Mortiche loves to fly, and neither one of us has ever ridden in a helicopter, so I decided that a helicopter tour would be a fun surprise birthday present for her.There was an outfit that seemed to ply its trade around Fisherman's Wharf, but their flights were only 20 minutes. Bay Aerial on the other hand offered a 60 minute flight.. three times as long, for less than twice the cost. That sounded like a much better deal to me!The system for reservations is somewhat informal and email based (I'd have liked a nice solid "yes, you're booked for..." response when I sent in my request confirmation) and flights are at the mercy of weather conditions, so I was a little worried about whether we'd really be able to fly or whether some administrative glitch would ruin the birthday plans. No fears, a phone call in the morning confirmed that we were a "go".Flights are out of the San Carlos airport, so the cat was let out of the bag surprise-wise when we pulled in. "Are we going FLYING????" she asked. Yep, a helicopter tour! *OOOOOOO!!!!*Our pilot warned us that there might be some fog, and asked if we were sure we wanted to fly. We'd just come from Oakland, and we'd seen that the fog was only on the western half of the city; fingers of blinding white were rolling over Twin Peaks and around Sutro Tower. The bay side was sunny and clear, so we gave a thumbs up to the flight.Despite warnings about potential bumpiness, the flight was pretty smooth. I can't really begin to do justice to the experience except to say that if you ever want to get a unique perspective on the Bay Area, take a helicopter tour. There's nothing like it. Barf bags are provided for those with weak stomachs, but really, they should provide drool cups, because my mouth was agape for much of the flight. NGLGLGlglg...We did a slow flyover of many of the scenic parts of the city, and then we had the option... should we go up the foggy coast, zipping along low and under the fog? Or back around the bay, all tourist-like?Mortiche didn't hesitate. Low! That's my girl!Forget the view. A low-flying helicopter that banks over on its side to let you take pictures of dolphins is like riding on a motorcycle that can go up and down as well as left and right. You get a much better sensation of speed at low altitude, so it was quite exhilarating.The fog was getting soupier and soupier and we were having to fly lower and slower (visual flight rules) when he decided to cut inland over the mountains. WOO! Canyons! Terrain! Hey look, its Skyline! Pescadero! I've ridden there! We went over the crest of a hill, spooking a horse, and swooped down the far side like a roller coaster.(Note: I think that if you want to extract a slightly more fun ride out of a helicopter tour, let them know that you ride a motorcycle...)Make sure that your digital camera has plenty of space. I filled mine in an hour.Our landing was perfect. He zipped in, rotated the bird around to line up, and gently touched down. When I complimented him, he said it was actually a pretty crappy landing, because the wind direction was coming from a bad direction. Whatever, dude. I've seen SUVs have more trouble parking precisely.All in all, there's no getting around the fact that this is an expensive little jaunt, but look at it this way - you'll never forget it. And if you're like me, you might suddenly think about saving up for helicopter flying lessons.And the happy look on my girlfriend's face made it all worth it. And then some.Giving physical gifts is a waste of money. Give experiences.