Don't Get Ahead of Yourself
51. Swim from One Landmass to Another
Why? For mental rejuvenation. For the exercise, always more tolerable with a goal on the horizon. For the literary buzz of paddling in the wake of Lord Byron, who crossed the Hellespont. For the memories of summer camp, where the girls' cabins beckoned across the pond. For the sheer hell of it.
52. Drive to Road's End
Two promising cul-de-sacs:
-In Texas's Big Bend National Park, drive up the road ending at the Juniper Canyon approach to the lonely Chisos Mountains. Everywhere you look will be cacti and birds, unpeopled brush, rock, sandy gravel, and a big, empty temptation.
-The virtually unvisited national park Kheerman Tsav in southern Mongolia. Depending on how you define it, the road peters out either 100 miles before you reach the park (envision a Zion National Park big as North Carolina) or 400 miles earlier, where the pavement of Mongolia's sole highway ends six miles outside the capital, Ulan Bator.
53. Handicap the Palio
By Jonathan Harr
Last July, under a fiercely hot Tuscan sun, I met my friend Fred Wessel at the gates of the ancient walled city of Siena. Fred is an artist, a specialist in egg tempera who visits Siena to pay homage to Simone Martini and Lorenzetti, the great 14th-century masters of egg tempera, and also a man with a keen appreciation for the weird. One thing he likes to show visitors is the mummified head of Saint Catherine, dead now 619 years. The head reposes in a small gilt box in the cathedral of San Domenico. In the gloom, one studies it by a dim yellow light that flickers from behind, illuminating the desiccated relic like a jack-o'-lantern. I was deep in morbid contemplation when a commotion out front commanded my attention.
Into the cathedral came a large group of people leading a horse, a big, high-spirited beast that snorted, rolled its eyes, and pawed the marble floor. The throng led the horse to the altar, where, in an instant, it raised its tail and defecated copiously. A roar of approval went up. People gathered at the steaming pile and exclaimed joyously,
The horse, I learned, would race in the Palio that afternoon. For reasons I never understood, its performance in the church was regarded as an exceptionally lucky omen. But then, there is a lot about the Palio that is hard to understand. It is at once an occasion for feasting and high spirits as well as a truly demented race, dangerous to man and beast, the engine for bribery, fistfights, and general mayhem.
The Palio has been run virtually without interruption every year since 1275. Ten of the 17 contrade, or neighborhoods, of Siena compete against one another for victory in the race, which is held in the Piazza del Campo, the central square. The piazza, famous throughout Italy for its beauty, has the shape and contours of a clamshell, and that makes it singularly unsuitable as a racetrack. In the last 30 years, 37 horses have died from injuries sustained at the infamous San Martino turn, a right angle that a sane rider would not attempt at a pace faster than a canter. There are no rules in the Palio. A riderless horse may win, and the jockeysmostly Sardinians and Sicilians with homicidal tendenciesuse horsewhips with great vigor on each other.
The best place to see the race is from a window overlooking the piazza or from the wooden grandstands erected around it. Both are expensive and require reservations well in advance. The true Palio experience occurs in the center of the piazza, behind the barricades. By race time, about five, the crowd is packed in elbow to elbow, frenzied, intoxicated by alcohol and sunstroke, riven by partisanship.
Fred and I chose a neighborhood bar up by San Domenico, a lovely and cool spot where we drank grappa and sat among the old folk watching the race on television. It lasts only a minute-and-a-half. If memory serves (grappa is contra-indicated when it comes to memory), two horses went down at the San Martino corner. Another jockey went over the infield rail, and his horsethe one I saw in San Domenico, I believefinished second. It would have won had it not taken San Martino a trifle wide.
Jonathan Harr is the author of A Civil Action.
A) Take a few lessonsmandatory, as you might expect.
B) Hurtle at a death-defying clip down the novices' run at the permanent Olympic site in St. Moritz, Switzerlandcall ahead at 011-41-81-833-3117. Lake Placid's Olympic Park's bobsled run is also open to the daring.
77. Bike Your Own Private l'Alpe d'Huez
Nine miles up at an 8 percent grade with 21 switchback turns. This year, the pros didn't have to brave this ultimate test just east of Grenoble, but you can triumph in your own private leg of the Tour anytime. Right? Right?
78. Hit Mach 1
You're hankering to speed through the atmosphere faster than most humans will ever go, but you're too old for boot camp. All is not lost. If you have a pilot's license (step one), Larry Salganek, at a New Mexico outfit called Jetwarbird Training Center (505-471-4151), can help you log the hours in a MiG 15 that the FAA requires before you can solo (step two). Two cautions: Your MiG time costs about $1,700 per hour. And it's illegal to exceed Mach 1 in U.S. airspace, so watch out for radar traps.
