I had the privilege of riding on the Goodyear Blimp once.

It was 2004, and fellow reporter Kim Hone-McMahan and I did a fun series for the Akron Beacon Journal we called Love, Akron Style. It was a twist on the TV show "The Bachelor." We found an eligible male, assembled a panel of matchmakers to pick 12 women for him to meet, and even planned their dates so we could spotlight restaurants and attractions and give readers ideas for their own romantic interludes.

It was really quite fun, even if it sounds a little silly. Kim and I would take turns going on their dates with them, walking a fine line between being close enough to report some colorful nuggets to our readers while staying far enough away that they could try to ignore us.

Just as with the reality show, the bachelor whittled down his dates until there was just one woman left standing. Then the two of them got to fly off into the sunset on the Goodyear Blimp. Of course, Kim and I couldnít exactly report on this final date if we were grounded, so we hitched a ride, too.

My dad spent more than 30 years working at Goodyear and I would have loved nothing more than to share that experience with him, but he was more than happy to see me climb aboard for both of us. And it was every bit as thrilling as you might expect. It was a lot more like flying in a hot air balloon than a plane. There were moments when we just sort of quietly hung in the sky and enjoyed the amazing 360 degree view that allowed us to point out recognizable landmarks.

Some lucky soul registered for the Goodyear Half Marathon & 10k race on Aug. 12 is going to win a blimp ride, and wow, would I love it to be a Blue Line Beginner!

But thereís something really important you need to know, so read this carefully:

Packet pickup day is next Friday, August 11, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., at the John S. Knight Center, 77 E. Mill St. in downtown Akron. As you may remember from our June race, packet pickup includes your racing bib with some tear-off tickets for food, beer and gear check. But this bib will also have an entry ticket for the blimp ride raffle.

You must tear this ticket off before you leave the Knight Center and turn it in at the Goodyear Retail Teamís booth on packet pickup day. You cannot submit this ticket on race day!

During the awards ceremony on race day, one winner will be selected to receive a certificate good for two seats on the Goodyear Blimp.

That Love, Akron Style series ended with a twist no one saw coming. A week after that blimp ride, we learned our bachelor had secretly been courting one of the women from our matchmaking panel through much of the project! Since the winning bachelorette had made it clear she just wanted to be friends, there were no hard feelings and we all chuckled at the unexpected epilogue. I'm told the bachelor and matchmaker lasted for more than a year before parting ways.

If you're bib number is selected, hopefully things will last longer between you and whomever you take into that gondola :)

- Paula