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Up, up and away!

  • LINDA KOEHLER/TIMES NEWS Frances Borger of Kunkletown looks over the photos she took on her first hot air balloon ride.
    LINDA KOEHLER/TIMES NEWS Frances Borger of Kunkletown looks over the photos she took on her first hot air balloon ride.
Published May 15. 2012 05:02PM

Gone are the days when little gray-haired grannies sit in rocking chairs looking out the window watching the world go by.

Frances Borger of Kunkletown is a gray-haired granny who wanted to watch the world go by, but she wanted to do it from a mile high.

A few years ago, a hot-air balloon landed in her front yard. Talking to the people from the balloon she thought, "Someday, I'd like to go up in one."

Then she met a lady at a flea market who told her she went on her first hot-air balloon to celebrate her 90th birthday and absolutely loved it. Frances sadly learned later that this same lady died just a few weeks after her ride.

Frances told herself that if she lived to be 90 years old, she was going to celebrate it with a ride in a hot-air balloon.

April 24, Frances turned 90. On April 25, Frances got her hot air balloon ride.

"It was awesome!" she says.

She was accompanied on the flight with her daughter, Mary Lou Kocher, and her granddaughter, Nicole Borger, both of Kunkletown. Her younger sister, Gerry Houck and Mary Lou's husband, Carl Kocher, watched them take off and then rode in the van that trails the balloon and picks them up when the balloon lands.

Frances would have loved to have her balloon ride locally, possibly flying over her own home. But, she couldn't find any balloonists in the area. Mary Lou found The United States Hot Air Balloon Team, located in Bird-in-Hand in Lancaster County. Frances and her family visit the Lancaster area regularly and thought it would be the next best thing.

When they arrived at the balloon site, she wondered how she was going to get in the basket because there were no side openings. It was laying on its side. The three balloonist newbies were told to sit on the basket's side laying on the ground as the balloon was filled with air.

"We laughed so hard," says Mary Lou of their ridiculous positions.

As the balloon rose, the basket righted itself and they found themselves on their feet.

"It was so neat," says Frances.

And then they were up, up and away.

"The scenery was like a patchwork quilt," says Frances, something she could really appreciate since she is a quilter.

As they drifted over the countryside, children came out of their homes and waved. Even the cows looked up at them in wonder.

They floated over a limestone quarry.

"That was amazing," says Frances.

When they were up a mile, the pilot pointed out to them the Chesapeake Bay.

Frances says the ride was so smooth. She describes it as "Tranquil. Calm. Relaxing."

Time seemed to stand still as they floated with the wind. But all too soon, the hourlong ride came to an end. Their successful flight was celebrated with champagne and snacks. Frances, Mary Lou and Nicole each received a souvenir flight certificate.

Mary Lou says she never had a desire to take a balloon ride but her mom wanted to do it so, she felt she had to go with her.

"I'm so glad I did. I loved it!"

Nicole loved it so much she booked another flight and is taking her dad, Barry Borger, for his Father's Day gift.

Frances and her late husband, Sterling, traveled to every state, including Alaska and Hawaii, Canada and Mexico. They saw the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Park.

"This was more beautiful than any of those other places," she says.

She loved her balloon ride so much, she plans to do it again and is hoping to find a balloonist more local so she can fly over Kunkletown.

So what's next for this little gray-haired granny?

With a touch of humor, she says "It won't be bungee jumping."

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