79. Compete in an Endurance Event. Then Again, Finish One
80. Sink to the Bottom of Truk Lagoon
In 1944, in Micronesia, the U.S. military bombed into existence a haunting underwater scene: more than 70 coral-enshrouded Japanese shipwrecks, fighter planes still attached to some decks, waiting for sorties that will never come. To join the maximum of six divers allowed on each site at a time, you bunk aboard a ship, such as the palatial S.S. Thorfin (Seaward Holidays Micronesia, 011-691-330-3040). Bon voyage.
54: Explore Antarctica.
54. Explore Antarctica
Not on some froufrou cruise liner where the disco blares downstairs while you're trying to commune with penguins, but on a Russian icebreaker, or a 38-passenger ship, or a smaller skippered yacht. For the first two, contact Quark Expeditions (800-356-5699) or Mountain Travel-Sobek (800-227-2384). For a yachtand a more flexible itinerarytry the French company Croisieres Australes (011-33-2-99-23-67-41).
55. Take an Epic Ride
-In the Pisgah National Forest near Asheville, North Carolina.
-On the slopes of Mammoth Mountain, California.
-On the Hermosa Creek Trail near Durango, Colorado.
-On the abandoned logging roads of the Ouachita Mountains west of Little Rock, Arkansas.
-On the Porcupine Rim Trail outside of Moab, Utah.
56. Distill Your Own Vodka
Grain, molasses, or corn will do, but potatoes work best. Pressure-cook and grind into a mash; then cool and mix with water. Add malts and enzymes to convert the starch to sugar. Add yeast. Ferment. Distill for about a week, guarded by wolfhounds. Chill. Enjoy.
57. Cape to Cairo
In the 1970s, before he became a photographer for magazines like Geo, 21-year-old George Steinmetz dropped out of Stanford and spent two years hitchhiking Africa. He traveled by lorry and dhow, learned Swahili and trucker's French, saw the Ngorongoro Crater, attended a wrestling festival in the Sudan, boozed in Nairobi's expat pubs, herded cattle with Dinkas. "I even got amoebic dysentery," he says, "but it was worth it. The kind of self-sufficiency I developeddealing with everyone from foreign ministers to pygmieshas shaped everything that's come after in my life. Got a hell of a tan, too."
58. Memorize "Jabberwocky," but in German
Here's your first stanza:
"Verdaustig war's, und glasse Wieben/rotterten gorkicht im Gemank./Gar elump war der Pluckerwank,/und die gabben Schweisel frieben."
59. Overnight in a Fire Tower
Two options: Rent a decommissioned perch, such as the McCart Lookout in Montana's Bitterroot National Forest (406- 821-3201) or Idaho's Shorty Peak (208-267-5561). Or actually sign up to scan for smoke (check with forest offices). In any case, for a megajolt of adrenaline, try to synchronize your visit with a thunderstorm. Seriously.
60. Witness a Big-league Animal Migration.
60. Witness a Big-League Animal Migration
-Sandhill cranes: Half a million return to Nebraska's Platte River each February and March.
-Wildebeests: Every July across the Masai Maraa 200-square-mile plain along Kenya's border with Tanzaniamillions move in from the Serengeti.
-Monarch butterflies: During the last half of October, unimaginable numbers cross toward Mexico through Texas's Kickapoo Caverns State Park.
-Polar bears: From mid-October to mid-November, sometimes hundreds gather in Wapusk National Park, along Hudson Bay, to gorge on seals.
61. Survive a Near-Miss
By Tad Friend
A few years back I rafted the stern Alsek River, emerging after a fortnight into Alaska's Dry Bay. That's local humor: It had been raining for 10 days. We were soaked and worn out. The DC-3 taking us back to Whitehorse had a plywood floor and an Amelia Earhart fragility, and the gravel runway ran 500 yards dead into the St. Elias. Midway into takeoff, we hit a big standing puddle, spun to the right, and swiped a willow thicket at 100 mph. There was a shocking tearing sound as we shied into the air. The end of the right wing was now a dangling flange trailing willow branches. "A little hedge-trimming," the flight attendant said, with idiotic pluck. Everyone else was silent as the plane fluttered low above snow-topped crags.
After a minute, the pilot sprinted back and stared mutely out my window at the wing, then bolted for the cockpit. Rain hammered at the steel casing. I began an intense study of the seat-back literature, a pamphlet about the Yukon's air-transport companies. A bad idea: Each had failed after all its planes had crashed. So I sat with my hands balled into fists, beaming out commands to the planeprayers. The old machine droned on into endless gray, wavering, uncertain. At last, a kiss on the undercarriage: the runway in Whitehorse. We walked off gingerly and collected to stare at the broken wing. "Lucky," the pilot said, "goddamn lucky." He walked off with his shoulders hunched. It was soberingand strangely exhilaratingto realize there was no merit whatsoever to our ultimate survival.
Tad Friend is an Outside contributing editor.
62. Be Able to Take Great Wildlife Photographs, and Then Resist the Urge to Bore People with Them
64. Build a Canoe in Your Basement
Newfound Woodworks' cedar-strip kits cook up a vessel so fetching you may want to hang it over the mantel rather than float in it ($775 and up; 603-744-6872). If you'd prefer some coaching and camaraderie in the bargain, consider a week's workshop at the Wooden Boat School in Brooklin, Maine ($500; 207-359-4651), the Sorbonne of advanced crafting.
