If you've spotted the open field of bizarre-looking aircraft only 25 minutes west of Portland, chances are you're looking at the Willamette Valley Soaring Club (11870 NW Dersham Road, North Plains, 503-647-0913, wvsc.org). Unlike most small planes powered by a propeller, the Soaring Club uses sailplanes, or gliders, that are towed to altitude before being released, at which point they float through the air on updrafts. Rides typically last upward of 25 minutes as you slowly cruise back to earth, providing plenty of time for pictures (bringing a camera is highly encouraged). On your descent, ask the pilot for a chance to fly on your own; chances are good they'll let you take the controls and get a feel for the glider.
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