The instructors at Skydive Hollister conduct their highest jumps at 18,000 feet—the greatest height from which one can dive without supplemental oxygen. Even at this altitude, they have to pump oxygen into the plane’s cockpit before a jump. Once outside, the 120 mile-per-hour free falls last little more than one minute. They help students navigate this rapid descent on tandem dives, during which they strap into the same harness as their student and coach them in proper body position, steering, and parachute release over the sound of roaring wind. At 5,000 feet, instructors deploy the parachute and instruct their partner in parachute control and landing techniques as the blue waters of Monterey Bay and the hills of San Francisco unfold below.
Instructors also train students seeking skydiving licenses through two programs. In the Accelerated Free-Fall program, they teach skydiving principles and technical basics in a four- to six-hour ground school before strapping students into their own parachutes for seven jumps. The Instructor-Assisted Free-Fall program precedes this solo training with two tandem skydives, during which instructors teach their protégés the basics of free-fall turns, altitude awareness, and filling in for the lead goose flying in V-formation.
In the 1850s, winery founder Theophile Vache chose a piece of land to plant wine grapes because of its maritime climate and unique soils. More recently, this land was christened Pietra Santa?Italian for ?sacred stone??in honor of the region's granite- and limestone-rich soils, which have produced subtly earthy wines for 150 years. Rows of olive trees and wine grapes, including pinot noir and pinot gris varieties, sprout from 450 acres of fecund soil nestled in the Gabilan Range.
Within the Mission-style winery, vintner Alessio Carli ferments vino in oak barrels, and a Tuscan-imported press squeezes oils from organic olives. The winery's picnic area furnishes guests and marooned hot air balloon captains with breath-nabbing views of Cienega Valley. In addition to garnering the adoration of oenophiles, Pietra Santa has attracted attention from Frank Lloyd Wright associate Burley Griffin Junior, who designed the estate's prairie-style Dickinson house, which was built in 1905.
With a reverence for Old-World winemaking techniques, Leal Vineyards founder Frank Leal orchestrates a well-balanced blend of varietals including chardonnay, syrah, malbec, and mourvèdre. The self-taught vine visionary personally tends to the estate, determining optimum moments for picking and bottling to prevent the scars of prematurely separating young grapes from their mothers. In addition to nurturing the 50-acre flock of award-winning grapes, Leal's estate hosts weddings, corporate functions, parties, and wine tastings, which introduce palates to the subtle notes of its signature varietals. Those whose taste in wines changes with the seasons can join the vineyard’s wine club to receive a new bouquet each quarter.
The locations that comprise Paintball Tickets challenge hue-happy gamers to a range of combative revelry fought with air-powered paintbrushes. During games, referees maintain a fun and lighthearted wartime experience while competitors engage in capture-the-flag style strategy. As players navigate the terrain on a quest to invade the other team's territory and avoid epidemics of trenchfoot, they covertly scope opponents and peg them with bright-colored pellets to dull their chance at victory.
Bay Area Glider Rides's gliders fly companionably next to hawks and eagles, reaching elevations of a mile or more as they soar over the Diablo Range, Monterey Bay, and other local landmarks. A certified pilot helms each ride, which can fit one or two passengers, but those who wish to fly solo also can obtain personal glider-pilot licenses at the facility's flight school.