Boarding the Zeppelin is a unique and highly structured process, due to the fact the vessel is in constant motion.
When you hear that Buzz Aldrin has referred to a flying experience as "singular," you'd better put it on your bucket list.
The celebrated astronaut was lounging around after his Zeppelin flight when I arrived for mine. Although I wouldn't be riding with him (alas), meeting him and knowing how much he'd enjoyed his ride made me that much more excited for mine.
And the Eureka didn't disappoint. Everything about the aerial tour was unique, from the embarking procedure to the landing. The most surprising part was how smooth the ride was -- like riding on a cloud, is how another passenger put it, and I found the description apt. The gondola was far smaller than I'd expected (curse those brain-rotting movies!), but it was still an exceedingly comfortable and pleasant experience, far less jolting than a plane and with less vibration than that of a blimp, thanks to the distant location of the motors.
I'd done a bit of research before my ride, but en route I picked up some interesting factoids. For one, there are only three Zeppelins in operation in the world, the other two in Japan and Germany. The Eureka is piloted by the world's only female Zeppelin pilot, who received her traiining over in Germany. Because of the location of the motors -- on the structure, rather than on the gondola, as a blimp does -- Zeppelins have more maneuverability than a blimp, to the point where one pilot showed off his accuracy by landing the Eureka on a dollar.
Where words fail to capture the essence of the experience, images will have to suffice. The slideshow of my flight over Long Beach captures only some of the amazing sights that passengers will see on the one-hour tour. The two-hour tour, which ventures as far away as the Hollywood sign, offers a whole different array of scenery.
Eureka will be in Long Beach only through Sept. 8, although there are plans for the airship to possibly venture back south in the spring.