By definition, a bucket list is several experiences or achievements that a person hopes to have or accomplish before they die. Often people tackle the list after they retire. Locals Dave Carter and George Ross, both 58, had a better idea: make and start checking off that list now while they can still truly take part and enjoy the experiences to the fullest.
George, a commercial real estate executive, is a fan of all sports, whereas Dave, a sports business consultant, is excited to do anything new. Both love travel, adventures and being part of the action.
The lifelong friends met at Ridgecrest Intermediate School in Palos Verdes. Both went on to attend Rolling Hills High, now known as Peninsula High, and even the same college, the University of Southern California. Frequent flights together to Trojan games may have helped inspire their idea to turn a wish list into an adventure.
The challenge: travel to 25 global iconic sporting events before they turn 75. Self-imposed rules include no duplications, half must be on domestic soil, and rather than just being spectators, they must participate and immerse themselves as much as possible.
Over cocktails at the same Riviera Village restaurant where the idea was born seven years ago, they tell me that some excursions are carefully planned, but they also remain open to unexpected opportunities. Shares Dave, “For example, if Game 7 of the World Series ends up at an iconic field, or if one of our home teams makes the finals—Dodgers at the World Series or L.A. Kings at the Stanley Cup—you have to allow room for these fantastic possibilities … go with the flow.” George agrees and chimes in: “I am the flow.”
“As the bulls come around the corner, you can hear the roar of the crowd, which is what signals you to run because you can’t see them. I’ve done a lot of crazy stuff—skydiving, bungee jumping—but I’ve never been so scared in my life.”
In 2016, just months after creating their list, they sprinted off to the eight-day Running of the Bulls festival in Pamplona, Spain. They both agree it was the most terrifying experience they have ever had. Wanting to be in the bull ring at the end, they ran the final leg from just beyond the famous La Curva, aka Dead Man’s curve.
“As the bulls come around the corner, you can hear the roar of the crowd, which is what signals you to run because you can’t see them. I’ve done a lot of crazy stuff—skydiving, bungee jumping—but I’ve never been so scared in my life,” George says.
Next up: The subzero temperatures of Anchorage, Alaska, and manning a practice sled at the Iditarod. Doubling down on the chill factor, they followed that trip with a jaunt to the frozen tundra: Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin, to see the Packers play rivals the Detroit Lions.
Security was not their biggest concern while attending the 2018 FIFA World Cup final in Moscow, Russia. It was Dave’s recent cancer diagnosis. His upbeat attitude and philosophy of “enjoy where you are and ask yourself if there’s anywhere else you’d rather be at this moment” won out as he continued not only this trip but several others throughout his treatment.
Generally it’s a twosome, but some outings are better shared—like the February 2019 trip to Panama. Joined by some buddies, they went sportfishing for marlin. At the October 2019 Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, they volunteered and handed out water along the racecourse with their significant others.
The COVID-19 pandemic shutdown stalled the tally at six, but as soon as they were able, they were off and running again to Louisville for the 2021 Kentucky Derby. The next year took them to the Masters final round in Augusta, Georgia, and the Iron Bowl game of Auburn vs. Alabama in Tuscaloosa over Thanksgiving weekend.
Dave does a lot of research and most of the preplanning, while George knows how to make things happen on the ground. Both prefer to go where the day takes them once they arrive at their destination, following locals’ advice on where to eat or drink in order to truly soak up the area’s culture.
Recently, they signed a sponsorship deal with Texas-based company Bucket List Events, which specializes in just the kind of tours the guys had been doing for themselves. As global ambassadors for the organization, they get help planning and funding the excursions. Then they post photos and write-ups about their adventures on mybucketlistevents.com.
Their 10th trip and first with Bucket List Events was the gentlemen’s final at Wimbledon. Seeing one of the most incredible finals and then visiting Wimbledon Village—taking it all in and meeting new people—is just the type of experience they imagined when they started this “game.”
According to the duo, there has not been one disappointment, and miraculously they have never been stranded or sick or lost luggage.
What’s next? Paris for the 2024 Summer Olympics, and then who knows? Maybe the Grand Prix in Monaco, sumo wrestling in Japan or polo in Argentina. Wherever they go, there will be a few certainties: a headwear souvenir, a photo together, and gratitude for their friendship and the place they call home.
“It’s fun to travel to London, Paris and Rome, but it is oh-so-nice to get home,” shares Dave. “Who said that?” replies George. “Maybe me,” adds Dave. “Just now.”