The Official Writing Challenge
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Lovely descriptions, and I could feel your passion for this ride in your writing.

The first few paragraphs seemed out of place, somehow. The whole story seemed so full of joy and anticipation, but that opening bit made me think something bad was going to happen. Just my thoughts, though.

I have been up in a tethered balloon, but never flying like that. You have DEFINITELY made me want to change that! Thanks for this delightful read.
I've always wanted to ride in a hot air balloon. Seems like it would be fun. :)

A gondola is also a boat, so I was a bit confused at the beginning.

Great story over all.
Maybe a little light on topic. i could feel the cold water, but I also thought it was terror (I watch too much TV).
A great adventure, and well written!