Ask Dave

All-terrain advice from a real adventure hero

Feb 14, 2007
Outside Magazine
Ask Dave

   Photo: Chris Buck

Where can I learn to wrestle an alligator?
I'll tell you the worst place: the Rupununi River, Guyana, 1983. Only the fastest learners got out alive. ("The belly, Jagdeo! Rub its belly! Noooo!") But if you have the luxury of scheduling a "class," be aware that what many people call gator wrestling isn't wrestling at all but a series of stunts—like straddling the great beast while prying its mouth open. The only stateside place I know of that offers basic schooling is Colorado Gators (, in the tiny Rocky Mountain burg of Mosca, where $50 buys two and a half hours of instruction. If you want more serious hand-to-jaw skills, score a job at an animal park like Reptile Gardens (, outside Rapid City, South Dakota, which runs rookies through about three weeks of Gator U before they join a staff of four or five wranglers who perform daily educational demos. "The main rule is keep your fingers out of their mouths," explains Terry Phillip, reptile curator at RG. "It's pretty simple after that." Sure. Tell that to Mrs. Jagdeo.

My next vacation home: Buy it or build it?
A true second home should be a maintenance-free base camp, swaddled in hibiscus and bougainvillea, where the prime-time entertainment is a hammock, a bottle of pisco, and shoreline thick with battling crabs. The only way to get a spread like this is to build it yourself. After a close study of Gilligan's Island: The Complete First Three Seasons on DVD, I single-handedly erected a three-story bamboo-and-thatch bungalow in American Samoa, though it was destroyed in the Great Quake of '98 (which seismologists misreported as a 1.2). If you don't have that kind of time, a prefabricated weeHouse from Minnesota's Alchemy Architects ( is the next best thing. Their rectangular, 364-square-foot, one-bedroom base model starts at $69,500, comes with bamboo floors and IKEA cabinets, and ought to work nicely nestled in beachside foliage, next to an upstate lake, or on top of a desert mesa. Just don't listen to Ginger when picking the curtains.

Where can I get a jetpack?
If you're talking about the ground-launchable device that shows up at the odd Super Bowl halftime show, the correct term is "rocket belt," which, as it happens, was my nickname on the old high school wrestling team. Sadly, there are fewer than half a dozen rocket belts in existence. The popularity of the device, developed by Bell Aerosystems under a military contract in the sixties, peaked when it was used in the Connery-era Bond classic Thunderball. Since the Pentagon yanked funding, however, the noble belts have been reduced to embarrassing novelty acts, like lofting a Michael Jackson impersonator over the crowd at stops during Jacko's 1992–93 Dangerous tour. Thankfully, Mexican inventor Juan Manuel Lozano has spent the past 30 years figuring out how to make his own custom-built rocket belts. Last fall, from his Cuernavaca research company, Tecnologia Aeroespacial Mexicana (, he began selling them (plus ten flying lessons, food, and lodging) for the low, low price of $250,000. Let's hope his model provides more thrust than the $99 diesel-powered disaster I bought last year on eBay, which managed only to kill the neighbor's zinnias and roast myfavorite cargo shorts. 

What would dave do?
A reader asks: "Dude, what's the proper female term for dude?"
The correct word is... dude. My research Sherpa, Ang Rita Tesla, reports that, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the original feminine form of dude is "dudine," though that never caught on. (Go figure.) "Dudette," another embarrassing variant, was bandied about in the eighties but lacked the bonhomie, grammatical versatility, and monosyllabicism that made the original such a hit. So dude is becoming gender neutral. The American Heritage Dictionary already acknowledges the yin and yang of the plural "dudes," and according to Jesse Sheidlower, editor at large for the OED, the mother of all dictionaries will likelyfollow suit in the near future. Bottom line: We're all dudes now.

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