BY MICHELLE INCLEMA
The lazy, hazy days of summer are back. You have three months ahead of warm sunshine, light breezes, and reveling in the great outdoors. But, maybe laying around all day isn’t your thing. Maybe you’re itching to experience the ultimate rush in summer activities by sea, air, and land.
Have you always wanted to try skydiving? Or take a ride on a speeding jet boat into a dangerous whirlpool? Or maybe tethering yourself to the world’s tallest tower sounds like a good time? All of these activities, and more, are closer than you think. Below find six road-trip destinations that will get thrill seekers’ adrenaline pumping. Do you have any other heart-pounding, gut-wrenching, scream-inducing summer-fun road trips you’d like to suggest? Post your picks to this article at rochestercitynewspaper.com.
The life aquatic
For some people, summer means splashing around in lakes, rivers, creeks, and other waterways. If getting soaked is your idea of a good time, consider these outings for your next extreme adventure.
Extreme rush No. 1: whitewater rafting
Who: Adventure Calls Outfitters
Where: Three locations in Western and Central New York: Letchworth State Park, Cattaraugus Creek, Salmon River
Price: $40 per person (ages 8 and under free of charge, must be 45 lb.)
Contact: adventure-calls.com, 1-888-270-2410
“Riding the rapids is exciting,” says Kevin Kretschmer, president of Adventure Calls Outfitters, which offers guided whitewater-rafting trips in Western and Central New York. “With ACO, you are on the water approximately three hours, paddling at a leisurely pace,” says Kretschmer.
Tricia Kapps has tried rafting with Adventure Calls at Letchworth State Park twice. “I would do it again in a heartbeat,” she says. “We live in a state with such diverse landscapes that I would hate to only ever experience it from the roadside. Rafting allows you to see nature from the inside; you can separate yourself from civilization.”
Rapids are classified on a scale of 1 to 6, with 6 being the most aggressive. At Letchworth — about an hour south of Rochester, in Castile — ACO takes paddlers on the Class 1 or 2 rapids of the Genesee River. ACO’s second location at Cattaraugus Creek in Gowanda is a Class 2/3. The third site is the Salmon River, Class 3 rapids located in Pulaski, 30 minutes north of Syracuse.
This year, ACO will ride the Salmon River rapids July 7-8, 21-22, and August 4-5. Rafting occurs at Letchworth on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays April 7-November 18, and Tuesdays-Fridays at 10:30 a.m. June 23-September 2. Currently there are no trips scheduled for Cattaraugus for the remainder of 2012. For additional information or reservations visit the company website, find it on Facebook, or call ahead.
If you’re looking for more aggressive rapids, visit whitewaterchallengers.com for information on conquering the Black River, Moose River, and Hudson River, all located within a day’s drive from Rochester.
Extreme rush No. 2: whirlpool
Who: Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours
Where: Three departure locations in the U.S. and Canada: Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Falls, and Lewiston
Price: $59-$61 ($49-$51 ages 6-13)
Contact: whirlpooljet.com, 1-888-438-4444
So you’ve got some Class 2 or 3 under your belt, but you’re craving bigger, wetter thrills. If you’re looking to conquer ferocious Class 6 rapids without fear, consider the Niagara whirlpool in Niagara Falls, New York.
“If you are going to visit Niagara Falls, the Whirlpool Jet Boat Tour is a must-do activity,” says Rochesterian Karen Young. “You ride the boat at a high speed and the water comes over the side, so be prepared to get soaked.”
John Kinney, president of Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours runs tours through the rapids seven days a week on a 50-passenger, 1600-horsepower turbo diesel jet boat. “The first half of the hour-long tour is scenic; we ride past Fort Niagara, Fort George, the power plants, and the genesis point of Niagara Falls 12,000 years ago,” he says. The boat proceeds through 10- to 12-foot waves at the Devil’s Hole rapids. Finally, thrill seekers visit the Niagara whirlpool that features Class 6 rapids 18 to 22 feet high.
“The whirlpool is a strictly visual experience,” says Kinney. “We pull up next to the largest whitewater rapids in the world so everyone can safely view the current that forms the Niagara whirlpool.” The jet boat then turns around to “play” in the Devil’s Hole rapids, which is guaranteed to “soak everyone thoroughly and put a big smile on your face,” he says.
“It’s definitely a thrill ride,” says Young.
Up in the air
If you love the thrill of extreme heights, or if high altitudes get your adrenaline pumping, get your kicks in the blue skies above.
Extreme rush No. 3: skydiving
Who: SkyDive Central New York
Where: Weedsport, N.Y.
Price: $210-$300, ages 18 and up
Contact: skydivecny.com, 315-535-7777
Known as the “first-time jump experts,” Skydive Central New York is committed to making your first skydive a memorable occasion. Located between Syracuse and Rochester in Weedsport, Skydive Central New York is open six days a week from April to November.
