Excerpt from Atlanta Constitution/Atlanta Journal appearing Sunday, May 18, 1997
READER POSTCARD: Up, up and away to thrills in the air over the Napa Valley
A thrilling hot air balloon ride enhanced Atlantan Kay McCall's trip to Northern California.
It still takes my breath away just thinking about peering over the side of a hot air balloon basket while high in the sky. I finally realized this experience of a lifetime on a recent visit to the San Francisco Bay area.
I booked the ride with Above the West Hot Air Ballooning for four of us, including my elderly aunt and uncle.
Leaving our San Francisco hotel at 4:45 a.m., we were driven to Yountville in the Napa Valley for pastries and coffee at 6. As the day dawned beautiful and clear, we met our ace pilot, Donna Dunrud. We Watched the crew inflate our hot air balloon, the Tivoli. What a thrill to see that huge pink and blue sphere come to life.
We climbed into the basket and in no time were inches off the ground and slowly, gently gaining altitude to 3,500 feet. the vineyards and wineries below began to look like a model railroad set. Propane tank blasts—and our oohs and ahhs—punctuated the serene quiet. We zoomed low over a range of hills, watching a hawk dive for his breakfast, a deer dashing across a field. And we gasped as the other side of the crest dropped away below us.
As we approached the bay, we descended into a hayfield. I was worried, having heard about baskets tipping over on landing. But the ground crew grasped the basket and we felt an easy bounce. We received certificates, hot air balloon-shaped pins and a champagne breakfast, a fine way to cap the trip.
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