November 11, 2010

I Just Tried Paintball (or "Why I'm Covered in Paint")

How much fun can you have with $37.50, a specialized weapon, a creepy mask and 500 paintballs? Turns out, quite a bit!

This past weekend, some members of The League of Adventurous Women visited Paintball-Sportsland in Frederick, Maryland where we had PERFECT weather for our four-hour blast fest.  When I say, "perfect," I mean that the day was warm enough to be comfortable but cool enough to wear a couple of layers for padding.  I've heard that being hit by a paintball can leave a welt or decent bruise.  The two shots I caught on my knuckles and the one that smacked into my elbow supported the claim. However, my vest, sweat shirt and sweat pants protected the rest of me pretty well.
Paintball mask before...

...Paintball mask after
Undoubtedly, most important part of anyone's protective gear is the creepy mask mentioned above.  Since the guns were shooting little green projectiles at about 198 miles per hour, you really could shoot your eye out and those masks turn out to be wonderful protection.

So here's how the day unfolded: My group of adventurous women joined the throng of guys (many in their teens) to pay the basic fee for rental and four hours of play time.  The rental included a gun (powered by compressed carbon dioxide), the mask, and a big bag of green balls--each encasing a blob of bright orange paint.  The play involved quite a few (I lost track) 15-minute scenarios in various locations including a "village," a "fort" and the woods.  The players (there were approximately 34 of us) were split into two opposing teams.

Each game started with general instructions, a command to remove the "barrel plug" and safety then, "GO!" From that point on, the job was to hit as many opposing players as possible without being hit.  It was a combination of fun and adrenaline rush. Twice, I was hunkered behind a barrier while several players shot at me from different directions. Paintballs splattered all around, bounced off the ground, exploded on trees and rained paint all over me. In most games, a paintball or two hit their mark and then I'd be out for the remainder of the game.

Advancing in the village
Though the entire point is to "kill" one another, safety was stressed by the referees. Violating the rules earned you a black mark on your wrist band; three strikes and you were out for the day.

All in all, it was an exhilarating, and surprisingly exhausting, day.  At less than $10/hour, it was a bargain to boot.
Protecting the fort

Team Hoodie takes the woods
One final note: Paintball is a game and knowing that I could walk away after being "killed" by paint made me bold.  Having so many people trying to kill me made me very thankful that I don't live in a place where these rounds could be real. It also caused me to think about the men and women whose jobs routinely place them in harm's way. My thoughts are with all of you this Veteran's Day.

October 10, 2010

Visit a Psychic!

Back in January, the League of Adventurous Women added "visit a psychic" to the annual to-do list and today was the group's big day.

Psychics are always interesting but our organizer, Pam, added to the experience by arranging for our group to spend the morning having brunch and bottomless mimosas at Ben's Next Door (the modern addition to DC's historic Ben's Chili Bowl).  In between bites of Ben's famous fried chicken, waffles and chili fries, we took turns visiting the Zodiac Reading Room a few doors away.

Our reader, Victoria, who offered both palm and tarot card readings, came up with some startling observations, secret predictions and a bit of advice for the coming months. We're all marking our calendars with the important dates she mentioned and have decided to return in six months for a follow-up visit.

This is a terrific October adventure if you have an open mind, a spirit of fun and, did I mention the bottomless mimosas?

Image credit: CARDS
© Imre Forgo |

October 1, 2010

World Habitat Day

This Monday you could wake up and go back to work or school or whatever fills your normal routine or you could play hookie and make a difference in the world.

The United Nations has designated the first Monday in October as World Habitat Day. There are plenty of activities around the planet to help draw attention to the global need for improved shelter. Why not spend Monday applying your time and talent to helping the human race?
Many Habitat for Humanity local offices around the world have organized World Habitat Day events.  Habitat for Humanity’s 27th annual Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project is a World Habitat Day event  this year.  It will be held Oct. 4 – 8 in six cities in the United States.  Held in a different location each year, Habitat’s Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project is an annual, internationally-recognized week of building that brings attention to the need for simple, decent and affordable housing.  This year, the Carters will work alongside volunteers in Washington, D.C.; Baltimore and Annapolis, Md.; Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn.; and Birmingham, Ala. to build, rehabilitate and improve 86 homes.
  • To see a list of other Habitat World Habitat Day events, click here.
  • To join Habitat's World Habitat Day Photo Wall, click here.

    September 25, 2010

    Be the Adventurous Woman on the Flying Trapeze!

    I was one of those kids who often dreamed of flying through the neighborhood with arms outstretched and hair blowing in the wind.  I never thought I could make that dream a reality until I discovered Trapeze School New York.  This past weekend, some members of my Adventure Club and I took to the air at TSNY's Washington, DC location and had the time of our lives!

    TSNY offers a choice of indoor or outdoor classes. Our group was split between the two options and found both to be enjoyable.  Our 2-hour beginning trapeze class started with the instructors cinching very snug harnesses around our middles, a 10-minute talk about the basics, and a brief demonstration. Then, it was time to climb.

    I clapped and yelled when my friends took their turns on the platform but I'll admit that after chalking my hands and scaling the trembling 29-foot ladder, my enthusiasm started to wane. I had to take a breath and remind myself that I was doing this for FUN.

    I stood in the middle of the platform, two ropes clipped to my harness, toes dangling off the edge, leaning out into space (Hips forward! Shoulders back!) and grasped the surprisingly heavy bar with my right hand. My left hand had a firm hold on the platform's support structure. The bar pulled me out, away from the platform so letting go of the support and grabbing the bar with two hands was a real mental effort (thanks for holding onto my harness, Scout). Bending my knees and hopping into the void was downright unnerving.

