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Stoney in the sky with divers.

*Hahaha, thanks, Lynne for the title. :D

Massive post about my new lifestyle: flinging my body out of planes! Pictures included, and head's up: they're big, and there's a lot of them.

My friend Lesa warned me: every time the sky was blue, I'd look up into it, and want to be up there. She was right. (Ooooh, and there were these wonderful, low clouds yesterday. I want to fall through them.)

I came by myself (family to join me later) as I had to go through a training process. They don't just throw you out of the plane here. :D Now, I'm a special snowflake, so I did the VIP route, which gave me a one-on-one session with what's called a Tandem Master. You can go solo your first time, but that seemed a bit much to me. (You're not completely alone, you have an 8 hour class before you go, and two people jump alongside you, holding on to you, and tell you when to pull. Or they pull if you're freaking out.)



I was (fortunately) lined up with Ernie, who is one of the best skydivers in the country, and happens to be based at Skydive Dallas. He's the Safety Leader, too. I was his 13,337th jump in his career. So, the guy is relaxed in the air. I wonder if he even gets a rush anymore... Lol. Any way, they got me suited up and I got to hang out in the pack room while we waited for Ernie to land with another client.



I watched the packers for a few minutes. There are people that work here that do nothing but pack chutes. It was interesting to see the systematic way that it's done to optimize deployment. It's incredibly safe. I mean, let's face it: you're dying until you stop yourself, so it's not "safe" safe, but it's incredibly meticulous. :) Ernie lands, signs off with his client, and then he and I get to brass tacks. He walks me through the whole process: we'll get on the plane like so. We'll strap in to our seats and wait for us to his 1500 feet, then we can take off our seat belts and the plane door opens. (which feels amazing - the plane is HOT. Cold air = ahhhh.) At 7000 feet I'll get sideways on the bench and put my right leg up on the seat, Ernie will scoot close behind me and hook ourselves together. At 9000 feet we'll put on our helmets, and adjust straps. At 13500, the plane will level off, and everyone else with us will go. (More on them in a bit.) We'll scoot along the bench to the front, I put my feet down, bend over at the waist, and grab my shoulders, turning 180 degrees to the right. He'll rock me back and forth, one, two, THREEEEEEE! And then I go into my arch.

There's a padded table in the hangar that he had me climb up on and practice my arch. Apparently I did it very well. (Side note, the "Superman" is an exercise in P90X. Thanks, Tony Horton! Hahaha.) It was really hot in there, so he let me undo my suit and cool off before we got in the harness. The ground crew took a pic of me doing my arch. Heee. I don't know what the hell is going on with my mouth - I was just bug eyed with excitement. Hee.




We also practiced landing: we might have to come in on our butts. This happens a lot with first timers, I'm told. The harness made this hard to do (the harness keeps your legs spread and arched back) but I was able to do it on the table, so he said I'd be able to do it in the air. Time to go!

We're the first in, last out.





The group that went up with us... Man, that's what cinched it for me. I wanna hang with those guys. Two of them were retired 82nd Airborne, first off. Secondly, they were all excited for me (once they heard me say that I'm coming back, this wasn't a one time thing.) They taught me the secret handshake (NO REALLY! I'd tell you, but then I'd have to kill you. Or you'd have to come with me on the plane. *g*) and then they all got quiet when we hit 9000. They all went into peace-out mode, I was told later. Here's the thing about formation flying: they practice on the ground. Again and again and again. The facility had these cool wide skateboards and they would lay on them and practice. They all stood in front of the plane and walked through it again. When everyone got quiet, I watched them and saw lips moving and hands twitching. They were going through the motions one last time. And then Ping! Ping! Ping! All 14 of them piled out one right after the other. Well, in groups of three. I was a little tunnel visioned at this point, focusing on getting to the door.

Our videographer high fived me and stood back while Ernie and I stood hunched at the open door. All of those teeny squares way down there.... I barely registered that as I was looking at three teeny tiny dots moving away really fast. The last of the bigger group.





ONE! [rock] TWO! [rock] THREEEEEEE!





(Justin, the guy taking the video, jumped on Two)




(Ernie is deploying a small balloon-sized chute to create a little drag. This increasing our free fall by a few seconds, but we're still falling at 160 mph. 120 if you're solo)


We did a complete roll and then I went into my arch.











All of those tiny squares! Note: I didn't once get that swooping/rollercoaster sensation. You don't feel like you're falling, you feel like you're flying, or at times, just hanging in mid air. There's no sensation of the ground swooping up at you. Isn't that crazy? That's what I expected. I was pleasantly surprised. So surprised that I kept looking at the ground, waiting for it to jump up at me. Which is why Ernie is waving his hand in my face, wanting me to look at our video guy. :D



I had to pull my eyes away... This is maybe one second from him waving to me looking up.




