Up, Up, Away

The economy's been laid low, but you can still get high. Extremely.

At Crazy Creek, glides start with a tow: A small, powered plane pulls the glider up into the air by a rope. Depending on wind conditions, the plane will either tow the glider to altitude or let it go as soon as it catches a thermal (a current of hot rising air). Once the tow plane disengages, a glider usually flies for 15 to 20 minutes, but that flight time is not set in stone. Gliders don't just float where the wind takes them. Pilots control the plane at all times and can stay up for hours.

Once soaring quietly at 5,000 feet, passengers can expect to see all of Lake County as well as north to the Sierras and south to San Francisco. "It's not uncommon to fly with a bald eagle," Indrebo says.

Adventurous passengers can opt for aerobatic flights that include loops and rolls and other upside-down fun. And diehards can study with a Crazy Creek Soaring instructor for a solo or private pilot license.

Instructor Michael Meehan catches student 
Liza Boyd.
Dan Dion
Instructor Michael Meehan catches student Liza Boyd.
Instructor Michael Meehan catches student 
Elise 
Pfeiffer at the San Francisco School of 
Circus Arts.
Dan Dion
Instructor Michael Meehan catches student Elise Pfeiffer at the San Francisco School of Circus Arts.

Flying Trapeze

"Flying trapeze can be for anyone," Erick Methot, an instructor at the Circus Center, says. "Even if you're overweight, blind, or even have one leg. It's the personal will that matters. It's about pushing boundaries."

The Circus Center is a nonprofit group composed of The New Pickle Circus, the San Francisco School of Circus Arts, and the San Francisco Youth Circus. The school offers both professional and recreational classes to children and adults in acrobatics, aerial arts, contortion, juggling, stilt walking, tight wire, trampoline -- and, of course, in flying trapeze.

The flying trapeze instructor team is unparalleled in the area, boasting over 45 years of combined experience.

New students begin on a trapeze just 8 feet off the ground, but Methot promises that even first-timers will make the 22-foot climb to the flying trapeze before the end of the lesson. There, students will practice the "knee hang" and be caught at least twice by an instructor swinging upside down on another trapeze.

Of course, a new student is attached to a safety harness and "spotted" by a rope handled by one of the center's three instructors. New students also learn how to drop safely from the trapeze into the big net below. According to Methot, it takes about a year of training to learn to fly to a "catcher" without safety lines

The Circus Center holds its classes in a weathered gymnasium near Kezar Stadium where there's no pulsing music or gym attitude, just the clinks and clanks of a working circus gym, an enchanted world of mat-covered floors and trapezes dangling from the rafters. During class, it's not uncommon to see a man wrapped around a static trapeze, a woman dangling in a contortionist pose on a rope, and a trapeze student warming up on the trampoline.

In addition to its classes, the Circus Center hosts parties -- birthday, bachelorette, and corporate. A group can rent out the flying trapeze, and everyone who wants to can get a chance to practice a few moves under the watchful eyes of the instructors.

If You Want to Get High

San Francisco Hang Gliding Center

(510) 528-2300

www.sfhanggliding.com

Tandem hang gliding: Monday through Friday, $275 (includes video); Saturday and Sunday $300 (includes video).

Tandem aquagliding: Monday through Friday, $275 (includes video); Saturday and Sunday, $300 (includes video).

Crazy Creek Soaring

18896 Grange Road

Middletown, CA 95461

(707) 987-9112

www.crazycreekgliders.com

Standard flight: Flight times for one passenger and two passengers respectively. 15-20 min. $130/$180; 25-30 min. $160/$235; 35-40 min. $215/ $290.

Aerobatic flight: One passenger only. 20 minutes (average) $205.

Bay Area Skydiving

300 Armstrong Road #26

Byron, CA 94514

(925) 634-7575

www.bayareaskydiving.com

Tandem jumps from 10,000 ft.: Wednesday through Friday, $145.

Tandem jumps from 14,000 ft.: Saturday and Sunday, $170. Discounts for groups of more than five people.

Circus Center

755 Frederick Street

San Francisco, CA 94117

759-8123

www.circuscenter.org

Beginning flying trapeze: 7:15 to 8:30 p.m. Friday; 10 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday; 10 to 11:30 a.m. Sunday. $45 per class or $27 per class if you sign up for three or more classes at once. Class is on a drop in-basis, but call ahead to make reservations; class is limited to eight people.

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