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!

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