It is a mathematical fact that the casting of this pebble from my hand alters the centre of gravity of the universe.

- Thomas Carlyle, Sartor Resartus III

That's right suckers. Mr. Austin defied the perils of gravity from 11,000 feet and jumped from an airplane, on purpose. My writing this now means I'm ok, obviously, so all you weak of hearts can just relax ok?

Yes it was exciting and thrilling and a little frightening. I say a little frightening because honestly I've been more afraid of other things in my life, which is weird I know, but I was also with my family and professionals so I knew I'd be ok. I never had foreboding thought enter my head, just the anticipation of freefall and the gentle calm of the parachute ride down.

Let me back up a little. For Mrs. Austin's brother's 30th birthday, we got a skydive with video. He and his wife have been once before and loved it so we thought a good gift would be to send him again. Mrs. A then does her damnedest to talk me into going along with her brother. She says it will be fun and she's a little bewildered that I'm not chomping at the bit to go along. (That's a pervasive theme throughout, and you'll see in a little bit.) So finally I agree to go, just a couple days ago actually, and our jump was Friday.

The the big day rolls around and we all head down to a little town outside San Marcos called Fentress where Skydive San Marcos is located. If you don't know Texas, San Marcos is home of the outlet mall between Austin and San Antonio. San Marcos is close the New Braunfels, home of the world famous Schlitterbahn Waterpark.

Anyway. We get there, sign up and wait for almost 2 hours before it's our turn to go. In all fairness, you have to remember that it's not like a ride at Six Flags. One plane can only hold so many people and after a while that plane needs gas. LMA went with us and had a pretty good time running around being cute and what not, like usual. All things aside, it was a good day for her. She was fun and friendly and more well behaved than any day we could remember.

If only they made parachutes that small.

So now it's our group's turn to go. We get on our jump suits and get our 10 minutes worth of training, which boils down to the tandem jumpers saying "Please don't get in my way" but they were all very good and friendly and informative. Seriously though, when you're already falling from an aircraft, are there things you can do to mess the situation up further? I would think my actions lend to the falling coming to and end rather than perpetuating it.

Just for legal purposes I'm sure. I'M SURE!!

I can't really describe the calm I felt as I donned my jumpsuit and harness. As mentioned before, I was without the feelings of apprehension and dread. Even comically, there weren't the signs around the office saying "Jumps without a fatality: 27" although getting onto the plane the tandem jumpers were very quick to ask each other the last time they had to pull the reserve chute, which I thought was endearing at most.

No no, there's two O's in Goose.

So the three of us headed for the plane, brother-in-law and sister-in-law practicing their altimeter check/rip cord pull Martha Graham moves until the last second. I had little to worry about, they had their own fate in their hands really, so I could understand them feeling a little trepidacious. I did poke fun at them a lot, watching them mime their actions to be as if there was an audition for the Met in 15 minutes.

Like lambs being led to slaughter...

So we board the plane, don't ask what the plane was because I didn't find out. It was a small prop plane with a loading hatch. Growing up attending the Air Force Academy Falcons football games, I was witness to the Wings of Blue and their plane was a Twin Otter, I can only assume this was a similar craft. Anyway, once aboard we sit in front of our tandem jumpers and circle up and up to roughly 10,000 feet. The ride takes about 5 mins. At a certain altitude, we hook up with our tandems and open the doors. The noise level was pretty high as there was no pressurization or sound dampeners on the craft, but once the door was open it was deafening. Brother-in-law and the cameraman were the first out. I didn't really have time or the sensory RAM needed to process him jumping from the craft. He was gone in an instant and before I knew it, I had my toes dangling over the edge and on the count of 3 I was out myself.

The first few seconds were a blur, tumbling ass over tea-kettle through the cool air until I remembered to arch my back so we could control our decent. Trust me, it was the only thing I had to remember, arch my back, and for a few seconds I had forget even that. My brain went from "You can't really be serious about this" to "Holy F-cking Sh-t!!" pretty quickly. Soon enough we flattened out and I got the shoulder tap telling me I could put my arms out and feel the sense of flying. The wind, no, not the wind, the air was rushing past as we picked up speed to roughly 120 mph and terminal velocity. There's no sense of falling other than the rushing air. The distance is so great that you don't feel like you're falling and the air feels like a cool buffer actually trying to keep you up. I would say that people with vertigo would even be able to jump as the ground doesn't rush toward you, it's actually quite serene.

Eventually though, you have to open the canopy and arrest your decent. Our chute opened and we were jerked back into a nice gradual 15-20 mph drop. I was given the chance to steer the chute left and right, then my tandem took over and we did some spirals. The ground approached, he checked the wind and we landed without incident. I noticed that even being the 2nd ones out of the plane, we were the first ones to land. Come to find out, we were heavier and we pulled the chute later. Reason for this, I didn't have to open the chute. The other two were in charge of their own fate and were given a much higher altitude in case something did happen, giving their tandems time to react.

From left to right: Me (green), Chip (yellow), Siobhan (pink).

Mrs. Austin was a trooper through the whole thing. Being pregnant AND corralling a 2 year old AND watching her husband jump from a freakin plane...I wouldn't have been able to contain my bowl shattering nerves. When we were done, and heading for a beer, she STILL couldn't participate. The birth of #2 will be like a 21st birthday for her so you're all invited over to our house for lots of drinking.

Meanwhile, back on the ground...

Yes I will go again, I have to. After 2 more times and a ground class, you can jump solo, but no so low...hehe. Ok, sorry. Anyway, I'd like to go back at least enough times so that I CAN jump alone. I mean, don't get me wrong, jumping at all is amazing. It's the most rebellious thing you can do to mother nature and Einstein and Newton. "Hey, gravity. I realize you have me in your grasp, and I realize that I intentionally leapt from a flying airplane, but you will not win this day because I have 20 yards of silk at my disposal, so ppphhhtt!!"

Cue Top Gun theme song.

No comments: