This week’s challenge is one I’ve been wanting to do for a VERY long time, but have never been able to force myself to do it. Finally, like many others, I’ve been given no choice. It’s go time.
“SKYDIVING!!!!!!” – from Jamie Humes
Jamie is a friend of the family that I met many, many years ago. Our fathers are both members of an organization called YPO and have our mothers were in Junior League together. They are great friends of the family. Jamie and I have grown close through our community involvement and many other activities. She’s a brilliant young woman that chases her dreams. This was numero uno on her bucket list so she went with me!
Jamie has tried to go skydiving multiple times, each time ending in cancellation due to weather. My first thought was, “Maybe this some sort of divine intervention and you’re not supposed to do it.” Her thought, this simply fueled the fire and made her want to do it more.
Let me preface this with a little story. When I was younger, maybe 8 or 9, my parents packed my family into a caravan and drove us around the country for 3 weeks in a big circle. We stopped at many popular tourist attractions, including the Cheyenne Rodeo, an Oregon Trail adventure and the St. Louis Arch. Upon arriving in St. Louis and being told we’d be riding in this little contraption (from my memory, much like the egg that Mork arrived in on Mork and Mindy) to take us to the top of the arch, I got a little excited. My family boarded our little carton and began the 630 foot climb to the top. And then we got stuck. For 2 hours. There were college kids singing songs either above or below us and my mother tried to entertain all of us with a crossword puzzle. This is the moment we discovered that I was claustrophobic. Eventually our little carton of hell started to move again and we finally made it to the top. Upon exiting the “elevator,” I ran out and took a look out the window looking down over the river, that had flooded everything in site. I immediately backed up to the exact center of the arch and refused to move until it was time to leave. This is when we discovered that I am afraid of heights. Big time.
So. Neither of these things make me a good candidate for riding up in a tiny airplane and launching myself into free-fall 13,000 feet from the ground. Regardless, I’ve always wanted to do this and test my fears. I expected more than one of these to end up on my challenge cards and was surprised, but delighted, when this was the only one I received.
We both talked with our parents about it and neither were particularly keen on the idea of us throwing ourselves out of a perfectly good airplane. I asked my parents if they’d like me to call them before or after the jump. They said both. Jamie and I scheduled our jump, accidentally, for Friday the 13th. We were filling out our paperwork upon arrival and I said “Jamie…do you know what day it is?” She replied, “The 13th!” and I said, “I know.” I’m pretty superstitious so this wasn’t exactly our brightest idea.
We went through the video and signed our life away. Do you have any idea what they have you sign at those places?! Basically, no matter what happens, plane failure, manufacturer defect in the suit/harness, what have you, you, your heirs, or anyone representing you is not permitted to sue under any circumstances. If you DO sue, you have to pay the court costs and all other fees endured of the company. That’s. Crazy.
Jamie and I then headed over to the hanger where we proceeded to wait. And wait. And wait. And then we waited some more. Turns out you’re not allowed to jump through clouds. This was devastating for me because, for as long as I can remember, I have wanted to know what it felt like to go through a cloud. Big, fluffy, cumulus clouds. I wanted to know if the Care Bears were on to something spectacular. Can you bounce around on them like big pillows of cotton candy? I mean physics tells me that no, that is not in fact possible. Looks like I’ll never know…
So we sat on the tarmac of the airport for 6 hours waiting for the cloud cover to dissipate. One group went up in the plane finally, only to return back to ground, disheartened that they could not jump. Several people did what’s called a Hop and Pop. This is at 5,000 elevation and you pull your chute the second you jump out of the plane. I was freaking out for the better part of the day. Repeating “OhmygodOhmygodOhmygod” and “Holy Sh*t!” and “WHAT ARE WE DOING THIS IS CRAZY?!” I spoke with many of the instructors, made new friends, and asked as many questions as I could. Many of them do it for a full-time job. It’s tough because they get paid per jump and if you don’t jump due to weather, you’ve made no money that day. We talked to a guy named Gila and a guy named Lonnie. Lonnie was very helpful and positive. I kind of wish I’d requested to jump with him since he knew how nervous I was the day before.
During a conversation with Gila I had mentioned how scared I was on Friday. He said “Being scared is perfectly acceptable. It’s the people that aren’t scared that really freak me out. If you think about it, humans weren’t meant to fly. There is nothing normal about this.” Totally stuck with me.
I think this was actually truly beneficial to me because of the way the rest of this adventure pans out. It came down to like 5:00 and Jamie and I gazed out at the sky. We realized these clouds weren’t going anywhere and had to make a decision. We scheduled ourselves to come back at 5:00 the following day to give it another shot. At this point, Jamie has been turned down 3 times because of weather. I’m not feeling good about this fact. Feeling a little let down, we headed back to Cincinnati.
