How to Fly a Hot Air Balloon

ThinkStock
ThinkStock

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.

These 25 Cities Have the Worst Drivers in America

Believe_In_Me/iStock via Getty Images
Believe_In_Me/iStock via Getty Images

If you’re driving in a new city, you might find yourself prone to more fits of road rage than usual, probably because you haven’t yet adapted to the tacit differences in road etiquette. Perhaps you find Pittsburgh drivers to be more mercurial and aggressive than you’re used to, or maybe drivers are so laid-back in Little Rock that you feel like you’ll never reach your destination.

Though everyone is entitled to their own opinions about which cities have the most untrained, absent-minded hooligans on the highway, insurance quote comparison site QuoteWizard broke down a ton of data to determine a ranking of which cities—statistically speaking—actually have the worst drivers. To do it, the team analyzed millions of insurance quotes and added up the numbers of accidents, speeding tickets, DUIs, and citations (which include running red lights, texting while driving, etc.) in 75 cities across the country.

Based on those metrics, they determined that the absolute worst driving city is Portland, Oregon, which boasts the highest number of speeding tickets in the nation. The runner-up is Boise, Idaho, which saw an increasing number of DUIs drive the city up 25 spots from last year’s list (where it ranked 27th).

A staggering seven California cities ranked in the top 25, including Sacramento, San Francisco, San Diego, and Los Angeles. And South Carolina proved to be small but mighty when it comes to driving indiscretions: Greenville, Charleston, and Columbia all made the list.

While this list seems to skew toward the West Coast, many of the top 25 best driving cities are in the Midwest and the South. Detroit, Michigan, takes home the trophy for best driving city, followed by Louisville, Kentucky; Chicago, Illinois; and Miami, Florida.

See below for the full list of worst driving cities, and find out the factors contribute to bad driving here. You can view QuoteWizard's full list of best and worst cities for drivers here.

  1. Portland, Oregon

  1. Boise, Idaho

  1. Virginia Beach, Virginia

  1. Columbus, Ohio

  1. Sacramento, California

  1. Salt Lake City, Utah

  1. Cleveland, Ohio

  1. Denver, Colorado

  1. San Francisco, California

  1. Richmond, Virginia

  1. Madison, Wisconsin

  1. Fresno, California

  1. Bakersfield, California

  1. Seattle, Washington

  1. Omaha, Nebraska

  1. Colorado Springs, Colorado

  1. Dayton, Ohio

  1. Greenville, South Carolina

  1. Charleston, South Carolina

  1. Columbia, South Carolina

  1. Rochester, New York

  1. San Diego, California

  1. Los Angeles, California

  1. Washington, DC

  1. Riverside, California

Soon You'll Be Able to Book a Night Inside the Palace of Versailles

The exterior of the Palace of Versailles
The exterior of the Palace of Versailles
mtnmichelle/iStock via Getty Images

Beginning next spring, interested tourists can say au revoir to more traditional lodging in favor of spending the night inside the Palace of Versailles, as Thrillist reports.

Back in 2015, the palace’s management announced it was looking for an outside partner to convert three of the palace’s buildings into guest accommodations. That outside partner turned out to be Airelles, a luxury hospitality group with three other properties in France.

In 2020, the company will begin accepting bookings for Le Grand Contrôle, a 14-room hotel located in the palace’s south wing. The hotel will also feature a new restaurant from famed French chef Alain Ducasse, the second-most decorated Michelin star chef in the world.

Tourists beware, though: A single night at the company’s other properties generally cost upwards of $500 per night, so a stay at Le Grand Contrôle is unlikely to be cheap. But visitors who want to shell out the money for a room can look forward to an unbeatable location, first-class dining, and the joy of relaxing while telling others to “let them eat cake” (which Marie Antoinette never said, but it's befitting nonetheless).

[h/t Thrillist]

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