Life shouldn’t be planned. It’s unnatural. If there’s one thing I’ve learned these past few years, it’s this: unexpected things happen. Like moving to San Clemente for the summer, or winning $10 thousand for a video competition, or breaking a world record by jumping out of a hot air balloon…
This summer has been a whirlwind of unexpected plans.
It all started a few months ago when we heard Mountain Dew was holding a competition. The competitors were to submit a video showing how they “Do the Dew.” Mtn Dew would then pick nine finalists who would each receive a $10 thousand grant to make another video for the final round. The grand-prize winner of that round would receive $250 thousand to make more content for Mtn Dew. Patrick and I decided we might as well give it a try. Pat put together this video and we sent it in.
This is what we received a month later…
It’s a strange feeling to open a letter and realize your life “plan” has just been drastically altered. When Pat read me the letter explaining that our video had been picked for the final round, I felt two very strong emotions.
Unequivocally excited and completely overwhelmed.
They’d given us a little more than three weeks to pull together a new EPIC video that would beat the other eight competitors, who we knew nothing about. They could be professional videographers for all we knew. There was one thing we did know though…
We would have to go big for this one.
Bigger than we’d ever gone.
Bigger than ANYONE had ever gone.
We wanted to build the biggest rope swing that had ever been built. So far, we’d only jumped from bridges. But with bridge jumping, you can only swing the height of the bridge. The sky, on the other hand, doesn’t have a limit. So we thought, why not build a swing between two hot air balloons? That way, we could go as big as we wanted. Our minds were made up. Hot air balloons or bust!
The stunt required a ridiculous amount of rope…
Between Pat’s full-time job, taking time to order and organize gear and coordinating with a hot-air balloon company, we only had one weekend to film, and a few days to edit the video.
Some buddies from Salt Lake met us in Las Vegas to help pull off our somewhat ludicrous idea. Pat and I were lucky enough to have a private pilot (Uncle Matt) who agreed to take a last-minute family trip to Las Vegas. Which, btw, is a lovely place to vacation in the middle of June. 118 degrees and bone dry. Shout out to Matt and Jessica for being the BEST!
We all met at a hotel and began to plan and organize gear. No one slept that night. Eventually, four a.m. rolled around and the dream team got in the van and headed into the desert.
We met our awesome balloon team there–Las Vegas Hot Air Balloon. They were the hardest working people and we’re so grateful they were willing to go along with our crazy idea. Without their help, none of this would have happened.
We had about an hour-and-a-half to set up, film and make sure everything was good to go. That is not a lot of time when you’re about to jump out of a hot air balloon. It was a beautiful kind of hectic madness…everyone running around each other, tipping balloon baskets, starting fires, tying knots, unravelling rope and filming shots. The nervous excitement was palpable.
7 a.m. : The balloons rose into the sky with the rising sun. Patrick was in one basket, I was in the other. The rest of our team was divided between the two balloons and one helicopter to film the jumps. I would jump first, a 200-foot drop from one balloon to the other. Pat would go next. His swing would be a whopping 1,400 feet–the world record for the longest rope swing.
We quickly learned balloons are hard to control. Once we got up to about 3,000 feet and the balloons were the right distance apart, we didn’t have much time. The balloon pilot told me to climb out onto the balloon, then gave me the thumbs up to jump.
Afterward, people asked me if I was scared in that moment, right before I jumped. To be honest, I didn’t have time to be scared. I only had time to realize that we were 3,000 feet up, my rope was attached to me and to the other balloon, and that it was time to jump. So I did.
I had way more free fall than I expected. I involuntarily let out an animalistic scream of terror as I just kept falling. When the rope caught, it whipped me hard. Luckily, not hard enough to do any damage, just enough to really wake me up.
I was now hanging under the balloon that Pat would jump from.
As soon as I jumped, my balloon had shot up into the air…something we hadn’t anticipated. Patrick’s rope, which he was attached to as he stood in his basket, began to whip out of his balloon at a terrifying speed as the balloon I jumped from rose higher and higher. He was standing on the rope, and it was being ripped from beneath his feet. He and his brother-in-law grabbed the rope to keep it from pulling him out with it, but the rope was moving too fast. It ripped through their hands, leaving bloody, stinging burns. Luckily, they got the balloons under control and to the same level again before Pat got pulled out of the basket.
While this madness was going on above, I was hanging from the balloon, not knowing that my husband’s hands had just been shredded by some serious rope burns. I was preoccupied by my fear of what might happen next. I was terrified for Pat to jump. If my 200-foot swing had whipped me that hard, I was convinced his 1,400-foot jump would kill him.
But there was nothing I could do besides wait.
The two balloons slowly separated from each other until Pat’s rope was stretched between them. He climbed out onto the basket and signaled to me below that he was about to jump.
I held my breath, praying he would be ok, and turned on the GoPro to film him as he flew past me. All of a sudden, there he was. Diving through the sky with a line of dust trailing behind him. He kept falling, and falling and falling. For eight full seconds. And then the rope caught, 1,400 feet below the balloon. He said his swing was the smoothest he’s ever had. Thank goodness.
It was the most insane, adrenaline-packed few hours of my life. Regardless of the competition’s outcome, we were so happy to have experienced something so unique and, well, downright insane...(according to my mom at least.)
Thanks to our dream team, we made it happen. Every single person contributed something to that weekend, and we couldn’t have done it without them.
After all our hard work of planning, organizing and filming, Pat spent hours behind the computer editing, and finally this baby was born. Ok, I look terrifying in this. Who knows why they chose my face to represent our video. Please don’t let me haunt your dreams…I’m actually a normal-looking human most of the time.
Mtn Dew flew us to New York on an almost-all-expense-paid trip (note to self: nothing is really free in this world) for the premiere of all nine videos. A chauffeur picked us up at the airport and took us to our hotel…the “Grand Hyatt,”[say with British Accent] complete with Club Access (how houtey toutey of us.)
The event itself was an unforgettable experience. We met the other contestants, Mtn Dew’s marketing team and the judges. After some socializing and nervous chit-chat, we were brought into a theater and each video was played, followed by the judge’s remarks. Our video was played very last, and then we had a ten-minute break for the judges to deliberate. Those ten minutes lasted a lifetime.
When they announced the winner, the name they called wasn’t ours. Pat and I looked at each other, silently communicating the disappointment we felt. But, we knew we’d given it our all, and there was nothing more we could do.
Afterward, we approached one of the judges and asked how close we were to winning. He told us that we were second place…a.k.a the worst place possible for a competition like this. First place=a quarter of a million dollars. Second place=ziltch.
Even though we didn’t win, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. We had an incredible and unforgettable adventure, and heck we BROKE A WORLD RECORD. So, I’m feeling pretty darn good about the whole thing.