(In Saturday's picture: notice the little something by my sleeve on the left. That's the plane. Maybe, maybe five seconds have passed at this point. We've already fallen over 1500 feet, too.)




It was really hard to breathe during the free fall. The wind is just howling around your face, and I panicked for a second, then remembered that I could dip my head a bit and deflect the air in order to breathe. That's why I'm looking down in so many pictures. Breathing = good.



Remember how I mentioned that Ernie has done this thousands of times? He has fun with the camera so first timers have something to look at in their videos. Like him sticking out his tongue, lol.



The g-force on my face! Those face masks... Not comfy. But I wouldn't want to not have one. Eventually I'll have my own gear and I'll be flying with shades and a helmet, instead of the Leatherhead football helmet. Heh. And going in shirt sleeves and shorts. Mmm, maybe not shorts. That's a lot of g-force on bare skin, and no one wants to see that. Ha. Oh, side note: as I was waiting for Ernie on the ground, a group of older men were going up in the plane in nothing but shades, helmets, shoes, and tighty-whities. HAHAHA. Also, I didn't really want to see that coming at me. :D





I swear, it doesn't look like the ground has moved at all. We've been in free fall for 50 seconds, from 13,500 ft to about 6000 feet, as of this picture:





Ernie checks his altimeter (I have one at my waist):





Salutes Justin (this is the signal for him to get away so we can deploy):





Justin puts his arms out, reaching for us, which makes him shoot back (legs down makes you go forward)





FWOOOOOOMP! Yoink!




And we are now under canopy. It feels like you're being pulled up (which, you're not, you're just not being pulled down as much, ha) and I'm not going to lie: the public-use harness isn't comfy. I have deep purple/black bruises on my hip bones from the harness, but my sky-diving buddies assure me that once I get my own gear, that won't be an issue any more. The combination of tandem harness + harness designed for everything from 100 pounds to 210 pounds (the weight limit) is why there was such a jerk.



Justin kept falling - you HAVE to pull by 2000 feet or you really ARE a pancake - to get past us faster. He landed, stowed his gear, then filmed us coming in. Now, the canopy ride is fantastic. Ernie did one small circle to make sure I wasn't going to puke. :D I assured him that I loved the sensation and we just made figure eights for a solid five minutes before it was time to land. Can you believe it? Five minutes! Amazing. Every time we'd turn directions, the wind's lift would pick up the canopy and you felt completely weightless. And you are, briefly. It's what astronauts claim is the only thing that comes close to what it's like in outer space. (Or when they go up to 35,000 feet and the plane dives to recreate that sensation.)



Coming in!



Now, THIS is when you get that ground screaming up at you feeling. Right before you hit. Otherwise, it's so gradual that you're not paying attention, almost. Or rather, you don't feel like the earth is rushing up at you.




PERFECT TWO FOOT LANDING. I thank you. No landing on our butts! You do have to be careful when you hit, because if I hit first, Ernie would have toppled onto me. That would have hurt, esp. since the canopy wouldn't trail properly, so we'd get yanked along the ground, on my face. Whew.







I WANNA GO AGAIN! And I am. :D They gave me a bottle of "champagne" (lol, it was Cooks. Um... I guess I was expecting something a leetle more high tone for the price I paid...) a certificate, and hugs all around. I got unhooked, hugged Ernie, was carted back to the hangar, and marched in to sign up for #2. (After hugging my kids and husband, I mean to say. Hee.)


Ernie and I went back into the hangar to sign his log book and to create my student workbook for all of my future jumps. <3 He asked me to sign his person log and give him any criticisms, etc. I think I just scribbled a series of hearts and WHOOOOOO!s all over the page, lol.




Things that amazed me: the lack of fear I had. I don't know it it's because I'm dumb, they're so good, or it's because I belong up there, but I never ONCE felt afraid. The higher the plane went, the more calm I got. How is that possible?? The more I talked to others the more relaxed about the whole thing I became. I was so happy in free fall, just looking around. No panic, no racing heart beat... No spinning in my gut, either. Just peaceful. I relaxed more and more as it went on, too.

Later that day, though, I was all smiles. And felt a little sad, too. I wanted to get right back up in the blue.... For the past 48 hours I keep catching myself staring up into the sky, wanting to get back up there. I need to look at my schedule and make plans for Tandem #2, then from there, it's solo school all the way. WHOOOOOOOOOOOooooo! (Me falling) Hee.




