When Randy Long and his family recently went on spring break, they didn't laze around on a beach staring at the sea. Instead, they trekked around the world to China. The choice of destination isn't surprising given Randy's extraordinarily adventurous spirit—the former travel agent has trotted the globe a few times, dog sledding in Alaska and scuba diving in Bermuda along the way.
Despite his eagerness to explore, Randy probably surprised even himself when he was caught by an unexpected wave of inspiration during a 1986 Rotary Club meeting in Illinois. When hot air balloonist Harold Lovelace spoke to the club, Randy was so transfixed that he immediately offered to buy one of Harold's balloons. By the end of the year, Randy had his pilot's license, was flying in the world's largest hot air balloon event, and became a pro at photo-bombing the portraits of landscape artists. Within five years, he sold his travel agency and set up shop in Arizona as a full-time balloon pilot.
Since founding Arizona Balloon Safaris, Randy has maintained a perfect flight record, successfully piloting more than 2,000 flights for more than 20,000 passengers (including Shakira and J.W. Marriott). His colorful balloons ride the Sonoran Desert's breezes, gently carrying passengers as far as seven miles while maintaining a feeling of near motionlessness. From any corner of the balloons' sturdy wicker baskets, people can scan all 360 degrees of the desert panorama without a single visual interruption. Whether skimming the tops of cacti or reaching the flight's 5,000-foot apex, groups will likely spot—and sometimes hear—deer, coyote, and jackrabbits during the 45-minute ride. Passengers can bring a camera to take pictures of these sights along the way. Upon landing, the chase crew welcomes groups back to Earth with celebratory glasses of champagne.
David Guy is a certified flight instructor, but that doesn't begin to describe his depth of experience with aircrafts. Before retiring, he served in the Air Force as a C-130 flight engineer, logging more than 5,000 hours as an engineer and 1,000 as a pilot. Today, he puts this background to daily use at Desert Spirits Aviation, an FAA-certified flight school operating out of Marana Regional Airfield. He instructs students aboard his trusty1970 Piper Cherokee 140C aircraft, overseeing their advancement from aeronautical novices to recreational, commercial, and private pilot licenses.
Paintball can be a messy game, but Paintball Hotline makes the marketing of the game a clean process. They partner with online marketing companies to expose parks across the country to the players who want to frequent them. Working only in the business of paintball, they provide expertise and personalized attention for both park owners and players. Firsthand knowledge of the sport also comes from having managed fields that boasted more than 400 acres with more than 650 paintball-gun rentals.
Across Disruptive Paintball?s six battlefields, teams splatter blotches of color across 18 acres of dry desert landscape. Amidst the shrubs and sparse trees, they slink behind giant wooden spools and up stairs into watchtowers, where they pick off opponents belly crawling up dirt mounds. Players can also post up inside a dilapidated helicopter and various forts or challenge their aim and reflexes on the small speedball court furnished with large inflatable obstacles. Because the center's varied and exciting arena attracts players of virtually every age and skill level?from 7-year-old girls and boys to elderly grandparents?staff members divide participants by skill level to ensure every player has a safe and fun experience. Disruptive Paintball also hosts airsoft nights, a game similar to paintball that uses soft pellets in place of paintballs.
Three baseball cages and three softball cages housed in the indoor Batters Box facility hurl their best stuff into the strike zone so that baseball players can polish their cuts. Various settings enable all levels to improve, serving slower pitches to younger and less-experienced players and transforming into hecklers so experienced players can master their game faces. Batter’s Box also employs a couple of decorated instructors in Jerry Hairston Sr., a 14-year major leaguer and father to two current pros, and Autumn Champion, a former standout at the University of Arizona and current record holder for the fourth-highest softball batting average in the nation.
If horseback riding is Renee Lewis's first love, watching others learn to share the same passion comes a close second. As the owner of Double R Ranch, Renee gets to share her experiences every day. Situated between Saguaro National Park and the Ironwood Preserve, the ranch offers thousands of acres to explore on trail rides by the hour, half-day, or full-weekend, which is the longest the horses can last without their daytime soap operas. Back at the ranch, Renee also conducts Western BBQs and equine-themed birthday parties.
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