Word and idiom origin resources all seem to agree that the phrase “bucket list,” a list of things to accomplish before one’s death, is of uncertain etymology. However, 2006, a year before the release of the popular movie “The Bucket List,” is the most stated year of origin. Bucket list is derived from the phrase “to kick the bucket,” which was defined in 1785 to mean “to die.”
I thought I had a “bucket list” as far back as the mid-’80s, but maybe it was just “things I want to do” at that time. High on many current bucket list ideas is my original dream: to fly in a hot air balloon. “Around the World in 80 Days” and “Wizard of Oz” were childhood favorites of mine, both including a mythical hot air balloon ride.
It turns out I am not the only person who relates Jules Verne’s 1873 novel and his character Phileas Fogg in “Around the World in 80 Days” with a hot air balloon. It turns out that in the novel, Fogg and his sidekick Passepartout rode on trains, elephants, sailboats, steamboats, sledges, but never in a hot air balloon during their epic journey around the world.
It was in the 1956 film adaptation that Fogg purchased a hot air balloon in Paris and attempted to fly over the Alps, only to be blown off course, ending up in Spain instead. The image of the cartoonish hot air balloon became synonymous with the story.
The balloon rides over wine country in Napa Valley looked spectacular. Together with other family members, we booked a sunrise trip. Our balloon was slated last in a series of morning takeoffs. Hot air balloons fly in the early morning just after sunrise when the air currents are the most stable and predictable. Because our ride was later in the morning than anticipated, my balloon ride experience didn’t turn out to meet my expectations.
Soon after take-off, the winds picked up and our balloon careened over the vineyards while our captain tried to gain control and get the balloon back on the ground. The ride cut short, the basket landed hard in an unplanned location, tipping precariously while we all tumbled out. Not exactly the peaceful glide over Napa Valley I had anticipated.
Still, I love the sight of a colorful hot air balloon in flight. It was with the hope to see the balloons in Winthrop that, even though I’m not a morning person, I got up early Saturday (March 4) to ensure seeing the takeoff. The skies in Mazama looked very iffy with snowflakes coming down steadily. That doesn’t always mean there aren’t blue skies in Winthrop, so I made the expectant trek to town.
It was easy to see upon arrival at the Thriftway parking lot that there were no inflated balloons, as disappointed spectators were returning to their vehicles, walking like penguins given the ice under the new layer of snow. The third scheduled flight on Sunday (March 5) was also scrapped with snow coming down again. So sorry to miss the balloons this year; see you next year.
Another top bucket list item is “See the Northern Lights.” I have seen local posts of breathtaking photos recently of the natural phenomenon. One of these times, I’m hopeful to catch the light show. Of the top 20 bucket list items, including the hot air balloon ride, I could count six-and-a-half that I have accomplished. The half — a half marathon, not a whole one.