The good news about the Phoenix/Scottsdale area: It's a popular spot for conferences. (The sun! The air! The golf!) The bad news: It's a popular spot for conferences. (The airport delays! The crammed hotels!) Ready to play hooky from the umpteenth breakout session? Want to play Spot the Bobcat from 3,000 feet? Unicorn Balloon Company spirits the overstressed and overnetworked conventioneer away for a few hours of lighter-than-air respite. Unicorn owner Fred Gorrell, 59, who moonlights as a Federal Aviation Administration examiner, launches his basket o' people once or twice a day from a swath of desert about three miles outside Scottsdale. "You don't even feel like you're flying," Gorrell coos about ballooning's ability to relieve stress. "You're just . . . light." Gorrell, who flies roughly 5,000 passengers a year, also says that he has witnessed more than his share of lofty marriage proposals. Maybe it's the complimentary champagne and muffins. Or all of that thin air. Transportation to and from the launchpad is available from any hotel in town, or you can book your flight (which runs $135 a person) at the Unicorn office at the Scottsdale Airport and go from there. More good news: No special clothing is required, so any of that business-casual stuff that's crammed into your suitcase will do just fine. To try the world's oldest form of flight, contact Unicorn Balloon Company on the Web (www.unicornballoon.com).
A version of this article appeared in the January 2001 issue of Fast Company magazine.