Yeah. I'm hooked. [ETA] I forgot to mention what those pink puffs on my sleeves and legs are: those are for forming formations with other divers. They swoop to you, and grab hold so you can make stars, circles, etc. A bunch of the people that went up with me on the plane were in the World's Record for largest formation in a jump - 400 people! Awesome. [You can see them practicing their moves on the ground.] And once you're certified, you can go whenever, where ever. It's about $25 bucks a jump at that point. You're just paying for the gas and pilot's time. They folks with me did something like 7 jumps that day. !!!

Comments

( 64 comments — Leave a comment )
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kita0610
Aug. 10th, 2009 05:17 pm (UTC)
You rock.
stoney321
Aug. 10th, 2009 05:27 pm (UTC)
I'm feeling pretty bad ass, I have to say. :D
shadowvalkyrie
Aug. 10th, 2009 05:21 pm (UTC)
That looks incredibly awesome!!! ":-D
stoney321
Aug. 10th, 2009 05:28 pm (UTC)
It was so awesome.
brunettepet
Aug. 10th, 2009 05:31 pm (UTC)
You made it looks so fun. Excellent job. How long was the time in the air, including the five minute canopy ride?

That's a lot of g-force on bare skin, and no one wants to see that. Maybe not on me, but I bet there wouldn't be much movement on you. Congratulations on a great birthday present!

*note to self: bring own champagne*
stoney321
Aug. 10th, 2009 05:59 pm (UTC)
It's because it IS fun! :D The free fall for me was just about 60 seconds. We pulled canopy sooner than the other people, because I'm not certified, also, it gives the first timer a chance to calm down, I was later told. Hee.

Oh my gosh, if you look at that one picture I posted on Saturday, you can see the skin on my FINGERS flapping with the force of wind. I can't imagine what it would feel like to go topless/in shorts/naked like some people. O_O

Yeah. Champagne: um, bless their hearts. Hee.
criss_adda
Aug. 10th, 2009 05:37 pm (UTC)
OMG That is just cool...btw you are really beautiful.
stoney321
Aug. 10th, 2009 06:00 pm (UTC)
Thank you, how sweet! And it was AMAZING.
essene
Aug. 10th, 2009 05:40 pm (UTC)
\o/ So excited for you! I'm so glad you enjoyed it! I hope that learning to do it on your own is just as wonderful!
stoney321
Aug. 10th, 2009 06:21 pm (UTC)
Oh, it is just going to get better with each jump!!
diachrony
Aug. 10th, 2009 05:57 pm (UTC)
This is so much awesomeness. Reading about your adventure & seeing your fabulous photos has made my day. It almost makes me really want to do it myself, and I'm the biggest wuss on the planet!
stoney321
Aug. 10th, 2009 06:22 pm (UTC)
I'm telling you, this isn't a heights thing - you are so high up that you don't have that perspective, like if you're on a bridge or a glass window several stories up. It's just absolutely serene and amazing. Come on and do it! 1-800-SKYDIVE, yo. :D
ipnotika
Aug. 10th, 2009 05:58 pm (UTC)
Yay!!! Your suit was much prettier than mine. We HAD to butt-land, and were not given helmets. Interesting how different places do things. The hubs is AFF, but I will not be jumping again (inner ear problems that were NOT happy jumping out of a plane). I do remember being entranced by the ground, though, and the mountains. And the everything.
stoney321
Aug. 10th, 2009 06:24 pm (UTC)
Oh, too cool! I'm so sorry that you had inner ear issues - that had to hurt.

That second pic of you - you look TERRIFIED! Hee.
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bastardsnow
Aug. 10th, 2009 05:59 pm (UTC)
That looks amazing. Awesome.
stoney321
Aug. 10th, 2009 06:25 pm (UTC)
It was totally kick ass. I'm glad you were entertained! (I, uh, got a little long winded. Hee.)
turnonmyheels
Aug. 10th, 2009 06:09 pm (UTC)
fabulous breakdown. GO YOU!!
stoney321
Aug. 10th, 2009 06:25 pm (UTC)
So when are you going to come with me? ;D
may_lyn
Aug. 10th, 2009 06:12 pm (UTC)
first off, thanks for that post w/piccies! how terrific is that, we were all with you the whole way! of course, that made the plane a little heavy. could hardly get up off the ground. it was straining a bit, and after a valient effort, we we all able to come with you.

sounds like you found your thang, you adrenaline junkie, you. can't wait to see you without that old streamlined bike helmet on your head. been thinking about your color scheme for your new setup?

and i was surprised it lasted so long! skydiving you usually think 'plane, up, me down, we all lived happily ever after, the end.' but you had quite an adventure.
stoney321
Aug. 10th, 2009 06:27 pm (UTC)
Ahahahahaha. I'm glad that the lift/thrust of the plane was able to accommodate us all. Hee.

