Are you looking for some thrills this summer? Not church-picnic-sack-race fun, but adrenaline-pumping, challenging, awe-inspiring, "Oops, I crapped my pants!" brand fun? Read on.
ADVENTURES BY AIR
Skydiving for the High-Flying
Nothing says: "I have huevos the size of ostrich eggs," like hucking yourself out of a plane and hurtling toward the earth at 125 miles per hour. Or maybe nothing says, "I am batshit insane" like skydiving, but either way it sure is exhilarating! With a wee bit of training and just a little more than $200, you can take a sick plunge in the reassuring and totally-not-gay embrace of your skydiving instructor. It's called a tandem jump and it's the quickest, easiest and least nerve-wracking way to jump out of a plane. For $75 more, the guys at Skydive New Mexico will give you an edited DVD of your jump.
Once you decide you don't ever plan to apply for life insurance again, you can take up a full skydiving course and become certified to do your own free-fall jumps. The first part of the course costs between $200 and $275; including the required subsequent jumps, you're looking at $500 to $700. Not bad for the thrill of a lifetime! Once you're certified, jumping is cheap, around $25. Watching your buddies jump is cheap, too, only $30 as long as you stay in the plane.
Skydive New Mexico
Trikes Are Not for Tots
"I'd call it a motorcycle in the sky," says Frank Dempsey, talking about the contraption that has become his passion. "They travel the same speed, about 50 miles an hour," he says, but with his kind of trike you're up in the air, not on the pavement. "They've gone to 30,000 feet," Dempsey brags, "but normally we fly about 1,000 feet above the ground."
Basically, a trike is a three-wheeled motorized hang glider. It looks something like a Vespa in the clutches of a neon-colored pterodactyl. The engine spins a propeller that launches the trike, but once it's airborne, if the engine is cut, the trike can still soar on its own. Watching the videos on Dempsey's Web site (www.newmexicotrikes.com), it looks irresistibly fun, but triking really hasn't caught on yet. Dempsey estimates ***image6***there are probably only a dozen or so trikers in the state, spread out between Taos and Las Cruces.
Unfortunately, trikes can't fly into the Santa Fe airport and there don't seem to be any trikers in our city. You could be the first! "The first lesson is free and the second costs you about $20,000," Dempsey jokes, referring to the expense of buying your own trike. In reality, lessons cost about $100 per hour.
Legally, trikers are not allowed to simply give rides, only lessons. So Dempsey offers an easy introductory lesson and short ride for interested parties. Full-on lessons end with the student flying solo from Double Eagle Airport west of Albuquerque. "My job is to get more ***image7***people into the sport," he says. "They either absolutely love it or never want to do it again. It's about 50-50. Some love it and some get sick."
If you're interested in getting in the air, but want to do more! Go faster! Go farther! Triking could be it. From 100 feet or 1,500 feet, the vast expanse of New Mexico is yours to explore. Dempsey likes to search for wild horses and watch (but not disturb) them from high above. After a trike ride like that with a passenger, he says, "We land and people are like all right!"
Frank Dempsey, Flight Instructor
Jet Fighters in Flight
Who knew you could learn how to fly vintage fighter jets right here in Santa Fe? But that's exactly what goes on at the Jet Warbird Training Center. Pilot Larry Salganek (don't call him "Ice Man" or he might ice you) teaches other pilots how to handle French, American, Soviet, Polish, Czech and British war planes. No, he's not going to teach you the fundamentals of flight; you'll have to do that somewhere else. But once you've got your pilot's license and logged 1,000 hours of flying time and forked over between $6,000 and $15,000, you'll be cruising like Maverick at 500 mph! Yes, flight training rates run between $1,350 and $2,350 per hour, although 35-minute orientation flights start at only $750.
Fewer than 1 percent of Jet Warbird's clients come from Santa Fe, but he's got a small fleet of his own planes just for student use.
Jet Warbird Training Center
ADVENTURES ON LAND
So you used to skate, back in the day. And now you drive a station wagon (at least it's an Outback!) and your idea of racing is finishing your Chicken McNuggets before your 3-year-old. ***image1***Fear not. Your escape from imminent geezer-dom is right here on Early Street.
"Some of the people who come here were skaters 10 or 15 years ago and want to get back into it, but they don't want to do the tricks and stuff they did before," says Joe Lehm, the owner of Santa Fe's Timeship Racing Skate School. Even if you've never been on a board before, Lehm can teach you all you need to know to make your son's middle-school buddies look like wussies. You'll start at the indoor ramp, wearing heaps of protective gear and nervously clutching a borrowed board. From there you can move on to long boarding, which Joe describes as the skateboarding equivalent of a bicycle ride around town. "Next thing you know ***image2***you're starting to want to go faster and then you're interested in racing," Lehm says.
Downhill racing is faster, more dangerous and involves a lot more safety gear. "In the upper echelons you go in four-person heats and it's almost like NASCAR-you're going 40 or 50 miles an hour an arms-length away from each other," Lehm says.
Despite the NASCAR comparison, downhill skateboarding is actually closer in nature to downhill skiing; and slalom boarding is like slalom racing on skis. Slalom boards are small and turn easily; downhill boards are longer, heavier and don't even start to turn ***image3***until you're going 30 mph, "but at 50," Lehm says, the board becomes extremely stable and, "you can go over a manhole cover like that."
Lessons at the skate school cost about $20 per hour, including skateboards and safety gear. The first thing you'll learn, Lehm says, is, "how to get comfortable falling and knowing you're not going to die." If you decide you love it you can buy your own safety gear for about $100 and a long board for $169. Then it'll be time to think about joining the Timeship Racing Team.
