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So, I jumped out of a plane today!

It was awesome.  I was definitely more nervous as I waited for my turn this morning.  I figured that since Wade told me on a Friday night that I was skydiving on Saturday, my head didn’t have enough time to process it.  Because I didn’t get to go last Saturday, I had all week to think about it.  It was definitely a different experience this time around.

We left the house at 7AM.  We wanted to get there early to make sure that I got to go today.  We stopped to get gas and breakfast at McDonald’s on our way.  The drive was about 45 minutes and it was cloudy and gray the whole way.  When we arrived, I checked in and went outside to wait.  Two couples had gotten there before us and the husbands and one wife were skydiving to celebrate their 30th birthdays.  Just as Wade and I got there, the guys were getting on the plane.  I stood with the wives and watched as the plane took off.  We talked about the weather (they hadn’t gotten cancelled yesterday).  One of the girls shared my birthday, just a year earlier.  We got a kick out of that.

As we stood and waited to see a parachute appear from the clouds, we began to realize that this was taking a very long time.  Normally, the plane goes up and 5 minutes later you see little colorful dots floating toward the earth.  We waited for 20-25 minutes before we saw one chute coming toward us.  It was sooooo windy.  The plane was waiting for a good window to let people jump.  We watched the first guy come all the way down, the whole time – looking for the second guy.  Once the first guy landed, we happened to turn around just in time to see a white parachute fall behind a building about 100 yards away.  The wind had made them totally miss their mark.

Soon after that, the girl who had the May 9th birthday was loaded in a plane and off she went.  During this time, three people were called to get into their harnesses.  Shortly after that, 3 more people were called to suit up.  I got frustrated because I was next in line and I seemed to be the only one without a harness on.  I checked with the office and they assured me that I was next.  Just as I walked back to the staging area, a tall, fit man with a bald head and a mustache called my name and handed me a harness.  He tightened buckles across my chest and stomach and two straps around my legs.  I had gotten to this point before, so I still wasn’t totally feeling like I was going to get to jump.  After all, it was VERY windy…

A very flattering harness…best birthday present ever!

I also got some goggles.  This is was uncharted territory for me.  I never put the goggles on last time, but it’s probably best that I didn’t…

Not my best look, but I have never been more excited!

After I got my gear on, we waited about 15 minutes for everyone else to get ready.  Then, I took my “ride to destiny” on a rickety old trailer attached to a ATV.  I was totally dazed at this point.  I really didn’t care to talk to the guy that I’d be connected to or the cameraman.  I was “in the zone.”

Sam was my tandem partner to my left and Brian sitting
directly across from me, was my cameraman.

This cart took us to the plane that was buzzing so loudly that I could barely hear my own thoughts…

Last one on.  First one off.  No turning back now.

I stood and waited as everyone crawled into the plane.  The second I crossed the threshold into the cabin, I was almost overwhelmed by the heat.  It was a sauna inside that thing.  Everyone quickly took their seats as the plane taxied to the runway.  Our flight had the pilot, 2 other tandem jumpers (so 4 people total), my and my tandem partner and the cameraman.  8 people in all packed into a tiny cabin.  The tandem masters sat on the floor with their legs open and the rookies (myself and the other two people) sat between their legs, back to chest.

*Click the link to see video of the plane taking off:

The door that we would jump out of was covered by a clear plastic slide that apparently needed oiling every time it was used.  It was neat to see out of the plane from that big of a space.  As we took off, Sam, my tandem master secured my harness to his and we were ready to go.  We had been in the plane for what seemed like an eternity when the cameraman said, “We’re at about 1 mile now.  Only 1 more to go.”  As I looked out the door, which was now completely open, I thought to myself, “We’re going higher than THIS?!”

After that, things moved very quickly.  I felt the plane slow down and I panicked a bit.  Before I could even process that the pilot was leveling off at jumping altitude (10,000 feet), the light in the cabin turned red, the cameraman stepped out onto the wing and I was scooting myself (legs first) toward to open door with my tandem master right behind me.  When I say this part went quickly, I cannot emphasize that enough.  By the time I was able to grasp the fact that I was sitting with my legs hanging out of a plane 2 miles up in the air, the tandem master pulled my head back onto his right shoulder, I instinctively crossed my arms across my chest and we rocked forward, backward and forward…

I was so confused at first.  It felt like nothing.  I could hear nothing but wind and I saw clouds as I feel through them.  It was just like driving through fog.  It took me a second to remember that I was supposed to arch my back and kick my legs back, through the tandem master’s legs.  Once I did that, I felt a sense of control even though I was free-falling.  It’s like everything settled right into place.  During the free-fall, the video guy was in my face most of the time.  I could feel my cheeks flapping and I struggled as I moved my hands through the wind to blow kisses to the camera, shake hands with the camera guy and and “swim.”

Suddenly, the sound changed and the next thing I knew, it felt like I was yanked up by an invisible hand.  It sounds spiritual.  It was.  It hurt like HELL.  At 5,000 feet, the chute deployed and I will never forget that pain.  Imagine falling 5,000 feet in 40 seconds.  It was like my crotch hit a brick wall.  The pain took my breath away and it was so bad that I thought I might pass out.  It was those damn leg straps.  I should have known.

Once the chute was out, we the seconds felt like hours.  I couldn’t wait to get to the ground to take the pressure off of my groin.  It sounds terrible, but I made myself take in the beautiful horizon and the green squares of land that went on forever.  As we descended, we did spirals to pick up momentum that would help us hit our landing target.  There were times when I was completely horizontal to the ground.  The wind was unreal.  Suddenly, the ground was getting really close.  The tandem master told me to raise my knees to my chest and that we would be hitting the ground pretty hard.

*Click the link to see me land:
(my chute comes into frame around the 1.40 second mark)

We did.  I don’t knowif my groin stopped hurting altogether, or if I just couldn’t differentiate that pain from the lack of shock absorbency I experienced upon landing.  Either way, I made it!  The second we hit the ground, there were three people there.  One to pull the chute closed (I did not want to fly away again) and two to grab the chute and start re-packing it.  My tandem master disconnected me from him.  I thanked him and headed toward Wade.  I was so happy to be on the ground, but that was the coolest experience ever.  I clumsily unstrapped myself from my harness and handed it to the first employee I saw.  Wade went to get the car while I paid a couple of buck for two waters and the fee to have my video mailed home (we weren’t about to wait another 45 minutes at that place).

Once I got to the car, I promptly put a cold water bottler between my legs and rode like that the whole way home.  I was elated, exhausted and e-sore.  I’m so glad I did it.  It was nothing like I expected and it’s something that I have no urge to do again, but I can mark it off my list and after August, I can turn 30 feeling very accomplished!

Tomorrow we’re going to my Mom’s to swim.  I’m dreading getting into a bathing-suit.  The bruises on my legs make me look like something very crude that I’m not going to say, but you get the idea.

Honestly, that was a great gift.  Something I will never forget and that I will cherish forever!


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