently floated (completely silently) across the desert. The sunrise was spectacular, framed by the mountain scape and sunlight spreading across the desert floor. The silence, the breathtaking sunrise and the exhilaration of free-floating was perfect counterbalance to the fear I'd felt only moments before ... until someone in the next balloon dropped their iphone from 100 feet and the flurry of messages to the ground team to identify the location and retrieve the iphone broke the silence (yes, the iphone was recovered, screen cracked, but still functional).

Rainbow Ryders ROCK!

Taylor of Rainbow RydersTaylor of Rainbow RydersOur adventure continued for an hour and a half, floating across the desert scape and rising in altitude and falling gracefully with the mountain terrain below us. Our balloon rose to a total of 7,900 feet (1.5 miles high) and the view was outrageous for the 100-mile sightline. The silence was eerily overwhelming as we heard dogs barking and conversations hundreds of feet below. The 10 of us in the balloon, most of us hot air balloon virgins, were spellbound during the adventure. Fear changed to adrenaline rush to awe to complete enjoyment of the experience.

Rainbow Ryders were masters in creating the experiences for our adventure. They described the steps in the process from the offloading of the balloons through the take-off and notes and altitude perspectives throughout the ride. The pilot was an integral part of that experience and Taylor's experience and charisma helped make our experience spectacular.

celebrating the journeycelebrating the journeyThe adventure ended with a smoothly crafted landing by Taylor meeting with the waiting ground crew who set to dismantling and repacking the breast of fabric. As riders, we were treated to snacks and a glass of sparkling cider in celebration of our experience before our ride back to the hangar.

Completing the journey, Ms. GoGirlfriend and I looked at each other, grinning broadly. It was only 8:30 am - time for a top-down, Saturday-morning sunshine ride in the convertible and a luxurious experience at Avania Spa in just a few hours (we figured we'd need to de-stress after the hot air balloon adventure, but simply found relaxation was all that was required!).

Rainbow Ryders PhoenixRainbow Ryders PhoenixRainbow Ryders have locations in Scottsdale/Phoenix, Arizona and Albuquerque, New Mexico and run experiences year round at sunrise, sunset and for special events (weddings, proposals, corporate events). Book directly online with Rainbow Ryders, connect with Rainbow Ryders on Facebook and Twitter. Also check out what others are saying about Rainbow Ryders on TripAdvisor. I recommend you ask for Taylor if you have the chance ... tell him GoGirlfriend sent you!

Need to Know

A few key items in preparation for your hot air balloon adventure (anywhere):

  • how high can we gohow high can we go Hit the loo at the hangar before departing. Your only option for the next few hours is a prickly cactus.
  • Dress in layers as you can't predict the temperatures at various heights.
  • Wear closed toe shoes and long pants for climbing in and out of the gondola.
  • Take your sunscreen (always good in the desert).
  • Wear a hat if you're over 6' tall (there are burners right above your head!)
  • Bring a small bag to carry your camera, phone and incidentals.
  • This is a fair weather sport, so the potential for cancellation exists if the cloud ceiling is too low or the conditions aren't right.
  • Expect to spend about $200 per person (adult) and it's worth every dollar for the unforgettable experience.
  • This is for adults, teens and kids over 5 years of age (so they can see over the gondola sides while standing on the floor (no lifting allowed).

Harness your fear, seize an opportunity and share a thrilling experience with a partner. You'll find your bucket list gets smaller step by step as you take those leaps (pardon the pun) of faith and your enjoyment of life grows.

Have you taken a hot air balloon ride somewhere in the world? Where was it and how spectacular was the experience? We'd love to know. Connect with us on Facebook or tweet with us.

To comply with the long list of regulating bodies, possibly even Geneva Conventions and in the interest of transparency, our hot air balloon adventure was generously sponsored by Rainbow Ryders. Commentary and perspectives are those of GoGirlfriend.

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