The Vagabloggers Go Skydiving!

The sun works it way slowly toward the western horizon casting long shadows and a warm glow across the fields and winding road.  Acres of corn and various other crops drift by on either side only to be broken by the occasional farmhouse or weather-worn barn.  While picking and scratching nervously at my new collection of mosquito bites, my eyes shift from the road to the sky where I see the pale moon already showing itself against the still blue sky when suddenly it all sets in... we're going skydiving tomorrow.


The remaining anonymous Ohio farm towns pass by in a whir as does our evening in Middletown.  We spend a short stint at the Broad Street Bash (a biweekly downtown music/beer/redneck fest) and head to a local redneck pub based on the fact that they have pool tables and seemingly the only decent Google reviews in town.  We enjoy musing at the small town alcoholic belligerency and play a bit o' pool.  The bartender is kind enough to allow us overnight parking and conveniently, they share the lot with one of the cleanest laundromats we've come across.  Morning inevitably comes as does laundry time, then off we go...

We arrive at the StartSkydiving.com facilities and check in.  We proceed through familiar boring paperwork... You will not sue us, our owner, his dog, the parachute company, the plane manufacturer, the toilet company should you choose to go, etc. etc. etc.  and agreed to fun statements like  We cannot guarantee the safety of the airplane, the parachute equipment, or pretty much anything having to do with your skydive.  By signing this paper, you're admitting that you're crazy enough to want to do this on your own.  Of course I'm paraphrasing just a bit, but not by much.

We spend a couple hours waiting around for our turn and meet up with two other CouchSurfers who happened to be skydiving the same day (and coincidentally, ended up on the same plane).  We spend our wait time getting to know them and learning a bit of their stories.  Surprisingly enough, the nerves really never hit as we're waiting.  This is probably in part due to a failed attempt to skydive 4 years ago to the day.  We tried skydiving in Tooele, Utah only to end up waiting around at their facility for 5 hours or so and having the day called off due to high winds.  This time we decided not to believe it until we leave the plane.

Time to suit up...  I zip up my stylish skydiving pajama suit, step into the harness and my instructor proceeds to pull, yank and adjust the plethora of straps and buckles until I'm comfortably gift-wrapped.  Our plane arrives on the tarmac and a brief moment of panic occurs when Meisha's instructor tells her that she has to wear their provided (and definitely not dark enough) sunglasses.  We'd called ahead about this issue and apparently the girl on the phone didn't fully understand the question... either way, we frantically search for an alternative, but there is none.  Meisha decides to go ahead with it and deal with the painful light.

In the plane we go.  As we begin our ascent, Meisha's instructor gets every other instructor to pass their sunglasses to her to see if any are dark enough.  Clearly, they just can't comprehend.  She stays cool and calm about it all and decides to keep the original pair she was given.  I stare out the window as anonymous Ohio farms become anonymous Ohio farm towns and gradually blur into just another Google map view.  Damn you, Google, for stripping the magic from plane rides.  Anywho...

We reach a cruising altitude of 12,000 feet and the door opens.  Noise.  Wind.  Nerves?  A bit.  This is really happening.  The first two solo jumpers flip out the door and my excitement raises a notch.  Meisha and her instructor head to the door and she is all smiles.  They take the leap and we immediately follow.  My instructor reminds me of the steps we'd reviewed "Grab the handle above the door, head back, we rock and count to 3, then arch. Ready?"  I nod.  "One... two... THREE!..."

Stomach, meet throat.  Throat, meet stomach.  Head... meet euphoria.  You've all been together during various adventurous times in life, but it's nice that we're all back here together again.  Hurling ourselves toward the earth.  So this is why people jump out of planes.  Zen.  My much needed adrenaline shot fades within a second or two and then it just seems really, really windy.  I look all around and down, trying to find something to gauge my height, speed, anything.  This is unreal.  I see a small cloud below us.  We approach it quickly and fall right past it.  I'm so glad it was there to give me some type of perspective.

All too quickly, the chute opens, we're yanked to a slowing stop and I think "Oh yeah, there's another part to this."  I totally forgot about the parachute.  All concerns regarding it's proper function left my head during free fall.  Guess I'm gonna survive this after all.  My instructor allows me to "Take the controls and drive".  More fun.  We have a good time pulling hard on the toggles alternating between dizzying left and right spins.  He allows me to "drive" until we're roughly 500 feet above our drop zone where he takes over to bring us in.  We land safely followed shortly by Meisha and her instructor.  Meisha tells me her experience was great and  her instructor was caring enough to turn them away from the sun during their fall.

Video?  Of course we got video!  Check it out:

Filmed withBuy GoPro HERO Camera at GoPro.com

So... was I happy to be back on the ground, touching the grass, feeling a solid foundation under my feet?  Not at all (well, I guess being alive is pretty cool).  I just can't wait till I'm back up there again...

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