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Bend lawn-chair balloonist soars high on 2nd flight

Discussion in 'Off-topic Zone' started by Rocky, Jul 10, 2007.

  1. Rocky

    Rocky New Member

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    By Barney Lerten, KTVZ.COM

    In preparing for his second long-distance lawn-chair balloon flight, Bend gas station owner Kent Couch said he didn't even bother to put a seat belt on the contraption this time, "because I didn't think I'd need one."

    But when he encountered unexpected turbulence over Anthony Lakes Saturday afternoon, out of radio contact with his family at the time, "hanging onto the topes and everything I've got ... probably at that point in my mind I said, Do you really know what you're doing here? Should you be here?'"

    "For some reason, I thought these accept turbulence, go with the wind," Couch said, but learned othewise.

    Couch did have a parachute once again, however - and while he didn't need one when he came down late Saturday afternoon in a Northeast Oregon field, he jumped from the chair as it briefly set down, then took off again, heading off to the east with much of his gear, including a digital video camera, still aboard, flying high.

    The owner of Bend's Stop and Go Mini-Mart at 27th Street and Highway 20 had a large group of spectators and well-wishers on hand when he lifted off shortly after 6 a.m. Saturday, suspended below more than 100 multi-colored, oversized helium balloons.

    His landing came almost nine hours later and almost 200 miles to the northeast, west of North Powder and south of La Grande, after a scenic flight that averaged 11,000 feet in elevation.

    Coincidentally, Couch grew up in La Grande, and at one point was heading in a direction that could have landed him in his parents' backyard, much to their surprise.

    But that wasn't to be. Instead, after landing, he invited them out to a family dinner before returning to Bend. "My mom said, I told you not to do that much.'"

    "I was looking at the Wallowas (mountain range) right in front of me, so I had to land," Couch told KTVZ.COM Sunday, back home in Bend with wife Susan and his family, who made up much of the chase-car contingent.

    "I wasn't about to go over the Wallowas," said Couch, who had set as his goal heading east to Idaho - "I wanted to change states." And he believes he would have made it, had the winds he had no control over been pushing him more east, rather than northeast toward dicier landing spots.

    Couch credited coordinator Kimi Feuer of Portland and the folks at Professional Air at Bend Municipal Airport for making the trip go as smoothly as it did. But he said his reluctant wife will have the veto power over any third try to reach Idaho.

    This time, they came up with a new method of letting air out of or cutting balloons free, to change his elevation. The first time, he used a BB gun to shoot them. But after reaching about 15,000 feet, he began to descend rapidly, tossing things out of his chair to slow the fall. That trip was a six-hour one.

    "Everything was fine - it was a calm day, except for Ladd Canyon," Couch said," where the buffering slowed his 25 mph travel to about 5 mph and started blowing him south for a time.

    Couch figures he was in radio contact with folks on the ground 70 percent of the time as he glided over the John day River and points east.

    "It was beautiful -beautiful," he recalled - peaceful and serene - much like a hot-air balloon ride, but laid-back, not standing up. He never flew over the several rangefires burning in Eastern Oregon, but said it did make the horizon hazy, with a layer of smoke over the mountains.

    Couch was none the worse for wear, except for some rope burns on one hand, when he wanted to land near Union, dropped a rope to weigh him down and tried to grab it, but it flew out of his grasp.

    He'd used a folding-lamp arm to mount the video camera and get panoramic views, but that was one of the things that went up, up and away with the lawn chair and remaining 4-foot balloons. He'd also taken off with four 5-gallon bags of water, to help hold the unusual aircraft at the right altitude, using spigots to release water.

    Feuer said they're offering a $200 reward for the flying lawn chair and items' safe return. But he said a GPS unit Couch did have in his pocket when he landedhas data that, once in a computer, could allow them to create a computer-simulation virtual flyby of the route.

    "Our main objective was to do a controlled landing," Feuer said. "He came down, hovered, jumped out, was able to control the descent. ... Our first thing was safety. The camera, cell phone - those things, you can get a new one."

    Still, if the chair and gear are found, likely somewhere in the Wallowas, he'd love to get the seven-plus hours of video Couch shot, with such moments as when he inhaled a bit of the helium to start talking in that funny, Donald Duck way people sometimes jokingly do.

