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Parachuting

[canopies]

Sky diving is one of those things that the mere mention of causes some people to react in terror. Others want to try it - if only so they can watch their friends react in terror. I was in the latter group - it was something I had always wanted to try. So, given a chance, I did.

[chutes]The jump was in the Monterey Bay area, a couple of hours drive from Alameda. I left early to avoid traffic, and so arrived early as well. I spent most of the day watching other people put on harnesses, go away in the airplane, and come back with the silliest grins on their faces. After they got back, a few would have video-tapes of their jump, and we'd watch those. The were entertaining, so I decided to get one made.

[cameraman]

Besides the videotapes, their was also the jump board to watch. This listed each flight that was scheduled, and who was going to be on it. Some of those waiting obviously got nervous as soon as there name went on the board.

[the plane]The jump was a tandem jump, where I wore a harness, and an instructor would then attach himself to my harness, and he wore the parachute. This allows the first-time jumper to jump that much sooner - and you still get free-fall, and floating under the canopy. You found out who your instructor was when your name went up on the board. You were then supposed to find your instructor - assuming they weren't somewhere overhead - and fit on a harness, and otherwise get ready for the jump. That's when some people got nervous about the jump.

[entry] After everything is fitted, there's nothing to do but go wait for the plane to come back so you can get on it for your jump. Nobody in my group got nervous then. However, sitting next to the transparent door, watching the ground fall away - that's when I got nervous. I realized that I really was planning on falling towards the earth from over a mile in the air. It's a scary thought.

[onboard]It's still not to late to back out, even. I can always just not get out of the plane. At that point, the instructer informs me that once I put my feet out the door - then it's to late. After all, "no" sounds a lot like "go" when you're sitting in the wind like that.

[falling] [floating] So out I went, and down. Free fall is just falling - but from an incredible height. There is no worry about stopping. No, there's no acting on that worry. While the operative part of the word may be "fall", the subjective part is definitely "free". Then the chute opens, and you stop. Suddenly. The straps on the harness pull you to a stop from 120 miles per hour. The bruises lasted for days. After stopping, you float in the air. I assume the sensation is like a hot air balloon - except there's more control. Again, free seems to be the appropriate word. Pain as well - because you're sitting on those straps, which are still where the where when they stopped you.[floating][landing] Finally comes the landing - and you finish stopping from free fall. One good hard bounce, and the ride is over.


[me&Jeff] It was, without a doubt, the best rush I've ever had. But it took all day for just a few minutes ride. I think I'd rather go white water rafting.

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