Today, I hopped into a tiny basket with a complete stranger, a flamethrower, and three tanks of propane. A 180-pound nylon-stitched orb carried us six miles across Quincy and dropped us in the middle of a cornfield.

It was incredible.

I had the opportunity of a lifetime today and loved every second of it.

Okay, not EVERY second. For a few seconds there, as we were taking off, I was petrified. But that faded quickly. The rest of the seconds? Pure exhilaration.

I didn’t really know what to expect today. Fortunately, my pilot couldn’t have been friendlier. His name is Tim Graham and he’s been doing this since 1995.

Here. Meet Tim.

He made my job pretty easy. Stand there, get out of the way if asked, and try not to drop the work camera out of the balloon (I added that last one).

We departed from Quincy University’s Friars’ Field at about 7:00 am with some help from the Hawks Baseball team and we floated northeast at about 10 miles per hour for about 40 minutes or so. Once we cleared the main streets, football fields, businesses, and other easily identifiable locales, I had absolutely no idea where we were.

Thankfully the baseball guys, along with longtime ballooning expert Colin Wilson of Quincy, were tailing us in Tim’s SUV and helped with the teardown. Getting a 77,000 cubic foot balloon deflated, folded, and stuffed into a tiny bag is no easy task.

After everything was loaded back into the storage trailer, Tim told us about the traditional champagne toast for first time fliers (like me).

“And since beer is the champagne of the Midwest, I brought a six-pack,” he said, much to the delight of the crew. However, after peering in the cooler, he realized it had been swiped the night before at the balloon glow (AND IF WE FIND YOU!!). So we toasted with two bottles of water and a Diet Pepsi. Cheers!

Here’s how that all went…

Thanks again to Tim Graham, Colin Wilson, Quincy University, the Hawks’ Baseball team, and everybody that helped put together the second annual balloon glow—and gave me the thrill of a lifetime!

Here are some pictures from the Thursday night Balloon Glow and this morning's flight: