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How to Fly a Hot Air Balloon

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Flying a hot air balloon requires a pilot’s license, so you shouldn’t just borrow your neighbor’s basket without asking. But if you want to pick up a really interesting hobby – and a certification along the way – here’s how to get the best view of the local landscape.

1. Brush Up on Physics

Before you sail away, you’ll want to know how your craft works. Hot air balloons float because warm air is lighter than cool air, which makes the heated envelope of gas less dense than its surroundings. To get the balloon flying, the air inside is usually heated to over 200 degrees.

2. Light Your Fire

The job of doing the heating generally falls to a propane burner. Pilots should wear heavy gloves so they can safely touch hot parts of the burner while turning it on and off or making emergency repairs. The average balloon burns about 15 gallons of propane an hour.

3. Cast Off

To launch, a pilot and crew simply allow the burner to gradually heat the air inside the balloon. Once conditions are hot enough, the balloon will begin to rise above the ground, and the pilot and passengers can take off.

4. Blow In the Wind

Bad news for fans of precision steering: once the balloon goes up, you can really only control its altitude. Its course through the sky is determined by the wind, which is why pilots pore over wind charts and forecasts before flights. An experienced pilot can read the wind well enough to chart a predictable course, but this reliance on the breeze explains why it’s still wildly impractical to use a balloon for the daily commute.

5. Open Things Up

Once a pilot spots a good landing zone that’s free of trees and power lines, he radios to his ground crew to let them know where he’s setting the balloon down. Balloons are equipped with valves on the top that allow hot air to escape. Opening the valve allows the balloon to make a controlled descent. A skilled pilot won’t just slam the basket into the ground, instead they’ll skip the compartment several times to gently slow the descent.
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You don’t need a hot air balloon to take things to new heights. Elevate your taste in beer by cracking open a cold Dos Equis.

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How to Shave With a Straight Razor
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Our Be More Interesting series will teach you new skills to wow your friends. Today, Max Silvestri learns to shave with a straight razor. 

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How to Cross a River Without a Bridge
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Need to cross a roaring river? It’s always best to find a bridge, but if you absolutely must make it to the other side on your own, a few easy steps can keep you high and relatively dry.

1. Scout Around

Invest a little time in finding the best place to make your crossing. Avoid bends in the river, where water whips around the fastest. Once you find a suitable spot, walk downstream a few hundred feet to make sure there aren’t any hazards. It’s always good to know about the pesky 30-foot waterfall around the bend.

2. Don’t Be Narrow-Minded

They look tempting, but narrow crossings can be the most dangerous—they’re often the deepest part of the river. Look for the widest section instead. Keep an eye out for mild ripples—which are safe to cross—and avoid whitecaps, which can be treacherously slippery.

3. Ditch Your Duds

If the water will reach your knees, strip down to your skivvies - your pride isn’t worth getting hypothermia from wet clothes. Even if the river is shallow, remove your socks and put on a second pair of shoes if you have them. If you’re backpacking, unbuckle your front straps so you can quickly slip out of your pack if you fall.

4. Shuffle Up

Face upstream, lean into the current, and move across the river with shuffling sidesteps. You’re less likely to fall while sidestepping since you don’t lift your feet as high. If you’re with a group, link arms. The technique creates more contact points with the streambed and gives everyone a more solid footing.

5. Become a Bump on a Log

If the rapids are too fast, shuffling across may be a bad idea. Look for a log that spans the whole river instead. But don’t walk on it! Wet wood can be dangerously slippery. Instead, straddle the log and scoot along until you reach the other side.

6. Float Away

In situations where the river is deep but the current isn’t very swift, a football or soccer ball can be a handy improvised flotation device. Tether it to your wrist and grab on when you get tired of swimming. Or hug it with one arm as you sidestroke for extra buoyancy.
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Once you make it to the opposite shore, dry off and toast your successful crossing with a round of Dos Equis.

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