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October 19, 2008

Reminiscent of TIM. Prepare to waste your afternoon!
October 4, 2008

Happy birthday to me. I'm exhausted.

For my birthday this year, I celebrated by considering alternate modes of transportation. This was not my original plan but Brian's, who kept me in the dark til the last possible second.

We first drove out to Edinburg, where I had a blast cruising at high speeds with no stoplights and light traffic bordering down to minimal traffic. It was a wrench coming back, let me tell you! At one point we passed a big tank being hauled on a trailer. Yes, a tank. The destructive kind Made up in desert camo, as far as I know. Alas, I didn't get to drive it. Not even sure if it was real, but it was definitely tanklike in appearance. We checked in to a little B&B that had a darling little cupola on top - or belvedere, as the owner called it. The stairs to it were in the bathroom in the hall - I would have gone back up to take pictures but I was afraid someone would come in to use it while I was up there!

Right after that we proceeded to the Wal-Mart in Woodstock, where we waited until someone arrived and I found out what my present was - a hot air balloon ride! (check out my picasa album for pictures.) Me and my big mouth had, a few months back, facetiously told Brian that I wanted a hot air balloon ride for my birthday. He takes me seriously . . .

Being up in a hot air balloon is the most beautiful and frightening thing I've experienced. Getting it up and getting it down is scary, but once up there . . . wow. So many senses at work! The heat from the gas keeps your head warm. The basket is quite stable so long as everybody shifts properly when moving from one side to another. There's plenty of room for 3 people, I'd have been ok with four, but more than that, too tight a squeeze for me! There were no noises and no smells (my sinuses felt pretty good up there!) but we could hear the dogs barking at us as we passed, and cows mooing in the fields below. Some of them actually noticed we were up there and moved about uncomfortably. (I've never thought about cows looking at the sky . . . ) And the view . . . oh, the view! The valley lay spread below like an extremely clear google map. We could see for miles, yet still be able to discern sheep and goats and dogs. Too bad we couldn't read the street signs! We got to watch the sun set behind the mountains, and then when the balloonist took us higher, we got to watch the sun set again. My hands and legs were shaking so bad that I finally handed the camera over to Brian, but it looks like my anti-shake button took care of that problem - pretty much all of my pictures came out.
See the map below to see what area we were in!
View Larger Map

The next day we ended up considering a second form of transportation that has long been neglected. We went horseback riding at Fort Valley. Having thoroughly enjoyed Biltmore's horse tour, we felt we were ready for a four hour mountain guided trail. We're still trying to decide if we overreached. Four hours on a horse is a very long time. Certain body parts are STILL complaining. And the trail! Up the mountain and back down. Like the rest of the valley, rocks all over the place. Goats would have had a better time of it. I'd just like to state that going down a steep hill covered with loose rocks on the back of a horse is extremely unpleasant, and closing your eyes doesn't help. And I don't think my horse liked me. He kept walking under low hanging branches and near trees. The guide had told us to let the horse pick their own path on the rough patches (most of the trail for that matter) but the horse and I had differing opinions about what was the easiest way to get down. Towards the end he also kept turning his head and trying to bite my ankle - not sure if I was tickling him or if he was tired of me. (I was certainly tired of him! He was a very bouncy horse - I was suffering from motion sickness when we stopped for lunch!) We kept having to stop and let people on ATVs or dirtbikes go by. They were very courteous and went by slowly, and for the most part the horses took no notice of the machines.

As I got back in my car, wincing, I couldn't help but appreciate how smooth it rode and how well it handled. It stopped and started on my power alone and didn't try to eat tree leaves or take a side route without my permission. (granted, this was before I noticed that my dials were out of whack again - the gas gauge was pointing to places that didn't exist! I think there's a problem with leaving things charging in the cigarette lighter when I turn the car off.) I could park almost anywhere without worrying about power lines and travel without being concerned about darkness.

It was a perfect weekend - little wind, no haze, nice temperatures . . . ideal for a trip to the mountains. We found a tea house in Edinburg and had an enjoyable lunch, and a nice supper at an italian restaurant. After we got back we treated ourselves to DQ - a perfect ending to a fantastic weekend.