It was all my sister Barbara's idea. "How would you like to go for a hot air balloon ride?" she suggested during a family dinner outing a week or so ago.
I didn't fully commit for a while, but as dinner wore on, so did my glass of wine.
"Sure, why not?" I said as we left the restaurant.
Amazing how brave and agreeable one glass of wine makes me. My son Willie figured that out long ago when he wanted to take a year off from school and then transfer to Boise State.
He waited until Mom had consumed only half a glass of wine at dinner out before asking. She said, "Sure, why not?"
Turned out to be a good deal for Willie cuz he met Debbie and improved his scholastic standings considerably.
Anyway, the morning after Barbara's hot air balloon proposal, while drinking my first cup of coffee, my lifelong fraidy-cat syndrome set in.
I do not like carnival rides, and I don't do heights.
I sat on benches for 12 hours one day at Six Flags over Texas while my family members tried every ride in the park. I sat on a bench at the New Orleans World's Fair after throwing away a bad strawberry dacqrie while my family rode the gondola across the Mississippi River.
I buried my head in Jeralyn Lewis Mire's bosom while aboard the brand new Star Wars ride in Disneyland. I almost did something worse when she dragged me to the Space Mountain Ride.
I spent my time in the concrete walkways at the Astrodome during my first-ever Big League baseball game. I think Houston won. How would I know? I watched only one inning of the game after permanently leaving my seat in the nosebleed section where both my eyes and my stomach were making me crazy.
So, let's just say the morning after Barbara suggested the hot air balloon experience, my caffeine brought all those past experiences with heights and situations I could not control, except to flee, back into clear focus.
It's hard to flee when you're several thousand feet above the ground and the possible insane and discomforting scenarios came too much into focus for me to even think of doing such a thing.
A couple of days later, Barbara needed to know if the balloon ride was on. By that time, I had researched.
I learned from Bill that, no, it was NOT a four-hour ride; instead, the experience was four hours total---from departure to the desert to set up the balloon to return from the desert after the ride and the champagne breakfast.
That didn't sound quite so bad, but still I wasn't convinced to commit, so I wrote to the people at Rainbow Ryders in Phoenix and told them how big my chicken gizzard was.
They wrote a reassuring, nice letter back, suggesting, "Look at the horizon. We've had others in the past with fear of heights and they've had a good time."
Then, I sent another note, asking if I could sit on the floor if it got too bad. They said yes, so I said yes to Barbara.
All went well yesterday morning as we drove about 20 miles from our hotel in the darkness to Rainbow Ryders headquarters. Upon arrival, my perennial stomach condition went into action.
I could see I was not alone because the bathroom lines for both toilets at the facility were LONG. I also learned later that some of those people waiting in line had NOT BEEN TOLD where they were going and what they were about to do UNTIL THEY ARRIVED at the Rainbow Ryders.
Well, at least my sister was nice enough to tell me.
After completing my first bathroom run, which I figured would be followed by several more, my sisters and our pilot Jesse came looking for me. Barbara and Laurie had cued Jesse in on the fact that comments like, "This is the first group I've taken on a ride," probably would not be appropriate with their older, cowardly sister."
"There IS a bathroom out there in the desert," I promptly announced to Jesse before even taking the time to greet him.
No, he said, but we're only going to be out there for three hours.
My sisters had failed, in their brand-new relationship with Jesse, to mention how important bathrooms are to Marianne.
"I'm not going," I said. "There's no way I can go out there and last for three hours."
Somebody piped up and said there were bushes. For some reason, that did not sound very comforting to me.
What followed was artful persuasion. Jesse assured me he'd be by my side every step of the way; he would take care of me. Still not very reassuring to one who really doesn't want a stranger staying with her every step of the way if nature should call, and, in my experiences of anxiety, nature calls a lot.
I don't know what overcame me, but after pleading my case and stressing to Jesse that it could get really ugly with me along, I signed on the dotted line.
God must have been giving me a break because from that moment after, I did not need a potty break until four hours later when we returned from the desert, from several thousand feet up in the sky and from a fabulous experience with a fun pilot and a family of three from Dallas.
Yeah, the Arizona Sunrise aka champagne, orange juice and cranberry juice cocktail after the flight was pretty good too.
The balloon ride and the camaraderie turned out to be another phenomenal lifetime experience, and the best part of all, this old fraidy cat conquered some fears.
And, of course, our cameras were busy from start to finish. To all who share fears similar to mine, I'll be the first in line to announce that the hot-air balloon experience is very gentle, exhilarating and much tamer than any carnival ride or stadium nosebleed section.
I lived through it and loved every moment.
Thanks, Jesse and the Rainbow Ryders crew. Thank you, Barbara and Laurie, for your art of sisterly and gentle persuasion.
I also wish to thank our fellow passengers and new friends, Bob, Nikki and Reece (who shared my fears and lived through it).
Bob and Nikki are both dentists in Dallas, so during that hour spent as the sun rose over the Arizona desert on Valentine's Day, 2016, I also got a free dental consultation and even a second opinion.
Can't beat that.
Enjoy the photos. Happy Presidents' Day!