Last weekend on Sunday, I finally got up in a plane with the conscious decision to leap out of it at 13,000 feet.
Many of you already know this. What most of you don’t know is the small detail of my parachute failing…which I will get to shortly.
Currently I’m admitted to OSHU in the ICU…no…just kidding that is just f’d up. I’m fine…but my chute did fail.
My friend Rachel, (you know, the girl from http://blog.gabrielmathews.com/2009/10/social-experiment-002-and-my-30th-birthday/), and I decided the best idea we had in a while was to go to http://www.skydiveoregon.com/ and reserve a time to go and learn how to appropriately fall to our potential demise while gaining a hefty dose of sympathomimetic catecholamine in the form of epinephrine. We chose a cloudy day with hopes that the sky would break and we’d have a chance to fall. Unfortunately, with a few hours of waiting, the clouds never did. Instead we were given a couple of vouchers stating our education on tandem jumping and our pre-payment status.
A couple weeks went by and finally the sky was looking less like January and more like June. I met up with Rachel for our weekly morning breakfast and we looked at the sky and realized ‘today is the day’. I ran back to my house to write a crude will and get on a t-shirt. I rushed back to Rachel’s house and we packed up and left. Out to Molalla, Oregon. The sky was still clear and the wait was the most excruciating part. The fun part, though, was getting a chance to watch the planes take off, see specs that were people appear in the sky followed briefly by a parachute opening and familiar silhouettes take shape in the sky, and gaining excitement for our turn. We met our instructors, mine made fun of my pants as they were still pegged from riding my bike earlier in the day, and we geared up. It seemed almost instantaneously that we were on our plane and facing the cattle door. You sit facing the back of the plane. with a bench in between your legs. An instructor was sitting in front of me trying to scare the girl he was attached to. My instructor was adjusting our attachments and joking with his colleague that Rachel was secured to. Finally at the 13,000 foot mark, the plane slowed, the green light went on, and an obvious veteran in a squirrel suit and a cobalt blue helmet said something that I couldn’t make out per the wooshing air in the cabin. She put down her metallic flaked visor and poured her body out of the plane effortlessly. Veterans in the back to newbies in the front. Ingenious really. You feel less afraid of the commitment and think to yourself, “Of course I’d roll out of a plane attached to only a human with a stuffed polyester blanket. in a backpack.” It was my turn. I gave Rachel a brief glance before scooching forward on the bench with my instructor. I peered off the edge holding my harness like a hiker’s backpack and just let go.
The Earth seemed to warp as my mind was bombarded with information. The wind pulled my face back and I reached a long moment of Zen before I noticed a slow in the decent. This was quickly followed by a sensation of speeding back up quickly followed by a sensation of a truck trying to yank out my spine. What happened was the primary parachute failed to deploy properly (the slowing down), the instructor cut it free (the speeding up), the reserve chute deploying (the spine rip). He tapped me on the shoulder and said, “We just used both chutes!” The blood had rushed away from my head from the fast stop and I passed out for about 3 seconds. When I came to and realized that I was still coming down, reality washed over me. I was geographically lost and relied on the instructor for the rest of the drop to steer us into the field. Not that I had a choice, but I was glad someone knew where we were…not like you can stop and ask for directions at 5000 feet. We finally came into the field to land, with legs pulled high, we skidded in on our butts. I was really hoping to get a nice grass stain on my pants, but alas, the grass was too dry.
I waited for Rachel to land, came over and gave her a hug, and we came back into the building to de-gear. Both of us were sort of lucid as you might expect from the experience. We drove away from the field, found a spot by a passing river and ate strawberries and sandwiches while discussing our favorite parts of the adventure. My armpits are still a little bruised from the harness. (I’ll upload a picture eventually).
So that was my skydiving experience. I recommend it…especially with a reliable parachute…or an awesome instructor.