Balloons over Baghdad & a message in a bottle

Lawn Chair Balloonist - Bend Oregon

I’m doing my best not to just post travel news but I couldn’t pass these two up. 

The first is about a man from my home town of Bend, Oregon who plans to fly his lawn chair over Baghdad. How you ask? With a ton of balloons. This is a definite must read. 

Oregon man prepares to pilot lawn chair over Baghdad

Some men see lawn chairs in the sky and ask, “Why?” Some, though, imagine attaching the chairs to hundreds of balloons, strapping themselves in the seat, donning oxygen masks and flying straight over Baghdad.

Kent Couch, who runs a gas station in Bend, Ore., is such a man. Couch boarded a flight to the Middle East on Thursday, setting out on an adventure that involves becoming the first lawn chair balloonist to traverse the now-more-or-less peaceful skies over Iraq — and raise money for Iraqi children.

“Americans and Iraqi civilians working together to accomplish a goal, to do a dream,” Couch told the Associated Pressbefore his rather traditional passenger jet liftoff from Medford, Ore.
Couch plans to join Iraqi extreme sport enthusiast Fareed Lafta, who has said he hopes (later) to become Iraq’s first man in space. The two men are scheduled to lift off in tandem Nov. 15 from Baghdad’s Green Zone on lawn chairs fitted with some 300 balloons and soar over Iraq at 25,000 feet for 24 hours — enough to set a new world record in the arcane field of cluster ballooning.

The flight is to coincide with a government-sponsored youth conference in Baghdad, and will require the two men to remain aloft overnight, outfitted with oxygen masks for a journey of 400 to 600 miles (depending on the wind, of course).

Couch toldthe AP’s Jeff Barnard that he has already shipped the necessary party balloons and other equipment over to Lafta, an Iraqi native who lives in Dubai.

“I said, ‘Do you have any lawn chairs?’ He says, ‘What?’ I emailed a picture of one, and he said, ‘I’ve never seen one of those. Better send a couple.’ So I sent over a couple.”

Couch brings to the enterprise the necessary experience. He already has made several long-distance lawn-chair-balloon flights, including a successful 235-mile journey from Oregon to Idaho in 2008. An earlier attempt on a similar route failed in 2007 — Couch made it only as far as North Powder, Ore., near La Grande, and touched down off of Interstate 84, having lost contact with his chair and balloons in the process.

Taken from the LA Times. Read the rest here.

The second piece of news come from the BBC. This one also strikes a cord with me since I used to throw bottled messages into the sea when I was a kid. It always held such a mystical power. 

Social networking in its oldest form

Over the last two decades, Harold Hackett has sent out over 4,800 messages in a bottle from Prince Edward Island, Canada’s smallest province along the Atlantic coastline.

Every message asks for the finder to send a response back to Hackett, and since 1996 he has received over 3,100 responses from all over the world.

In this First Person account, Hackett talks to the BBC’s Franz Strasser about the items people have sent him and the unexpected side effects from his hobby.

This article is in the form of a video but the BBC doesn’t allow you to embed some of their videos so check it out here!