Steamy. Sticky. Sweaty. And I’m

Jul 19, 2001

Steamy. Sticky. Sweaty. And I’m still in Ohio. What does North Carolina have in store for me?

Grandma Zuiker sent a nice card to us, saying what every grandson wants to hear about his daughter. She also mentioned that she’s put 292 Juniper up for sale. A tough decision, I bet. So many memories in that home, so many laughs and plates of spaghetti and moans about the Cubs and shells crafted into necklaces. What’s your favorite memory about 292? Send a few sentences or an essay or a picture to me (anton@zuiker.com), and I’ll post it on a special Tribute to 292 page on the website.

Erin and I went to a reading tonight at the bookstore across the street from our apartment. Jim Toner, a Cleveland native (turns out his family lived next door to one of Erin’s mom’s cousins, among other connections), wrote a book about his father’s visit to see Jim in Sri Lanka, where Jim was a Peace Corps Volunteer. The book is Serendib, named after a Sinhalese word that the English word serendipity comes from. My dad and I are collaborating on a similar story, about how our relationship grew into an adult friendship and was crystallized when he came to visit me and Erin on Paama Island. But that’s not all—Dad wrote a book with his dad, Frank the Beachcomber, about dad’s experiences with the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic. Grandpa Z published a nice recap of his visit to the island in the Chicago Tribune. Both the book and the article are at the bottom of a box in the pile in my room; as soon as I get to North Carolina and set up my writing room, I’ll dig those out and convert them into electronic files for all to read.

Here’s a Chronicle from Arizona, filed by Aunt Judy:

Have you ever looked up into the sky to see a beautiful hot air balloon
drifting by? The first thought that comes to your mind is “What does it feel
like floating so far up in the sky.” Well, today I found out.

At 3:30 a.m. my grandson and I jumped out of bed. A few minutes to prepare
and swallow some orange juice and we were off to the community center a mile
away to board a bus that would drive us to our destination, Cave Creek. It’s
amazing how much traffic is on the road at that time of the morning. About 1
1/4 hours later we arrive in the open desert. Sunlight was coming over the
foothills. In front of us were 5-6 beautifully colored balloons lying on
their side. What looked to us as a small basket was attached to the balloon
and anchored to the ground. Soon flames were shooting into the opening of
the balloon. At that point, the balloon started to fill up. We were then
ready to climb into the basket and stand side by side for our lift off. As
our pilot mentioned, there is no graceful way to get into the basket. A few
holes for your feet and your on your own. Some had more trouble than others.

Rather close together, the 12 passengers and 1 pilot slowly lifted off the
ground. One minute your on the ground and the next your 25 feet up. There
is absolutely no feeling of movement. We stayed close to the ground for a
while until we could find the wind currents that would move us higher. We
saw in the distance the other balloons and their different heights. Some
were high up and some were barely off the ground. Then they fluctuate. Up
and down. Up we’d go and then drift down. The only uncomfortable part of
the trip was the hot air that hits the top of your head. The pilot keeps
shooting the fuel into the balloon to keep it in the air and help it to rise.

They give you baseball caps to shield you from the heat. But soon you’re
drifting 7,000 feet above the ground and you can feel the cool breezes.

I can’t say that it’s the most spectacular view I’ve had but we could see the
tall buildings from Phoenix, all the developments that are shrinking our
desert and a local lake that is very popular during the hot summer. After
about an hour we started our decent and again we didn’t realize any movement.

It’s amazing how they can maneuver these balloons to the exact spot they
want them to land on. Pointing out to the pilot that we were descending
directly over power lines and then drifting close to the highway did not
panic him in the least. So we descended into a nice clearing, I thought.
The pilot had kept in contact with his van driver and helper. The minute we
landed they were there hanging onto the basket so we would not start up
again. They finally got us into the right area and we were able to leave our
cozy little basket.

I have never had a champagne breakfast in the middle of the desert before.
But this was pretty elegant. Real dishes, champagne and orange juice,
quiche, chocolate croissant, apple and corn muffins and a cloth napkin
awaited us at a table set up in the middle of no where.

All this and I was home by 9:30 a.m. This was another nice adventure. But
it definitely was no big deal. No anxious moments. Just an hour of peaceful
tranquility. If anyone thinks they would be afraid of heights or would not
be able to go on a ride such as this, I would say yes you can. It’s no big
deal. But it is something very different.

Well, off to the next adventure.

Anton Zuiker

© 2000 Zuiker Chronicles Publishing, LLC