...and with that, I think I'm done.


I had such a busy weekend, that it's hard to recall the details of exactly what I did, but I'll give it a shot. After the work whistle blew on Friday, I snuck-in a quick run of around 4 miles before working on the Harley for a bit.

With the Hog all cleaned and ready to roll (complete with new tires!), I took it for a quick spin down to the Memorial Union, where I listened to a really terrible band play some "music." It was so bad that I left almost immediately; that and it was incredibly hot outside - high 80s, no breeze, and humid - all at around 8:00pm...

Saturday had me riding in a truck with my co-worker, Dan Christy. He purchased a 1971 VW Beetle from a VW-nut that lived somewhere in the middle-of-nowhere-Iowa. The VW didn't run, so he needed someone to ride along to help him load and unload it. I volunteered, and as such, spent many hours riding shotgun in his 1997 Dodge Ram truck.

The Beetle was in shockingly good condition; very little rust, and aside from needing some minor work, appeared to be nearly road ready. We pushed it onto the trailer, secured it, and hit the road for our 5+ hour return trip. I thought I took some pictures of the Beetle, but either my phone failed, or I accidentally deleted them...

One nice thing that came out of the trip: Dubuque, IA. What a cool looking town. I think I might sneak over there on the bike some weekend and hang out for a bit. I'm not sure what there is to do there other than gamble, but I liked the vibe of the place.

Because we left for Iowa at an ungodly-early hour, we returned with plenty of time to do things at night. So, I once again fired-up the cycle and went for a ride. I stopped in Mount Horeb and snapped several pictures - here's a teaser photo (there will be more to come; I have to edit/clean-up the photos a bit):


After the ride, I went for a run (man, was it HOT - 90F+, humid, windy), and then met my friend Chris Shubak out for some beverages in downtown Madison. It was great to hang with him and his girlfriend - they're super nice and I enjoy chatting with them.

I woke-up early on Sunday morning so that I could go for a run before the weather got too unbearable. 4-ish miles at 6:00am were just what the doctor ordered. After a shower, I hopped in the car and made the drive out to Seven Hills Skydiving Center, where I would meet-up with a large group of friends from the MidTown Pub for a day of diving.


You may recall that it was this very same group that inspired me to try skydiving last year. Well, they decided to return in 2012, only this time, they coordinated the jump with the Sevenhills Boogie.

A Boogie is a large gathering of skydivers from various clubs from around the United States. This Boogie had folks from Iowa, Colorado, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, and other places. They brought up a special plane from Chicago so that they could accommodate larger numbers of divers, and so they could get up to altitude faster.

Every dive that I did last year (I did a total of 21 jumps) was from a tiny, rickety Cessna 182 that could hold a total of 4 people. To exit the Cessna, you had to climb through an opening about half the size of a normal car door, and stand on a super tiny platform while grabbing on to the wing strut.

Conversely, here's the plane the club rented for this year's Boogie:


That thing could hold at least 16 divers and featured a large opening at the rear of the plane that you simply jumped out of. It was so much nicer. It also climbed to 13,000 feet in a matter of minutes; the Cessna took at least 30 minutes to reach 10,000 feet. Talk about an improvement!

So, the Boogie was breaking all sorts of skydiving records. From what we were told, they shattered the record for number of sorties flown by that type of plane - it made 37 flights on Friday; the world record was 34. They also set some skydiving records with respect to formations, but I didn't catch the specifics. To say they were in a good mood would be an understatement.

Now, I would normally have jumped solo - I'm close to earning my A-license, but with the nature of the weekend, the club wasn't offering any instructor assisted jumps. You either had to be fully licensed to jump solo, or you had to jump tandem.

Since I had never jumped tandem, nor had I jumped from 13,000 feet, I figured it was worth the price to try it. I paid my $179, put my name on the manifest, signed all of the waivers, and waited.

...and waited... and waited... The MidTown crew consisted of nearly 30 people, all of whom were jumping tandem. There were also nearly 100 other divers all waiting for opportunities to jump, so the queue was quite long.

We arrived to the school at 9:00am, and I didn't jump until around 3:30pm. That's a lot of waiting around, with absolutely nothing to do, other than watch people land.

But, at around 3:00pm, I received the call to "suit-up" - or, in this case, put on my tandem harness.


The tandem harness allows you to be tethered to a jump master, so that the two of you fall as one. He has the parachute strapped to his body, and thanks to the special harnesses, the passenger is attached via four points to the master. The master rides on the back of the passenger.

In what can only be described as a bit of comedic irony, my jump master (Leon) was all of 5'6". Here he is behind me, cinching up my harness and making sure the attachment points are in-line.


We boarded the plane and made the quick ascent to 13,000 feet. The door opened, and four solo divers lept from the plane, doing somersaults as they exited. I asked Leon if we could somersault and he said, "Absolutely!"

We made our way to the open door, knelt to one knee, and catapulted ourselves from the plane. I counted at least five somersaults; that's quite a rush when you're falling at 140mph. We stabilized ourselves and then free-fell at 140mph for over a minute.

I deployed our canopy (parachute) at 4,500 feet; it cleared, everything looked good, and we were enjoying the spectacular view and peaceful calm of the canopy fall. Leon mentioned that we could do some windmills - he pulled hard on one of the toggles and went into a high-G turn that would have us "windmilling" over the parachute.

Windmilling drops altitude quickly; the loft from the canopy is lost, so you fall at a much faster rate. We scrubbed 1500 feet in a matter of about 20 seconds, so we quickly found ourselves nearing final approach.

Leon was kind enough to let me guide us in, so I took the toggles and with his navigation, brought us in to our true final approach. When we hit about 100-feet, he took over for the final landing.

Here you can see how much bigger I am than Leon, as we're attached in the tandem rig. We're at about 60-feet at this point.


Leon was an absolute master with the landing - he set us down just perfectly, although the wind caught the chute and we toppled over while trying to separate the tether. I felt bad for crushing the guy... Here we are, just prior to toppling over.


Despite the awesome experience of jumping from 13,000 feet, somersaulting, windmilling, and all of that fun stuff, I think I'm done skydiving.

Why? The time commitment is simply too great. I lost the entire day to being at the jump site, and I got in one, single jump. That's about par for the course... there's just too many things to do rather than sit around a rural airfield for 8-10 hours. Not to mention the hour+ drive to and from the place.

It's also expensive. A solo jump runs about $60. And once you do get your license, the equipment is outrageously expensive. A used solo rig will run around $5k. A new one can eclipse $10k very easily. Granted, you're trusting your life to the stuff, but that's still a lot of cash.

And, while it's fun, it just doesn't excite me like it did last year. There are other things I'd rather do than climb into a rickety Cessna and sweat for 30-40 minutes before skydiving for 5-8 minutes.

Truth be told, I'll probably do the MidTown jumps if they continue to be an annual event, but aside from that, I don't foresee making any future trips to the drop zone. :-(

Oh well. At least I did it.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Steve published on June 19, 2012 2:59 PM.

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