Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Floating hitchhiker

no towels necessary
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A small helium filled blimp, with a single seat hanging underneath. Comes with a padded electromagnetic grapple gun. Once afloat, use a small onboard electric motor to get to a road and use the grapple gun to attach yourself to a car going in the same direction that you intend to go. If needed, you can switch cars to stay on your route, or detach completely if you feel that you are going too fast. Heavier-than-air "kite" versions are also available, if you are feeling adventurous and stupid.
erenjay, May 16 2012

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       I love it. If the kite is steerable, you could dip down to street level for low bridges.
Alterother, May 16 2012
  

       Also, You can choose the route you take, if you know a road has such hazards, you should not be on it in the first place.
erenjay, May 16 2012
  

       I like it. +
blissmiss, May 16 2012
  

       I never tried hopping a freight train because there was no telling where I'd end up. This would seperate the planners from the boys very quickly, but I'd love to have had one.
normzone, May 16 2012
  

       Seems like drag would be a pretty big problem. Blimps aren't known for their aerodynamics, and travelling at highway speeds while tethered to a car would probably be a terrifying experience. My guess is you'd end up being towed behind the car at more or less the same height as the tether's attachment point. You'd need wings and some sort of pitch control to stay aloft at speed, so the "lighter than air" bit would only be relevant when stopped. You'd also need some sort of roll or yaw control so you're not whipped off the road whenever it curves. Given the huge counteracting forces on a relatively tiny aircraft, and the proximity to the ground, this would be a real challenge to fly successfully. The pilot falling asleep would be the least of your concerns.   

       In sum, this idea is about as half-baked as they come. I proudly award you this croissant, and a teary-eyed salute to your genius.
ytk, May 16 2012
  

       It would not be hard to put in a control system that maintained steering relative to the attached vehicle, and to maintain altitude.   

       You're definitely right about needing wings to keep from ending up dragged along the road, but that could be minimal.
MechE, May 16 2012
  

       Perhaps a better way to achieve the goal would be to use a small helicopter with a clutch between the rotor and the engine. You could power the rotor to achieve initial lift and hover over the road, then once you've tethered you could disengage and shut off the engine, allowing the blades to autorotate—in essence, turning your helicopter into an externally powered autogyro.
ytk, May 16 2012
  

       ^ You beat me to it.   

       // I never tried hopping a freight train because there was no telling where I'd end up. //   

       There's a little metal tube with a hinged cap attached to the side of every freight car at about waist height. Any loaded car will have a rolled-up routing card in there with the destination, timetable, and marshalling order written on it. Happy trails.
Alterother, May 16 2012
  

       //Any loaded car will have a rolled-up routing card in there   

       Shades of the opening night of Wagner opera - one missing neck (of the dragon Siegfried is supposed to fight). Slip of pencil at the post office , Bayreuth became Beirut..so read those cards carefully...
not_morrison_rm, May 17 2012
  

       Some glide option could help with those pesky bridges, tunnels and powerlines. Cut loose, coast over, and redeploy on a new victim - er, vehicle.
normzone, May 17 2012
  

       Sounds awfully like the skateboard Y.T. rode in Snow Crash.
UnaBubba, May 17 2012
  

       YT's skateboard wasn't attached to the line; she used a handheld magnetic harpoon.
Alterother, May 17 2012
  

       Which was attached to a line, which she held.
UnaBubba, May 17 2012
  

       Right. For some reason, I got the impression that the line was attached to blimp the first time I read this post.
Alterother, May 17 2012
  

       Nope, to a "grapple gun". Sorry, but baked in popular fiction. Neal Stephenson should be made an honorary halfbaker.
UnaBubba, May 17 2012
  

       I think somebody beat you to that.
Alterother, May 17 2012
  

       More than likely. I missed four years' or so of postings.
UnaBubba, May 17 2012
  

       Four years? Is that all? It felt like you were away for weeks...
MaxwellBuchanan, May 17 2012
  

       I agree with [ytk], the aerodynamics of a balloon would doom the project. better to go with an autogyro or hang glider and this is all pretty derivative of Snow Crash.   

       But I guess this is at least halfbaked, so (+).   

       Though I thought this was going to go really HHGTTG and have the balloon get you close enough so the magne-tether could hook to the Vogon battle cruiser directly so you wouldn't have to rely on the goodness/Vogon hatred of the Dentrassi for the hitch, but then you'd need more than a towel to keep your blood from boiling.   

       Hey UnaBubba is back!
MisterQED, May 17 2012
  
      
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