Skiing the last three weeks

Each of the past three weekends I’ve gone skiing. First I went to White Pass. Originally I had a few people willing to go with me, but they all bailed at the last minute, so I went alone. It was my first ski of the season, and I was by myself, so I opted for the half day instead. The weather was beautiful:

I skied hard and fast. I was feeling it in my thighs immediately, and was surprised at how quickly I was back into going over small jumps, tackling mogul runs, and speeding down the faster stretches. By the end of the day I had worn myself out and had some really good runs. It was great. The people who bailed don’t know what they missed.

The next weekend some people bailed again, but I was with Katie, so I wasn’t alone. We got to White Pass at about 10 and had a few runs. It was snowing and a little windy, and the snow was a little rough from the day before. We stopped at the lodge for some spiced wine (it turns out they just put apple cider mix in burgundy and put it in a coffee pot on a burner). We had lunch, too, and when we went outside to continue skiing, my rental skis were not there. I searched the whole area but didn’t find them. I went to the rental office and they said if they didn’t show up, I was responsible for replacing them. If somebody had accidentally taken mine, their bindings would likely not fit and they would have a bad time and go to the rental office, so we waited for a while back at the lodge. We took another tour of the area to see if the skis were there, then headed back to the rental office to see if they had shown up, and they hadn’t. Fortunately they loaned me another pair to use until the end of the day, and said it was unlikely that they were stolen and that it was probably a mixup. We continued skiing the rest of the day. It was pleasant, and we had some good runs. When I turned in my second set of skis, I asked about the first set, and they had already been returned, so I was off the hook, but the person who took mine probably didn’t know their set was likely still outside, so I wonder if they got screwed.

We drove back, stopping in Yakima for dinner at The Depot, which is a really nice restaurant with good food and service. Sadly, we were the only ones there, and we have no idea why.

The last ski trip was yesterday, and I went up with two friends to Bluewood, which is slightly closer, in the opposite direction, and has a totally different feel. White pass is a lot more challenging, but there aren’t as many fast runs. It has more lifts, and the people are all ages. Bluewood is much more of a beginner’s ski area. There are only a few runs with moguls, it’s almost entirely middle and high school kids, and most runs are very wide and straight. It was a perfect day for skiing; below freezing, with a good rate of snow that put about 1/8″ on the groomed ground between runs. There weren’t many people there, so the average wait for the lift was about 30 seconds, and the runs were so open that we could speed down the runs without worrying about traffic. The trees were fun, the moguls were interesting, and we had a few ‘death races’ down some of the runs where I tucked as far as I could and felt the snow stinging as it hit my face. Then at the end of the run I would stand up straight and put my arms out to let the wind slow me down; it almost felt like skydiving. On the way home the snow was freezing rain, and the defroster couldn’t keep up, so the windshield wipers were constantly trying to scrape away a thin layer of ice on the windshield. We passed a car that had turned over in a ditch, and a van shortly after on its side. Almost home, we encountered a snowplow on its side as well, and you know when the snowplows are on their sides that you probably shouldn’t be out driving. We made it home without problem, though, and it was a good day.

Jump 24

It’s been over four months since I’ve jumped. It was before I went to Europe even. It’s not like I haven’t been trying, though. For the last couple months I’ve been going to the airport every weekend and wednesday evening, hoping there would be enough people to jump. Most of the time nobody was there. Today, though, it happened. I checked the web camera and saw the plane sitting outside, so I changed and hurried out the door.

When I got there the plane was already loaded and leaving the tarmac. But Larry said I could get on the next load. I got my suit and chute on and practiced reaching for the pilot chute on the bottom of the container a few times just to remind my muscles where it was. The wind was pretty heavy, and there were clouds overhead, so I was a little concerned, but by the time the first load landed and we were ready for the next trip, it was clearer and less windy.

The ride up was uneventful, but pretty. It was sunset, and as we rose the sun didn’t really move because the horizon was changing, so I got the longest sunset I’ve ever seen. At 10500 feet I could see my breath while we were still in the plane. We opened the door and got a blast of cold, waited until we over the right spot, and I dove out headfirst. I definitely need to work on my diving because I ended up doing a bit of a flip, but got control quickly. I touched my pilot chute a couple times just to make sure I could find it, then started practicing my turning. I was having no problem staying stable and making fast and sharp turns, so I then tried a front flip and nailed it. Next was a barrel roll, and that was no problem either. I still had a bit of time, so I worked on tracking across the ground (basically, moving horizontally). I opened my chute at exactly the right altitude and took a couple quick turns to bleed off a bit of altitude. I judged the wind and my descent speed just right and started to set up my landing. I did the textbook landing pattern, and hit the ground just inches away from where I had planned to land before we took off. I even stood my landing; and yes, I put my arms up like a gymnast afterwards.

