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The following is a true story. Larry Walters led a fairly boring normal life as a truck driver in southern California until the fateful day of July 2nd, 1982. On that day, Larry turned himself into a legend.

You see, ever since he was a boy Larry had dreamed of flying, but the US Air Force had turned him down from becoming a pilot due to his bad eyesight. After he was discharged from the military, he sat in his backyard watching jets fly overhead. It was torture to a man who felt the need to fly.

One day he could stand it no longer and so he hatched a scheme while sitting outside in his Sears lawnchair. He went out and purchased 45 weather balloons from an Army-Navy surplus store, tied them to his tethered lawnchair which he dubbed the Inspiration I. He then filled the four-foot-diameter balloons with helium. Then he strapped himself into his lawnchair with some sandwiches, a six-pack of Miller Lite, and a pellet gun. He figured he would pop a few of the many balloons when it was time to descend.

Larry's plan was to sever the anchor and lazily float up to a height of about 30 feet above his back yard, where he would enjoy a few hours of flight before coming back down. But unfortunately, Larry knew a lot more about truck driving than physics, and so things didn't work out quite as Larry planned. When his friends cut the cord anchoring the lawnchair to his Jeep, he did not float lazily up to 30 feet. Instead, he streaked into the LA sky as if shot from a cannon, pulled by the lift of 42 helium balloons holding 33 cubic feet of helium each. He didn't level off at 100 feet, nor did he level off at 1,000 feet. After climbing and climbing, he finally leveled off at 16,000 feet.

At that height he felt he couldn't risk shooting any of the balloons, lest he unbalance the load and really find himself in trouble. So he stayed there, drifting cold and frightened with his beer and sandwiches, three miles above the ground for more than 14 hours.

He crossed the primary approach corridor of LAX. Imagine the surprise of the air traffic controller when she was informed by Trans World and Delta Airlines pilots that they just passed a man floating in his lawn chair. Eventually Larry gathered the nerve to shoot a few balloons and slowly descended.

Unfortunately the hanging tethers tangled and caught in a power line, blacking out a Long Beach neighborhood for twenty minutes. But Larry finally got back on the ground, where he was arrested by waiting members of the LAPD. As he was led away in handcuffs, a reporter dispatched to cover the daring feat asked him why he had done it. Larry replied nonchalantly, "A man can't just sit around."

(Source: from a sermon by Bill Scott, "Boat Potatoes" 7/15/08,

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