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July 17-18 

The Thrillseekers' Weekend

Tired of the same old activities that don't seem to quench your thirst for adventure? That's all about to change. This weekend the words to remember are: No fear. Whether gripping a north face, sailing over treetops or jumping out of a perfectly good airplane, you're sure to see the world from a new perspective. Don't be a wimp. Challenge the thrillseeker in you.

RELATED LINKS

15 Weekends: Back to the introduction of our big fat summer guide.

Calendar: Plan your weekend with our interactive calendar

Talk Back: What's your idea of the perfect weekend getaway?

This Friday leave work early, really early, like at 9:30 a.m. There's a rock surface out there calling your name.

Nothing makes you feel exposed to Mother Nature like rock climbing, and there are some hot spots that'll get you hooked. Get the right equipment from an outfitter and get started.

If you want to stay local, check out the climbing wall adjacent to Belle Isle. It's a great spot for beginners and a good practice area for more advanced climbers. If you venture out of town, head for Old Rag Mountain on the Blue Ridge. Located about two hours west of Richmond, Old Rag's trail is well-trod. Keep to this and you don't need rope or belayers, just a good pair of shoes. If you want a true gripping climb, Seneca Rocks in West Virginia is worth the trip. It's where local rock climbers go for weekend getaways. Most trails in national parks and forests are open to the public free of charge. The equipment, however, can be more than a chunk of change. A good cording of rope will set you back in excess of $100; shoes price in around $100. But hey, the price is right for this outdoor adventure. Beginners can click onto tips by rock climbing guide Rebecca Gonzales at www.GreatOutdoors.com

Your next adventure involves a lot of hot air. What better way to see the countryside than gliding through the sky beneath the rainbow canopy of a hot air balloon? You've always wanted to do it, now indulge yourself. Wake at the crack of dawn Saturday. Bear Balloon Corporation hosts sunrise excursions daily from its launching site at the Boar's Head Inn in Charlottesville. If you're traveling from Old Rag or Richmond it's about an hour, a bit more from Seneca Rocks. If you can, splurge and stay at Boar's Head Inn the night before. The balloon flight lasts about an hour and is followed by a champagne celebration at the Inn. On your flight you'll soar at a height of 500 feet. Cost $150 per person, all flights. Next-day flights are usually accommodated but reservations are recommended for weekends two to three weekends in advance. (804) 971-1757. Visit their Web site at: www.2comefly.com

How would you like to fly? This Sunday you will. Imagine the entire sky swallowing you as you plummet toward Earth from a height of 14,000 feet at 120 miles per hour. Experience the thrill known only to skydivers. This is absolutely positively something you will never forget. The 45-minute drive to Westpoint Skydiving Center is time enough to adjust your mindset. You will jump, you will jump. At the center, you'll sign pages of consent forms, pay your money and wait for instruction from the team of experienced divers. If you choose the tandem jump, this is a little less than an hour. The assisted free-fall jump requires four to six hours of training. The skydiving suit — complete with a flotation device — is bright and stretchy and makes you feel like a superhero. The eight- or nine-minute plane ride hovers in the air like a thundercloud ready to explode. Before you know it, it's bail-out time. You're psyched. You lunge from the plane and fall down, down, down. After nearly a minute of freefall heaven, the parachute opens. You breathe again. The glide to the ground lasts six to seven minutes, and it's amazing. From the ground the jump seems easy. And you'll never look up at the sky without thinking "Wow, I've been there!" Cost: $190 for tandem jump; $295 for the first jump in the Accelerated Freefall Program. Cost includes a free video of your jump. Westpoint Skydiving Center, Inc. (804) 785-9707. Visit their Web site at: www.farther.com/wscjump
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