Adrenaline Adventures

Where to get your high-octane fix.

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.

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Paintball

Liberty Paintball, Brewster, NY

(845) 878-6300
$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.

 

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Skydiving

Skydive the Ranch, Gardiner, NY
(845) 255-4033
$195 for first tandem jump
ADRENALINE RATING:  â˜…★★★★

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.

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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

 

Whitewater Rafting

Whitewater Challengers, White Haven, PA

(800) 443-RAFT
$36.95—$54.95 depending on day
ADRENALINE RATING: ★★★★★

“Dam release,” they advertised. “Damn good,” I thought. In fact, I hoped I wasn’t under-qualified to partake in such an excursion. On the big day, I arrived in eastern Pennsylvania at a campground swarming with whitewater enthusiasts. I picked up my lifejacket and a bagged lunch, and hopped on a school bus down to the river. There, I jumped into a red rubber raft about 12 feet long and five feet wide with three other people, as did the rest of three school busses full of people who had joined us on our excursion. Inside the raft were two buckets—one for protecting our lunches from the unruly waves and one for bailing out the boat. “Bailing out the boat,” I thought. “How cool is this?”

Onto the river, in my bathing suit and polypropylene T-shirt, I went. We sailed, gently, down a patch of tree-lined waterway as I anticipated the rushing rapids to come. But, after 30 minutes…nothing. In fact, the only adrenaline rush came from playing “splash wars.” This was a game in which water that had found its way into the raft was scooped up in the bucket and thrown at riders in other rafts. I took to this game and could be seen standing in my raft with bucket in hand ordering my “crew” to attack “boat thirteen.” I could also be seen negotiating alliances with other rafts to help throw our collective streams of dirty H2O at seafarers who had been particularly successful at dousing me. Still, the water was quite tame. 

But there were exceptions. At one point, my crew and I came to a particularly rocky rough spot where, finally, water splashed above our heads and we had to paddle around imposing rocks that jetted out of the water and occasionally wedged themselves under our boat requiring the lot of us to jump up and down in attempt to scoot our raft back into the rapids. 

And, towards the end of the journey, things did get exciting. My heart jumped as the leader of our tour told us that we were approaching an area that was dangerous enough that our boats had to go down it one at a time. However, this proved easier said than done. The boats went crashing into each other while floating down these narrow and quick rapids, causing one of them to start to flip. My crew and I, sensing a chance for adventure, paddled over and tried to steady the boat. But, as we grabbed on, another raft crashed into its back and into the air it went. “Nooooo!” I yelled as the semi-terrified face of a 50-year-old man turned sideways as he plunked into the water. (He ended up A.O.K)

So adrenaline-filled? Not so much—unless at the expense of others.

 

Go-Kart Racing

Grand Prix New York, Mount Kisco, NY
(914) 241-3131
$25 per person
ADRENALINE RATING: ★★★★★

At a 120,000-square-foot Grand Union warehouse-turned-race track in Mount Kisco, riders get to dress up in spacesuit-like riding gear and get behind the wheel of $8,000, four-stroke, 6.5 horse-power Honda gas-powered race cars that can reach 40 miles per hour. The feeling of competition is pretty heart-pounding, especially when you go with a group of friends and pride is on the line. (And when isn’t it?)

As the green flag fell on my 12 laps, I sped my way up the course’s six-foot incline, attempting to overtake the first-place car. For seven laps, I pursued the leader, bumping up against walls and getting so close that I could smell the fumes from his engine. But then…tragedy struck. On lap seven, I spun out so viciously that a track worker had to reorient me in the right direction as car after heart-rending car passed by me, dragging with them my hopes of a first-place finish. Alas, I finished eighth.

As for adrenaline—the race is too short (and too costly per run at $25 a pop)—for a long-term rush, but hell, adrenaline is all about quick trips sometimes.

 

Car Racing

Monticello Motor Club, Monticello, NY

(845) 468-7039
$125,000 resident membership plus $9,000 in annual dues
ADRENALINE RATING: ★★★★★

I promised myself I wouldn’t tell anyone that I almost had a reversal at the Monticello Motor Club. But, alas, this article is full disclosure. In all fairness, I had just spent 10 minutes driving at nearly 150 miles per hour around a 4.1-mile race track with a 25-year professional Indy Car driver in a Ford GT. (The Lexus was in the shop!) But it wasn’t the speed that got to me; I like speed. It was probably the 50-mile-per-hour hairpin turns we took, which caused the back wheels of the car I was in to skid out in both directions (I’m convinced simultaneously). Oh, and we weren’t even going full-tilt. There’s only so much adrenaline the motor club will provide without a full membership.

Make no mistake about it: the Monticello Motor Club is not a stop on a daytrip up north. This is a high-end club, with a full clubhouse, dining room, spa, helicopter pad, car storage lot, and a series of autominiums on site. What is an autominium, you ask? Why it’s just like it sounds, a condominium in which you can store up to 12 cars, which can be seen through glass walls inside your condo. 

Adrenaline junkies, this is nirvana. Yes, you can bring your own car, or, more likely, cars, and race them on either the full track or one of three smaller tracks into which the full track can be divided. Yes, you can play around on the skid pad practicing what to do when your Corvette starts to skid. You even can let your kids practice here so they’re prepared incase the ol’ Mercedes starts to skid on Mamaroneck Avenue. Yes, your kids can use the go-karts on-site, too. Yes, they do have track pros on-site who have undeniable cred, including Brian Redman, who drove a Porsche 917 with Steve McQueen in LeMans. Yes, you can get a massage on-site when you’re done. And yes, you can watch the videos of Mario Andretti christening the place.

But can you visit just to try the place out? No, unless one of your friends is a member and grants you one of his six yearly guest passes, or unless you opt—for $2,500—to become a member for a day to test out whether you want to upgrade to full membership. Now, if that’s not motivation to go make it rich, what is?

I highly recommend you try every activity I tried—except, if you’re going to go whitewater rafting, find a better part of the country in which to do it. But definitely pick up a paintball gun and head north. I’ll see you on the field. I’ll be the one without much paint on my jersey shooting at you!

Freelance writer W. Dyer Halpern is…still alive. Thankfully.

Our intrepid writer goes the extra mile—albeit downward—for his story.

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