Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My Bucket List Just Got Shorter.

I have wanted to do it for years. I was going to do it for my 50th birthday and couldn’t because I weighed too much, so I waited. I lost weight (30 pounds) and for my 52nd birthday, I did it. I jumped out of an airplane and went SKYDIVING.

Like most first-time jumpers, I did a tandem jump. This means that I was tied to, strapped to and hooked to an experienced jumper. It also meant that I did not have to worry about opening my parachute. It was done for me.



There was nothing for me to worry about. When I was at the door of the plane readying to jump, there was no time to say “Wait, wait, wait!”, or even think about it. Before I knew it, my ‘travel partner’ and I were out of the plane and free-falling.

Free-falling. Now there is a term. Let me explain what freefalling is like.

Imagine a roller-coaster ride. The ride climbs to the top and then WHOOSH! You are dropping at about 75 to 85 miles per hour and the drop, rarely more than 100 feet, lasts for two to three seconds. Although you are safely strapped in and seated in a metal car, your hands are in the air as you scream with delight; perhaps the longest two or three seconds of your life.

Free-falling is different. Your airplane climbs to 12,500 feet and then you jump. A small chute opens quickly so that you are face down and slowed to 120 miles per hour. You ‘fall’ at that speed for just over a mile, about six thousand feet, and for about 30 seconds. (Want to know how long thirty seconds is? Count it out saying “One thousand and one, one thousand and two”, etc) Also, there is no metal car. Just your own personal cheerleader, riding on your back and encouraging you the whole way down.

Sensory Overload. My arms instinctively spread wide like a bird. The goggles protect your eyes, but my cheeks were flapping in the wind, while my heart raced and my mind went numb! Too much to absorb. Too much to take in all at once.

I looked down and was amazed at how high up in the air I was. As far as I was concerned, I could see for hundreds of miles. The thrill, the excitement and the adrenaline were like nothing I had ever experienced before. I quickly understood why so many make this there sport of choice.

Finally and suddenly the parachute opens. The next seven or eight minutes are spent coasting to earth…..albeit at a much faster speed than I had expected. Most of that time was spent regaining my composure, high-fiving my travel companion and trying to absorb everything I had just gone through.

Jumping with me were my son, Adam and my good friend Randy. It was Adam’s first time too. But it was Randy’s 359th jump and he goes solo. While the rest of us were outfitted with helmets and jumpsuits, Randy wore only a t-shirt and shorts. He jumped first and did about eleven summersaults before opening his parachute. What a guy. What kahunas!

There were other experienced jumpers on the plane, jumping in groups of three to five and doing aerial formations on the way down. What a sight. Poetry in motion…..very fast motion.

Of course, I had something that no one else on the plane had: a disability. I was prepared and the crew was ready for me. It turns out that this particular skydiving location accommodates people with disabilities regularly and they knew just what to do.

They wheeled me out to the plane and instantly lifted me onboard. Their skill, knowledge and confidence made me comfortable and secure. My only question was how would I land? They had an answer for that too.

My legs were strapped together around my knees and ankles. As we descended towards our landing, the ground crew was waiting for me. They were there to make sure that my legs stayed up, in front of me and did not fold underneath me. Smooth and gentle, just as I like it….and expected.

The whole experience was very different than I expected. Years ago I took a flight lesson in a small Cessna four passenger plane. The sense of flying I felt was like nothing I had ever felt before. It was as though I knew just how a bird felt as they soared across the sky.

Since then, I have wanted to try other flying activities like gliding and hang gliding. While I never did either of those, I have gone para-sailing and loved it. It too gave that sense of soaring through the air.

I did not have that feeling at all while skydiving. Even after the parachute opened, we were still moving too quickly to feel as though we were soaring through the air. I did not feel like a bird, but I sure did feel a whole lot else.

You may know or have already guessed that skydiving is not cheap. In fact it is expensive, about $200 per person for a tandem jump. But you can do it for FREE!

There is a new no-profit group called Skydive4free.com and they have affiliated with skydive locations all over the country. All you have to do is raise $500 for your favorite charity and you are good to go. Visit their web site at
www.Skydive4free.com and get all the details.

Do good in the world. Raise some money and do the jump. Then cross another item off of your bucket list.


Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.

8 comments:

  1. MICHAEL, GREAT ARTICLE. FREE AS A BIRD. ARE YOU FLYING SOUTH FOR THE WINTER? HA! HA! AS I READ YOUR ARTICLE I FELT AS IF I TOO WERE FLYING WITH YOU. YOU DO LIVE LIFE TO THE FULLEST. MAY G-D GIVE YOU THE STRENGTH TO DO IT AGAIN SOMEDAY.
    LOVE, JEAN

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  2. Congrats on your first jump, Michael. The word I have heard to describe it was "violent," but you make it sound simply exciting. Good for you.

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  3. How exciting!! Very glad that you were able to do that and then share your story with us. I have only known a handful of people who have gone skydiving or hang-gliding (which lasts a bit longer in the air, I think). So very fun for you!!

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  4. Hi,
    Happy Christmas.
    Love,
    Herrad

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  5. Thank you for sharing your life with us. I can't imagine that there is nothing you can't do once you put your mind to it. You find a way to do things and go places. I sometimes wonder if our minds disable us from going/doing beyond the norm. You inspire all of us to go out and just do it! God Bless You
    Andriana

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  6. thanks for telling us and congrats on the bucket list!!!
    kim

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  7. Inspiring stuff Michael .. and i agree with you re attitude. All the best, and congrats on your website. I'm in subtropical Australia and trying to do something on a website of my own to better our collective knowledge of MS and attitude etc. Best wishes, KB.

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  8. u are a powerful man! best for u!

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