The thing is, the only adrenaline I felt was while suiting up, walking to the plane. From then on, I felt relaxed and totally mellow. isn't that crazy?

AHAHAHAHAHA - I've TOTALLY been imagining what my personal gear will look like. I'm going to have to create a logo! Hee.
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jgracio
Aug. 10th, 2009 06:55 pm (UTC)
Looks like you had a blast. Congrats.

Good luck with your continued jumps out of perfectly good airplanes. :D
stoney321
Aug. 10th, 2009 07:06 pm (UTC)
A TOTAL blast1 Thanks, so much! I may have to set a plane on fire before I leap out, just to show I'm not all about the rush of adrenaline. :D
dwivian
Aug. 10th, 2009 06:57 pm (UTC)
hot babe jumps from plane after doing monster impression!

That's a good headline, too.... but, I do like the earworm I have now, so it's all good.

Yay you!
stoney321
Aug. 10th, 2009 07:07 pm (UTC)
HEEEEEE. Oh man, it's such an amazing feeling, I loved it!
thebratqueen
Aug. 10th, 2009 07:25 pm (UTC)
Only you could make that suit look HOT.
stoney321
Aug. 10th, 2009 08:02 pm (UTC)
LOL. And I've been looking at gear here all day. Which is the sexiest? Hee.
lynnenne
Aug. 10th, 2009 08:34 pm (UTC)
So exciting! And so glad you found it to be so much fun. <333
stoney321
Aug. 10th, 2009 08:43 pm (UTC)
That would have sucked if I had landed and been all, "Eh, I've done cooler things." HEEEEE.
(Deleted comment)
stoney321
Aug. 10th, 2009 09:00 pm (UTC)
It happened so fast that I really need a good thirty, forty, two hundred more jumps to really experience it. Heee.

The series of 7 lessons won't be cheap, but then I'll be able to do all of the cool relative work (all belly stuff, but can do formations, that stuff.) THEN, I'm going to want to go to freefly school, which is where you learn how to do 3-D jumps. (Head first, back, sitting, spinning while standing, etc.) WHEEEE!
moosesal
Aug. 10th, 2009 08:58 pm (UTC)
Yay! Great pics. Can't wait to see more.

The guys in the tightie whities? Hahahah! Nice. Would love to see a pic of that. Or maybe not.
stoney321
Aug. 10th, 2009 09:04 pm (UTC)
I can't wait to do more! I've been looking at sites/videos for a few hours today, getting all pumped up again. (If you didn't click on that link for the World Record RW jump, you should. It's AMAZING. They go up so high they have to carry oxygen. I think they're jumping at something like 25,000 feet, or higher.)

Yeah, you wouldn't want to see that pic of those old guys. That's some shaky flesh, right there. Ha.
fishsanwitt
Aug. 10th, 2009 09:54 pm (UTC)
You are *awesome*!
stoney321
Aug. 10th, 2009 09:58 pm (UTC)
Please see icon. HEEE. (It was so fun!!)
pernickety
Aug. 10th, 2009 10:34 pm (UTC)
Those pictures are amazing! The ground was so far away. I can't believe you managed to land anywhere near where you set off.

Also, quick side note: I WANNA GOOOOOO!!!! OMG THAT LOOKS LIKE SO MUCH FUN.
stoney321
Aug. 10th, 2009 10:49 pm (UTC)
People go waaaaaaay higher than I do - they have to bring oxygen, though. (I would seriously love that.) If you haven't clicked on that link I posted at the end, you should. It's amazing.

Holy crap, the tandem master I'm with can land on a 6 inch square. When you get as proficient as these guys, you can land on a dot, and you kind of have to if you're doing precision work.

SO GO! There are DZs (drop zones) in every country, pretty much! Do it, do it!
ruric
Aug. 10th, 2009 11:03 pm (UTC)
Oh that looks so AWESOME!

Formation skydiving? When I did my dive at Taupo in NZ they have formation teams there who were practicing on the little skateboard thingies *G*

I love the roll you did to exit the plane! I had to sit on the edge with my tandem guy kneeling behind me. *koff* Actually I may have been braced in the plane doorway, legs dangling down into the wide blue with my arms braced against the side muttering "fuck fuck fuck fuck if I die I am so coming back to haunt you" much to tandem guy's amusement.

