Where to get your high-octane fix.
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Our intrepid writer goes the extra mile—albeit downward—for his story.
It’s 4 pm on a Saturday in June. It’s hot. I mean, the kind of hot in which the sweat doesn’t just bead on your face, it cascades off of it. My enjoyment right now is dampened by the fact that I am in the middle of the woods wearing a hot, full-headed mask, resembling a backless version of a motorcycle helmet, that collects water like a sponge and sticks it against my face. It also doesn’t help that I’m wearing thick army pants, a backpack, and a microfiber camouflage shirt, which, too, is wet with sweat, despite its manufacturer’s guarantees to the contrary. Oh, but I do have one thing going for me: I’m armed!
Sometimes writers get lucky. We get assignments that provide free dinners at BLT to replace what normally would be a night with a paid dinner at KFC. And sometimes, we get really lucky. I got really lucky. This article is about adrenaline rushes: those heart-pounding thrill-seekers’ outings that can be found in and around the county. And yes, Virginia, they do exist. With some help from the editorial staff, I’ve scouted them out, tested them out, and, almost left my lunch with one of them. Here are the results, one kick-butt activity at a time.
Liberty Paintball, Brewster, NY
$25 with own equipment/ $30 with rental
ADRENALINE RATING: ★★★★★
When I mentioned being armed, I should have clarified. I was carrying an olive-dust-colored Invert mini marker with a camouflage-green Stiffi barrel and a Halo hopper. Sound confusing? So does explaining why an “eagle” isn’t a “birdie” to someone who doesn’t play golf. Paintball has a language all its own. And the type of equipment you have can really affect your game. The concept is simple. Two teams start on opposite sides of a field, or woods. Obstacles ranging from pieces of lumber to wholly built houses are put in between the two sides. The object is to capture the other team’s flag. Oh, and you get to shoot at each other with spheres full of paint. If you get hit, you’re out, and, for the love of God, don’t wipe the paint off yourself to fool the refs.
The obvious question is, “Does it hurt when you get hit?” Yes, it does. But if the two teams of ten-year-old girls playing the day I played can stand the pain, I’m sure you can, too. I made my way into a small house, about 25 square feet, with a window just the right size for shooting out of—and then I heard it. I had been spotted and paintball after paintball broke on the outside of my wooden enclave just a few sawdust-filled centimeters from my face. They came from all angles, from what had to have been five guns, at speeds of 20 to 30 paintballs per second. The roar was like a train driving through a thunderstorm. A line of paintballs, so fast it looked like an unbroken chain, came through the window as I ducked down. I was trapped, and I was going to get hit by paint if I didn’t shoot someone fast. So I waited for a split-second pause in the action, and shot back. I took out any gunman I could see. One after another fell. My heart pounded, my grin widened, and then…on my left arm, a painful, sticky wad of blue goo exploded. The worst part of it? I was shot by my own teammate, who had mistaken me for someone on the other team. Still, my heart didn’t stop pounding. There’s nothing like fear plus heat plus competition to get that Saturday adrenaline rush I so deeply love.
Skydive the Ranch, Gardiner, NY
$195 for first tandem jump
ADRENALINE RATING: ★★★★★
Waiting. It’s a hard fact of life. (The hardest some would say.) It can cause your mind to wander down dark roads where it shouldn’t go. So when I had to wait five months to go skydiving, due to five weather-related canceled attempts, my mind came up with one thought: this is a bad omen.
“Man wasn’t meant to jump out of airplanes,” one friend said to me the week before I leapt. “Just remember, man, love it, and be brave, just like Goose,” said another. This friend was referring to the movie Top Gun. What he meant to say was, “love it, and be brave, like Iceman.” The difference between the two statements was slight, but to me, noticeable. Lest you forget: Goose dies; Iceman lives.
On the day of my attempt, before I could jump, I had to fill out a number of forms waiving every possible cause of action for a lawsuit. I’m pretty sure if my instructor didn’t like me and decided to shoot me, I could not sue. Then I had to watch an instructional video—more waiting. Then I was suited up and had to wait for the plane. Since this was my first dive, I was required to go tandem, that is, attached to an instructor. This would turn out to be a good thing. My soon-to-be savior’s name was Jorge Rodas, a native Colombian who spent his time training dogs, giving massages, and jumping out of airplanes. He explained that I was not allowed to be afraid of anything until I actually tried it, and then at that point I would no longer be afraid. Maybe because the neurons required to process that thought are the same ones used to understand the realities of a life about to be thrown out of a plane 10,000 feet up high, but this calmed me.
Rodas proceeded to instruct me: arch your body; if I do this hand signal, arch more; legs up when you land; if I do this hand signal, practice pulling the ripcord; look at the altimeter (they never actually gave me one), and wait for it to hit 6,000 feet before pulling; swing out of the plane like this; and on and on. “Jorge,” I said, “I’m not going to remember any of this when I’m falling to Earth at three times the speed it took a fast-moving airplane to bring me into the sky.” No response.
As I finally boarded the propeller plane that would bring me (in the lovely neon-green jumpsuit I had just acquired), and a dozen others up, up, and away, I was told the ride would be approximately 20 minutes. Another wait. But at this point another dastardly thought crept into my mind: what if I get airsick? I’m not the best on small planes. But I was pretty proud of myself for never getting too nervous—until they opened the door.
You know, man really isn’t made to jump out of airplanes. But, damn it, I had a badge of bravery to earn. So I inched towards the door. And..ahhhhhhhhh!
At first, I tumbled. That was frightening. Then I arched and straightened out. I looked down. I was falling to Earth! I screamed—a happy, I think, “I’m doing it!” scream. I made two mistakes on my descent, and they were not small ones. First, I kept my mouth open, causing my teeth to hurt. Second, I forgot to pull the ripcord. Still, I knew if I forgot, Jorge would have my back. And he did. When the parachute opened, a sense of calm swept over me. This is cool. I am floating above majestic New York. It’s incredible.
Continue reading to find out where to go Whitewater Rafting, Go-Kart Racing, and Car Racing