SO THERE I WAS: Expedition kayaker Scott Doherty wishing Kyrgyzstan had AAA.
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Their countries may not be known as vacation hot spots, but that hasn't stopped foreign tyrants from bringing their sales pitch straight to the American masses. Last winter, North Korea announced that it would open its doors to U.S. outfitters for the first time in 50 years. And, starting this fall, Saudi Arabia will issue its first-ever tourist visas to Americans. (In the past, tour companies have had to rely on spotty access to business visas.) Visitors can check out the capital of Riyadh, desert ruins at Dawmat al-Jandal, and the carved-sandstone tombs at Medain Saleh. Infidels still can't go to Mecca, but they can see the oil fields that soak up $35 billion from the U.S. each year. Geographic Expeditions' 19-day Saudi trip (March 27April 14), $8,495; www.geoex.com
John Griber, of Team North Face, may be best known for bold alpine ascents and exposed snowboard descents in the Himalayas, but through early October you'll find him at the oars of his driftboat guiding fly-fishing clients on the Snake River near Jackson, Wyoming. $400; www.westbank.com
4: Americans are four times as likely to drink ginger ale on a plane than on the ground.
Free River Flowing
Claiming a new river for recreation no longer requires exploration so much as litigation. Case in point: paddler-advocacy group American Whitewater's 2005 victory over aluminum smelter Alcoa, which, until this year, has had a 77-year stranglehold on North Carolina's Cheoah River. On October 1, Santeetlah Dam, near Robbinsville, will begin scheduled fall releases of about 1,000 cfs, turning nine miles of the Cheoah's dry riverbed into one of the best Class IV+ rafting runs in the East. Day trips, $125; www.noc.com