Timeship Racing Skate School
825 Early St.
Like to hike? How about a week-long 27-mile hike that ascends 4,161 feet? Two Taos companies, El Paseo Llama Expeditions and Wild Earth Llama Adventures, take tourists and locals on high-mountain treks. El Paseo's Andrew Crooker will lead you on a customized trek up and around Wheeler Peak (New Mexico's highest point) with the company of your very own pack llama. You pack your toothbrush and camera and the llama carries the rest of the gear so you're free to huff and puff that high mountain air and wonder what the hell you've got yourself into.
For seasoned hikers whose boot blisters have become hard calluses, Crooker can lead you into the wilderness from Red River, climbing up to 11,800-feet the first day and ascending Wheeler Peak the second day. From there you can follow the ridges all the way to serene Columbine meadow. The cost is about $125 per day per person including guide, llamas, food, equipment and all the llama spit you care to dodge. Half-day and shorter hikes are also available; the llamas can carry little kids on the shorter hikes. Wild Earth offers similar adventures.
El Paseo Llama Expeditions
Wild Earth Llama Adventures
Admit it: You've always wanted to be Spiderman, scaling tall buildings with superhuman agility and supersticky paws. And in Santa Fe we've got plenty of natural skyscrapers for you to tackle. First you can learn the fundamentals at the Santa Fe Climbing Center, where a day pass costs $12 and classes start at $25. The gym offers classes for kids, too, and if Junior gets good he can join the junior climbing team. You ladies are welcome to join the women's climbing club. Both groups have monthly outings.
If you discover you like climbing (or you already know you do), you can get out there in the wild and climb through New Mexico's canyons as if you were chasing a purse-snatcher high above crime-ridden city streets. Suntoucher Mountain Guides offers classes and guided trips, including a series of Climb Like a Girl seminars held this summer and led by co-owner (and Los Alamos native) Carolyn Parker. (In the winter she'll also teach you to ice climb!)
The nimble climbers of the Los Alamos Mountaineers club offer a rock climbing class every spring; unfortunately this year's class is over, but you can still join the club ($20) and take part in climbing trips. The next monthly meeting takes place on Wednesday, June 21, in the Pajarito Room at Fuller Lodge (2132 Central Ave. in Los Alamos) at 7:30 pm. Call Program Chairman Mark Zander at 505-661-2560 for more information. For information on upcoming climbs and a link to their discussion group, go to www.losalamos.org/climb.
Santa Fe Climbing Center
825 Early St., Suite A
Suntoucher Mountain Guides
2900 Vista del Rey NE, Suite 18D, in Albuquerque
Los Alamos Mountaineers
ADVENTURES ON WATER
Northern New Mexico's rivers provide excellent conditions for whitewater rafting and there are plenty of outfitters offering trips that range from nap-worthy floats to adrenaline-pumping Class IV rapids. You can even pick a package that combines rafting with horseback riding, rappelling, hiking or mountain biking. Trips range from half-day jaunts to week-long water-soakers.
For example, Santa Fe Rafting Company does a three-day, 30-mile trip down the Rio Chama, including some floating and some Class II and III rapids. There are four trips scheduled ***image4***during July and August. The trips leave Santa Fe on a Friday morning and return on a Sunday afternoon. The cost is $375 per person.
Or spend one day divided between rafting down the Rio Grande and then rappelling from the rim of the Rio Grande Gorge. Far Flung Adventures does what they call a Raft and Rock excursion ($140 per person) all summer long. Their Paddle and Saddle package pairs rafting and horseback riding for one day ($145 per person) or two- and three-day camping trips (call for details). Boy will your butt be happy to get dunked in the river after a hot day of riding!
Just west of Santa Fe, you can take a trip that starts with some easy floating, moves on to Class II and III rapids and then dries off with a 2½ mile hike through Frijoles Canyon to Bandelier National Monument ($90 per person). The same crew, Kokopelli Rafting Adventures, also leads tours that combine a morning of mountain biking in the Santa Fe National Forest with an afternoon of rafting (also $90 per person).
If you get hooked on rafting, you can learn how to guide a raft yourself at Los Rios River Runners Whitewater School. This summer's week-long classes start on Monday, June 12 ($85 per day). There are weekend classes scheduled through July and August (also $85). Take the classes, master the whitewater and next summer you'll be the one leading rafting trips.
Santa Fe Rafting Company
Far Flung Adventures
Kokopelli Rafting Adventures
551 Cordova Road #540
Los Rios River Runners
Surfing we ain't got in dusty old New Mexico, but wind we do have, and the blowing dust is at a minimum when you're speeding across the cool water of Cochiti lake. (Actually, windsurfing conditions are good not only at Cochiti, but also at Conchas, Elephant Butte, Morgan, Storrie and Ute Lakes.) This month, on June 17 and 18, the New Mexico Windsurfing Association sponsors Learn to Windsurf Days at Cochiti. Don't worry about feeling like a dork trying it for the first time-you'll all be dorks during Learn to Windsurf Days. The event is open to anyone and all the equipment will be provided by the club. You'll learn the basics from NMWA members who are certified instructors. The class starts at 10:30 am and the cost is $40 per student. Call Barry, 505-298-4311, to register.
From 9 am until 5 pm on June 24, the club will be holding a swap meet in the parking lot at FrameDesigns (713 Don Diego Ave.), so if you decide you want to keep out of the dust all summer, you can pick up some of your own windsurfing gear.
New Mexico Windsurfing Association