Wait…Let me wind the clock back a few hours and start from the very beginning.
I set my alarm for 7:30 this morning knowing that I had an 11 am appointment at the airport in Perkasie, PA with Skydive Adventure Philadelphia. Immediately upon waking up I checked online for the weather knowing full well that any rain or windy conditions would scrub the whole thing.
There was a 30% chance of showers at 11am, which continued on to Noon, and then at 1pm until 3pm it turned to a 40% chance of isolated thunderstorms. Things were not looking good.
But I decided that even if Nicole I took the trek to the airport and were turned away we could still make a fun day out of it (and I needed to go to the Army/Navy store in Quakertown to pick up a few more pieces of my Hawkeye cosplay outfit). So we both got washed and dressed and headed out the door at around 9am to get some breakfast at Panera.
We made it to the airport in amazing time, arriving shortly after 10:10am. Most importantly the skies were merely cloudy but bright and the rain seemed to be a ways off. I know that the girl I spoke with on the phone earlier in the week said not to arrive early but I decided to chance it anyway, knowing that if I waited until my 11am appointment the chance of rain canceling my only shot at this would have increased. I made my way inside, up the stairs to the sign-in office and announced my arrival.
They took me in right away, sat me down with a clipboard and a waiver that basically gave up any rights I had to sue them for injury, death or pooping my pants, and may have even relinquished the rights to my first-born child but HA! Little do they know! I’m not having any kids!!!
I then was instructed to watch a video which was apparently another warning from the company lawyer, who looked suspiciously like a regular lawyer in a ZZ Top beard. In hindsight I’m wondering if he was a representative of the law firm of Fitzpatrick, Lentz & Bubba. My guess is that he was the Bubba part.
I decided to pay the extra $10 for the “Go Big!” package which extended my freefall time from 25-30 seconds to about a minute. Less time gliding with the chute but more time falling like a 250 pound boulder to Earth, ergo flying time. I also decided to forego the extra $70 for a video package. I was sent downstairs to check in one final time and get weighed.
I stepped on the scale, passed the crucial “not too fat to skydive” test and was told to wait outside until they called my name.
I was on the fence the whole time about the video package and asked if it was too late to add it to my jump. I was told that it would add about 45 minutes to my wait time, and not wanting to end up getting the whole thing scrubbed over the weather I turned it down one last time. Now it was no going back.
Upon making it outside I watched a group of individuals who were already in their harnesses get ready to board the small double-prop plane. They took off and after what seemed to be about five minutes their plane re-appeared way above us overhead. Looking straight up into the sky I witnessed the tiniest little drops fall from the plane and what seemed to be mere moments later those droplets bloomed into parachutes. One by one they made it down to the ground and to a person every single one of them seemed genuinely happy. Most importantly, no one seemed to have peed themselves on the way down.
That had to be plus.
At what must have been close to 11am, the original time I was supposed to show up, I was helped into a harness by my tandem partner, Brian. Brian was an American and because of his long wavy brown surfer haircut and the fact that he was walking back and forth to the plane with various tools that made it look like he was doing some work on it, I nicknamed him Chewie.
He gave me some basic instructions on what to do and what not to do. How he would basically provide me with verbal commands on the plane and physical commands once we were diving. At no point did my nerves ever take over. It was an adrenaline rush just thinking about it and from the moment I got there til the moment when I was wearing the harness and Brian asked “are you ready?” I couldn’t stop thinking about how incredible this was going to be.
I gave Nicole a big kiss and made my way to the plane, with Chewie at my side. Brian stepped in before me and I straddled the bench sitting in front of him. I did some calculations and realized that I was basically third in line to jump.
The plane took off and my heart finally started to race — not from nerves but from excitement. It was that feeling you get after you’ve been in line for a big loopty loop roller coaster for 45 minutes and you’ve finally sat in the seat at the front of the very first car and the bar lowers down and locks into place. It was this point that Brian said was the most dangerous part of the trip — takeoff. Another instructor said, “No, actually Kurt [the pilot] has a tougher time landing.”
“That’s OK,” I said. “I wont be here for that part.” And I smiled. A big, stupid grin, because it finally hit me. I was about to fly.
