Ken Couch is the quintessential American adventurer. Last weekend, he hitched 105 helium balloons to a lawn chair and set out on a nine-hour adventure that took him to a height of 13,000 feet, traveling 193 miles from his home in Bend, Oregon, all the way to the other side of the state.
Loading up his lawn chair with gadgets such as a GPS system, two-way radio, altimeter, wind gauge, camcorder and a cellphone, he set out early Saturday morning. Learning from a six-hour trip in his balloon-equipped lawn chair last September where he ascended to 15,000 feet, on this voyage he was better equipped. He loaded up four 5-gallon containers with water as ballast, and to make the chair rise, he simply opened a spigot. Instead of releasing balloons to descend as he did on his previous trip, which caused a harrowing descent where he ended up using a parachute to save his life, this time he was able to gradually release helium for a gentler landing.
Nine hours later, he safely set down his homemade craft in a farmer's field 193 miles away, after traveling at an average speed of around 21mph. Said Couch to a local newspaper, "When you're a little kid and you're holding a helium balloon, it has to cross your mind ... When you're laying in the grass on a summer day, and you see the clouds, you wish you could jump on them. This is as close as you can come to jumping on them. It's just like that."
You're right, Ken. We've always wanted to try this. [KOMO-TV/AP]