I was so utterly terrified the two minutes before we toppled forward - but then again I'd been sitting next to the pilot on the way up so could see how freaking high we were! Tandem guy was just "Ok just rest your head back on my shoulder and close your eyes and I'll do all the work...but you have to let go of the plane." *snickers*

But once we our of the plane? I swear you could hear my squeal of glee for several miles. Freefalling!!!! \o/

OMG is there any feeling in the world like it?

The only freaky bit was after he pulled the chute and we'd started the gentle drift he said "I need you to stand on my feet so I can loosen up the straps before we land."

Dude WTF?!!!! But I did as I was told and that is one slightly disconcerting feel, 2000ft above ground, and you feel the harness give a little!

I was supposed to tuck my legs up coming in to land so tandem guy could do it but by that stage I was still giggling like a loon and just couldn't tuck. So we had a messy landing, tumble and roll and covered in the canopy.

I am green with envy here that you're gonna go back and do it again and I hope we'll see lots of posts (and pictures need moar pictures!) about your skydiving experiences.

Go Stoney!
stoney321
Aug. 10th, 2009 11:14 pm (UTC)
BLUE SKIES!
Okay, wtf with the loosening of the harness?! None of that on mine, I would have freaked out at that. Ernie, my tandem master, is the most requested TM because of his calm demeanor, and I assume now, because of how at ease he puts people. I wouldn't have enjoyed sitting on the edge of the open hatch, that's for sure!

We were right by the pilot, too, but I was having fun talking to the formation team that filled the rest of the plane, I wasn't paying too much attention out of the front. I did like looking out of my porthole, though. The higher I got, the happier I was. :D

More pictures will def. come, that's for sure! I've made a skydive tag and everything! (If you have pics from yours, I'd love to see it! My DZ is at skydivedallas.com)
lolz
Aug. 11th, 2009 12:53 am (UTC)
this is so exciting to see because i'm going to be booking my jump very very soon! i got 3 other friends who said they'd go too and we're going to take a trip to the place they do it at this week to check it out. this is so so exciting to see and read about. i can't WAIT to go!
stoney321
Aug. 11th, 2009 01:33 am (UTC)
Oh, yay! Tell me all about it when you're done, I'd love to hear how you did.
redbrickrose
Aug. 11th, 2009 01:33 am (UTC)
It sounds awesome! I'm glad you enjoyed it so much.
stoney321
Aug. 11th, 2009 01:46 am (UTC)
It was terrific!! I can't wait to go again.
(Deleted comment)
stoney321
Aug. 11th, 2009 02:01 am (UTC)
Here's the craziest thing: at least two of the free flyers (those are the people that go head first, feet first, bird man suits, etc.) told me that they have a fear of heights.

I KNOW.

Because you don't get that sensation of ground rushing up at you, I guess it doesn't trigger their fear. All of which means you should totally come with me on my next jump. *G*
(Deleted comment)
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a2zmom
Aug. 11th, 2009 02:17 am (UTC)
Fantastic pictures. I'm glad you loved it so much. And you look hot, babe!

But no way in hell am I jumping out of a damned airplane. (Zachary probably would.)



stoney321
Aug. 11th, 2009 02:25 am (UTC)
hahahaha, then I'll just take your turns jumping out, okay?

Thanks so much. This was the most fun I've had in... I don't know how long!
slackerace
Aug. 11th, 2009 02:34 am (UTC)
Seven jumps in a day? Insane.

So glad you had such a great experience! I appreciate your descriptions, since I'll never do this myself. I am sooooo chicken! I would think that the feeling of the ground rushing up to meet you would be present throughout, so it's nice to know that's not the case.
stoney321
Aug. 11th, 2009 02:37 am (UTC)
What's insane is that it's 7 group jumps. Who knows how many solos they might do! (My local friend that does this would sometimes do 10 or more in a day. WHOA.)

I was shocked to find that the swoopy/rollercoaster feeling is just not there at all!

Also, THANK YOU for my user page decorations. :D
midnightsjane
Aug. 11th, 2009 05:50 am (UTC)
Wow! Fabulous pictures, and you're looking mighty fine there, too!
I almost felt like I was there..but without the OMG, I'm falling sensation.
It does look like you had a blast!
stoney321
Aug. 11th, 2009 03:19 pm (UTC)
Why thank you!

And hahaha, I'm glad you could come along in spirit. (But really, there is NO falling sensation! Crazy, right?)
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Reading this? I'm just curious. Because that's really detail-oriented of you. Feel free to stop reading. But you can see that there's more here, so are you going to keep reading? Really? That's pretty dedicated. I'm impressed. No, really. I'm not being sarcastic, why do you get like that? See, this is the problem I have with your mother - yes. YES. I'm going there. It's time we put all of our cards on the table.

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