For what must have been about five or six minutes the plane made its way up to the 14,000 foot height from which we would jump. The view out of the tiny porthole window near my head was breathtaking and I couldn’t wait to see it without the plexiglass. Brian continued to buckle me into the harness tighter and tighter, clipping me to his harness and then at some point I noticed that the light on my right side, near the clear sliding door. Brian instructed me to put on my goggles. It was almost time.
They lifted the door and a moment later the light went green. Out went the first jumper, an employee who was manning a video-camera. Next went the first tandem jumper. Then the next one, who was sitting in front of me. I felt Brian start to scooch me forward along the bench. Then the next one went. And just like that Brian and I were crouching at the open door to the plane.Time froze. I looked down and saw nothing but practically three miles of air and the ground below. Houses were like those in Monopoly. Smaller even. And then the world started again and in the back of my mind I heard Brian’s voice saying “Here we go…ARCH!” and felt the slightest nudge.
I went out the door of the plane with my arms crossed over my chest and my legs slightly bent. As he told me earlier, I arched my back and thew my legs behind me, as if I was trying to kick Brian in his ass. The air rushed up and the feeling was unexplainable.
Brian tapped my shoulders and, as previously instructed, I lifted my arms as if I was being robbed at gunpoint. I was impressed with myself that I resisted the urge to do the one hand extended out, one arm tucked in pose (like Superman). But it didn’t matter. I truly felt as if I was flying. The wind was remarkable, coming up at me with such relentless force. It was as if it was trying to help me defy gravity and keep me in the air longer.
The view was amazing…beautiful. If it wasn’t so hazy I probably would have been able to look ahead for miles, but at the speed at which I was moving (upwards of 140 mph) I could barely see anything in the distance. There was no real feeling of falling towards the ground. It was more like a sense that the ground was just coming up to meet me instead.
I let out a “WOOOO-HOOOOOO!” but the wind drowned out the sound from my own ears. We spun a bit in a circle and the world barely seemed to move around me.What felt like maybe 30 seconds but was actually an entire minute went by and I felt a subtle tug…and then…FWOOOMPH! The chute was deployed. We had gone from 14,000 feet to 4,000 feet in about 60 seconds.
My descent went from the horizontal to the vertical and the rush of wind suddenly stopped. The world became clearer and the sounds of nature were once again audible. Brian said to me in my ear, “So, how was that?”
“I guess I don’t have to ask you to let out a yell, then,” he said.
We talked on the way down. I learned that he had over 8,000 jumps under his belt and that he had only began when he was 34 (which by looking at him couldn’t have been more than five or six years ago at the very most). He had been in the military but didn’t jump back then as he was in the Navy. I let out a few more hoots of joy and just let the beauty sink in.
I noticed that even though I was the fourth one out of the plane we were the first ones to approach the landing zone (besides the videographer). Gravity is a bitch. I stretched my legs out straight ahead in front of me and had a soft landing. We stood up and Brian unhooked me from his harness and then helped me slip out of mine. The first thing I noticed was that I couldn’t stop smiling.“That…Was…AWESOME!!!!!” I must have said it a dozen time afterwards. As Brian was gathering the chute behind him I watched the other jumpers come down one by one around me. When all of us had landed we started making our way back to the hanger.
I saw Nicole about 75 yards away snapping photos. It was she who was responsible for this amazing experience. She who helped me make this dream of mine come true. I couldn’t wait to kiss her.
Brian and I made it back to the gate and I walked over to Nicole and gave her a great big kiss. Not one that said “Oh, thank God I’m still alive” but one that said “Thank you SO much.” I handed over the harness, said my goodbyes to Brian and tipped him for being such a great instructor (and it was customary for anyone over 230 lbs to do so anyway since you’re giving them a lot more work to do). We made it to the car at about Noon and the first thing I did was call my mother to let her know what I had just done.My mother would have vomited everywhere if I told her about it beforehand and probably already would have planned my funeral by now. But she was fine. Amazed, but fine. Nicole was also very happy for me.
My dream came true. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life and one that I can’t wait to do all over again. And I celebrated it in the exact way that I wanted afterwards, by having a ridiculous banana split. That’s the reward to get for making a dream come true.
And, just as importantly, I do…FINALLY!…believe that a Geek can fly.
(For more photos, please go to the SKYDIVING photo album on my Facebook page)