I couldn’t have had a better jump. I was very happy with it. I brought my chute back in and had to pause a few times while I repacked it to remember the steps, but I got it all right. By the time I left it was dark out. I made the requisite call to mom and left a message that I had jumped, landed, and was uninjured.

Second game of the softball tournament

We didn’t just lose tonight. We were embarrassed. I’ve never seen so many errors by our team. It was like we were in slow motion. We were crushed 16-2, with the game ending early because of the 10 run rule (after a certain inning if one team is ahead by more than 10 runs, the game is over). Every ball we hit was directly to them, every slow person on our team was an opportunity for a double play. We dropped every pop fly and fumbled all the grounders. They hit harder, threw faster, and caught more. We’ve never beat this team, but we came close once. This was just a massacre, and it felt awful. I did manage to get on base each time I was at bat, which is more than most of the team. I didn’t get a lot of defense action other than pitching because they hit the balls so far.

Our loss tonight puts us in the losing bracket, but since it’s double elimination we still have a chance. Tomorrow we have one, maybe two games. Ugh. It was horrible.

First game of the softball tournament

We pulled out a solid W. It started off close; a couple innings of three up, three down. We were pretty evenly¬† matched. Then they got a couple on base and finished it off with a home run, scaring us and giving them a fairly large lead. We fought back and had a few innings where we made it all the way around the batting order, putting us back on top. In our last inning, we sealed the deal with a bunch more runs, and to our surprise we won the game 16-9, way better than we expected (we weren’t allowed to know the score until the end). We played a very good game, and had some spectacular plays. It’s amazing to remember our team at the beginning of last year and think of how much we’ve grown and how good we’ve become. I’m proud of everybody on the team.

A good softball game

Last night we had our second softball game. We were behind most of the game, but we had the last bat, and somehow managed to squeak ahead at the end. It was a good game. We made a lot of good plays and catches, my pitching was almost spot on, and I didn’t get hit with any line drives. A couple came really close to hitting me, and they would have been painful, but I think I’m done sacrificing my body just to make a play. Last week at practice I took a ball straight to my shin and I’ve got a bit of a bruise still and was limping for a day. It’s no fun, and not really worth it.

We were better about communicating, we had a good batting order and field positions, and we were good natured with the other team. That’s the way I like it. I would rather let them have an extra base than argue over the rules and sour the spirit of the game. I’m in this for fun; it doesn’t make sense to fight over the rules and get angry and get a bad reputation. I’ll just play the game, congratulate people on good plays, and if we win, that’s cool, too.

Jump 23

I was so close. Inches away from a successful dive. The goal on this one was to jump out right after someone and successfully dock with them. He was to jump out and I was to dive out right after him and catch up to him. We planned a routine to execute once we docked, and both of us thought it was pretty ambitious. When the time came, he jumped, and I was out right after him. I’d never dived out before (I’d always jumped out at a 45 degree angle into the wind, but when diving you jump out, well, at a 45 degree angle into the wind, but with your head pointing down instead of up). Anyway, I dived out and didn’t quite stay straight. I flipped onto my back momentarily, so I wriggled out of that, but then wasn’t sure what my heading was or where the other guy was. I spun around a couple times looking for him before I finally found him below me and a ways off. I started heading towards him, and I arched more to get down to his level. We were getting closer and closer, and so was the ground. For a few seconds I was no more than 5 feet away from him. He looked at his altimeter, I looked at mine, and we were at 5000. He waved off, and we both turned around and tracked away from each other. I pulled at 4000 feet so that I could play around with the canopy and do some more of the requirements for getting my license. The front riser dive, which is where you pull down on the front risers to make the canopy collapse a little and dive forward, was exciting. As I approached the field to land, the tandem jumper who had exited the plane after me were landing at the same time, so I turned a little and decided not to go for the center of the target, instead giving him lots of room to work. I had a standing landing, which was nice. Overall, I got two more things checked off on my checklist. I only have a couple more jumps to go before I can get my license. Woot!

