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Senior Traveler: Pick from 500 pulse-pounders

Many of us first met Arthur Frommer when he assured us we could do Europe on $5 a day - which sounded ridiculous even in 1957.

Hot-air balloon rides - here over the ancient city of Bagan in Myanmar - are recommended for seniors.
Hot-air balloon rides - here over the ancient city of Bagan in Myanmar - are recommended for seniors.Read morePhoto courtesy of Frommers

Many of us first met Arthur Frommer when he assured us we could do Europe on $5 a day - which sounded ridiculous even in 1957.

Then came $10 a day. Then, $25 a day.

Eventually, the Frommer guidebook empire grew faster than the rate of inflation. A list of Frommer's current destination titles would fill this column. Non-destination titles include 24 "For Dummies" travel books.

Here's one of the latest from Arthur, Inc.: Frommers' 500 adrenaline adventures.

Don't think this is a book for geezers? Think again.

Freelance writer Lois Friedland, one of the book's four contributing authors, wrote 200 of the 500 entries. Friedland is . . . well, she's 55-plus.

Her definition of "adrenaline adventure": one that raises your pulse. Since many of us still have those, we're eligible.

Night diving in Bonaire, to name one, raised Friedland's pulse.

"That's where I came face to face with this eel eating a parrot fish," she says. "It was pretty wild. We made the rounds of the bars after. Nobody had ever seen anything quite like that."

Not every pulse-pounding adventure requires being certified to dive 50 feet into the Caribbean. Some adventures take little more than a willingness and the wherewithal to go: soaring aboard a hot-air balloon over the otherworldly landforms of Cappadocia, in Turkey; journeying by ship to Antarctica ("the purest stretch of wilderness in the world," according to the book); viewing the great wildebeest migration in Tanzania and Kenya; riding to the top of Toronto's CN Tower; treasure-hunting at the Moroccan markets in Marrakech.

Some require overcoming a natural, rational reluctance: bungee-jumping 141 feet into a New Zealand river chasm; riding Millennium Force, a roller coaster with a near-vertical, 92-m.p.h. drop at Cedar Point in Ohio; eating fried spiders in Cambodia.

(Note: I did all of the above - from the balloon in Turkey and the bungee to the roller coaster - at 55-plus. I didn't do the spiders - I'm not nuts.)

Friedland really likes zip-lining - clipping onto cables or ropes and zipping between trees or cliffs, over jungles or lava flows or seascapes or waterfalls or all of the above. At Icy Point, Alaska, you'll be 1,330 feet above the ground; at a place in New Zealand (what's with those Kiwis?), you'll zip above the Rangitikei River at 99 m.p.h.

"I know people in their 80s have done it," says Friedland, who also is adventure travel guide for the website "Basically, what you do is get in something that's almost like a giant diaper, and you hold on. That doesn't take any physical effort, or very little, and it can certainly raise your pulse if you're 100 feet above a forest floor."

Though she's done the zip-line thing in several places, she hasn't bungeed.

"Now that's something I would never do," she says. "The idea of plunging down to earth . . .. I do a lot of things, but for some reason, that one. . .."

Some of the adventures mentioned in the book are pure spectating: watching a Kentucky Derby or the Lollapalooza rock festival in Chicago or the World Wife Carrying Championship in Finland. (Hey, it's in the book.) Some are potentially inspiring: a sunrise climb at Masada, in Israel; scaling Mount Fuji in Japan.

Some are just what they are: watching the World Grits Eating Championship in Bossier City, La., or cheering on 40,000 fools having a food fight with 150 tons of tomatoes in Buñol, Spain. (And yes, speaking of Spain, the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona is 307 on the list.)

And some are, frankly, beyond most of us - maybe at any age, but especially at ours.

"They shouldn't do extreme biking or hiking," Friedland says, "but I hate to be negative about anything for people over 55.

"It's a matter of training to do what your own body and what your own mind can do."

Arthur Frommer, by the way, is 81 - and probably hang-gliding as we speak.

Senior Traveler: On This Page

Next Sunday: Online Traveler

June 20: Game Traveler

June 27: Travel DealsEndText

Senior Traveler: A Taste of Adventures

For a sampling of the experiences in Frommers' 500 adrenaline adventures, go to EndText