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GRANTS PASS, Ore. — Four years ago, Kent Couch made headlines by floating through the clouds in a lawn chair hoisted by party balloons from Oregon to Idaho. He's going to fly again, this time with a buddy sitting on a second lawn chair at his side. They are planning to take off July 14 from the parking lot of Couch's gas station and convenience store in Bend, Ore., the way he did in 2008 when he floated 235 miles to an Idaho farm field.
"We can't hit above 18,000 feet (because of federal flight restrictions), but we can make a good run at, I imagine, 400 miles or plus" in distance, which should put them in southwestern Montana after an overnight flight, Couch said.
In 2008, things went much more smoothly. After lifting off at dawn July 5 with the help of scores of volunteers, he floated at 35 mph across the high desert, reaching his goal of crossing the Idaho border. That's when he pulled out his trusty Red Ryder BB rifle to shoot out enough balloons to come to earth just in a pasture outside the tiny farming community of Cambridge, Idaho.
Couch is waiting for his favorite anti-gravity style of lawn chairs to go on sale before putting his latest flying rig together with parts he buys at the local hardware store. The others were bought by a museum. He will need more than 350 5-foot-diameter balloons filled with helium to lift the two of them, plus 800 pounds of Ballast - red Kool-Aid in 40-gallon barrels.