The sun was just barely rising when I shook each kid awake.

“Come on,” I whispered in each of their ears.  “It’s time to go.”

Groggily, they wiped the sleep from their eyes and slipped out of bed.  Still in their PJ’s, they grabbed their robes and slippers, and sleepily took the thermos of hot chocolate I handed each of them.  And with my coffee in hand I closed the door behind us and we snuck out into the dawn.

The radio played quietly as we traveled the nearly empty road.  The sky was filled with brilliant colors of pinks and purples that were slowly fading to the rays of the emerging sun over the hilltops and vineyards.  I exited the freeway and took the back roads, slipping around each turn in my beat up van in anticipation for the perfect place to stop.  The kids were slowly waking in the back seat, looking out the window at the passing fields of green and gold, green and gold.  I looked in the rear view at them, smiling as I remembered the little things my parents did when I was young, creating lasting memories that I still held close to me.  I knew that I was carrying on the tradition.

A clearing emerged around the bend, giving a perfect view of the field to our right.  I pulled in slowly and stopped the engine, letting the battery do all the work in keeping the radio music still alive.  We all got out of the van and rested against it, sipping the last of our hot chocolates as we took in the view.  A loud roaring sounded in spurts and we grinned. 

Straight ahead was a hot air balloon, nearly inflated and ready to lift off.  Above us were several more, big round globes of hot air that floated effortlessly among the spattering of clouds and the sun rays that took over the blue of the sky.  We stood like that for at least an hour, watching the balloons rise and dip, keeping watch over the tied off balloon straight ahead meant for quick take offs in a sneak peak at what a real balloon ride might feel like.

This is our annual tradition.

Start your own tradition.  Enter the latest contest here for a chance to win tickets to this year’s Hot Air Balloon Classic on July 13th – 14th at Keiser Park in Windsor.


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