    Couch's journey, though unusual, was not unique. Twenty-five years after the first reported lawn chair balloon flight, there's even a Website (http://www.clusterballoon.org/) to learn more about who's done what - but not the technical details, Feuer said, out of the balloonist host's fear he could be held liable if folks don't follow the rules and end a flight in tragic fashion.

    Below Couch's chair hung a banner that read "Stop and Go Mini-Mart Shell Helium Balloon Flight '07." But there was no ID or contact information on the thing, apparently: We didn't think that far ahead," Feuer said.

    Feuer also said he's not sure the always-active Couch will want to sit still for the estimated 15 hours it would take to reach Idaho, even if his wife clears a third attempt.

    He recalled what one of Couch's children said as they pursued their high-flying father: "I haven't ever seen my dad sit in a chair for longer than two hours."



    http://www.ktvz.com/Global/story.asp?S=6759982
  2. Rocky

    Rocky New Member

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  3. Rocky

    Rocky New Member

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    Here's a little something Zoners can do whilst awaiting camp to commence...instead of helium, hot air can be substituted.
  4. Rocky

    Rocky New Member

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    [IMG]

    The perp
  5. ROMOSAPIEN9

    ROMOSAPIEN9 Proud Grandpa

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    Danny Deckchair
  6. Danny White

    Danny White Winter is Coming

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    Ahhhh, Northeast Oregon... my old stomping grounds.

    Needless to say, there's not a lot to do there, so it lends itself to activities like cow-tipping and lawnchair balloon riding. :D
  7. joseephuss

    joseephuss Well-Known Member

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    Didn't the meth craze start in Oregon?
  8. Danny White

    Danny White Winter is Coming

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    I don't know about that.... but Northeastern Oregon did spawn the Rajneeshees, if you remember them.
  9. joseephuss

    joseephuss Well-Known Member

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    Just to satisfy my curiosity I found this little snippet:

    In 1992 only Oregon had meth addicts but by 1997 the number of meth addicts west of the Mississippi had almost doubled.

    Also I think this lawn chair guy is an idiot.
  10. Rocky

    Rocky New Member

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    Well I've been through Oregon a few times and enjoyed the trips. I can imagine that it wouldn't be a hot-bed of entertainment. And the locals do have some odd, earthy life views and unfortunate political leanings, but it seemed a decent enough place, just the same. The Klamath Falls area is very scenic and chocked full of recreational possibilities. Just be sure to bring plenty of granola.
  11. Danny White

    Danny White Winter is Coming

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    Don't get me wrong, it's a beautiful state and I love going back there to visit. But I couldn't wait to move away once I got old enough.
  12. BrAinPaiNt

    BrAinPaiNt Bad Santa Staff Member

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    So thanks to Danny and others from Oregon we have meth labs in my small neck of the woods.

    Thanks Guys, I hope you get infected with fleas and ticks in your nether regions.
  13. Danny White

    Danny White Winter is Coming

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    Exactly... thanks to me. :cool:
  14. BrAinPaiNt

    BrAinPaiNt Bad Santa Staff Member

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    I always felt the good guy act was baloney...Now I know.
    :laugh1:

    On a serious note...I really had no clue about the meth thing getting started in Oregon. It would be one of the last places I would have guessed.

    I just know it has gotten bad when a small town in West Virginia is having arrests made on a regular basis over meth labs. When a little poke and plum bar at the end of my road is shut down for dealing meth and having something blow up in it.

    Crazy stuff.

    Can not even go into a drug store or wally world to get certain cold/allergy medicines without having to fill out paper work because of these guys. :mad:
  15. Danny White

    Danny White Winter is Coming

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    I did do a lot of meth in high school.

    No wait, that was math. Nevermind.

    (there goes my new bad boy image) :mad:
  16. BrAinPaiNt

    BrAinPaiNt Bad Santa Staff Member

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    I did math in High School as well...I did it incorrectly most of the time but I did do math. :laugh2:
  17. joseephuss

    joseephuss Well-Known Member

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    Obviously you were the one that got Miss Ann Coulter hooked on meth. Just look at her. Super skinny, hyper and crazy. Typical methhead. :laugh2:
  18. ConcordCowboy

    ConcordCowboy Mr. Buckeye

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    :laugh2:

    I was thinking that too.

    Anyone who likes or agrees with Coulter has to be a Methhead.:laugh2:

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