My Parachute Adventure: How I Survived a Fall From 13,000 Feet and Lived to Tell It!!!

10 06 2010

Well, I survived my parachuting adventure. I can only describe it as four-O fun! The pictures can say it better than I, but I will tell you a little about it just in case you ever decide it’s something you’d like to try, yourself. After all, I didn’t steer you wrong on the colonoscopy, did I? (Watch the video here!)

All of our kids, except Mark, our youngest, and his girlfriend, Amanda, met Carolyn and me at our house and we all made the two-hour drive together to the Raeford Parachute Center near Fort Bragg (www.jumpraeford.com). This is the same field where President Bush goes to take his annual birthday jump.

Lawyer Stuff

First thing you have to do is complete all the paperwork. Brian, my first-born isn’t aware of it yet but he is now the property of the Raeford Parachute Center. After filling out all the required forms and signing my life away, relinquishing all parental rights to my first- born, I met the jumper with whom I was to be partnered. His name is Jon, and for his day job he jumps with the U.S. Army’s Parachute Team- Golden Knights. In fact, I have since learned he is a videographer with the Golden Knights. What a great way to make a living!

“Fat Man in a Little Suit”

Jon fitted me out with the requisite gear-blue jump suit… harness… helmet and goggles.  I don’t know if he underestimated my girth or just wanted to respect the old man, but the jump suit he gave me was, to say the least, a bit snug. Several descriptors come to mind when I look at the pictures of me in that suit- a sack full of puppies, a blue cucumber, an ocean with a zipper, a kangaroo with all the kids at home! But enough of this self-deprecating humor. I can almost hear Chris Farley singing.

The instructions, as simple as they were, came like rapid-fire. We went through all the preliminaries faster than coffee through a kidney, but Jon was most thorough. Since he would be tethered to me he was almost as anxious as I was for this to be a successful jump.

Eric, Brooke and the geezer

It wasn’t long before we were inside the plane. We were seated near the front, which would mean we would be among the last to jump. My son, Eric, and his wife, Brooke, the one who started all this craziness (and I have a suspicion she was the one who put everyone up to giving me this gift) were jumping as well. They were seated even further forward than Jon and me.

But before I knew what had hit me, we had reached our jump altitude of 13,000 feet. Yes, 13 thousand. Parachutes don’t deploy in time to allow for a slow descent from 13 feet and at 1,300 feet you wouldn’t have enough time to justify the 230 bucks you pay to do this. So 13,000 feet is the desired altitude for this activity.

Eric enters the plane

Brooke and Jon relax while we climb to altitude.

Bosom Buddies to the End

Now you need to get this picture in your mind. Jon is snapped to the hooks on the back of my harness-our straps pulled as tight as he could pull them. He is very much within my space. This is closer than I normally want to be to

another man, especially one whom I have just met. But given the purpose of our being together I was okay with it. Fact is, when I stepped out that door, I wanted him as close as he could get, especially since he was the one with his hand on the rip-cord!

What fear lies behind my big smile as Jon puts on his helmet?

GERONIMOOOooooooooo!!

We were sitting in a plane about the size of a cigar case. It is impossible for Brooke, who is all four feet, 13 inches tall, to stand up, so there is no way we are standing. Jon was very thorough as he went through his final checklist. And now we had to kind of crab, in unison, our way towards the open door near the rear of the aircraft. That turned out to be easier than I expected, or maybe I was just thinking that we were approaching the door too quickly, making it seem faster and easier than it really was. Either way I suddenly found myself in a sitting position, my toes at the edge of the door, and looking down at the ground two and one half miles beneath me. I must say that at no point was I ever afraid but for a second I did wonder about the insanity of what I was about to do. And it was during that thought that Jon pushed off and we were flying without the encumbrance of an airplane. The plane went one way and we went the other-down.

GERONIMOOOooo

If you really want to know someone’s true feelings, like Mr. Miagi said in Karate Kid, “Look eyes! Always look eyes!” What do they say-the eyes are the window to the soul? I’d give a dollar and a quarter to see what my eyes looked like when Jon and I rolled out of that door. I have always wondered, too, how it would feel to fall at 120 miles per hour. Actually there isn’t much feeling at all other than the hurricane force wind hitting you in the face. The ground doesn’t appear to be coming at you all that fast so you don’t get a sensation of falling. It’s not like falling off the roof of the house or jumping off the high diving board. But oh what a rush! That sounds like an oxymoron to say there isn’t much feeling, but there is a great rush. It is a thrill to feel suspended in the air and knowing you are falling at such high rate of a speed. As Brother Dave would have said-“That’ll out-drag a Chevrolet”.

I could do this all day long!

The Chute Opened-Another Prayer Answered!

After free-falling for about a minute or so, Jon pulled the rip-cord and we found ourselves suspended beneath a nylon “wing” that he skillfully used to “fly” us safely to the ground. As we approached the

Helloooooo down there!

Brakes work fine.

Coming in for a landing.

All good things must end.

Okay, Golden Knights...where do I sign?

ground, on his command, I raised my feet and we came in for a perfect two-point landing. I guess you could call it a bi-cheek landing.

It was a very exciting and enjoyable day. I got to spend the day with most of my family, including two of my three sisters who were able to come, and had a blast at the same time. I highly recommend this adventure to anyone. You might want to wear your brown pants!

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