    I was worried that my grip was too weak, and surprised by how physically hard it was to pull my knees up over the bar (it was a piece of cake in 4th grade) and how emotionally difficult it was to release my hands and hang upside down. It helped to have an instructor yelling commands: "KNEES UP! HANDS OFF! ARCH! LOOK AT YOUR HANDS!, HANDS ON THE BAR! KNEES DOWN! LET GO!. ( The delay between ears hearing and body doing did NOT help). What surprised me most was how rattled I felt when I finally dropped to that net and flipped to the ground. My heart was pounding and my head was spinning, BUT, it was!

    Flight number two was a little easier, the third was easier still.  Each turn took each of us closer to our ultimate goal for the day -- being caught. Watching all the other fliers, I could see that timing was everything. Waiting for that split second of weightlessness at the top of the swing means you aren't fighting gravity when you try to change positions.  I never managed to get the timing right but at least I learned what I was supposed to do.

    At the end of the 2-hour class, we had taken five turns each on the trapeze and all agreed that it was well worth the money and the time it took to get to the school. In fact, most of us signed up to fly again before we walked out the door.

    If you want to be the adventurous woman on the flying trapeze, TSNY has schools in DC, New York, Boston and Los Angeles.  The cost is $55 for two hours (plus a $20 one-time registration fee).

    If you want to see this flier in action (briefly), click here.

    Photo credit: S. Anderson, video credit: G & D Stewart

    September 13, 2010

    6th Annual Museum Day--Free Admission!

    Here's some free fun that's good for you too! September 25 is Smithsonian Magazine's 6th annual Museum Day. Museums all over the country are offering free tickets online. Visit the site to download a ticket good for two admissions (limit one per household).  For a state by state list of museums and a downloadable ticket, click here.

    May 7, 2010

    May 9 - 16 is Europe Week in the US

    It's European Union Week in the US.

    From May 9 to May 16, 2010 – with a special focus on May 9, Europe Day* – EU Centers of Excellence, universities, think tanks, other non-governmental organizations and the Embassies and Consulates of EU Member States around the US will take part in Europe Week 2010, hosting events designed to create a better understanding of the European Union. Europe Week events include speeches, seminars and workshops on EU issues; film screenings, concerts and cultural events related to the European Union or to EU Member States; presentations at high schools and universities; and more.

    April 18, 2010

    It's National Park Week: Free Admission April 17-25

    Today is the beginning of National Park Week and all 392 of the wild spaces in the National Park Service are free to the public until April 25.  Grab your hiking shoes and click here to find a park near you. What a great way to celebrate spring! 

    This gorgeous waterfall is in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. 

    Photo credit: William Bradfield

    April 17, 2010

    Not Getting What You Want: What Could Be Better?

    Monica Bhide's life hasn't gone in the direction she planned. She wanted to attend graduate school in India but her father insisted she go to the US. She studied to be an engineer but, as destiny would have it, she's now a food writer. Monica's story, "Undesigning a Life," is featured in the April edition of Washingtonian magazine and is an inspiration to all of us who find our lives filled with the unexpected.

    My favorite quote from the piece, "If you get what your heart desires, it is good. If you don't, it is better."

    April 3, 2010

    Adventurous Activities 2010

    I've mentioned before that I started this blog as an off-shoot of my adventure club, the League of Adventurous Women.  The League meets each January and picks four official activities for the year and then we usually have someone offer to lead a few bonus events on the side.  This year, we officially chose to

    1. visit a psychic
    2. go camping
    3. learn crabbing and oystering on the Chesapeake Bay
    4. play paintball

    Side events
    1.Tailgate at the Marlboro Hunt (Steeplechase horse race)
    2. Form a Dragon Boat team for the DC Dragon Boat Festival
    3. attend Trapeze school
    4. Take a bus trip to New York

    If this looks like an ecclectic list it's because we have a very ecclectic group. What sounds like adventure to one woman usually feels too tame or too horrifying to another. In the past we've done everything from wine tasting and flower arranging to rock climbing and the firing range.  The group works, however, because each activity is an opportunity NOT an obligation and because the activity happens even if only a few die-hards participate. 

    Tired of doing the same-old-same-old?  Then why not launch your own adventure club? Here's how to get started.

    March 24, 2010

    B I N G O !

    The last time I played Bingo it was a rainy day in 2nd grade and recess had been canceled. Zooming forward a few dozen years I generally think of Bingo as a game for the generations ahead of and behind me -- but not for me.  Well, I have been wrong!

    Over the weekend, I attended a Bingo fundraiser for The Autism Project and had a blast. This was not the Bingo of my childhood: no little plastic circles to cover B11 or N43.  Today's serious player quickly dabs her squares with colorful Bingo markers. Good thing, too, because everyone played at least six cards at a time.

    Balls with letters and numbers are still used to randomly select the next Bingo square but now closed circuit TV keeps track of each ball, the numbers light up on a giant board, and each of the game cards is numbered so that a computer can confirm if you really are a winner. Speaking of winning, my second-grade experience taught me to yell, "BINGO!" after making a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal sequence.  Sunday afternoon, I needed help figuring out how to identify a "crazy kite," "crazy T," "small picture frame," or "postage stamp" formation. I never did yell, "Bingo!".

    As impressed as I was with all this new technology, talk among the players revealed that firehouse Bingo couldn't hold a high-tech candle to cruise-ship Bingo.  No complaints from me, though.  My friends and I had a surprisingly fun afternoon and even though we were a bunch of Bingo losers, our loss was a contribution to a good cause.

    Photo credit: K. Briggs