Monday, August 22, 2016: The Day I Flew
It’s kind of crazy looking back on it now. I’m writing this blog later intentionally. The moment happened so quickly, I needed time to process and see how I really felt about it.
It was something I was looking forward to all summer long. Every time I met new people this summer and they asked what were some of my plans for this summer, I told them that I planned to skydive. It’s been a dream of mine for quite some time. A dream deferred to be honest. I tried to go three years ago, but complications there prevented me from doing so. One of those complications was my weight; it was an obstacle this time, but it did not stop me from achieving a dream.
A coworker and I had decided that we were going to do this, so we set things into motion and traveled from Yellowstone to Boise, Idaho. The company I called sent us here because we are a bit bigger guys and the lower altitude would help make it a bit easy for us to go. Later I found out, that this was also because I called a booking agency instead of the company itself; the company that was local closed and so the closest place became a place a bit farther away.
The road trip in itself was really amazing. It was my first time heading out towards West Yellowstone area and once I left the park, it was all new to me for I was traveling in lands that I had not yet experienced. We left on Sunday and just made a weekend trip out of our adventure. The whole time I had some tunes going; I had Pandora set to my Irish Pub and Classic Rock stations, which was helping us get pumped. We arrived in Boise in the early afternoon and had some time just to chill, walking around downtown Boise. We found a pretty awesome place to eat called Bittercreek Alehouse. It was here that we had our potential last meals and we were both thoroughly impressed by this place. Seriously, if you’re ever in Boise, check them out. I had a really nice burger, homemade fries that reminded me of the fries my mom makes, oh and the best cheese curds I’ve ever had. My friend and coworker, who is a culinary trained cook, was impressed by them as well. He and I were really happy with the trip thus far. We called it our best weekend and we still hadn’t accomplished our purpose for traveling yet. But the experience of this night definitely made the trip even better. And to end our dinner there, we had a little scotch. I mean, it could’ve been our last night on earth; it seemed appropriate.
The next morning, we climbed into my car and headed out, jamming to the music on the way to the place that would send us into the sky, just to plummet down. But irony was in charge of the playlist. The first song was an Irish rock song that begins “off to hell we must sail.” We switched to the classic rock station and heard “Highway to Hell.” I laughed and said the only way this could be better was if “Living on a Prayer” came on next; it did.
As we pull into the parking lot, my excitement was building for sure. I was trying to keep it cool, in case something did happen just like three years before, but I was definitely ready to do this. We go in and watch the same cheesy training video from the 1980’s that I totally remembered watching before. After that, we get weighed and this is where the trip sours a little. I was told to prepare to pay a little extra for being over a certain weight. I was also led to believe this would be about $20-40. Yeah… it was 4x as much as I was expecting, all because I was seven pounds over the $1/lb extra fee. There was already a lot of money already paid for this trip, including the video cost. My friend and I, we weren’t happy with paying so much extra, but we weren’t backing down from this, not after we had come all this way. So we paid and suited up.
WARNING: The angle of the GoPro camera sometimes produces really unflattering angles. Just saying…
We decided to wear jumpsuits and because we wanted to wear our glasses, they made us wear soft leather helmets to hold the huge goggles in place over our glasses. After we were suited up, we met our tandem instructors.
My tandem instructor had the unfortunate ability to never remember my name; he had to ask every time before starting recording for the video. Not exactly the worst thing, but… well, I mean, come on…
Anyways, after I proved over and over again that I could lift my legs up high enough for our landing procedure, we climbed into a really small plane with about 10 other people. We were all crowded over the wings so that we could actually get up in the air.
There were feelings of excitement and nervousness, much like before riding a new rollercoaster. It wasn’t until I was actually up in the air that I began to consider what I was about to do.
But there was no going back. I was doing this and I was ready. There was a moment as I was looking out the window, close to our destination of 10,000 ft, where I just couldn’t help but sing to myself, “To God be the glory, great things He hath done.”
The other jumpers, besides my friend and his tandem instructor, were jumping by themselves. I watched as they jumped out of the plane, each in their own style. There was something really mesmerizing by watching the joy light up on their faces before diving or back-flipping out of the plane. I had the best seat to be able to see them as they fell out of view.
Then it was my turn. I awkwardly waddled my way to the side of the plane and sat so that my legs began to wrap underneath the plane itself. And then, a lean forward…
And I was falling. It happened all so quickly. The rush of air wasn’t as big as I thought it would be, but then again, I was in a jumpsuit…
They had warned us to keep our heads pulled up against our instructors’ shoulder and to look up, even if it felt unnatural, but when you’ve never seen the ground like that, it’s hard not to look around.
And the freefall was over. My instructor said that for the freefall, we probably hit speeds of 120-150 mph. It went by so quickly. It felt like I had just gotten my bearings when my instructor pulled the chute.
The sight was beautiful for sure. But there was one thing they didn’t warn me about.
It’s science really, but all my weight went straight to the harnesses wrapped tightly against my legs. I’m sure my extra weight had something to do with this, but it was slightly painful, more uncomfortable, and completely unexpected.
The gliding down seemed to pass really quick as well.
We came in for a landing right next to where the plane had originally taken off.
The landing area was packed with lots of dirt, which made landing a bit easier.
It may not have been the perfect landing, but we made it. And better yet, no injuries.
Another thing I didn’t expect, but probably should have: after landing, my ears were built up with so much pressure, I had a hard time hearing. It took most of the day for my hearing to return to normal.
So after it’s all said and done, I wasn’t too sure how to feel. It happened all so quickly and there were too many things I didn’t know to expect and well, I paid a lot more money than I was expecting. In short, a jumble of emotions and thoughts. My eventual conclusion though: this one trip is not enough for me. My adrenaline junkie is not satisfied. So, after some more weight loss and making sure I’m working through a business directly, instead of a booking agent, I’ll try again. And if I’m not satisfied, I’ll try again. If I need to go through training to be able to jump out by myself, it will all be worth it.