30 Days About Me. Day 16: Craziest Thing

I am participating this month in a blog challenge brought to you by the blog a Daily Dose of Toni. It is 30 Days About Me.

We are all doing this with hopes of meeting fellow bloggers as well as let our rabid readers learn a little bit about us.

Today’s topic is a good one it is: who do you do the most crazy things with OR what is the most crazy thing you’ve done?

I have done a lot in my forty years on this third rock from the sun. I have swam with sharks–luckily they weren’t man eaters–in the Bahamas.

I have attempted surfing and hang gliding on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, I have bungee jumped several times…

I have ran sled dogs for years.

I have been on the business end of at least 1000 bites in my work with violent and severely aggressive dogs.

But probably the most crazy thing that I have done is skydiving.

What started as a fascination in the early 1990’s with an all day school and a static line jump in Wisconsin, turned out to be a life long passion.

Over the next decade or so I jumped 169 times. Yes, out of perfectly good planes. Heck, if President George the first could do it as a senior citizen I don’t see why I would let him show ME up.

But let’s talk about the first jump for just a minute.

I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember driving over 100 miles to the airport and the sky diving center in rural Wisconsin, about an hour from the Twin Cities.

Over the next few hours the instructors taught the class of six or seven of us all that we needed to know including a very complete classroom session. After lunch we harnessed up and “practiced” on one of those bungee-type contraptions you have probably seen at the county fair.

After all of us were full of confidence–yeah right– and we loaded up in the plane and took off.

We climbed to a height of about 3,500 feet. Before we left the instructors attached our chutes to a little track on the floor of the plane. That is the static line.

Buy the time we reached our prescribed altitude our instructions gave us some last minute instructions and pep talks and said see you on the ground!

I was due to be the second guy out. Actually a middle aged lady jumped before me.

What happened next changed by life forever. It is difficult to describe but what I did first was step out of the open door of the little plane and looked down. It is so loud and the wind is hitting your face at what feels like 100 miles and hour. After one foot is out on the little step you reach out and grab onto this diagonal brace-type thing that attaches the wing to the plane.

All the while you know that this is the point of no return. I remember looking down and seeing the airport and the surrounding farmland. Everything looked so small.

We were instructed to hang on to that brace and let our feet go so you were sort of flying like Superman hanging onto the wing of the plane.

Once your body is completely horizontal you let go! At this very moment a mix of fear and adrenaline surged through my body like I have never felt before. It is said that this feeling is like no other feeling in the world. Some say it is better than sex others say it is better than any drug.

I would have to agree. 

Over the next several seconds–maybe 10 or so, you are still attached to the plane by the static line. The system is designed to break free of the plane and deploy your chute.

This 10 seconds or whatever it was felt like hours while you are free falling towards earth.

My chute deployed and  looked up and the lines were wrapped around each other. Our instructors taught us that this can happen and not freak out. But I did. Think about it folks, the lines that are attached to your chute–we call it a canopy–were wrapped around each other. This could mean certain death!

Somehow my mind kicked into high gear and my training–all 3 hours of it–assessed and fixed the problem. You sort of kick your feet so that your body twirls around un-wrapping the lines.

After the canopy was full the next few minutes were one of the most surreal and beautiful experiences of my life. As I floated toward the drop zone–a large area with a huge red circle that we could see from the plane– I steered my chute by pulling up and down on these little straps that guided me left and right.

I hit the ground hard coming in a little hot (fast) and felt my legs buckle as I hit. It was a force I wasn’t expecting after these several minutes of feeling like I was floating on air.

I let out an oomph… as I landed and my training kicked in again. We were taught to gather up our chute and get out of the zone as quick as we can because the next diver is just a minute or so behind.

After we were all on the ground we all shared a beer, our crazy stories and exchanged tall tales of this event that somehow united us all together in this bizarre brotherhood.

We basked in our glory until the sun set and all of us promised that we would do it again.

I did. I jumped at that drop zone (D.Z.) more than 70 times over the next few years and several times in Arizona and Georgia and Florida.

Now I’m 40 and tell my kids of my jumps often and they both want to do it some day. We  just have to convince mom…


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