Monday, August 23, 2010

I Don't Have a Bucket List Yet--I'm Too Young

 Eight years ago, Jeff, one of my skiing friends, asked a group of his friends and acquaintances if they wanted to go ski diving with him. My first reaction was to say yes, but then I had a major conflict with the day chosen and had to cancel. I don’t even remember what the conflict was, but it had to be a major reason for I wanted the thrill and experience.

So this spring I saw Jeff at a ski club event, and asked told him I hoped he would try to organize another group. So he did and this time it would have taken a death in the family to keep me away.

My desire really had nothing to do with a bucket list. I am not that old. My inspiration came from a woman I knew when I lived in Indiana. She told me she always wanted to parachute and after her husband died it seemed like one of the first things she did. She jumped tandem and told me all about it.
Then a few years later, my son Bil, jumped solo which required that he maneuver to the landing gear struts and jump from there. As much as I like to live on the edge sometimes, I will take pride that my son has surpassed me in still another way because I would just as soon not have to deal with how to get out of the plane.

Jeff and I leave from Montrose Harbor Yacht Club area just before 8 AM Saturday morning and drive for about 90 minutes to Sky Dive Chicago just across the Fox River near the town of Ottawa. We are joined by 7 others and once we all arrive, we stand in line to pay and receive about 8 pages of instructions and legal documents that require you to literally give up all legal recourse should anything, yes anything, happen that would cause injury or death.

Then we are led the training round, to watch our first set of instructions that would be repeated several times before our actual plunge out airplane at 13,000 feet. But before that, a video is started and we see a young man with a long grey beard tell us what the 8 pages of legal documents say in no uncertain terms. It you are injured or die, it is because you came here and willingly jumped out of a plane so don’t expect anything for us. It was a bit of sobering reality that nobody wanted to hear.

I mean, I got up early, traveled here, we are having great weather, and I am in a group where it would be slightly embarrassing to opt out at this point. What’s more I did a bungee jump where I had to jump by myself. The consequences from a mishap here are no worse and I am jumping with someone that also wants to live that really knows what they are doing.

When we pulled into the parking lot I was surprised by the number of people who came and also by the size of the place. Its one big hanger with lots of offices, bathrooms, instruction rooms, food service and eating area. It’s a miniature city. Also near by are trailers and camp grounds. Most of the instructors live a sizeable distance away and travel here for the weekends and stay in their trailers. There make about 7 jumps a day and some of them have been during it for a long, long time.

So, I actually felt safe.

I was advised that spending another $119 to have someone jump out with us a shoot a video, with some still pictures, would be worth the price. So I opted for this as did several others in our group. In fact our group was delayed for quite a while because there were a limited amount of video people and most of our group were having videos made so it took some maneuvering to get the personnel together. Here is our gang ready to board.
Finally when the time comes, we cram into the airplane equipped with a sliding door on the side. We sit nestled between each other’s legs and watch the altimeter as we approach our goal of 13,000 feet. During the ride we are given one final review of our task.

Here is my instructor Charles and I harnessed together next in line to jump.

My photographer Jenn, is a beautiful young 20 something year old woman. She goes ahead of us and hangs out on the side of the plane to capture the moment of no return.

I told myself I wouldn’t look down but I did anyway. My next task is to put both thumbs into the sides of my harness, then lean back as we go out.

 That’s the altimeter strapped to my wrist.

I think these shots are amazing. We are falling face up but not for long as Charles turns us face down and my job is to find the horizon, check my altimeter, then find the photographer.
Missions accomplished. Now we free fall for about 55 seconds.
It’s almost time to wave to indicate we are about to pull the chord.
I had trouble finding the orange knob to pull the chord so Charles is ready to pull. And just as he does, a second later I pull also.
This is the best part, the parachute opens.
Jenn continues down without us and shoots our landing.
As we approach the ground we stick out feet out in front of us and pull down hard on the toggles and sit gently down.
Wow! Good grief! That was awesome!

My legs are a little shaky as I walk to the hanger, but it soon passes.

This is Jeff and I after the jump.

That evening I woke up about 2:30 AM and as I was tried to go back to sleep my brain played the entire jump experience for me again from the time I got into the plane until this picture. It was another pleasant experience.

I plan to do it once more and next time I won’t have to mug for the photographer on the way down and think I will be able to better enjoy the free fall.


1 comment:

GETkristiLOVE said...

I'm glad we didn't have a death in the family so you could go. How exhilarating! You look great.