65. Use Your Homemade Canoe on the Mackenzie River, from Great Slave Lake to the Arctic Ocean
With only one nonnative settlement the whole way, this is as close to Lewis and Clark as it gets. More than 1,100 miles long and often two miles broad, fast-flowing, with white-cliffed banks here, jagged Mackenzie Mountains muscling over the horizon there, days of surreal mist and afternoon showers, nights of nodding off on gravel bars, and welcoming committees of mosquitoes and grizzlies reminding you that your niche in the food chain is negotiable. Pack a fly rod: The Mackenzie's thick with lake trout, char, and grayling.
69. Climb a Waterfall.
66. Nail a Perfect Cliff Dive
67. Be Entertaining on Demand
by Marshall Sella
The tough part about passing time in the wilderness is choosing a diversion. Passion plays, magic acts, and especially operas can turn a moonlit meadow into a scene of profound human suffering. One step into Tennessee Williams can be fatal. Exposed to the wrong entertainment, even the staunchest defender of nature will return to city life with a nihilistic glint in his eye, muttering and flicking lit Marlboros everywhere he walks.
Some travelers insist that amusing stories are a boffo way to liven things up. This is a cruel hoax. First off, campside anecdotes are almost always told by some craggy blowhard who keeps explaining why the story would be funnier "if you'd been there" or "if you knew Walt." The worst thing about telling jokes outside is that, in the long silence after the punchline, everybody can actually hear the sound of crickets.
For top-notch campsite entertainment, scary stories are the only way to go. The key is to make full use of your surroundings. This isn't the place to spin dead-of-night thrillers about indoorsy types like J. D. Salinger. Keep it local. When in Africa, for example, finish your tale by rounding on the weakest listener, then stage-whispering, "And the jackals took the rest!" On the tundra, churn out some of that explorer's-frozen-claw stuff. It practically writes itself!
You may be asking yourself, "Hey, whatever my name is, must every scary story be about getting eaten?" Oddly, it must! In the wild, you play your trump card. There's no "back-seat of the car" to hide that knife-wielding psycho, no "upstairs" where they traced the call to. You don't need monkey's paws or graveyards to scare the shit out of everybody. The fact that you're camping means you're in a place where people used to die routinely. Take advantage!
If Admiral Scott had realized this, he would've ended his journal with a filthy limerick or a harrowing walrus tale, instead of freezing solid in the Antarctic. But Scott wascan we not face it, after all this time?a lousy entertainer. The final words he scrawled were, "For God's sake, look after our people." Is that supposed to be funny?
Marshall Sella is a longtime Outside contributor.
68. Enroll in Cooking School in Thailand
Ah, the allure of Thai cuisine. To be adept enough to whip up your own would guarantee a spot in the Renaissance Hep Cat Hall of Fame. Especially if you learn at the Royal Thai School of Culinary Arts, not just Thailand's only such academy that teaches in English, but also perched on the beach in Bang Saen. Tuition starts at $1,700 (011-66-38-748-404). But who can put a price on the expressions of your guests, expecting the usual roast chicken, when you unveil the Khao niew phlaa muck sai moo?
69. Climb a Waterfall
A frozen one, that is. Spontaneity has its place, but you should learn this the right way. The many schools approved by the American Mountain Guides Association include Washington's American Alpine Institute (360-671-1505) and New Hampshire's International Mountain Climbing School (603-356-7064).
70. Go Phenomenon Bagging
-The aurora borealis
-The Perseid meteor shower
-A comet, with the naked eye
The Last of the Best
Keep on Keeping on: The List Items 76-100
72. Work on a Dig.
71. Become an Expert on an Outdoor Subject
Go small, like E. O. Wilson. Or big, like Stephen Hawking. Or obscure, like that guy down the block with the collection of antique flip-flops.
72. Work on a Dig
73. Get Marooned
This actually happened to a cranky and troublesome Scottish sailor, who was cast away from his ship onto an island 400 miles off of Chile. Later, a novel was written about his experiences, and the place where he spent many years took his fictionalized name, Robinson Crusoe.
Now populated by about 500 soulsmostly fishermenIsla Robinson Crusoe is accessible in the austral summer by aircraft or boat, in winter by sea only. Ships pass by roughly every three weeks, and you may be able to work your way back to the mainland. From there, only 4,000 miles of hitching through South and Central America to go.
The isla doesn't do it for you? There's always Ellesmere Island (don't forget your mukluks), the Atacama Desert, Alice Springs, Cap Ste. Marie, Death Valley, and, of course, Elba.
74. Take at Least One Safari
Out of the vehicles, on foot, in situ. As with "The Hunters and the Hunted," an offering from Geographic Expeditions that walks people along the plains of Zimbabwe's Matusadona National Park, eye to eye, more or less, with everything from greater kudus to lions (800-777-8183).