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Soarin' on my 60th

 

Last updated 5/29/2019 at 11:41am



Jerry Bedoya

Special to the Village News

Ever yearned to do something only to put it off for fear of the unknown? Or a certain something that was intriguing for much of life, yet for reasons not well defined, it has been elusive? Well, for me, that “putting off” came to fruition as I finally realized I was getting too “long in the tooth” to be guided by anxiety and uneasiness.

In celebration of my 60th birthday, April 15, I finally took that leap into the unknown, literally. What I’m about to share are my experiences following my ascent and ultimate descent from 2.5 miles above the earth. That certain something I’ve put off most of my adult life is parachuting.

My family and I arrived at the jump site, Oceanside Municipal Airport, about 30 minutes before my scheduled 11 a.m. jump. I proceeded to register at the flight office, which included signing a bevy of indemnity forms thanks to all the lawyers out there, then met with my instructor and jump partner in an adjoining area. Following a short meet and greet, he informed me about what I could expect from the exploit we were about to embark on.

Daniel, my jump partner, proceeded to discuss steps he wanted me to take throughout the process. I was anticipating a lengthy dissertation on the art of parachuting along with a relevant safety briefing, but that was not the case. This briefing took a whopping, wait for it … two or three minutes. In hindsight I realize “they” want students to enjoy the entire process without getting bogged down with too much information. Daniel assisted in donning my harness, which he would ultimately attach himself to once in the plane.

When we were ready we made our way toward the plane and boarded. In a rather confined fuselage, the 13 people were either seated on the floor or on a low bench. Each instructor positioned themselves directly behind their student while straddling them. It would eventually take 15 minutes for the plane to ascend to the jump altitude of 13,000 feet, which included amongst other things flying over Fallbrook.

During the ascent everyone was speaking rather calmly, but fairly loud in an effort to overcome the noise of a rattling fuselage. Even with this distraction the flight was still a very soothing element of this entire experience. Then, just as I’m coming to terms with what I’m about to embark on, I sense we’re nearing our jump altitude. The pilot abruptly reduces power, which feels as if he just hit the brakes in midair; the tussling butterflies in my tummy are now in overdrive. The exit door is now rolled-up, the noisy air rushes in and I sense instantly that it’s “game time.”

As each jumper before me departs, my partner and I, who by now are securely tethered to one another, inch a bit closer to that ominous doorway. Then, it’s finally my turn. With my instructor behind me and 2.5 miles above the earth’s surface I soon find myself seated at the base of the exit door with my legs dangling out of the plane, air gushing in my face and holding on tightly to the straps of my shoulder harness.

Despite half my body perched outside the aircraft at 13,000 feet, I felt a certain sorrow for the unfortunate few who’d never experience the majestic beauty of the sights below because of a certain uneasiness. The contemplative views from that altitude were nothing short of amazing. Surprisingly, there was also an exhilarating calm that came over me as I was briefly positioned in that precarious position. Then, before I could say Rumpelstiltskin, it was time to go.

While seated on the threshold of the plane’s exit-way my instructor and I rock back once, twice and on the third time we were out the door. Immediately following the jump, and for no more than a couple of seconds afterward, I got the feeling of actually falling, but before I knew it that sensation terminated.

From that point on my freefall felt as if I was suspended in air even though I was seconds removed from nearing terminal velocity of 120 mph. Because of the altitude, however, even when descending at these speeds I was not confronted with a sense that the earth was approaching me at warp speed. It is quite simply a uniquely free and tremendously exhilarating sensation.

As my body was cutting through the air at such high velocity, I immediately recognized the accompanying noise as being quite deafening. Had I needed to verbally communicate with my instructor at that point, I wouldn’t have been able to. Despite this unforeseen distraction, I would have been hard pressed not to take note of the spectacular views from this altitude. Focusing closely, I could actually see the curvature of the earth’s surface from that vantage point.

After jumping out a perfectly fine airplane, the freefall portion of the jump lasted about a minute at which point my instructor deployed his parachute. There was a significant jolt as the chute filled with air, but then the instant it did my descent morphed into an entirely different, yet equally thrilling experience.

I was immediately greeted with a calm, soothing and wonderfully quiet experience. I was no longer descending horizontally as when free-falling, but rather had transitioned vertically because of the chute deployment. I could now communicate easily as the only noise I heard was a slight chattering of the air as it whistled past the lines of the parachute. If ever there was a feeling of floating on the fluffiest of clouds, this was it.

Descending in this position was remarkably similar to the “Soarin’ Over California” ride at Disney California Adventure Park. The views of the coastline, the Pacific, Camp Pendleton and Fallbrook were stunning. While the accelerated “freefall” only lasted about a minute the decent once the chute was deployed lasted 6-7 minutes. To say this segment of the experience was hypnotic and somewhat therapeutic would be an understatement.

My instructor had complete control of the parachute and maneuvered it as if driving a car; it was literally that responsive to his demands. As we approached the landing zone, I was coached to raise my knees high and keep my feet up so when we touched-down they would not get jammed or entangled with the instructors. And then, just like that, it was over. I was once again standing atop the ground.

There’s a certain level of excitement and anticipation when experiencing anything new, but as I get older engaging in such unique joys appears to impact me more. They seem to be more worthy of my time as perspective and reflection somehow occupy my psyche more than they once did.

As Morgan Freeman’s character said in “The Bucket List,” “Find the joy in your life.”

Well, I can arguably say that you need not look further than the nearest mirror to find the “joy in your life.”

 

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