Wonderful Weirdos Day: 10 travel weirdos who deserve thanks

Today’s date is weird. 9-9-09. I noticed it first when writing today’s Photo of the Day post. Then someone sent me an e-mail from Westerville, Ohio proclaiming this Wonderful Weirdos Day. The missive stated that the purpose of such a day is to thank people who have taught you think outside the box–the people who have nurtured your creativity.

With that in mind, here are 10 travelers who have been a subject of Gadling posts over the years. In some way each represent a creative, adventurous drive, and each have pushed travel into the realm of outside the box.

What most of these stories also illustrate is that the kindness and interest of strangers has a lot to do with the success of an unusual idea. It’s hard to make it to outside the box on your own.

  • David de Rothchild who is building a boat out of thousands of plastic bottles to sail between California and Australia.
  • Roy Locock who is currently driving himself around the world in his car. After 14 months of travel he’s still going strong.
  • Robert McDonald, who with the help of his son and 5,000 kids, built a ship made of 15 million popsicle sticks in order to sail across the Atlantic by way of Greenland and Iceland just like the Vikings did..
  • The late Steve Fossett who made the longest nonstop flight in history in his Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer.
  • Kent Couch who attached helium balloons to a lawn chair so he could fly from Oregon to Boise, Idaho.
  • Matt Harding whose weird dance brought the world together with a video that makes everyone who sees it feel good.
  • Ryan Jeanes and Philip Hullquist who set off on a hitchhiking trip from New York City to Berkeley, California with no money and the aim to make it in one week.
  • Grandma Gatewood who, as a lark, set out to be the first woman to hike the Appalachian Trail. At the time, she was 57 years old and the mother of 11 children and 23 grandchildren
  • Marcia and Ken Powers who gained distinction as being the first couple to hike the 4,900 miles across the United States.
  • Scotty and Fiddy who hitchiked across 50 states, including a visit to each state’s capital, in 50 days.
  • Joshua Keeler and his two buddies who set out in a van to cover the 48 states in the continental U.S. in five days.
These 10 are the ones I came up with, but there are certainly more. Do you have any travel weirdos you’d like to thank? Parents who drag their pack of offspring on summer vacations can be included.

Be in a parade to add to summer fun: It’s free

Back in high school I played the flute badly, but good enough to put me in my town’s parades in the marching band. Deciding that the flute was too prissy for some reason, my junior year, I took up baritone saxophone. I thought it would be swell to carry that in the St. Patrick’s Day parade one year. Not a chance. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Happily, I gave up the baritone saxophone as well, but have found myself jumping into a few parades in less taxing capacities. If you have never been in a parade, it’s not hard. Seriously, this can be a no skills endeavor and one the whole family can enjoy doing. Plus, it’s FREE.

Whenever we are in Philipsburg, Montana we are in the kid’s parade as part of Flint Creek Valley Days. My son wears the same Spider-man hat each year.

On the 4th of July, my son and I were in an art car truck in the Doo Dah Parade. I received an email from Greg Phelps who helps organize the art car movement in Columbus and beyond. He wanted people to be in the guitar truck playing toy guitars. My son has a toy guitar so what could be easier than that?

This picture was taken by Greg Phelps who was driving the truck as we were on High Street going through the Short North section of Columbus.

Since it was raining, I suggested we set up the patio umbrella in the truck bed. I kept my foot on the base to keep it from tipping. The only other people in the back of the truck with me were my son and a third grade boy. The two of them flashed peace signs and yelled, “Peace out!” in between fake guitar playing.

The fun thing about being in a parade is the view of the crowds. I saw several friends who I hadn’t seen otherwise. Greg also took this picture. That’s his art car in the front that someone else was driving. You can see downtown Columbus in the distance.

If you have a hankering to be in a parade yourself, think about a cause you believe in and see if that organization has a group who is walking in the parade. Join up with them. I’ve walked with the Human Rights Campaign in the Gay Pride Parade three different years.

You could also put on a pair of roller blades and put on a funny hat and large sunglasses. People will think you’re swell. How about putting an outfit on your pet and pulling your pet in a decorated kid’s wagon?

Of course you could become a celebrity like Kent Couch who just traveled in his balloon lawn chair 200 miles. He was in a parade in Eugene, Oregon.

My suggestion to jazz up the fun. Buy a big bag of candy to throw some out. That gives people a thrill. We didn’t have candy, but next year, I’m planning on throwing out small plastic toys to fit the art car theme.

Balloon lawn chair guy to take flight once more

A year ago, Justin revealed his fear of heights and told us about Kent Couch who has a thing for tying helium balloons to a lawn chair so he can float across the sky. Last year, he made it 193 miles before landing in sagebrush in eastern Oregon.

Couch will be at it again tomorrow. This time he wants to fly from Oregon to Boise, Idaho. That’s 300 miles. To do this feat, he’s attaching 150 latex party balloons to his new lawn chair. This feat is not easy on lawn chairs, so both times Couch has done this, he’s had to start fresh.

One thing that’s clear about Couch’s endeavor is that he must know what he’s doing since he hasn’t gotten hurt yet. The three times is a charm adage must work. This time he has sponsorship and no one seems to think he’s a nut case like the first time he sat in his chair in 2006 and floated up and away.

Still, I don’t think this is something most folks should try. He doesn’t even wear a seat belt. I think I’m with Justin on this one. [via AP]

Thanks to Shward for this photo posted on Flickr of Kent Couch in a lawn chair in a parade in Eugene, Oregon. It is true that there are many ways to become a celebrity.

Oregon Lawn Chair Pilot Takes Flight

Last weekend, Kent Couch, an Oregon-based gas station owner, lifted into the sky on a lawn chair tethered to 105 helium-filled balloons. With a few snacks, a pellet gun, and a parachute, the chair lifted off and traveled over 193 miles at 13,000 feet before landing nine hours later in eastern Oregon.

“Even at two miles high, Couch said, he could hear cattle lowing and children talking,” according to the AP. “He heard gunshots, which worried him. A black butterfly flew past. He passed through clouds. He said they were fluffy.”

I have a fear of heights, and this is pretty much the ultimate anxiety-inducing situation I could find myself in. Planes don’t bother me, but hot air balloons sure do — even looking at them makes me dizzy. There’s something about standing in a wicker basket tied to some helium-filled fabric with giant torch in the middle that really stresses me. Hanging from some weather balloons in a lawn chair doesn’t sound too much better.

The AP story mentions another lawn chair pilot: Larry Walters, who — in 1982 — rose over 15,000 feet over Los Angeles. Like Couch, Walters used a BB gun to shoot the balloons when he wanted to descend, much to the dismay of a passing pilot. “Walters surprised an airline pilot, who radioed the control tower that he had just passed a guy in a lawn chair with a gun.” [via]