Rex and Noelle Mayes have piloting in their blood. Rex's father was an Air Force doctor and glider pilot, and Noelle's parents and grandparents also took to the skies as their profession. The Mayes family carries on these traditions at Williams Soaring Center, where sons Ben and Nick are also in training to become private glider pilots. Rex and Noelle lead a team of instructors, many certified in single-engine landing (SEL) and as Certified Flight Instructors-Glider (CFIG), who train students in private glider flight, sending them soaring up to a mile above Northern California landscapes.
The instructors command a fleet of modern, fiberglass gliders—including Schweizer, Schleicher, and Schempp-Hirth models—that they regularly check and refurbish inside an onsite maintenance hangar. During private-pilot training, they eschew formal ground school in favor of practical experience. These hands-on sessions teach students how to safely operate their motor-less machines while honing a situational awareness of weather conditions, aerodynamics, and thermals.
The pair also takes customers up in two- or three-seat gliders on guided flights. These can soar up to 10 miles from the airport in any direction the customer wishes, except directly into the UFO traffic jams around the sun. Pilots may chart a leisurely course toward views of the Sierras, Mount Shasta, and Mount Lassen or put the plane through sharp banks and turns during a shorter flight.
There's not a white T-shirt in sight at Mud Blast's finish line, though you might see a pink tutu. Messy terrain dominates the forests, fields, and river lands that line the race's five kilometers and the path to victory winds through tunnels, tires, hay-bale climbs, and other obstacles. Pits might lurk around any turn, threatening to cover runners in liquified dirt from head to toe to that marsupial pouch they didn't know they had. Mud blankets everyone who crosses the finish line: adults, teens, and even kids, who race through their own Mini Mud Blast course. Post-race celebrations add to the messy fun with awards for top finishers and best costumes.
The Mud Run's blend of competition and celebration occurs along the banks of both the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers. These locations aren't arbitrary; proceeds from each run go towards the conservation of these river lands, thanks to the efforts of the Mud Blast's parent company, River Partners. The organization owns Willow Bend and is actively working to restore its more than 160 acres to riparian habitat as well as Dos Rios Ranch and its 1,600 acres of woodlands, flood plains, and working agricultural fields.
All across California, Western Bowling Proprietors Association sends pins scattering at a network of bowling alleys, each with its own personality. In addition to open bowl on automatically scored lanes, many locations host special events that heighten the experience with enhancements such as vibrant lights, lively music, and laser systems that do double duty protecting the alleys' diamond collections. The alleys also house refreshment facilities, pro shops, and diversions that range from arcade games to billiards.