I woke up Saturday morning incredibly excited. The feelings were totally different. I was surprisingly comfortable with the idea of skydiving. I picked Jamie up and we headed back to Middletown (www.startskydiving.com) where we repeated many of the previous day’s steps. They called us just before we left to inform us they were running on a two-hour delay so we knew we weren’t in any real hurry.
I kept waiting to freak out. It never happened. My instructor’s name was Dave and my videographer’s name was Hannah. They were scheduled for a jump right before mine so they had to suit me up early. Jamie didn’t get pulled in for prep until at least 20 minutes after me. Thankfully, her videographer got some shots of us together. We both bought Rockstar packages to document every minute.
As I sat there all suited up in my harness, I felt at peace. I kept telling Jamie that I was “cool as a cucumber,” waiting to freak out. It never happened. We sat and watched other jumpers deploy their chutes and float gracefully to the ground. It looked SO easy. I wished that my instructor had been there before the jump though. I would have liked to have gotten to know him a bit better and get comfortable with the fact that we would be strapped to one another while plummeting toward earth. As most things go with me, this did not happen. It is so typical of this little adventure that I’m on.
Finally, at about 7:10, it was time to board the plane. We started to walk toward it and my stomach started doing flips. We hopped on and Dave was pretty quiet. I kept asking him questions and we discovered that his GoPro did not have an SD card in it. In retrospect, after having seen the footage, I wish we hadn’t located one. No one told me to “smile as big as you can otherwise your face flaps in the wind.” Lesson learned. I also didn’t know that you could remove your goggles after the free-fall. Bummed about that one.
So Dave went through his safety checks and reminded me of what I was supposed to do. Left knee up, right knee down, hands on harness, head back, hold on until the double tap and let him do all the work. We reached our cruising altitude and scooted our way down the bench. The clear plastic door on our plane opened and I had my footing all wrong, per usual. I’m incredibly uncoordinated. I was so worried about being in the proper position that I forgot to look down. I’m sort of glad I did because moments later we were barrel rolling through the sky, flipping and turning at over 120 miles per hour. A slew of profanities flew out of my mouth and I edited them out of the video. I do apologize, but it didn’t feel right to show them.
The chute opened and honest to goodness it was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my life. Like a child, I pointed at the sun and gasped “Look at that!” The frustration we experienced the day before resulted in us jumping at sunset. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. You all know how I feel about photography. I wish I’d had a camera up there. I could see for miles and the sky was filled with pinks, oranges, yellows, blues and purples with a bright golden sun in the center of it all. It was absolutely breathtaking.
Speaking of breathtaking, humans, as a second nature, tend to hold their breath in situations of stress or panic. I’m not sure I breathed at all during the 40 second free fall. It looks like I did in the video, but I can’t confirm.
Dave had me control the chute at one point, and I wish I’d known that part was coming. I would have been better prepared and more eager to take the reigns. In Jamie’s video you see her steering it and I’m jealous I didn’t get to experience that feeling. I held myself back from it. I didn’t want a gust of wind to come knock the air out of my chute and send me straight to the ground. Next time. Dave steered us in a few little spirals and tilted us back and forth. I was content with that. The fact that we hadn’t conversed much made it difficult for me to fully trust him and put my life in his hands. Again, next time.
We landed and I have never been so full of OHMYGOD in my life. That’s the only way I can describe it. I was proud of myself for doing it. I was proud of myself for being so calm. I was shocked with myself for that, as well. It was absolutely, without a doubt, the craziest experience I have ever had in my life. And I highly recommend it to everyone. They asked me if I’d do it again. I said I would. Maybe not right away, but I would.
Jamie landed and we ran to each other across the field. After a big hug and shared excitement we marched back into the hanger, adrenaline rushing. I decided it’d be a good idea to call my parents and let them know I had landed. It was cool to recap all of the feelings and emotions that I had just experienced. I’m so glad we didn’t get to go on Friday because there is no way I’d have traded that jump for anything in the world. Sadly, I fear the next time I go skydiving will never compare. Funny how things work out for you…
So I edited mine and Jamie’s videos together so you could see both of our experiences. Without further ado: Katie and Jamie Rule the Sky.
Jamie, thank you for extending this adventure my way. It pushed me in ways I didn’t expect it to, conquered a huge fear of mine, checked off a huge goal of mine and you made the experience that much more enjoyable. I know it wasn’t as “smooth sailing” as we’d hoped it would be, but I’m glad we did it together! And I’m so very glad you finally got to go skydiving!!!!!!! You rock!!!