Friday, July 2, 2010

Flying, Fabulous, Fear-Free ..... and Other "F" Words

Earlier this year, in a fit of "O" birthday fear, I decided it was time to cross an item off my bucket list.  My life has taken many twists, turns, and unexpected detours (this last one is horribly long with mislabeled signs and long unmoving lines of irritable travelers), and so I found myself facing f....for ... forward looking at yet another birthday despite the fact that I am no where near the destination I'd envisioned for myself at this age. 

What do you do when life isn't quite how you expected, when you're staring down stress, responsibilities, debt, and dipshits on a daily basis?  I decided to chuck it all to the wind and literally leap into my next decade ... out of a perfectly functioning albeit tiny airplane.

My decision to skydive made, I then had the tedious task of choosing a reputable skydiving company.  Enter Google.  Other than a gut feeling, I immediately cut any company that did not post their prices online.  Really? Come on, guys, post the prices.  What are you hiding?  That rule cut out quite a few places. 

After that, I went with the gut feeling I got from a company's FAQ page.  For example, in response to a question about whether landings are hard, one company promised that you would land "like a fairies fluff."  Hmm ... beyond the grammatical problem with that statement and confusion over what the hell a fairy's "fluff" actually is, I just don't believe it. 

Prices? Check

FAQ page? In response to the question about whether skydiving is dangerous, Premier answered,
Of course it's dangerous. You get out of a plane two miles above the earth. And gravity does work. In fact, it rules supreme. The only thing between a skydiver and "deceleration trauma" is a chunk of nylon about the size of your living room. Which part of not being dangerous was unclear?
Ahh ... my people!   After explaining about whether skydiving is safe (the better question), and what would happen if the parachute doesn't open or if the jumper wigs out completely and doesn't pull the rip cord, Premier apparently was asked what would happened if both the main and reserve parachute fail at the same time, and wisely answered, "You're about to have a really bad day."

Thank you!  Don't tell me that I'm going to float down on a cloud of fairy dust lightly skipping as I land.  That just makes me distrust you (more so than my general ever-present distrust).  Give me the real answer in a smartass way and *BAM* I'm signing waivers (guys, guys, waivers don't hold up anymore, do they), handing you a card, and telling my family and friends my jump date. 

It was June 26, 2010.

My day began surrounded by computer, TV, and smart phone, all tuned to weather information as I tensely waited to see if the storm would come as predicted (it didn't) or if the clouds would be too low or dense (they weren't).  When I finally headed up to Fremont, Michigan, home of Premier Skydiving, I had family members already in Grand Rapids and others on the way.  Having my family drive 2, 3, and nearly 7 hours (Linda) to see me fling myself from a plane meant more to me than they probably realize.  My sisters (including an in-law sis), parents (original and step), niece and nephew were all present.  Precious time was spent teaching my soon-to-be 3 year old niece to say, "Don't jump, Kimmie!!" 

I arrived, signed my multi-paged waiver promising that my family would smile and thank Premier if something went wrong, then settled in for training.  Our instructor showed us the tandem rigs, explained the main canopy, reserve (rarely used but stringently maintained), and AAD (automatic activation device), what to expect, how to stand, and the most important thing to remember about our first jump ... ARCH!!

I wisely purchased the video package and digital stills (beautiful).  As I uploaded this - my very first video to my blog - I realized that it is in several parts so I apologize for the breaks but it also allows me to comment between the fun. 

In this first segment, we meet Scott (my instructor) and Deryl (the videographer for the jump) as Scott is securing me in my jumpsuit and gear.  We also see my insanely large head, freakishly Gollum-like eyes, and the reason I'm attempting to now break any habits of pursing my lips together or making any of the other faces that occur.  Wow.  Enjoy.


Next notice the tiny step outside of the tiny plane.  That's where I'll be stepping on the way out.  Only four of us and the pilot fit inside.  For some reason, I had envisioned some large plane in which all 7 jumpers and their respective instructors would be comfortably strapped into seats awaiting a leap out of a big open door (I've probably seen this on TV or in a movie).  No matter.  We head up into the air and the higher we get, the younger I get.  No, really.  You'll see me devolve into my 5-year-old inner child, squealing and clapping in delight.

Ooooh .... here we go!!!!  The door is open, we scoot back and over to it, left foot, right foot, cross your arms and ARCH!!!  I keep getting questions about the falling feeling.  I don't remember any kind of stomach drop, I believe because of the wind.  The wind is loud.  I knew I could breath but somehow wanted to hold my breath.  The view, the feeling, the wind, the earth rushing up ... no wonder my instructor told us not to worry if we didn't pull the rip cord when he instructed us to do so ... it's the brain lock of doing something you'd only dreamed of doing.  I remember his pointing to the rip cord and I remember looking down in a stupor of .... 'oh yeah, I'm supposed to ...'  before *BAM* he opened it for me.

That was Deryl landing.  I'm still up in the air with Scott, listening to him tell me that one cell of the canopy won't open for some unknown reason.


"Oh, we're fine.  There's no need for the reserve."

Now, if you know my name, you probably noticed an oopsie on Deryl's part.  I was clueless. 

High from the flight.  Just happy ... and ready to go again.

I jumped out of an airplane at 10,000 feet on Saturday.  And I did it with no fear.  Only excitement.  I can't think of a better way to begin a new decade in life.  Do it with no fear, only excitement.

Just let me know when you want to go with me.  We'll set a date.


  1. I got goosebumps! This is awesome!

  2. Wow! I'm a coworker of your sister, Linda. She called me when she was driving to see you take your jump. I said, "CRAZY!" But, after reading your account and watching your videos, how cool was that??!! So brave and such a great attitude! Good luck in your 5th decade!

  3. I had to think about the math there, Amy, because my immediate reaction was, "WHOA - I'm not FIFTY yet!" - but you're right. This is the beginning of my 5th decade in life. Kudos on coming up with a phrase that made me WANT to say, "Hey! I'm FORTY!"

  4. You rock. I loved seeing you for real in the videos. It was so cool to skydive - good for you to embrace Four Oh! I had a hard year 39 and was actually relieved when I finally turned 40 a few weeks ago.

    By the way, I know everyone has to tell you their skydive stories... I did it when I was 20 or 21 (by myself, not tandem, at 3500 feet with a static line to pull my chute, and my plane was small like yours with NO DOOR) and not afraid of pain or death at all. You are totally crazy for doing it at this stage of life - just sayin.

  5. that is fricken nuts. i dont know if i could have let go of the plane. it would have been like trying to throw a cat into the bathtub. my claws would have definitely come out. ha ha

  6. cool activities..
    Want to try one day..

  7. Kimmie -

    I'd love to say I'd try this with you, because I love the idea doing the dream, of flying free, of saying, "I did it." However, Ron and I did a bungee cord thing at Indiana Beach a few years ago, heights are the one thing I don't do well. So, I will buy and ride my own motorcycle on day, and on that day, you can fly, and I will ride.

    I love your independence, tenacity, and joy. You're a great example!