“Skydiving was one of the best experiences of my life,” says Brian Aloisi, who took his first jump in Pennsylvania. “The waiting to jump was the hardest part of all. You start with a 60 second freefall, then a 5-minute parachute ride, which is really like floating down in a lawn chair falling at 20 mph. The whole journey was incredibly peaceful.”
According to Drop Zone Owner Mike Burgess, Skydive Central New York takes thrill seekers 11,000 feet above ground, and the initial freefall can reach speeds of 120-130 miles per hour. “I love the feeling of freedom,” says Burgess.
Most first-time jumpers participate in tandem skydiving, in which the jumper is harnessed to a license professional. However, Skydive Central New York offers a training course for those who want to become licensed to make a solo jump. Reservations are preferred, and there is no group minimum to participate.
Extreme rush No. 4: CN Tower Edge Walk
Who: CN Tower Edge Walk
Where: West Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Price: $175 plus tax, ages 13 and up
Contact: edgewalkcntower.ca, 1-855-553-3833
Imagine standing 1,168 feet above ground, your feet gripping a 5’ ledge as you lean back into the cool afternoon air, with no barrier between you and the sky except one thin strap. That’s exactly the adventure you can expect at the CN Tower Edge Walk, the newest attraction to hit Toronto, Canada.
Now in its second season, the Edge Walk runs seasonally May through October. Classified as the world’s tallest tower by the Guinness Book of World Records, the CN Tower stands at 1,185 feet, 5 inches tall. Edge Walk participants walk in groups of six on the top of the tower’s main pod. They are attached to an overhead safety rail via a trolley and harness system. This allows walkers to be “hands-free” as they lean back over the edge. While the total walk is 20 to 30 minutes in length, the trip is 90 minutes long, including safety training and debriefing procedures.
Admission to Edge Walk includes a keepsake video, photos, certificate of achievement, and re-entry to the CN Tower. “The public has shown that they are ready and eager to push their limits by taking part in Toronto’s most exciting attraction in decades,” says Mark Laroche, president and CEO of Canada Lands Company.
Both feet on the ground
You don’t have to hit the high seas or jump out of a plane to experience the ultimate rush. Are you a racing junkie? Love a good ghost story? Read on for ways to have fun without getting your feet wet.
Extreme rush No. 5: ghost hunt
Who: Rolling Hills Asylum
Where: East Bethany, N.Y.
Price: Starts at $20, ages 18 and up (except select teen nights)
Contact: rollinghillsasylum.com, 502-4066
If you want to witness the things that go bump in the night, look no further than Rolling Hills Asylum in East Bethany, about 45 southwest of Rochester. “The asylum is considered one of the most haunted locations in the country, if not in the world,” says Sharon Coyle, proprietor of Rolling Hills. Guests are led on 90-minute historical tours, two-hour flashlight tours, four- or eight-hour ghost hunts, or private tours. Starting this summer, Rolling Hills will also feature classic horror-film movie nights on Wednesdays for $8.
Established in the mid-19th century, the site was originally established as a Poor Farm, a home for widows, orphans, the mentally disabled and minor criminals to be supported by public funds. The inmates, as they were called, lived out their lives on the Poor Farm, and records indicate there was once a cemetery on the property. “There were over 1700 documented deaths,” says Coyle. Following the Poor Farm, the site served as the Genesee County hospital and a nursing home before entering private ownership. Coyle is the fourth private owner of the property.
Rolling Hills Asylum achieved fame in 2005 when the TV show “Ghost Adventures” visited the site for the Travel Channel. According to Coyle, guests can feel the presence of Rolling Hills’ spirited inhabitants day and night. “You might feel cold spots, hear voices, see doors slamming or shadow people, or get the feeling of cobwebs on your skin,” says Coyle. “The cobweb feeling is a spirit touching you.”
Despite the spine tingles, Coyle insists that the spirits are friendly. “They welcome the attention; they are very respectful and communicative.”
Extreme rush No. 6: car racing
Who: Watkins Glen International
Where: Watkins Glen, N.Y.
Price: $25 for Thunder Road Tour, ages 18 and up
Contact: theglen.com, 607-535-2338
If you love the sound of engines running and tires screeching, include a trip to Watkins Glen International in your summer plans. The Glen is one of the most historic road courses in North America, having played host to nearly every major motorsport series, including NASCAR, Formula 1, Sprint Cup, and the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association.
“The nice thing about racing is it’s both a physical and mental challenge,” says Vicktor Sebastian Volpe, an amateur competitive racer. “You are playing a game of chess at an average speed of 82 mph around Watkins Glen, and both strategy and skill come into play.”
In addition to heart-stopping excitement from the stands during the various professional races held throughout the season, fans can take a turn — or three — around the race trackin their own vehicle as part of the Thunder Road Tour series.
“Thunder Road Tours are offered nearly every day throughout the summer months,” says Elizabeth Mayer, public relations manager at Watkins Glen. Fans can purchase a ticket for $25 at The Shop, the official retail store for WGI, or at Gate 2 on the course. The Shop is located at 2 North Franklin St. in the village of Watkins Glen.