Cowtown Skydive, Texas, February 12th 2011.
We all have some crazy things on our list-of-100-things. Mine has more than a fair share of insanity.. but none as famous as wanting to skydive. And along with a bunch of genuinely cool people, that’s exactly what I did last Saturday.
In an old hanger overlooking a triangular runway is Cowtown Skydive, a place that only country roads can access. In fact, we had a slight detour over the runway when the access-road was ‘too muddy’ for delicate tires. Urged by my brother-in-law who had previously done a jump before, I found myself between some very happy people on this bright Saturday morning. Radio blared songs in the background, a picnic table with an assortment of snacks was placed before a hanger filled with brilliant canopies and parachutes. On the runway lay a couple of small microlight planes.. and for some reason the name ‘born to fly’ fit them perfectly.
Was I nervous? No, not in the beginning at least. The people there were so relaxed and nice. Reminded me of unknown bikers you meet on the mountain path who beam at you just because you are there, like them. The comaradarie among the staff there was endearing.. I’d like to be like them. Come away to a peaceful hanger on my free Saturdays and watch flights soar and humans fly. You gotta admit, that’s a cool job profile ;).
A brief lecture on what to do (and what not to) while on board the tiny planes was all that was needed for us to be set on our tandem jumps. It amused me that I got a hot-pink jumpsuit, but hey.. it fit snug so no complaints. At that point I had no idea what was lying ahead of me so I wasn’t nervous at all. Just chatty and happy. We walk over the runway to the tine airplane, and I wave to my brother-in-law.. and for some reason I’m reminded of the scene in Armageddon where the heroes take off for outer space. 10500 ft doesn’t count as outer-space but it was an adventure nevertheless.
As the plane takes off the runway and begins to gain altitude, I can see the ground below take shapes of lil squares and rectangles. The view was amazing! To be in a small plane like that makes you feel the view much more closely than in a passenger plane. I make small talk as the 15 minutes pass by, and we finally reach the 10500 ft mark. And then it starts.
Was I nervous? Yes, beyond nervous.. I think my heart stopped beating. When they open that door and ask you to step out on the side, with nothing but air and the ground far away.. I felt my heart rise into my mouth. It was cold, I had forgotten my helmet and my gloves but that’s not what I felt. I felt like I was standing at the edge of a very tall building, dizzied by the depth and about to jump off. Which is exactly what we did. A few tumbles, a sharp gust of wind that knocked my breath away and I felt intensely the fact that I was ‘falling’. In 10 seconds or so we balance ourselves, and I venture to lift my head, look at the horizon and see the videographer smiling at me.. and then there was no looking back. Flying, falling, tumbling, feeling that ground zoom up to you like that. It’s all that you think it will be :).
Before you know it (actually, free fall last about 50 secs) the parachute has been deployed and suddenly you’re only floating, not falling towards that round earth. From then on it’s smooth sailing, manouevering to the left and right, admiring the scenery, admiring the brilliant-colored canopy stretched above me and agreeing with David that he does have the most awesome profession. I had the rare luck to see a flight take off from above it, and the humour in that didn’t miss me. The second part was more relaxed, having parasailed before I knew how the feeling of having your feet high up in the air felt. Unreal. Like it’s all a trick with mirrors. More instructions on how to land preceeded a very smooth landing and I was suddenly back on terra firm, my legs still shaking from the ordeal. But I smiled in my pictures, so I guess I had a good time after all :).