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Isn't it pretty?

Monday, November 28, 2005

My Trip to Alabama - Leap of Faith*

On Friday, I woke up early in order to embark on my big adventure with my brother. First things first, I needed coffee and some kosher food in order to survive the day. We quickly trekked to the grocery store where I realized how incredibly spoiled I have become when it comes to kosher food. So many of the items that I take for granted that are always available, brands that I buy regularly, were not present in the grocery store. But I persevered, and managed to load up on all kinds of fattening carbs to last me through the weekend. Something I really miss about the South was evident in the grocery store. As I was checking out, I was compelled to buy a magazine (come on, who could pass that one up?) and the woman checking me out engaged me in a conversation about the magazine and all the people who had been purchasing it. She was so friendly and nice, and after she finished ringing me up she wished me a good day. That kind of interaction happens almost everywhere you go in the South; I really miss it. Anyway, on to my adventure. After I had food, coffee, and of course, my magazine, my brother and I set out for Georgia, which is to the East of Alabama for those of you who are geographically challenged (I know the South is a hard place to keep track of). My brother managed to get along the entire hour and a half journey, my brother playing a favorite comedian of his on the CD player for me, since he knew that I wouldn't like most of his choices in music. We arrived at our destination and there we encountered this sign:

Yep - skydiving was our adventure for the day! Good ole' brother-sister bonding while hurtling ourselves off a plane and towards the ground. I was supposed to go a couple months ago, but my friend backed out on me, but luckily my brother was up to the task and Thanksgiving Day weekend seemed the apropos time to do it. (After landing, we certainly were thankful for many things.) We filled out many pages of releases and forms stating that we wouldn't sue anyone and that we were voluntarily take a 2-1/2 mile leap out of a plane. After turning in our forms, we stepped up the counter and they called out our instructors. My instructor was a guy from Ohio with a bald head and a goatee. He was a little crazy, but I suppose you have to be to make your living as a skydiving instructor. He quickly went over the process, got me all strapped into the gear, and a few minutes later we were headed towards the plane. Besides my brother and myself, our group included a guy who looked to be about 20 years old, and an older woman. When questioned about her age, this older woman explained to us that she had told herself that she would go skydiving before she turned 85 years old, and her 85th birthday was the next month, so there she was. I was amazed and blown away by her tenacity. Kol Hakovod to her. So the plane took us up to 14,000 feet high (that's 2-1/2 miles) and then people on the plane started getting on their knees and headed towards the open door. One by one, either by themselves or in pairs, they jumped out of the plane. My instructor and I were last to go, and after watching each person, you would think I would have been nervous, but oddly, I wasn't. I was just so excited. The first minute after jumping is when you free-fall through the air. It's kind of like being on a rollercoaster - you are going so fast and you just feel the wind rushing by. My instructor had told me how to pull the cord to open the parachute, but I couldn't quite reach, so he pulled it himself. After the parachute opened, you just float towards the ground for several minutes. It was so beautiful, I can't even describe how amazing it was to see the world from such a perspective. I could see miles in every direction, it was a totally clear day. The wind was still rushing past, though at a much slower pace. It was cold up there! My instructor apparently likes showing off, so we did some spins in the air so I could see all around. It really was just incredibly peaceful being up so high, with no one else around, being able to see fields and trees and little roads meandering through the hillside. As we approached the ground, my instructor told me to pull my legs together and up so that I would land on my bottom. We landed as gently as we could, and I just sat there for a minute, kind of collecting myself before getting up. My brother was there on the ground waiting for me. We wandered back into the office, where our gear was stripped and we gave each other big hugs, happy and sad to be at the end of our adventure. It was an experience I will never forget, and possibly never repeat (but you never know). All in all, what an adventure. My brother and I drove home to Alabama in time for Shabbos. What an adventure. *Title hat tip goes to Ze'ev, who suggested it very fittingly.

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