|New Year's Jump at Lodi|
by Charlene Kerr - email@example.com
It's ten-something in the evening. The dz is dark and quiet. A few of us got back from dinner a while ago and are sitting around in the RV, just talking. The television is on and New Years celebrations from around the world are quietly mumbling in the background.
I take a short walk outside, look at the stars, think about the fact that the moon isn't going to come up until 2:47am. How dark will it really be? I've only jumped with moonlight before. The drop zone appears deserted so, I head back to the RV.
A few minutes later, I hear Kathy on the P.A.. "We're selling chem lights up at manifest.."
My mind jerks awake! Oh my God, it's really going to happen. A valley that has a history of sitting in thick pea-soup fog at this time of year is crystal clear. Clouds that were predicted to come in on this evening have not arrived. And now Kathy's selling chem lights! Yes, it's really going to happen.
I head in to the hangar to buy my lights. Where'd all these people come from? A few moments ago there was nobody here. The energy level in the hangar has an almost audible hum. Everyone's bustling around, checking their gear; playing with lights and whistles that will help them to be seen and heard.
|Listen to the briefing. Gear up. Double- check all the lights. Triple-check all the lights. Okay let's load up the bus. (The DC-3 needs to use the longer runway so, we shuttle over to the other side of the airport in the DZ bus). If you've never seen the Parachute Center bus, you've been missing out. It's one of those 'shorty' school buses, painted sky blue with silver-lined clouds (yes every cloud has a silver lining).
Photo © by Glenn Rogers
The bus bounces around a corner and, there it is! Engines purring, the enormous silver beast waits patiently for us to climb in. As with most jump planes, the interior is lined with bumper stickers. The only difference here is that this particular plane has bumper stickers that were put there before I was even born.
We get in and my group does one last dirt dive in the aisle. (I love that big plane). The DC-3 taxies onto the runway and starts it's takeoff roll.
Things certainly appear different at night. We seem to be lumbering down the runway forever. I was sure the runway would have ended by now. But the hulking bird finally lifts and starts its ascent into the darkness.
The small parts of glow sticks that are not covered up are scattered up and down the plane and shine off the metal interior. It looks festive; like Christmas lights were randomly thrown throughout the plane. Every few minutes someone's excitement gets the better of them and they yell out "Woohoo", which is promptly followed by a chorus of cheers, whistles, and shouts. And the energy level increases.
It's time! Gear checks high fives kisses we're ready for the first pass. As the first group of people line up at the door the hooting and hollering becomes almost frenzied. "Happy New Year!," and they're gone.
We climb on our way around for the second pass and someone near the tail of the plane starts a countdown "... five, four, three, two, one, Happy New Year!". As the second pass gets ready, someone near the front of the plane starts another countdown "... five, four, three, two, one Happy New Year!". And we all cheer again. Time is relative. It doesn't matter to anyone who's watch says what. What matters is that we are all celebrating this time together.
The second pass goes out and we climb around for one final pass. (Here's a hint if you want to be on the last and highest pass, always ask the DZO to jump with your group. hee hee hee)
grins. Breakoff, as always, comes too soon. I track for a long time, open at my designated altitude and turn on "my if-you-can't-see-me-with-these- on-you're-blind" lights.
|Gear check. Handles check. Light check. More hugs and kisses. LET'S GO!!!
We all shade our eyes as Glenn turns on the light for his video camera and climbs out. Bill doesn't see that all of us inside the plane have our eyes closed so, he gives the count and leaves. Wha what? Get out!
We dive into a black velvet sky.
There is quite a bit of separation but, Glenn's light makes it really easy to see the base. We build a nice 7-way. Everyone
Photo © by Glenn Rogers
Then, as I head back to the landing area, time stops! This moment is burned into my memory. The darkness, the lights coming up from the ground, the feeling. And I whisper to myself, "Wow".
Life is good. Happy New Year!
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