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Is this another bad idea?

By on September 28, 2016 in Articles, Outdoor Fun, Sports & Recreation with 0 Comments
Molly Steere shows off her molars as she experiences the exhilaration of free fall with instructor Todd Higley.

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By Molly Steere

As my husband, Toby, runs to the bathroom to throw up, I take another hit off my inhaler, pop some Sudafed, and come to terms with the fact that today will go down as another one of my Best Bad Ideas.

I’m known for them. They usually involve terrible decision making and provide endless entertainment for others.

Case in point, Toby woke up with a stomach bug and I have a horrific cold, a crippling fear of heights, and anxiety issues. So we’re going skydiving!

We originally signed up to jump with my dad last October — it was our birthday present to him — but had been weathered out.

This is our do-over. We are determined, regardless of the circumstances, to jump today. When Toby finishes throwing up we hop in the car, pick up dad, and head toward the Chelan Municipal Airport.

As I drive, I have the uneasy feeling that we’re being irresponsible. What if something goes wrong and my seven-year-old son witnesses both parents fall to their death?

I look in the rear view mirror and ask him if he’s nervous about watching us jump. “My dream is coming true! Dad is going to barf on his instructor!” he responds gleefully. I desperately hope he’s not right.

As soon as we arrive at the airport we re-sign waivers, and record a video stating we won’t sue if we are injured or die. I obediently read the script. I won’t sue. I’m of sound mind. I’m beginning to question the last part.

After a quick refresher ground school with other jumpers, Toby and I are told to suit up. Everything is happening so fast that I don’t have time to get anxious. Apparently, we’re actually doing this.

I’m assigned to Todd Higley, one of the owners of Skydive Chelan. Todd becomes my new best friend to whom I now trust my life. In less than 30 minutes from the time we parked, we are packed into a Cessna 182. As we climb to altitude, I press my nose against the window, enjoying the view and the beautiful day. There’s hardly a cloud in the sky.

Toby and I chat with our instructors for a bit, and before we know it we’re at altitude. Todd secures me tightly to him in what is essentially an adult-sized Baby Bjorn.

He reminds me what is going to happen, step by step, as we all shift into position. I watch Toby and Ryan swing their feet out of the door and then drop from view. The plane tilts, and then steadies. Sweet fancy moses, my time has come.

We shuffle toward the door as one unit, and I clumsily work to get my feet out on the platform. The wind pummels me from the side, and 10,000 feet below the ground looks like an elaborate museum diorama. “Move forward” Todd says in my ear. But I’ll fall, is my first thought and then I remember that’s the point.

I shift forward a bit, feel Todd push off and then we’re falling away from the plane.

For the first few seconds I’m disoriented by the wind, our attitude (headfirst), and the fact that we’re hurtling toward the ground. I get the tap to spread my arms. We stabilize and I remember to breathe. We are now flying and it is absolutely exhilarating. I can’t stop grinning as I look around at the view, the plane above us getting smaller.

Todd gives me a high five and I continue to grin. It’s pretty much all I’m capable of at this moment. I am so thrilled to be falling from the sky.

Todd indicates that I should mug for the camera on his wrist. When I get home and look through the 300-plus photos that were taken during my jump, two things stand out. 1) my stoke level is through the roof, and 2) moving through the air at 120 mph turns me into silly putty. My cheeks are trying to escape my face in a cresting wave of flesh, and ripples of neck skin nestle near my ears. I am the reflection in a fun house mirror.

Suddenly, I’m jerked up into the air. The canopy is deployed and I’m surprised that 40 seconds of free fall has already passed.

For the next five minutes we have a completely unobstructed view of one of the most beautiful drop zones in the country. The colorful sails of the Regatta dot the blue waters of Lake Chelan. I watch the Columbia unwaveringly carve through the rolling topography as Rainier and Adams stand proudly on display. It is stunning.

Todd points up and I see Toby and his instructor above me. YES! That means I was in free fall longer than him! Not that I’m competitive. But my free fall was longer.

We wave and hoot and holler at each other as Todd maneuvers us over the airport. As we get lower, I wave at my son, in-laws, and dad who are outside the hangar watching us. Suddenly we’re in a tight turn, dropping altitude. It feels like we’re coming in hot, but we glide in gently and come to a rest, the canopy floating down beside us.

“That was so awesome!” I exclaim repetitively, like an annoying wind-up toy.

Todd and I high five and watch Toby and Ryan come in for a landing. Toby is as pumped as I am (and thankfully, didn’t puke on his instructor). We both want to go up again, agreeing that it all went by way too fast.

By the time we walk across the runway to the hangar, Todd has already grabbed a new chute and is getting into the plane with my dad and another set of tandem jumpers. I wave as they taxi off.

Enjoying the buzz of having done something completely out of my comfort zone, I stand in the sun, shielding my eyes to watch Dad’s plane gain altitude. I see both sets of tandem jumpers leave the airplane, plunging toward earth, and I’m jealous. I want to be back up there as I imagine the rush Dad is feeling during free fall.

His canopy deploys and I grin, experiencing a vicarious thrill as he floats through the air.

Most of my Best Bad Ideas aren’t worth repeating, but this one is.

Molly Steere is a local freelance writer who is always in search of her next Best Bad Idea.

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