McAfee takes off his helmet and reaches into his saddlebag for a self-heating can of coffee as three women in red-and-black jumpsuits hop from their machines and run toward each other with hugs and hoots. The hugs become tackles, and the tackles devolve into a giddy wrestling match in the dust.
Opening the coffee, McAfee slices his finger deeply on the pull tab. Someone runs for a bandage as McAfee holds the wound together with his uninjured hand, squinting as he takes in a panorama of Mad Max flying machines, dust-kicking wrestlers, and jagged mountains pinned under a cerulean sky. As the dripping blood turns the dust at McAfee's feet into dark mud, he glances at his watch and a broad smile creeps across his face. It's high noon in the middle of nowhere, and John McAfee's flying circus has arrived.
It's hard to imagine another sexagenarian multimillionaire having as much fun as McAfee, the lead evangelist of the new adventure sport he has dubbed aerotrekking. According to McAfee, people can indeed fly like birds, and they don't need full pilots' licenses or constrictive, gas-guzzling tin cans to do it. What they do need are wide open spaces, a bit of training, and a new class of flying machines with kite wings, motor-driven rear propellers, and handlebars for steering. Variously called weight-shift ultralights, personal air vehicles (PAVs), or simply trikes, the machines have a range of 300 miles or about five hours in the air.
McAfee's backcountry version of ultralight flying may or may not catch on, but if it does, it wouldn't be the first time the world has found itself swept up in one of his improbable schemes. It was McAfee who, in the late 1980s, informed millions (including me) that malicious "viruses" could infect and kill our electronic equipment. McAfee's ingenious protection software netted him $100 million by the time he sold his antivirus company in 1994. A few years later, he got into another new thing—instant messaging—and made millions more.
But with business success came the unwelcome creep of drudgery and responsibility. In what was to become a pattern of relentless self-renewal (and, some would say, selfishness), the entrepreneur shed his companies, divorced his spouse, and started teaching transcendental meditation and yoga. He wrote four books with titles such as Beyond the Siddhis: Supernatural Powers and the Sutras of Patanjali and The Fabric of Self—books McAfee now says he "wouldn't suggest that you or anyone else bother reading."