Is Bend, Oregon on its way to becoming known as the national capital of weirdness?
This morning at sunrise, Kent Couch took off from his gas station at Highway 20 and 27th Street in a lawn chair suspended from more than 150 giant helium balloons in an attempt to fly 300 miles across Oregon to Idaho.
Couch, you'll remember, tried the feat last summer but made it only 193 miles to La Grande before he ran low on helium and came down in the sagebrush. He's equipped with a parachute (good idea), a BB gun to pop balloons if he needs to lose altitude, and 15 gallon jugs of Kool-Aid as ballast.
This morning's dramatic launch was covered live by The Oregonian and picked up by The AP's national wire, which sent the story across the country. Even the Tampa Bay Tribune ran an item, although it inexplicably said Couch was from Grant's Pass.
If you're interested, you can track the progress of Couch's flight on his website. As The Eye writes this, he has made it as far as Prineville.
Meanwhile, Thomas Beatie, Bend's Famous Pregnant Man, gave birth to a healthy baby girl last Sunday at St. Charles Medical Center. According to a People magazine video report, the baby, who has been named Tracy, was delivered normally, not by Caesarean section, and father/mother and baby are now at home and doing fine.
Back in the day, Bend used to be known as "Bend the Beautiful." Now it seems we're aiming for a new title: "Bend the Bizarre."