Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Jumping out of a plane, Part Deaux

So perhaps in this case, insanity can be defined by doing the same thing twice expecting the SAME result.

After successfully surviving my first tandem skydiving experience in May 2009, for some unexplained reason, I decided to cheat death a second time last weekend. And I have to say that it was a completely different one -- both better and worse -- from the first time.

Let me first say that I was WAY more nervous the second time around. Perhaps because I actually knew what to expect. The first time, adrenaline started the minute the door plane closed and continued for a few days afterward. This time, the adrenaline wouldn't last as long, or help me through the hours before my jump.

Let me also add, it's not real wise to do youtube searches for videos of skydiving accidents the night before you jump. Call me morbid.

I jumped in a new location this time, in Winsted, MN, where the tandem instructor I had last year...Jumpin' Joe, formerly known as Crazy Joe, had opened his own place.

My nerves subsided by the time I got to the airport and started talking to Joe. His mixture of humor ("We haven't had a death, yet, which means we could have one any day") and intensity and passion for jumping helps keep you calm.

My last order of business was to hug my kids, hand them all my possessions, and tell them if it looked like something was going wrong when I jumped, to turn around and not watch.

As my plane took off, a Zen-like calm came over me as I realized that if I did have to die, this might not be that bad of a way to do it, other than the guarantee of no open casket funeral.

The view this time was so much better. Last year's jump was in flatland farm country in Wisconsin. This year's jump was in flatland farm country in Minnesota. But there were lakes. Thousands of them. Which I guess is how this state got it's nickname. Crazy.

But you could also see the famed lake of the Twin Cities, Lake Minnetonka, as well as the skyline of downtown Minneapolis.

As the moment of truth arrived, and they opened the door on the small Cessna plane, it was me leaning out over the edge of the wheel with 10,000 feet of air between me and the ground. There really are no words to describe this feeling. The wind is whipping you before you even begin to plummet at 125 miles per hour.

And as Joe and I tipped out of the plane, unlike last year, we tumbled backward and did a few flips as we left the plane behind and watched it soar into the distance.

The free fall experience is something you also can't put into words that aptly describe it. You really are flying at this point, albeit because of gravity, not wings. Nearly twice as fast as you typically are going down the freeway in your car.

I love the peacefulness of the descent after the chute opens, but the free fall is what keeps me coming back. Maybe it's the rush of knowing you're dropping like a lead weight toward Earth, and there is still a chance that the chute won't open. Cheating death. It can become addicting.

And while it's not the same thing, if you'd like to at least see what I experienced (even though it doesn't really do it justice), check it out here:


And if you ever find yourself with the opportunity to take life by the balls, do it. After all, life isn't a dress rehearsal. Happy jumping!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

GUEST COLUMN: From my friend G, who is from Canada, which explains her weird spelling

I finally belong....

The 2010 college football season is about to begin and there are no words to describe the way I feel about this game, or how it has changed my life.

About 3 years ago I was inadvertently led to an online football message board and while there I started to get to know some real down to earth, genuine people. Each day I’d post about some random topics and engage in everyday conversation and banter.

These average folks posting along with me live in small town America and truly love their football. Some might say it's because they have nothing else to think about and nothing else to do, but I think they have something more than most. I think they belong to something simple, yet unspoken, I know they belong to something more than just a game.

It seemed peculiar to me at the time, their unusual relationship to football and their relationship to each other, but as I got to know them I realized that they were bound to one another. Their Hawkeyes connected them and I was intrigued, like a science experiment I was drawn to uncover the secrets to the bond they formed.

At first I tried to buy into what they were selling, but I will be honest I thought those young guys tossing a football around in tight pants were just kids and the people who loved the game just got together to drink beer and hang out with other like minded. I didn't know a “drop back” from a “drop kick” and I definitely didn’t realize why these people would count down the days until the next season started.

And now look at me, I’m counting down the hours like some love-sick teenager who spent an hour on the phone with her boyfriend, but is waiting for it to get dark so she can climb through her bedroom window just to spend whatever time she can with him. I admit it, it’s addicting. The more time I have had, the more time I want, and I never want it to end.

This probably seems a bit foolish to anyone who doesn’t love college football, especially the Hawkeyes the way I do and I am continuously questioning how it all happened. All I can say is that something transpired the first time I went to a game in Iowa City. On that crisp October morning I tailgated on the streets with almost complete strangers; I simply never felt alone, or uncomfortable. I was scooped up and taught immediately that being a part of game-day was full of tradition, a deep faith, a powerful loyalty, and patience for what’s meant to be.

To be part of this relationship you had to have staying power and you had to believe, always believe. Those Iowa Hawkeye fans never give up on their team and they never give up on anyone who comes along, curious about what they have, someone like me. They continue to embrace me, not only during the actual season, but each and every day until a new season starts. Talk about loyalty and faith, huh?

I don’t pretend to know what this season holds for my team; whether they will be winners or losers, and frankly I don’t care, that isn’t why I am here. You should know though that the promises by experts are that it will be an awesome year, with the word “championship” written all over the place.

If you are reading any predictions when it comes to college football, you won’t read an article anywhere regarding the Hawks that doesn’t state the expectation they will go far, further than they ever have in their history. Doesn’t that just make you want to watch one Saturday morning to see if “they” are right? I do.

It’s so tempting to think I am just star struck, and you know what I’m not going to lie, I am. When those eleven players walk out onto the field I get goose bumps, my heart swells with pride, and it’s a feeling I can’t describe.

I will tell you this though, my being enamoured with the Hawks has nothing to do with them winning, it is because I know those young men play each Saturday because I am there, and because I care and that is why I belong to the Hawkeyes.

It is why I also belong to the tens of thousands of other followers just like me, who shout each week, for 12 weeks, “LET’S GO HAWKS, LET’S GO HAWKS, LET’S GO HAWKS!” Every chance they get.