Dispatches: News from the Field, November 1996
For the Record
By Todd Balf and Paul Kvinta
(with Bob Howells and Ernest Sander)
The Booze Cruise
For the most part, Kenichi Horie's latest record-setting exploit came off problem-free. But he does confess to making one crucial miscalculation. "The trip," admitted the Japanese solo sailor after he reached Tokyo Bay last August, having just completed the first crossing of the Pacific in a solar-powered boat, "would have been better if I had brought more beer." This is not to
say that Horie has a drinking problem. Rather, just two days into his four-and-a-half-month trip on MALT's Mermaid, a 31-foot boat constructed out of aluminum recycled from 22,000 beer cans, one of his water purifiers conked out. Fearing a failure in his backup system, Horie shifted into beer-conservation mode so that he'd have at least one form of potable liquid to sustain him
through the journey.
The 58-year-old Horie has been a folk hero in Japan since 1962, when he became the first person to sail solo across the Pacific. At the time the Japanese government discouraged overseas travel and refused him a passport, so Horie set sail under cover of darkness and arrived in San Francisco 94 days later. In the years since he's logged seven more solo voyages, including
circumnavigating the globe both latitudinally and longitudinally and piloting a nine-foot sailboat from San Francisco to Okinawa.
With all this open-ocean experience, Horie was clearly prepared for the rigors of isolation. Still, he found the starkness of his environment unsettling. "Everywhere I looked there was horizon--nothing but horizon," he says. "I felt like an astronaut in space."
The (Chlorine-Bleached, Virgin-Pulp) Envelope, Please
"Bruce Babbitt has totally chickened out," scoffs former BLM director Jim Baca, who you'll recall was bounced from the Bureau in 1994 for his strident anti-industry stance. "If this doesn't show the administration's lack of desire to wage war, nothing does." Baca's point is convincing. In what environmentalists are calling the ultimate example of election-year pandering, the BLM
has awarded "Certificates of Appreciation" to the American Forest and Paper Association and the National Mining Association for their "environmentally sensitive" development strategies. "It's unbelievable," says Jim Lyon of the D.C.-based Mineral Policy Center. "Hard-rock mining alone has caused 12,000 miles of polluted streams in this country." As for the honorees, they call such
squawking predictable. "If the messiah descended tomorrow to announce new principles for forest management, these folks would criticize them," says Luke Popovich of the AFPA. "They'd say, 'Your Father did a better job of it naturally, during the Creation.'"
When One Just Isn't Enough
Highlighting the increasingly popular trend of bagging 8,000-meter peaks back-to-back, French mountaineer Jean-Christophe Lafaille set a new standard late last July when he soloed both Gasherbrum I and Gasherbrum II in less than four days, without returning to base camp in between. "It's cool he did it alone and so quickly," says Ed Viesturs, one of America's premier alpinists,
who last year ascended the two mountains in ten days and has also paired Mount Everest with 27,940-foot Lhotse. "There are a limited number of people who can do this, but my feeling is, as long as you're in the area, why not climb the peak next door?" Of course, as fashionable as Himalayan "tandems" are becoming, one fact is worth noting: Reinhold Messner and Hans Kammerlander did
the same two Pakistani peaks in succession 12 years ago.
A Million Miles or Bust
To be sure, most Race Across America riders are mileage freaks. But Danny Chew outdoes them all. The 34-year-old Pittsburgh native, who outdueled three-time winner Rob Kish last August to capture the 2,911-mile transcontinental cycling race in eight days, seven hours, and 14 minutes, passed the 400,000-lifetime-miles mark--the equivalent of riding around the equator 16 times--near
the race's halfway point in Oklahoma. "My goal is one million miles," says Chew, who fell behind early but caught up with Kish in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Though Kish passed the napping race leader on the final night, Chew reeled him in with 200 miles to go. In the end, however, it was clear that RAAM's status as one of the world's most grueling tests was not lost on the victor:
After the race, Chew announced he'd rest a full two weeks before resuming his million-mile march.
Meanwhile, on Wow You Folks Are
No one, it seems, can get away with telling the citizens of Lake County, Minnesota, that they can't name their bodies of water after the Ojibwa word for "vagina"--especially not the state government. "They're forcing Orwellian groupthink on us," complains county spokesperson Richard Sigel. The flap began last year, when two high school students uncovered the etymology of the word
squaw. This August, state legislation went into effect requiring local governments to rename natural landmarks containing the word, a mandate with which most counties willingly complied. But state officials were chagrined by the submissions proposed for Lake County's two offenders:
Politically Correct Creek and Politically Correct Bay. "Unacceptable," says Glen Yakel of the Department of Natural Resources. Ever defiant, Lake County now insists on keeping squaw. "They think they can do whatever they want," says Sigel of the Minnesota lawmakers. "The Nazis used to do that--decree something from on high and just change the reality of a situation."
May He Mulch in Peace
"It's like building a layer cake," reckons Iowa State University composting expert Thomas Glanville. "You've got a layer of sawdust, a layer of birds, layer of sawdust, layer of birds, until you've got a ton of birds in there." Glanville is detailing a recipe for composting chickens, but soon this procedure will be the environmentally preferred means of disposal for Fido and the
rest of our four-legged friends: In a trend destined to agonize green-but-grieving pet owners, veterinarians have started to promote composting as an alternative to burial. Glanville recently explained the technique to a rapt audience at the American Veterinary Medicine Association's annual conference, noting that burials risk contaminating groundwater and cremation leads to air
pollution. Besides, says Glanville of the nutrient-rich carcasses, "If you bury it, you lose it."
The Incredible Diminishing
On August 24 in Cleveland, Ohio, Great Britain's Simon Lessing rode away from a small pack on the 40-kilometer bike leg to lock up his second-straight International Triathlon Union World Championship. That makes him the planet's foremost short-course triathlete, right? Maybe. While Lessing's 22-second victory over Belgium's Luc Van Lierde was certainly impressive, many spectators
were left wondering why folks like Mark Allen, Mike Pigg, Greg Welch, and Spencer Smith were not competing. The answer lies in a new race circuit called the International Triathlon Grand Prix, which has garnered the allegiance of many athletes with its refreshing mix of short loop courses, classic endurathons, and of course $600,000 in prize money. The fledgling tour will get
another boost this month, as Allen has announced that he will wrap up his unparalleled 15-year career at its season finale in Alice Springs, Australia. Though his chances for victory are slim, the 38-year-old six-time Hawaii Ironman champ is anxious to hit the starting line. "The family is coming out," he says. "And afterward, we're going for a long vacation."
Ear to the Ground