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Baskets of Pleasure - A Hot Air Balloon Recommendation
By: Stephen Druce

To all tourists and romantic sightseers - take a trip on a hot air balloon if you get the chance - I've done it.

The pre-flight fiasco was encouraging. An unexpected wind blew the balloon bag over like a giraffe collapsing from a drug overdose - subsequently pulling the basket over onto its side and sliding across the field, flattening a fleeing cow as the pilot clung spread-eagled to the cage, screaming expletives in front of children.

An auspicious beginning to a once in a lifetime adventure.

Climbing aboard, the bleary-eyed man with the colorful vocabulary and a name tag hand-marked "Dens" fired a lengthy fierce flame from the burner with a laconic grunt - and observing as we began to float away the resulting naked flame in such close proximity to a balloon bag made from flammable nylon fabric reassured me that all safety procedures had been adhered to.

Once aloft, I became convinced of the truth that ballooning is the most classy way to travel. Keep your ship cruises, Ferrari's or private planes. It's much better to drift aimlessly, standing up inside a glorified wastepaper basket - a household accessory traditionally dedicated to the storage of such items as cigarette butts, balls of old chewing gum and used condoms - that in addition to being boastworthy of its freedom from brakes, is entirely unencumbered by any steering device or determinable destination.

Indeed, during the ride I discovered that the wind is in charge of hot air balloons (a visionary appointment) and became obliged to respect the random breeze as the slightest zephyr at any moment might have dumped me atop a prison full of serial killers holding a rooftop protest (for example), leading one to potentially argue that the hot air balloon is in fact a useless, overgrown bubble full of people who have lost their minds.

But not me.

Eventually, the pilot told me he had no idea as to where we might land, which made me laugh.

"With all those years of piloting experience your landing skills must be very precise," I ventured. "I bet you could land this thing on to the head of a pin."

"No, but I did land on the head of a farmer once," the pilot, by now quite intoxicated, replied moments prior to contacting the power line that ignited the balloon bag into a huge fireball and sent us crashing into a field full of cow patties.

Perfectly charming.

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