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Food and travel captivate Janet Podolak, who chronicles both for The News-Herald. Get the back story of her three decades of stories here. Guest bloggers and fellow News-Herald staffers also periodically share details of their trips.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Day Six: Orlando

Theresa Neuhoff Audia, a sportswriter at The News-Herald, will be blogging while on her trip to Orlando, Florida from Jan. 21-28.

 Early morning getting ready for takeoff on the hot air balloon.

Orlando sunrise from hot air balloon.

This morning at 5 a.m., my husband and I awoke for a once-in-a-lifetime trip on a hot air balloon.
We booked our flight through Orlando Balloon rides. The cost is $175 per person, but it is worth every penny.
We met at a local Radisson Hotel at 6 a.m. along with about 20 other people from all over the world who were just as excited as we were.
Shortly after we met, we packed into two vans and headed out for a field in the middle of nowhere about 45 minutes away. When we arrived at the field, the crew unloaded a large wicker basket which over 20 people fit into.
With the sun rising in the background, we watched as the crew blew the balloon up with fans. It was an amazing sight. Before we knew it, we were climbing into the large, stabilized wicker basket. Soon, we gradually started to float off the ground and into the air at a height of over 1,700 feet.
Once we maintained a comfortable flying height, we enjoyed the silence and beauty around us. It was a surreal feeling to be so high in the air. Slowly, we cruised over trees, houses, golf courses and orange groves.
The pace was controlled and relaxed. I was little tense at times, but the crew seemed to know exactly when to tell a joke to lighten the mood and make everyone around them feel at ease.
We were told the landing would be the hardest part, but it was smoother than I imagined. Our captain safely touched down in a cow pasture. There were a handful of bumps, but nothing to be alarmed about.
The flight was easy and safe, but still I was thrilled to be back on the ground. We were safe after flying in the air like birds.
The day before, I went hang gliding and if I were to compare the two, I would say hang gliding gives you more of a adrenaline rush. Riding in a hot air balloon is a piece of cake compared to the hang gliding because so many people are in the same position as you are.
A few weeks ago, I had to beg my husband to ride in the balloon. Today, I could tell he was thrilled to take a chance.
We will never forget the experience.

-Theresa Neuhoff Audia

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