I’ve never been a brave person. In kindergarten I was afraid to go down the slippery slide. Wild carnival rides make me sick, and, although I live near world-class snow resorts, I’m too chicken to ski.
So what on earth possessed me to try a sky dive? After passing a milestone birthday, maybe I wanted to spit in the eye of old age. Or maybe I just need to prove something to myself–and it was on my mental bucket list. Whatever the reason, I went on line, found the perfect place and booked a tandem jump for the morning of October 13.
Sky Dive Zion is located in Southern Utah’s spectacular red rock country. It’s a small operation, one plane, one pilot, one great instructor named Rick, and an excellent safety record. Driving to the site, I was jittery. It didn’t help to know that a double skydiving fatality had occurred days earlier in nearby Mesquite, Nevada—with a woman close to my age. But my hero, who’d come along to give me courage, assured me that I could do this.
The weather was gorgeous, the sky a clear, bright blue. Three of us were jumping that morning—a cute young couple and me, all first-timers. Rick, who’d made nearly 8,000 jumps, spent an hour instructing us. We signed legal releases, watched a video, drilled getting in and out of the plane and practiced the “arch” position, which would be used in free fall (free fall—the very words gave me shivers).
I watched the youngsters make perfect jumps, touching down on the nice, crunchy pea gravel that served as a landing strip. Then it was my turn. Harnessed in, we drilled again, sitting on the floor of the plane, sliding forward climbing out the door and crouching on the tiny metal platform above the wheel. “Like cannonballing off the high dive,” Rick said. It was easy on the ground. But at 11,000 feet…?
On my harness was a red knob—the handle of the rip cord that would open our parachute. On the way down, at 5,000 feet, I was to pull it. If I didn’t pull it by 4,000 feet, Rick would do it for me. Good to know. I was to learn how good.
The little Cessna roared skyward. The view was breathtaking—red cliffs and flats, lakes like clear turquoise jewels. Rick tightened my harness as the altimeter climbed to 11,000 feet. The door popped open, wind roaring past, the ground so far away it looked like a map. No time to be scared. I had to do this. I climbed out onto the platform and hunkered down, giving Rick room to climb out behind me.
“Go!” he shouted. We came off in a back flip. As we tumbled over, I glimpsed the tail of the plane. I arched, with Rick above me—surprisingly easy. Free fall is…unimaginable. With the ground so far away, you don’t have the sensation of falling. It’s more like floating, with a 120 mph wind blasting up at you. I’d expected to be terrified. Instead I was stunned. Rick nudged me and pointed to something. My mind was blank. Only when the chute popped open, yanking me upright, did I remember the rip cord. I hadn’t pulled it.
What a rush! I was yelling, “OMG! OMG!” Rick was laughing at me. The ride down was the best–floating in the sky above the desert, feeling safe and relieved. We practiced the landing position, legs up, feet flexed, hands ready to pull down on the parachute straps. I could see the gravel strip. The landing would be easy, I thought. Then Murphy’s Law raised its ugly head. At the last second, we lost our tail wind and came in short. I smacked down butt first on the hard-packed dirt and skidded to a stop with Rick behind me.
Should I do it again? Given my age and my injury-prone body, probably not.
WOULD I do it again? Oh, yeah…in a heartbeat!
Do you have a bucket list? What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done?