*AGAINST THE GRAIN // Carbon fiber, titanium, magnesium . . . wood? Last year, four Lisbon, Portugalbased designers launched an experimental project to build a wooden bike that would ride like a modern machine. The result? Xylon Bikes, part art project, part retro cruiser, all cool. The handcrafted frames are made with aeronautical-grade plywood and seasoned hardwoods, chosen for both aesthetic value and performance characteristics, like flex. The bikes are made fully functionaland smooth-ridingwith stainless-steel and aluminum components. So far, Xylon has rolled out four models, including the organic-looking Sinergia (pictured). With its swooping frame, smooth arcs, and 20-inch wheels, the Sinergia is perfect for anyone with a small storage closet and a big sense of style. From $2,660; xylonbikes.com
61) Jay-Z now favors the non-bubbly. Battling the fact that 1.1 billion people lack safe drinking water, the rapper plans to install 1,000 PlayPumpskid-friendly pumpsin Africa during his fall tour. The Diary of Jay-Z: Water for Life airs November 24 on MTV.
62) Sportsmanship lives! Norwegian ski coach Bjoernar Haakensmoen handed Canadian nordic skier Sara Renner a pole after hers snapped during an Olympic sprint in Turin. Renner went on to win a silver, and Canadian fans thanked Haakensmoen with 7,400 cans of maple syrup.
63) Emi, one of ten endangered Sumatran rhinos in captivity, is expecting. The species-critical calf is due in spring, at the Cincinnati Zoo.
With a trio of projects, military men show they have more than spine
You'd think risking their lives would be challenging enough, but this year saw a veritable army of active-duty and retired soldiers going even further. // "As a civilian, there is no way I would have ever been able to reach the regions I did in Laos," says Lieutenant Andrew Baldwin, a 29-year-old Navy doctor who served a monthlong tour in Southeast Asia last spring as the surgeon for a team of 50 military personnel attempting to find the remains of Vietnam War POWs and MIAs. In addition to doctoring his own unit, Baldwin helicoptered and trekked into remote villages, treating more than 600 Laotians stricken with everything from lice to liver flukes. // Three years and 11 surgeries after suffering multiple gunshot wounds during heavy ground fire in Afghanistan, former U.S. Air Force pararescuer Craig Fitzgerald, 29, and fellow pararescuer David Wilcoxen, 27, set out on July 16 from Mount Katahdin, Maine, on a 2,175-mile through-hike of the Appalachian Trail. Their mission: to raise $100,000 for the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes, a nonpartisan organization that assists disabled veterans when they return from war. As of late September, the pair had crossed into Virginia and raised $25,000 (trailtorecovery.org). // Two Air Force pilots have a loftier ambition: to climb the highest peak on each continent to raise money for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation (specialops.org), which provides college scholarships and educational counseling to kids of Special Ops personnel killed while on duty. So far, the Seven Summits chasers have tagged Africa's 19,340-foot Kilimanjaro and Europe's 18,510-foot Mount Elbrus and raised more than $10,000. In July, Special Ops agent Dan Schilling raised $20,000 for the foundation and set a world record by BASE-jumping off Twin Falls, Idaho's Perrine Memorial Bridge 201 times in 24 hours. Stephanie Pearson
67) Proof that carbon offsets achieved critical mass this year? Carbon-neutral weddings are in vogue, and you can offset a cross-country flight ($10) as easily as a car ($50). The money supports renewable power, tree planting, and more. terrapass.com
68) There's more to life than first descents. This year, kayaker Willie Kern, 34, established a nonprofit, FLOW, to help develop sustainable river tourism in Yunnan, China.
69) For the 28-year-old kid on your list: *Vurtego's Pro pogo stick uses a compressed-air shock to produce SUV-jumping sproings. $349; vurtego.com
70) Tissue engineering. Google it if you blow your knee.
71) Exploration's dead, you say? Go visit Peru's Gocta Falls, first filmed by outsiders last spring, and accessible to visitors next year. If the reported height of 2,529 feet is accurate, it's among the world's highest waterfalls.
72 ) It took Texas's other cycling Armstrong32-year-old reigning Ultraman World Champion triathlete Shanna (no relation to Lance)11 days and 22 hours to become the 2006 Race Across America's only solo woman finisher.
73) On July 2, Freddy Markham wedged himself into his aerodynamic recumbent bike, Easy Racer, and pedaled 53.43 miles in one hour, a new world record.
74) Eco-stylish *Terra Plana footwear is made from recycled materials such as coffee bags and leather car-seat scraps. terraplana.com