Getting old is no fun.
But if you make it to 104-years-old like Elgin Skewes, you learn a thing or two about it. Mainly this:
“Oh you can’t get everything in that you want to do, you’ve got to hurry,” explained Elgin, at her home in Park View, a retirement community in Port Angeles, sitting in a wheelchair that she says ‘ties her down’.
Elgin has a plan to do something about being ‘tied down’ to that wheelchair:
“Go up in a balloon,” she says.
Why? Because it’s about time.
“I haven’t done it before and I’ve got to do everything.” Elgin reiterated. “It’s getting late you know.”
Flight day dawns clear and calm in Sequim’s Dungeness Valley.
Captain-Crystal Stout jokes with her team of volunteers about getting them out of bed early for this special flight. The team works together getting her Dream Catcher Balloon ready – a balloon designed to give people with limited mobility wings.
“This is what I’m here for. I find that my soul says I’m here to serve. I’m here to give those people an opportunity to have an amazing adventure and it started with just wheelchairs and then it blossomed,” said Stout.
As the balloon inflates, a busload of senior adventurers are on the way from Park View, including Elgin. There’s a murmur of excitement aboard the bus when the waiting balloon comes into view. They are all ready to soar.
Captain Crystal has given more than 700 flights to people who are unable to climb into a regular hot air balloon basket. The specially designed aluminum double seat she uses is still designated as experimental, but it’s a steady platform, and the five-point harness holds riders securely. Plus there’s added excitement with this riding seat – feet dangle over the side, for a bit of extra freedom during flight.
Flights like today’s are urgent.
“Because we have the two centenarians, you know a, especially a 104-year-old lady, we like to make ourselves available on the spot when we hear of somebody with a ‘bucket list’ request like this,” said Stout. “That’s kind of my heads up, that tells me let’s get them in the balloon as soon as possible so that they can have this chance to fly.”
One of those centenarians — Doris Thompson will be 100 this July — is the first to fly. She simply exclaims “Oh Wow!” as she floats free of earth as Stout blasts propane into the balloon.
Then, it’s Elgin’s turn to trade her wheelchair for wings.
She’s been waiting one hundred and four years for this moment. And for a few minutes, Elgin is no longer tied down to that wheelchair. She floats above it all, taking in the Olympic Mountains, and her friends and caregivers, waving down below. And now that she’s tasted freedom – she wants more.
“Cut the ropes!” Elgin shouts.
“You heard her, didn’t you? She said cut those ropes. Don’t anyone do what she’s telling you to do. I’m the Captain okay?” declared Stout from her command center next to Elgin.
It’s a good day for flying — maybe the best.
Because this balloon ride might have been wasted on someone younger. Someone with more time.
Elgin Skewes, Balloon Adventurer, doesn’t have any tips on how to get to 104, because frankly, it’s not for the faint of heart. She just knows one thing is certain for all of us:
“Yeah. Time’s a wastin’ “