One of the billion reasons I love my Teddy Bear: He quotes the theme song from FIREFLY on Facebook when he’s jumped out of a plane.
Teddy Bear Burn the land and boil the sea, you can’t take the sky from me.
Bear’s Cousin Did you get a jump in after all?
No Taste WORST OPENING THEME EVER
Teddy Bear Yeah I got a jump in, and it was a great theme
No Taste Are you freakin kidding me? The theme was so bad, I think it’s the real reason the show was canceled! I’m pretty sure the ratings were low because when people would turn the show on, they’d watch the first bit think, “hey this might be pretty good” and then that theme would play, and suddenly the next thought is “oh jesus that’s bad, maybe gilmore girls is on abc family, i’ll watch that instead”
No Taste god aweful man.
Teddy Bear You are the worst kind of person
This past weekend was one of adrenaline rushes (whitewater rafting and skydiving) and the introductory excursion of Team Constant Vigilance: An Adventure Club.
When I was in junior high, my 7th grade algebra teacher Mr. Friedman formed what he called The Adventure Club (for which I drew a lot of cartoons and flyers and posterboards). It basically meant taking a bunch of 12-and-13-year-old kids on trips that often involved us shooting things at each other. The first trip every year was paintballing, which was generally followed by other experiences like rock-climbing, surfing, mountain biking, and skiing. The last trip every year was camping on a beach for two nights. I appreciated Mr. Friedman for many things (not the least of which was because he was the last teacher to make me understand maths), but he was the first person to awaken the adrenaline junkie within me.
Whitewater Rafting in the Poconos
When Rachel suggested a whitewater rafting trip, I was all over it. I had always wanted to go whitewater rafting ever since I read DOWNRIVER by Will Hobbs. It was one of my summer reading list books between 7th and 8th grades (along with TREASURE ISLAND by Robert Louis Stevenson and other adrenaline-junkie books) and it totally made me want to be a juvenile delinquent just so I could go on these awesome adventure trips. These juvenile delinquents got to go camping, hiking, mountain-climbing, and whitewater rafting down the Grand Canyon for an entire summer! Why didn’t I lash out against my parents? (This was probably not the message my teachers intended me to read into it.)
Fortunately, I make friends with people who crave adventure as much as me. Rachel, Alex, The Inimitable Bex, Bear, and I went skydiving together. This same crew, minus Bear (who had orientation for some kids to whom he’s teaching anatomy) and plus Jen (another redhead to add to my collection!) went whitewater rafting together. There is an outfit in the Poconos with rapids up to Class III that seemed feasible. After some slight scheduling snafus, Team Constant Vigilance was on its merry way down to Pennsylvania from New York City at 6:00am on a Saturday.
Not a single one of us had been whitewater rafting before, although Alex and I had some watercraft and lifeguarding experience (him sailing, me kayaking and canoeing). Three of us (Alex, Bex, and me) were also former swim team members, so we figured we ought to be all right.
In the very beginning, we were That Boat, the one with no control of its raft and no idea of how to work together as a team to get our vessel pointed in the right direction. As we floated past the other docked boats, one of the instructors was screaming at us to “Get out!”
So Rachel immediately threw herself overboard.
Later we figured that the instructor meant for one of us to get out and anchor the boat him/herself. Only when Rachel went over, the current swept her downstream faster than we could get to her. She managed to grab onto a branch and we got her back into our raft with a few pounding hearts. Her paddle, however, was lost.
It was recovered in some patches of still water downstream, but not after we managed to get through a class III rapid with absolutely no guidance. We rescued a swimmer from another raft. I’m afraid the instructors were little or no help whatsoever; they just handed us paddles and a raft and shoved us down a rapid with no instruction on how to steer, avoid rocks, or what to do if the boat flipped.
Thankfully, Team Constant Vigilance quickly got with the game and soon we went from That Boat to That Boat, the one sailing past everyone with confidence and ease. “Tchüß!” we called as we went overtook them. Both Alex and Bex are German and it was what they said to each other when they exited the plane on their skydives. The name Constant Vigilance arose from a comment Alex (our captain) said on our rafting trip. “Keep vigilant for rocks and other obstacles.” To which I immediately shouted, “Constant vigilance!” as Rachel, Jen, and I are huge HARRY POTTER fans.
I almost went over once, but I managed to tuck my toes into the side of the raft and grab the line. I appear to have an extremely strong instinct for survival in that my body reacts to high-stress situations without much thought. (I suppose this is why I’m suited for skydiving. Also, please see the hazards that happen to me in that sport.) I would kick ass and take names if my name were ever drawn for a Hunger Games.
I was in the water at one point, but it happened when our raft got stuck on a rock. I hopped onto the rock and gave it a good shove, only the boat took off like a rocket without me. Again, I managed to hold onto the line while the others hauled me aboard.
