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Editorial Opinion

Tuesday, August 5, 2003

Adventures is stupidity

Every once in a while, I have an urge to do something stupid, just to remind myself that I'm alive.

As a child, I suspect that I may have viewed too many Wile E. Coyote cartoons for my own good. Over the years, I have fallen off a cliff or three, dragged my wife through a slimy cave filled with bat guano as a honeymoon, and once attempted to raft the Mississippi like Huck Finn did. In the latter attempt, it had somehow slipped my attention that Huck Finn was a book of fiction, in which modern locks, dams and nasty water snakes did not appear.

Oh, well.

I admire the real adventurers among us - those who go to far away places and climb the mountains, kayak the white waters or run with the rhinos. I voted for the Crocodile Hunter for president, despite a nasty citizenship issue.

My daughter, Kate, who once nearly talked a zookeeper into letting her adopt a full-grown Cayman Island crocodile, seems to be cut from the same questionable cloth.

She and I once decided to go skin diving on a shark reef, for no real good reason except we hadn't done it before.

Again, it was kind of an armchair version of an adventure.

The sharks were probably senior citizens, kept around to thrill the ecotourists. The squirrels in our backyard are probably more bloodthirsty. Still, a good time was had by all, except for my wife and son who disappeared when the term "shark" arose in conversation.

Oh, well.

Perhaps in signing my soul away on the waiver form, I made it onto the worldwide list of VSPs - very stupid persons.

Since then, I have received a steady stream of mail about adventure travels, mostly involving foolish ways to risk life and limb that I had not imagined in my fondest dreams.

From the Anchorage Visitors Bureau comes an offer to ski Alaska, the whole state... in winter. I think not.

Air Aces offers a five-hour experience as a fighter pilot, and I quote, "actually flying air combat in the front seat of a military T-34. No experience required. Experience up to 6 G's; can you keep from blacking out?" Hang on here - you need classes to run a Sunfish sailboat on Storm Lake, but you can just climb into a military jet and strafe Vermont? Something wrong with that picture.

Timber Trail wants us to hike in timber wolf and black bear country. I'm all for such beasts, but they haven't come tramping through my yard, so I don't feel obliged to fool around in theirs.

Bicycle around the world - as in the whole dang world - invites Kneeland and Associates, offering to carry my luggage for me. Gee, thanks. Unless the world has gotten a lot smaller than I remember it, that isn't a three-day weekend.

"Encounter killer whales in Johnstone Straight and blue whales in the Baja Sea of Cortez," promises Sea Kayak Adventures. It shows people smiling as they sit in their tiny plastic boats. Wonder if they are still grinning when a killer whale crashes down on them.

Richard Petty Driving Experience lashes ordinary joes to the wheel of real Winston Cup race cars with over 600 horsepower, and sends them merrily out to introduce themselves to the wall at any of 15 famous racetracks. Bet they ask for the check in advance.

Air Combat USA brags that you don't need any license to take off in a SIAI Marchetti fighter to fly a real dogfight against another neophyte would-be Top Gun. The planes in the brochure appear to be World War II vintage, upside down and at the verge of outer space. I'll take my chances with Delta Airlines.

"Climb a Volcano," says GoTrek. Kiss my butt, says I. There's a difference between reckless and suicidal.

Colorado River and Trail offers a chance to white-water raft some place called "Desolation." If I needed desolation, I'd hang out in the mall at Spencer.

"Hut to Hut Llama Trekking" is a Visa card away with Paragon Guides. "Great for families." Perhaps if you're the Attilah the Hun family.

"First Class Bicycle Trips through Death Valley" from Escape Adventures. They don't call it "death" for nothin'.

"Pilot a Jetboat in the Grand Canyon. Scenic waterfalls!" There's two ideas that mix nicely, ey?

"Outdoor Survival School" in Boulder has folks covered in mud, wearing loincloths and carrying spears. Unless it's Britney, I want nothing to do with spears.

"Canoe Maine's 2,000 islands!" Okay, one island is nice, two is okay, 2,000 is overkill, Turbo.

"Travel by elephant in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos." Bill Clinton didn't go, he must have known something.

Covert Ops company offers the chance to take part in a counter-terrorist operation, complete with machine guns on camouflage dune buggies.

"Break the sound barrier in a Mig-25 over Moscow." I'm looking for the small print about being tortured in a Russian prison for life.

"Piranha! Anacondas! Amazon Jungle!" Hey, where do I plug in the hair dryer? The lobster tank at Hy-Vee is as close as I'm interested in coming to piranha.

So, I don't stare danger in the eye and laugh in its face.

Still, I figure I've got one more good tumble in me, and I'm starting to get the itch.

Get out those brochures, Katie. I think the sharks are starting to miss us.