DANSVILLE — Sometimes we need to take hold of life, and let it lift us into the sky with faith that in the end we will gently be set back down again.
There are many who look forward to the chance to jump in a basket, and allow a giant balloon to lift them up, up, and away. The chance to chase their dreams in the sky.
My reporter status got me a balloon ride at the New York State Festival of Balloons on Friday, Sept. 1.
My pilot was Joe Doerer of New Jersey, and his balloon is named Dream Chaser. He has taken about 800 flights in this balloon over the last 33 years.
“I had my first flight in Dansville,” Doerer said to me in the sky. “This is my favorite place to fly.”
My fellow passenger was Dream Chaser crew member Kyle Sprague of Wayland. Sprague has been a member of the dream team for 22 years.
Sprague said he loves flying and there is nothing else like it. He has been a loyal member of the dream team since he was eight years old.
“It is a privilege to fly,” he said. “We are just happy to be able to crew. No one does this expecting to go up every time. It is an honor to go up.”
Janet Doerer, Joe’s wife, and Dream Chaser Master Crew Chief and National Crew Person of the Year 2016 Jim Doerer, Joe’s brother talked me through the ride as they were setting up.
“We work really well together,” Jim Doerer said. “I love to drive, Janet loves to chase, and Joe loves to fly.”
The Dream Chaser crew has became a family over the years, and they keep things very light as they prepare for lift off.
The scariest part for those like me who have a sheer terror of heights is going up and coming down. Going up the world beneath your feet gets smaller and smaller, and coming down you need to brace yourself for the possibility of a not-so-gentle landing.
However, the time spent in between will take your breath away. There is nothing like looking over the place you call home from the sky.
My pilot and fellow passenger kept me calm as we hovered over Dansville, and answered all of my questions about the art of soaring in the sky in nothing more than a basket.
The dream team took very good care of their reporter, and are some of the sweetest people I have ever met.
I had never seen Dansville from the sky before, so it was fascinating to see the places I drive by all the time in a new light.
There really is nothing else like it. The nerves never quite settle down until you are safely out of the basket again, but for brief moments the view is so mesmerizing you forget to be afraid.
It becomes more than a balloon ride; it becomes a way to soul search, and break bread with some good people.
Once a landowner allows us to land on their property a traditional bottle of champagne is offered to them for their generosity.
“That goes back to the beginning of ballooning,” Jim Doerer said. “Long ago farmers would come up with pitchforks, because they didn’t know what this strange balloon was. The pilots would offer them a bottle of champagne, and then everything would be OK.”
At the end of the journey the dream team invited me back to their camper for some drinks and food. I remember feeling as though I had been welcomed in as a member of the dream team family.