The Accidental Extremist is now online at www.theaccidentalextremist.com


13 Epics of Woe [Hall of Infamy]

A friend from Outside Magazine, Senior Editor Jeremy Spencer, reminded us of this excellent collection of misadventures he edited four years ago. Featuring the likes of Jane Smiley and Jon Lee Anderson, it’s a ghoulish gallery of murderous hitchhikers, lightning strikes, and worse. A little something to inspire your own submissions here. The article was paired with a classic travel disaster reading list, and a rundown of the 10 worst adventure disasters of the last 200 years. Enjoy—CDB

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Fly The Fiery Skies [Sulleysque]

Come fly away to exotic locales!

Come fly away to exotic locales!

[Here’s an amazing yarn from our first octogenarian contributor, Bob Nielson, age 86…we’re not worthy! —Ed.]

Back in 1960 the Toronto Star sent me to South Africa to report black-white violence.  I boarded an American Airlines 6-propeller plane in New York, which crossed the Atlantic and stopped briefly at a few East African cities while heading south.  I had a window seat over the right wing and saw the nearest engine catch fire, shooting flames 30 feet high.  Called the flight attendant who ran to the cabin.  Turned off, that engine glowed like a red-hot coal.  We were over the jungle with no place for an emergency landing…

Continue reading



High On Nature [Close Calls]

 

Hiking is so invigorating.

Hiking is so invigorating.

A riveting tidbit from Philip James, founder of the social networking+wine site, Snooth.com. — CDB

            I don’t talk about this too much, but in 2003 I climbed Mount Everest. My friend and climbing partner broke his leg at 28,000 feet. As a result no one in our expedition reached the summit, but we did get him down safely in what became the worlds highest altitude rescue.

 

            I’d set out to become the youngest Briton to climb the North Face of Everest and had joined a small independent expedition with just 5 other climbers. After 60 days on the mountain we ended up with a 120 hour rescue that ended with a broken leg, broken ribs, dysentery, frostbite leading to several digits being amputated as well as several fatalities and multiple medals of valor.

If you want to learn more about the expedition itself, here are some news articles about the event:

BBC News article – Everest on his knees 

Manchester Evening News – Amazing Escape of Everest Survivor

Everest News – Everest North Side Expedition ‘03

Click here to download the slide show (45mb). Finally, if you want to see it in the “Tilt Viewer” format – click here.



Spin Cycle [Love on the Road, Love on the Rocks]

 

I just feel so safe with you.

I just feel so safe with you.

On Valentine’s Day 1998 I decided to surprise my new boyfriend with what I imagined would be a romantic and unforgettable helicopter tour of the Mile High City. 

           It was on the way to the airport that I learned of his terrible fear of heights. What should have been an amorous 35-mile limo ride from Boulder to Denver became nothing short of a ledge-talking scenario, but I did my best to reassure him while he nervously chugged champagne from the bottle.

            Our pilot, a sweet man in his mid-50’s, assured us that he would give us a night we wouldn’t forget. As we ascended, I glanced furtively at my boyfriend only to notice his white knuckles clutching both knees. We circled downtown Denver for 30 minutes before our pilot took us west towards the lights of Golden and Central City. By the time we reached the foothills, we were met with winds so fierce that our pilot radioed to his supervisor to request permission to land at a nearby airport. No sooner had he done this than all of the lights went out in the cabin, the engine cut off, and we started to fall for what seemed like an eternity.

           I always thought if I were ever in an accident that I would be a screamer. But instead I was silent—we all were… Continue reading



Twin Beds and Thin Walls [Love on the Road, Love on the Rocks]

After the wedding, all we want to do is relax by the beach.

After the wedding, all we want to do is relax by the beach.

Here, excerpts from an entertaining piece by writer Rob Story which recounts his action-packed honeymoon throughout Asia—and some of its more memorable catastrophes. —CDB

              We’re a funny couple to watch. She, all of five feet and 99 pounds, blithely swings her skis down steep mogul runs with apparent amnesty from the laws of gravity. Trying gamely to knit near misses and miraculous recoveries into a line that at least looks intentional, my 200-pound carcass hurtles down slopes with the subtlety and grace of the Hindenburg. She never, ever biffs on a mountain bike. Me, I’m attempting to become the first human to be constituted completely of scar tissue.

             I guess the sea kayaking session in Thailand presented the most interesting realationship dynamics. When M’Lissa emerged wearing an XL life jacket on her petite frame, I said something along the lines of: “Whoa, looks like Tattoo got in Mr. Roarke’s closet again.” (It was quite a clever remark, as we were in a gorgeous marine national park dotted with all manner of Fantasy Islands, but she didn’t care for it. Apparently, California kids like M’Lissa frequently grow up in an environment polluted with sports and activity, suffering from dangerously low levels of TV exposure.)

            Things only got worse on the water, because our vessels were tandem sea kayaks…. Continue reading



Paddling In Circles [Water Water Everywhere]

River trips are tailor-made for glorious mishap. Travel writer and Travel Channel TV host Tim Sohn  (‘Gone Missing’) passed us this tale of woe in the Amazon, and here’s his Flickr set from the experience.

EXCERPT: By the end of the second day, Andrew had lost his pants and was wearing only boxers, a cargo boat had nearly split our raft in two, and Mike had retreated belowdecks on his support boat. But Rick, the Aussie, our frequent companion at the back of the pack, had taken to alternately doing yoga on his raft and leading his teammates in choruses of “Row, row, row your raft”—though they rarely paddled, even gently…



On A River Asking Why [Water, Water, Everywhere]

One hundred forty-five. That’s the number of rivers in Oregon, give or take. It’s not the most in the nation (that’s Alaska), but when you think of Oregon, or at least when Oregonians think of Oregon, it’s rivers that come to mind. Big ones, heaving and boiling with white-water, screaming through volcanic rock ravines. You’ve heard of a lot of them—the legendary Rogue, the wild McKenzie, the even wilder Owyhee—but the one every-one should know, not just by reputation but through firsthand, paddle-churning experience, is the Deschutes.
 
Some say it’s the most Oregonian of Oregon rivers.

I always thought I knew why. Growing up, I’d been down it a few times, steering a big paddle raft loaded with friends and beer. But then last summer a buddy of mine, Steve Rollins, convinced me to run a short section of the Lower Deschutes in a kayak not much bigger than my bivvy sack. We put in just above Upper Wapinita, a rapid Rollins casually called a “death hole.” 

“Have to watch out for that one,” he said. Then he slipped his boat into the froth. Continue reading