Monday, September 26, 2011

The Follow-Through: Sky Diving

The Resolution
On July 1st I made Half Year Resolutions.  This included 5 things that I have always wanted to do but have either put off for a while or have never been proactive about. One of the biggest things on the list? GO SKYDIVING! Well, I blogged it, therefore I was committed to do it.

Here comes the follow-through on my blog promise.  I finally found someone just crazy enough to go skydiving with me - my sister Allison. 

The History
Our grandfather was drafted into WW2 when he was a teenager.  He always said “If Uncle Sam is going to make me be in the war, I’m at least going to keep it interesting.” So he did. He volunteered to be a paratrooper.  In fact, he was with the very first troop that entered Japan during the war. Before this weekend, pretty much all of my sky diving knowledge came from him. I know that parachuting in a war zone and sky diving for fun are completely different, but I’m glad to finally know what he was talking about when he would describe how it feels to jump out of a plane!


The Jump
Allison has a friend who skydove with this particular company about 20 times, so we took the recommendation and went to Skydive Smoky Mountains just outside of Knoxville. (All weekend we kept trying to figure out the past tense of “skydive”. I’m not so sure “skydove” is correct, but it gets the point across.) 

I’m glad that this place was recommended to us, because if I had just shown up at this random hay field with a makeshift gazebo/barn and tiny airplane that likely doubles as a crop duster during the week, I would have been a little hesitant. I expected an airport. But then again, I’ve never seen anyone sky diving at an airport, so I don’t know why I thought that.

 Tiny Plane, Random Barn

So we signed our life away and walked through everything with the sky dive instructor for about 10 minutes.  This included an on-the-ground charade of belly flopping, back-arching, and jumping.  Plus our instructor was this awesomely goofy, more-than-a-little-bit crazy dude with an “I’m here. Let’s party.” t-shirt. He made interesting… and fun!

I'm Here. Let's Party.

Allison and I both jumped tandem with this instructor. (Before you can ever jump by yourself, you are required to jump with a trained instructor a certain number of times and go through special training.)  There was only one instructor working, so we had to go up one at a time. Which was more than fine. The plane was tiny and we could photograph each other from the ground.

Because I am the one who talked us into this adventure, I volunteered to go first. I thought that I would be sooo nervous. I mean, I get nervous before my exercise classes. I can be that ridiculous. But for some reason, I was so strangely confident about this. Not a twinge of fear. Maybe because it never seemed real. I still can’t believe that I did it.

The instructor got strapped in to a harness and had a backpack with the parachute. I just had a regular harness. 

We piled into the tiny plane and closed the top-hinged door. There was just one seat where the pilot sat. The instructor and I sat on the floor facing each other in an area that couldn’t have been much more than 5 square inches

Little Plane

Make a mental note of the little metal stair under the door.

We took off down the runway... aka a path mowed in the field. I shall call it "Pathway". 

Take Off Down the Pathway

We flew around in circles for about 20 minutes until we had ascended to 12,000 feet. Gorgeous view of The Smokies. At this point, I crawled over to the instructor, sat in front of him, and he strapped me into his harness. I wasn’t nervous on the plane ride, so I thought it would hit when the door opened and I had a better view of the ground.  I put on my goggles and we both scooted forward towards the now open door. The next part all happened so fast that I didn’t have time to worry. Outside the plane there is a little metal stair.  I had to stand on the stair while the instructor got situated behind me.  He counted down and we leaped off.  AHHHHH! It felt so awesome! When you jump, you basically do a belly-flop, not an actual dive. I thought it would feel like one of those roller coasters that takes you straight up and then drops you (which I do happen to love), but it doesn’t at all! There is so much wind resistance when you fall because you are descending at speeds between 90-120 mph! In fact, if my eyes had been closed, I’d imagine it would feel like I was being pushed up instead of falling down.  I would liken it to sticking your head out of a car window while driving really fast.  Even though you are driving forward, the wind makes it feel like you are being pushed backwards. (Disclaimer: I don’t recommend sticking your head out of a car window while driving really fast. My mom rolled up my head in a window once while parked. Why was it out the window? I don’t know. But I got a Sonic Peanut Butter Fudge milkshake out of the ordeal so I’d say it was worth the trouble).  The freefall lasted about 45 seconds. I thought I would be panicking about whether the parachute was going to open, but I was so consumed with how cool it all was that it never crossed my mind. Until… wham. We stopped falling. At least it felt like we did. The instructor had pulled our chute, which felt like slamming on the brakes. I was having so much fun falling that I had somehow forgotten that we even had a chute. I know, crazy. Since the harness was around my shoulders, stomach, and thighs for an ideal standing jump, I had to stand on my instructor’s feet and slide the harness down almost to my knees so that I could get resituated to sit and enjoy the ride (and prepare for landing).  Then he handed me the reigns. Another thing I didn’t know – you can steer the chute! It was hard to pull, but if you pull either left or right for a while you will spin around in circles. Fun!

My Descent

Then when we got close to the ground, the instructor took the reigns again and directed us straight towards the field where we started.  To land, I basically just had to pull my legs up straight in front of me and sit down on the ground. 

 My Smooth Landing

 My Instructor insisted that I wear his sweatshirt. Icky.

Post Jump, Wind Blown      
Just don’t dig your heels in when you land or you will flip and roll around on the ground, which is really awkward when strapped to someone else. Ahem… Allison…

Allison - Post Digging in Heels and Rolling Around in Dirt with Instructor

While I loved the dive, I was ready to sit down for a few minutes and get reoriented. Oh yeah, and try to make my ears pop again. That was a quick pressure change! I must say that I liked freefalling better than parachuting. I really loved it! I would do it again today if I could. I may have found a new hobby.

Allison loved it too. Her pictures are my favorite. I love the before and after.



Our dives were chronicled on videos that the company is currently editing.  We should get them in the next few weeks. Of course I will post it for all of you to see just because the skin flapping around on my face during the freefall will make you giggle.

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