All in all, I found whitewater rafting an amazing experience, although a bit tame. Possibly because Class III rapids aren’t particularly dangerous, even if they require some skill to navigate. Admittedly, the biggest rushes I got during the ride was when something went wrong. I love jumping into action when shit goes south. Now, I would love to try Class IV and V rapids. Bring it on!
Skydiving After A 10-Month Hiatus
Monday, Bear had an unexpected day off of work, so we went down to the dropzone with the hopes that we would be able to jump. We tried the previous weekend, but the weather gods hate me and it was POURING RAIN. Yesterday, it was clear, beautiful, and sunny…with winds gusting greater than 18mph.
Bear and I arrived at the DZ right as it opened and gave our instructors Nathan and Laticia enormous hugs. We stopped around 18 jumps last year due to Bear starting med school. It was good to see them again and it was good to hear them talk about our flying skills with such pride and confidence.
“We’ve got to get you up to speed,” said Laticia. “There’s a group of jumpers I want you two to fly with. They’re pretty aggressive and they’ve been winning competitions and medals all over the place. Keep all the good ones together, yeah?”
Full of optimism, we rented our gear for the day and signed up for a refresher course in ground school as well as a recurrency jump. All things taken care of, we were manifested for the first load…
…and had to be taken off as the winds were gusting greater than 23mph.
When the first load landed, we understood why. It isn’t the wind speed that’s a factor so much as wind gusts. One of the tandems came down pretty hard and the jumper got injured. I saw a gust of wind suck the air out from the beneath the canopy, collapsing the parachute and stalling them about 10 feet above the ground. It’s not a fatal distance to fall, but depending on how you land, it can definitely be an injurious one. (I ought to know; I fractured my pelvic bone last year in a similar fashion.) At first there was an A license jump restriction, then a 50+ jump minimum, then a 100+ jump restriction.
Most of the rest of the day was spent getting our hopes up. We were manifested on Load 5 before we had to be taken off that as well. Our instructors also dropped the bomb on us; they got married. Bear and I thought they were joking. They weren’t. I’m still somewhat in shock about this.
Finally, around 5:00pm, the winds started to die down, but it was still riding that edge. Laticia shook her head and said if the wind gusts got to 19mph, we’d still jump, but if it got above 20mph, we’d have to come back down. (I’ve jumped in higher winds before, but that was when I was still in practice.) Manifested for Load 7, I was unaccountably nervous. It had been 10 months since I last did this; did I still have it?
We were the first out the door. I did an unlinked float exit and was stable fairly quickly. Apparently I must have been tense because I saw Laticia give me the signal to arch, which is something she’s never had to give me before. (I have a very extreme arch, so we used to work on flattening it out a little.) She made silly faces at me and we played around, doing some turns and having fun and I immediately relaxed and had a much better dive. The initial plan was to break off at 6000ft and then track until 4000ft before pulling.
Unfortunately, my left contact fell out of my eye around 6500ft.
I could see it stuck to the inside of my goggle, but I couldn’t see out of my left side. This is a slight problem because my altimeter is on my left hand. Regardless, I turned and tracked away in what I hoped was the right direction. It must have been lower than I thought because by the time I was fully open under canopy, it was 2000ft.
I pulled lower than Laticia at around 3000ft. She was actually open above me, which was a first. Also, I apparently tracked downwind, meaning I wasn’t in the right holding area either. Oops, a wonderful first jump back, eh? I gunned that thing as fast as I could toward the DZ. Thankfully I made it with plenty of room to spare and had an accurate landing.
Bear was manifested for Load 8 and he helped me back my gear in record time (between loads!). I bought a lift ticket and manifested for Load 9 for a fun jump. Bear had a good recurrency jump, but didn’t land in time for another dive, so I kissed him for good luck and went up in the next load without him.
Laticia had another student, but another fun jumper and I were going to spot each other on the load. We were about the same skill level (it was his 21st and my 20th jumps) and we were both pulling at 4000ft. A group trying a 6-way hybrid left first, then a two-way, and then Konrad (the other fun jumper). I watched him attempt a dive exit (it was good) and then I went out in a dive myself.
Nerves shaken off, I had a phenomenal jump. I was relaxed to the point of napping in the ride up to exit altitude and it just felt so good to be up in the air, literally free as a bird. I did some turns and a few backflips just to get back in the flow of things, but my first attempt at a barrel roll went all wonky. Somehow I ended up doing a corkscrew and came out of it headdown. I fixed that and my other barrel rolls were fine. Tracking (not downwind this time!) at 6000ft before pulling at 4000ft.
This time I was in my actual correct holding area as per the plan before I went up in my load, but the winds had shifted to come more from the west instead of the northwest. Grrrr. Nevertheless, it wasn’t a huge adjustment to make and I had another accurate landing. And because I had the most enormous canopy of the solo jumpers, I was the last to land (before the tandems, of course). Gaah.
Oh man, it’s so good to be back. So good. We’re going again on Friday and possibly on Saturday as well, for the 4th of July weekend. I invite everyone to come down, if not to jump, then to just chill and hang out. Yay!