The chill atmosphere turns into a hopping, well-oiled machine as the jumpers land. The truck takes off to pick up the students, instructors and videographers. After they unload, they make their way to the hangar where a myriad of people take the parachutes and begin the most important task of the day: repacking. We are hypnotized by the methodical and seemingly mundane routine of it. The instructors, meanwhile, are picking out their next student and giving their spiel of what to expect, and do's and don'ts to wide-eyed "I'm trying hard to not freak out" students.
After getting harnessed up, we get on the bus for the scariest part of the day.... the ride to the airport! That driver did not observe the speed limit on the winding mountain road. It was then that an unsettling statistic popped in my head: you are more likely to die in a car crash on the way to the airport than parachuting out of the plane! And then once we were in the plane, I was really glad that Travis was hooked to me with a parachute, because, well..... it was no private jet. I knew it was safe simply because I had seen it fly over us four times already that day, but I had no problems jumping out of it! However, when you take into consideration all the gear strapped to the people, gutted and functional is better than pretty and cushy. There is no way you can have real seats and get hooked up to your "exit buddy" much less walk together to the door to jump.
There is no good way to describe the free fall. It is exhilarating, loud and surreal. The canopy ride is peaceful & serene, with an amazing view. After the canopy deploys and you know it is working properly, you breathe a small sigh of relief and can talk to your instructor. They will let you fly on the way down, teaching you how to turn and showing you where to go, but landing is all them. I loved the rush of the free fall, but I enjoyed the canopy ride better simply because I didn't have to worry about the camera and was free to look around. I would go again tomorrow if I had the money and the time.
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