I am not a bold person. It’s true. For most of my life I have followed the path of least resistance like water. It’s funny though, it only took one decision to step outside my comfort zone to help me choose something some people call daring or brave or stupid. I’ve heard them all. Whatever you want to call it, this is how one trip outside the country eventually led to me parachuting out of a plane four years later.
To begin, I have always wanted to travel but always found an excuse not to. That excuse was namely finances. Too poor to travel. But four years ago, my friend was traveling abroad and she invited me. I decided to stop with the excuses and instead made it work.
I found the whole traveling experience exhilarating and when I returned home I wanted to keep that feeling alive. But how? Somehow, and I can’t remember the exact steps that led to this decision but I decided I wanted to parachute out of a plane. Tandem style of course.
I never acted on it. Instead, sad to say, it became one of those obscure “bucket list” items that seemed to slip away. I would never do it by myself and no volunteers were stepping up to the plate to join me.
Fast forward to this year. I mentioned to my youngest niece Jo that this was something I was willing and wanting to do. She was surprised. A month later, I was surprised to find out my nieces and nephew had all chipped in to buy me a parachute jump for my birthday. Jo would accompany me.
I kind of think that none of them realized I actually wanted to do this and thought it would be a good joke. If so, the joke was on them because I accepted the gift and was excited.
At first, I didn’t share with other people what was to take place in a month. Mainly because I knew that by appearances they would think I would never do something like this. If the jump was canceled because of weather, I didn’t want to have to do the “walk of shame” and say that I didn’t do it.
But, I was excited. So, I ended up telling people the closer it got because I couldn’t keep it to myself.
Jo made the reservations with SkyDive Ogden in Utah two days after my 48th birthday. A few days before this, I developed a cough. This time of year I tend to get hit with allergies. But I didn’t feel sick so I still planned to go through with it.
A couple of observations I made about skydiving. Yes, there is a bit of risk involved. But that’s just life. I would rather go out skydiving then by slipping in the shower or some such thing. If it’s my time to go, it’s my time to go. Might as well enjoy the exit. But, I continued to think, what if it’s not my time to go but the guy I’m strapped to? What if I just get hurt really bad? That was the terrifying thought. I just shook my head trying to rid the image.
Jo and I showed up and had to sign paperwork saying, “I understand this is a dangerous activity and I can die from it” and that the company would not be held responsible for any outcome less than successful. Now, that’s a comforting thought, isn’t it? But we initialed and signed our lives away (literally). Then we waited.
Originally, neither of us were going to pay for a picture package. But as we were paying for our tickets we both decided to do the cheap selfie package. Which meant our jump masters would wear GoPros on their wrists and take photos. If we want to make another 199 jumps we can take our own photos.
We watched earlier groups of jumpers land and saw pure excitement on their faces. The “jump masters” had their jobs down to a routine. Bring the parachutes in, grab another, find the jumper, and give a quick lesson.
When I say quick lesson, I mean quick lesson. My jump master Billy, found me and did an overview. “Okay, pretend that tape on the ground is the edge of the plane. Stick your toes over. Squat, shoulders back, hips squared, cross your arms on your chest until you feel my tap, got it?”
I am a fairly obedient person and in this matter I wanted to be an A+ student. “What?” I asked because he had explained all that in one seemingly long breath.
“Don’t worry,”Billy said with a smile. “I’ll go over it again on the plane.”
Let’s see, toes over the edge….blah,blah,blah…cross your arms on your chest until you feel him tap me on the shoulder. That was my takeaway.
Jo and I waited. She asked if I was nervous. “No, but maybe my brain just doesn’t believe I’m really going through with this,” I replied.
Finally, it was our turn to board the plane. Jo and I were the first on which means we were the last jumpers in the group. The plane lifted off and we enjoyed a 20 minute (per the brochure) scenic ride up above the mountains. The air was thick with smoke from surrounding fires and we ascended just above the smoke line. Then it was time to jump.
The people in front of us all exited the plane. Jo was next and I was last. I put my toes over the edge, crossed my arms in front of my chest, because that’s all I could remember to do. This was the scariest moment and I had a quick thought of “maybe I change my…” too late. I was airborne.
I tell you, the whole thing was exhilarating. I enjoyed every moment of it. The free fall did take my breath away for a second but I got mind over matter and managed to get a good breath. Then the parachute was opened and there is nothing I can describe it with. It’s not the same as swinging, it is it’s own experience. I loved it.
I was afraid I would suffer some kind of motion sickness. That didn’t happen at all. Not on the plane ride, not on the free fall, not on the parachute drop.
Of course, I was allowed to steer the parachute for part of it. And then, too soon, we were narrowing in on the small patch of grass that served as our landing pad. My job was to lift my legs up in front of me. Herein lies the problem with that, my legs are short. My legs are short and the harness cut into them when I lifted so I couldn’t lift them high enough. We did not make it to the grass, instead we came to a stop in the dirt right before the grass. Billy apologized. I suspect it was my fault for not being able to lift my little legs high enough.
No matter! For me, it was perfect.
Except when I landed my ears were clogged and I couldn’t hear anything. Jo and I decided to get some lunch to relish our experience a little longer. We sat and recounted our adventure. I probably yelled my version because I literally could not hear. It took me 100 miles driving toward home before my ears partly unclogged.
This was such a thrilling adventure. I would gladly do it again. This has given me a thirst for even more. Maybe paragliding is in my future? Jo?