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Keoghan's Heroes

Phil Keoghan, the host of the CBS reality series, "The Amazing Race," uses his down time between races to do some global exploring of his own exclusively for The Early Show.

Piloting a Cirrus jet (www.cirrusdesign.com), he been doing some globe-trotting of his own. His first stop was Hilo, Hawaii, where he learned that the true roots of the hula have nothing to do with long-haired women wearing coconut-shell bras.

His second stop took him to Malibu, Calif. and a visit with one of his personal heroes, Laird Hamilton, the surfer extraordinaire, who put Phil through an exercise regime he'll likely never try on his own (think bicycling uphill with weights on your bike).

He third stop brought him to Montecristi, Ecuador, one of the last great centers of Panama hat production. Keoghan met up with Brent Black, a man who is helping to save the dying art of Panama hat weaving.

Black left a lucrative advertising career in the United States when he learned that few young people were entering the profession. He is trying to improve pay and working conditions for the weavers. Phil decided to spend some time with Black to learn what it takes to weave these hats and to see if he could find the perfect Panama hat for himself.

Keoghan then went to the Bay area to meet gutsy rower Roz Savage, who traveled alone across the Atlantic last year and is about to take off on another solo journey — this time, a two-year-long jaunt across the Pacific.

No ready to give up on splashing around, he traveled to Eastern Tennessee to grabble with Marty and Fostana Jenkins and a group of young women. These "Girls Gone Grabbling" showed Keoghan how to submerge his body into muddy waters and coax a giant catfish out of its hole. No, really.

Phil's final stop was in upstate New York, where he encountered a new frontier, one where no "Star Trek" fan has ever ventured before: a full-on, to-scale replica of the Enterprise flight deck, a painstakingly accurate reproduction that has drawn uber-fans from all over the world. Oh, did we mention they're making new episodes of the TV classic? Now, these people are fans.

Here is his report:

I'm near Lake Champlain in the North Country of New York State, a beautiful stretch of land that was once the frontier of colonial America ... But these days, it's a new frontier -- a final Frontier.

On the outside, our destination looks like, well, a crumbling old car dealership. On the inside, however, it's the Starship Enterprise. Not the actual set from the classic TV show, but an exact, meticulous recreation that has all the details, including a "Sulu Scope."

Once a year, hundreds of Trekkies swarm here to make "new" episodes of the old series. Called "The New Voyages of the Star Ship Enterprise," the fans volunteer their time to create the episodes, which live on the Internet (www.startreknewvoyages.com/). They estimate the new material has been downloaded between 20 and 30 million times.

James Cawley created the "New Voyages" series (and plays Commander Kirk) and built the set, light bulb by light bulb, using his own money and the original blueprints. He was able to recruit other fans to help.

Cawley says he's been a "Star Trek" fan for his entire life. "I think I first watched the original series maybe when I was five or six years old, and I vividly remember, you know, 'Space: The Final Frontier,'" he told me. "I remember that night. And it was just this big, amazing adventure, and it just hooked me. And it's never gone away."

Once the first few episodes whetted the interest of fans, Cawley began to hear from Sci-Fi professionals -- animators from "Battlestar Gallactica," award-winning makeup artists, and even actors from the original show, including George Takei (Sulu).

David Gerrold wrote several original Trek episodes, including the much-loved "The Trouble with Tribbles." Now, just for the fun of it, he's been directing some "New Voyages" episodes.

"We're all Trekkies here," Gerrold explained. "We love 'Star Trek' so much, we want more. And it isn't just Halloween or play-acting. It's how much can we live 'Star Trek'? And I don't mean in the sense that we're obsessive or insane ... "

So, in an effort to embrace their enthusiasm, I volunteered to act in an upcoming episode. They dressed me up and annointed me "Admiral Keoghan." Somehow I squeezed into one of the original William Shatner shirts (which, if auctioned off, would be worth upwards of $30,000).

"It's so cool that you just want to be a part of it," said Cawley as he watched me film my role.

Now that I'm a member of the tribe, I hope we all live long and prosper.

(To watch the new episodes, go to the 'New Voyages' Web site, www.startreknewvoyages.com)