Macleod: Leaving Planet Earth (on a hot air balloon)
October 27, 2016
I've always been a fan of Fraser's "Leaving Planet Earth" slogan. The quirkiness of it says a lot about our community, and I mean that in the best of way. Things are a little different around here; from the laid back way of life to the historically cold temperatures, there's no denying that this little pocket of paradise is drastically different from our surrounding world.
It's only fitting that we have our very own extraterrestrial mascot patrolling the skies. The big, bright green alien belonging to Grand Adventure Balloon Tours has become a pleasant fixture of my (and I'm sure many others') early morning commutes, beckoning me to hop along for a ride.
I had the opportunity to do just that last month, because, like most people, a small part of me has always dreamed of a close encounter of the third kind.
As I pulled up to the Fraser Valley Sports Complex to meet Captain Jack Castellion and his wife, Sue, I saw the Grand Adventure crew prepping the giant alien – who they have named Shazbot Nanu Nanu, by the way – and that's when the fear started to hit me.
Yes, I have a fear of heights, and no, I didn't really think about it prior to that point in time. Maybe the excitement of my alien encounter had been clouding the terror for the days leading up, but as soon I started to realize what I was actually getting into (a balloon that would reach an altitude of about 10,800 feet) the anxiety became all too real.
I suppressed my hesitant feelings and hopped in the basket, ready to literally leave the soil of planet Earth. The heat from the open flame licked the back of my neck, and I found comfort in knowing that at least my fear of being cold at nearly 11,000 feet was a non-issue.
As the distance between me and the ground grew greater by the second, I realized that my fear was becoming outweighed by astonishment. I've always known the Fraser Valley to be a breathtaking place, but to see it from a balloon hovering weightlessly in the sky was a completely out-of-this-world experience (pun intended).
The experience was enhanced by Captain Jack's expansive knowledge of the local geography and history. Through his expert tour guide skills, I learned more about our community than I have in the past five years of living here. Despite the fact that he has surely relayed the same trivia countless times before, he spoke with a charismatic energy that was purely genuine. His excitement was contagious, and it almost made me consider selling off all my possessions in exchange for a hot air balloon of my own.
For now, I'll treasure the official "Certificate of Aeronaut Status" I received, and look forward to the next time I might get to tag along with Jack on an otherworldly adventure.
See you next month!