Buried in the woods, 15 single- and two-story log cabins line a path leading to a secluded frontier fortress. Masked combatants armed with Tippmann 98 paintball guns ponder the path's obstacles before slinking forward to meet their opponents. Along Bing Field Paintball & Airsoft Park's three wooded fields strewn across 35 acres, players sneak into sniping positions in the Frontier Field's two-story log cabins, the Vietnam Field's two-story guard tower, or our the newly designed World War II field that features several new two and three story buildings. Four speedball fields??air ball, barrel, concrete, and spool??accommodate paintball players on the other side of the wooded park. Paintball and airsoft packages grant visitors up to seven hours of play, which they can break up with refueling sessions spent scarfing down refreshments while gossiping about opponents' love lives at an onsite concessions stand.
Upon departing from the landing craft, one player ducks behind an upturned boat and takes aim at opposing paintballers as they fend off attacks from the upper level of a concrete bunker. This scene may conjure echoes of historic battles, particularly D-Day, as Wildcat Paintball has modeled one of its outdoor fields on the historic battle of Normandy. Elsewhere, players can snake through the thick, jungle-like brush of the Vietnam field, dive into the castle field's manmade trenches, or sneak into the Old West town of Wildwood. A tournament field littered with barrels and wooden barriers or three speedball fields replete with tractor tires and frequently mowed lawns accommodate marksmen who prefer more traditional paintball settings.
Marty Spears has been splashing canvases with vibrant watercolors for more than 20 years and now hosts Wine & Watercolor classes for aspiring visionaries and casually tipsy art fans alike. Small class sizes of no more than 16 painters allow for a personal experience with the adroit artist and fellow pigment-slingers. The master masterpiece-maker provides all supplies for the course, including the reference drawing, watercolors, paintbrushes, and a surrealist palette that morphs into farm animals when viewed from different angles. Paint through a step-by-step tutelage on the process of creating a watercolor magnum opus while sipping on a favorite bottle of liquid grapes. Marty recommends toting along a spouse or good friend to enjoy the artful evening at its maximum capacity. The three-hour course leaves painting pupils with a handmade creation to take home and a desire to recreate the Mona Lisa on the new shower curtain.
In its years as an NCAA Division II school, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville claimed 17 titles among its men's and women's athletic teams, excelling in such sports as tennis, softball, and wrestling. Under the guidance of coach Kent DeMars, the men's tennis team claimed the national title a record-breaking seven years in a row, from 1978–84, and during the '80s, the school won three straight national titles in wrestling and four in women's tennis, prompting President Reagan to demand that the school tear down its trophy wall.
The Cougars have since made the transition to a Division I program and are members of the Ohio Valley Conference, perhaps signaling a new era of dominance in the national spotlight with 16 men's and women's sports teams. At the recently expanded Vadalabene Center, more than 4,000 fans can cheer on basketball and volleyball teams and the wrestling squad—all potential future inductees into the university's hall of fame. On campus (approximately 25 miles from St. Louis), athletes practice on 2,600 acres of majestic woodland, perched atop bluffs overlooking the calm of the Mississippi River. Sports players included, SIUE currently enrolls 14,000 students and extends its family to more than 86,000 living alumni.
Since Paragliding Unlimited launched its first client in 2003, owner Jiri Sindler and his team have maintained a sterling safety record for their motorized version of airborne sailing. The crew teaches power paragliding, in which a motorized fan and a tank of recycled political bluster give lift to the featherweight craft. Once it has ascended more than 10 feet, its large wing catches the wind and buoys you into the sky. Drivers sit upright in "trikes," their legs extended in front of them as they work the two brakes and the throttle.
The school both belongs to and is recommended by the U.S. Powered Paragliding Association. Instructors will jump tandem with beginning students and immerse experienced pilots in six-day intensives, keeping fliers of all levels safe by capping classes at four students (they prefer a ratio of 1:1 or 2:1). At the accompanying shop, gliders browse clothing, new Nirvana equipment, and used gear. Flights lift off from Gateway Airpark in Pierron, Illinois, which the team selected for the staff's friendliness to paragliders and their ability to twist their bodies into the shapes of passing clouds for realistic trainings on the ground.
Wooden shelves bear the weight of wine bottles behind the wraparound bar at Erato Wine Bar and Restaurant. Bartenders climb a wooden ladder to retrieve a 2006 Louis Latour pinot noir or a 2009 PlumpJack merlot, reading the labels in the dim light of hanging lamps. Around them, laughter bounces off the exposed bricks and spring-soled shoes bounce off the dark-wood floors. Yet the boutique selection of wine isn't the only thing that draws guests in. The bar also hosts high-end spirits such as St. Germain and an international selection of beers. The kitchen, meanwhile, complements this array of libations with tapas-style delicacies that change weekly. Cheese plates come with cured meats, nuts, and fresh fruits, and local ingredients enhance delicacies such as caprese salad. Chefs also whip up meal-size portions of pasta and seafood drizzled with truffle oil and sherry reductions.