Is anyone interested in taking over an Alaskan gold claim? It's a pretty piece of land, I'm sure, a big claim right on Canyon Creek--1,320 by 1,320 feet of potentially gold-rich land in the midst of Fairbanks Township and duly registered on Page 240 of Book 490 at the Fairbanks office of the Alaskan Department of Natural Resources.
The claim is owned by some young friends of mine from Minnesota, Spain and Yugoslavia. They don't have time to mine it right now, since they're in the midst of a 18,000-mile bicycle trip from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, to Tierra del Fuego (the "Land of Fire") at the tip of South America.
If fortune is with them, they will cross 100 miles of roadless jungle at the Darien Gap (bikes on their backs), pedal across the driest desert on Earth, the Atacama in Chile (where it hasn't rained since the 16th Century), and bike the length of just about every troubled South American country you've seen on television.
Dan Buettner, 26, of Roseville, Minn., invited me to bike with the group not long ago along the Oregoncoast and, as a newly enthusiastic biker, I took him up on the invitation.
I have known Dan, a free-lance writer, and his family for five years, and credit them all with trying to drag me out of my middle-aged doldrums many times. Dan, black-haired, tall and ruggedly handsome, studies and bikes throughout Europe, honing his writing skills with the casualness of someonewalking down a street.
Dan thought up and largely organized this particular bicycle trek to promote friendship among nations. To that end, many municipalities and governments here and south of the border are helping the seven along, and the group meets lots of people (and even saved the life of a seriously injured child in an automobile accident).
But because I know Dan, and have now met the group, I don't for a minute think these five guys and two women are doing this primarily for nobility. Above everything else, they are doing it for the sheer adventure and energy it gives them--about the best reasons to do anything, I'm coming to believe.
I biked with them for 40 miles along that beautiful Oregon coast. My biking on Grand Bahama is flat and easy, not at all like the hills here, and I had never biked so far before. At the start of my year, the thought of biking four miles to the gym scared me. But in Oregon, even though it nearly killed me at the time, I kept up with the group, even taking the lead twice.
And when it did occasionally cross my mind that these nice people might be going easy for my sake, I pushed that thought away faster than my wheels could spin. Appearances in that instance, I decided, were as exciting as reality.
Worry, Envy and Admiration
My friends are now deep in South America. I worry about them some. But, you know, I envy and admire them. Don't you? And I think their resourcefulness will get them through. It's like that gold mine claim that's now for sale. When my friends were told only miners have access to the first 500 miles of rutted road south of Prudhoe Bay, they simply filed a mining claim. The claim's good forever--as long as someone works on it 200 hours a year. And I think it sits right over a mother lode.
My biking friends will sell it cheap, though. I'll be glad to be the agent, for a nugget or two in commission.
Have I told you lately how nice it is to be doing things again? How nice it is to have as much energy as I've always dreamed of having? Health may be nice, but energy makes life a lot more fun.
Beginning 30th Week Waist: 43 inches 35 inches Right biceps: 12 3/4 inches 12 3/4 inches Flexed: 13 inches 13 3/4inches Weight: 201 pounds 177 pounds Height: 6' 1" Blood pressure: 128/68 120/64 Pulse: 64 66 Bench press: 55 140 Hunk factor: .00 .37