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Report 898: China 2005

By stephenp from CA, Spring 2005

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Page 8 of 9: Riding with Sophie

photo by Stephen P

Riding bikes with Sophie

We went out on our bikes again yesterday with Sophie. More biking through mind-blowing, gorgeous landscape. We ate lunch in a restaurant in a tiny village. Heaps of delicious, fresh and wonderful food for $12.00 for all of us.

As we rode back into town, flying through the wild traffic on my sturdy bike, I felt giddy, part of the great human tide.

We have grown quite fond of Sophie. We are hatching wild plans to send for her after we return home and have her live with us for a summer and work at the Fox and Goose restaurant where Dino works.

The four of us bought tickets to ride a hot air balloon over this stunning landscape. We invited Sophie to go with us. She was reluctant to take us up on our offer because "too much money," she said. Finally we convinced her it would be our pleasure.

Stoned on Xanax I was prepared to take the ultimate test of my fear of heights. When we got to the field where the balloon was getting inflated, I freaked when I saw the size of the tiny, flimsy basket that we were all expected to climb into. I told the group I was having some doubts about whether I would go.

The basket was woven fiber, about four feet by five feet. There would be six of us including the pilot. The edge of the basket would come to mid-belly if I stood up, which I was not planning to do. As the rest of my group climbed in, I backed away wailing that I wasn't going to go with them.

As the basket wobbled unsteadily for take off, the flame roared only inches above their heads. Wild eyed, everyone clamped their hats to their heads.

Sophie cried, "Stephen, come!" Dave, clutching his hat to his head, called, "If we don't make it back, tell my family that I love them!"

Off they rose into the sky at a surprising speed. Fearless Ally leaned over the edge of the basket and yelled, "We love you!" As I watched the balloon get smaller, I felt a wave as sadness wash over me and a moment of crushing disappointment in myself.

As the balloon became a tiny, pearl earring hanging in the sky, I felt left behind. They were the brave explorers and I was left at home to the chores.

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