Athletes don't need to win gold in Athens to be medalists. Hit the open road on a motorcycle, ride 1,000 miles in 24 hours, and you can join the "Iron Butt" biker association — proof that your backside is more sturdy than gold, silver or bronze.
Last month, Iron Butt legend Gary Eagan of Salt Lake City set the new transcontinental record, by making the 5,632-mile trek from Alaska to Florida in 100 hours.
"I'm a little tired … a little bit bruised," said Eagan, upon arriving in Key West on his Ducati Multistrada.
A few hours after starting the epic journey, Eagan flipped his bike while trying to avoid a truck, smashing his windshield, rearview mirror and auxiliary fuel tank, but recovering in time to shatter the old record of 114 hours and 49 minutes.
Would-be Iron Butts should not be intimidated by Eagan's prowess. To join the 13,000-member worldwide association, all you need to do is ride 1,000 miles in 24 hours to qualify as a "Saddle Sore" member — or 1,500 miles in 36 hours to be a "Bun Burner."
Call it love of America or the challenge of doing what's never been done before, nontraditional athletes are finding new ways to cross the country, doing it on a skateboard and a lawnmower.
Is it possible to visit every single Starbucks? Can you drive across this great country blindfolded? Contemporary sportsmen are asking these questions and rising to meet the challenge.
With all eyes on Athens, The Wolf Files salutes these uniquely American road warriors.
1. A Caffeine High: Coffee at 4,200 Starbucks Given the sobering fact that 10 new Starbucks open every week, John Smith, better known as Winter, knows his life's ambition is a tall order — sipping coffee at every single Starbucks.
Nevertheless, Winter is currently seeing America on about 17 cups of coffee a day. "I may never do it," he said Monday, after hitting the 4,200 plateau in his bid to visit some 5,000 Starbucks locations, including those in foreign countries.
"I can visit them faster than they can build them," he keeps promising his growing legion of fans as he crisscrosses the country. In the last seven years, the 32-year-old freelance computer programmer from Houston has become America's most prominent java junkie.
This celebrated adventurer is now the Christopher Columbus of cappuccino, the Charles Lindbergh of latté. It's an obsession that began in Plano, Texas, in 1997, after a Starbucks employee told him the company had plans to open more than 2,000 locations. Winter figured, why not visit them all?
"My parents don't approve." Winter says. "I've got an undefined online relationship with a woman and she definitely approves."
To caffeine-addled motorists, Winter offers this advice: "Get off the interstate. You'll see more of America." And, presumably, more Starbucks.
2. Blindfolded Driver: Seeing Is Not Believing
Driving is easy, but it's not one of those things that you'd say you could do blindfolded — unless you're Jim Passé, who arrived in Los Angeles on June 6 after driving a car at high speeds with six layers of cloth over his head.
This must be some sort of trick, but Passé won't explain how he does it. "I'm a magician," he says, and he based this stunt on work originally performed by Houdini.
He's learned to drive with other impediments, and not by choice. He was paralyzed from the waist down nine years ago, when an 850-pound crate fell on him as a delivery crew was unloading a magic prop for his stage show.