Jumps 20, 21, and 22

Today was fantastic! I got up, checked the web camera, and saw that there were already people getting on the plane. I called Larry to make sure, and hurried over to the airport. Unfortunately, I was a couple minutes late, so I missed the first load. Oh well. We’re no longer using the Caravan, which could hold about 15 people. Now we’re back to the Cessna 206, which can hold about 5 jumpers. I made it on the second load, and we headed up. I didn’t feel anything until we got to about 10,000 feet, 1,000 feet before we were supposed to jump. I was to go first, then Larry and the tandem jumpers. Larry said he would put me out a little early so that they would have enough time for the tandems. He patted me on the helmet and I hopped out of the plane. I was stable immediately, so I picked a cloud straight ahead and did a 360 turn left. Then I did a 360 right. I had gotten some advice on doing back flips, so I tried it, and it worked flawlessly. I had a perfect backflip. So I tried it again, and it worked out great. So I tried a front flip for the first time, and that happened without any problems at all. I was doing so well that I thought I’d try for the hat trick with a barrel roll, but I only got half way through it and was on my back. I wriggled out and got back on my belly, checked my altimeter, and pulled.

I looked down and immediately knew I was in trouble. The drop zone was about half a mile away, and even pointing straight at it I was losing altitude surprisingly fast under canopy and there was no way I was going to make it. I started looking for my outs, and had picked one near the end of the runway, but I soon realized I wasn’t even going to make it that far, and I was kind of relieved because I would have had to go over some power lines and get a little closer to them than I wanted. A little behind me was the softball field, and there wasn’t anybody there, so I changed direction and landed perfectly in the outfield, standing the landing like a pro. A truck drove up to the edge of the field and a guy asked if I needed a ride. I said Sure! and hopped into the back of his truck with the chute. I lay on it during the ride so that it wouldn’t catch the wind and drag me out of the truck, and we went back to the drop zone. I walked in the door all smiles and told Larry he had put me out a little early. He had no idea I had landed in the softball fields so far away.

The second jump was much better. I did two 360s, a back flip, a front flip, and this time I successfully got my barrel roll. I was also over the drop zone. Something was odd about my canopy, though. I had to pull down on my left toggle more than I should have to keep from turning right. I managed to land a few feet from the pea gravel, much to my happiness, but not standing. I mentioned it to Larry, who asked if I still had the brake stowed on my right toggle. In retrospect, I think I may have, which would have explained the turning. Oh well. It was one of my closest landings to the pea gravel, so I couldn’t complain.

The third jump was completely different. There were no more tandem jumpers, so it was three of us, and they wanted to do a threeway. I had only ever jumped alone, so this was completely different. We set up a pattern on the ground for how we would jump and move, and I almost instantly forgot it. I doubted we’d be able to manage it anyway. In the air, we prepared our jump, then went for it. It was immediately a mess. We were together, but couldn’t stay stable. For a few seconds we were all on our backs in a ring looking at each other and smiling. Then we tried to right ourselves, but that didn’t work out and one of the guys broke off and moved away. I was still holding on to the other one, and after a couple seconds he and I were sorted out and falling together. I saw the other one below us and arched a little more so that we could drop down to him, but that took the other guy by surprise a little, because he didn’t expect me to be so aware of what was going on or able to adjust my fall rate so easily. We never met back with the third guy, and eventually he tracked away and pulled his chute. The other guy and I broke off, turned 180 and tracked away from each other. Then I pulled my chute and had a very hard opening. Back on the ground I mentioned this and he asked if I was still tracking away when I pulled. I immediately realized that I had been and was probably moving pretty fast when the chute deployed. I had a great standing landing right near where I wanted to be, so I was very happy with how it all turned out.

Larry and I started filling out the requirements for getting the A license. I’m pretty far along and should have my license in only a few more jumps. This was just a spectacular day for jumping, and I really feel like I’ve got it mostly figured out and under control. I know I’m clumsy, but at least I’m doing all the right steps. Grace will come soon enough.

Oh, and I’m completely packing my own chute now. That’s pretty exciting, too.

Jumps 17-19.5

Today was fun. I got to the drop zone about 9:45 and there were already a lot of people there. The little building was filled with people, mostly family watching a few people doing tandem dives, and some were hanging out outside. I brought over the leftover carrot cake I had made the day before, and most of it got eaten during the day, which is good. I got my chute, jumpsuit, helmet, gloves, and altimeter and made the first load. I jumped alone; I really just wanted to practice being in control and turning.

My first jump was solid. I had no problem doing 90 degree turns either way, I was in control the whole time, and I even practiced my technique in turns and turning by moving my legs instead of my entire body. I tried moving forward, too, by straightening my legs a little to push me forward. I was very happy with the dive. My chute opened fine right at the correct altitude. I bled off altitude and worked my way down to 1000 feet before starting my landing pattern. I should have waited even longer because I barely ended up on the field. The wind had died more than I expected and I got a lot more penetration than I thought I would, but I still made it on the field and stood the landing.

The place was so busy that I had a hard time finding someone to watch me pack the chute, and I missed the second load, but I eventually got it all sorted out and packed and got onto the third load. I called Doug right before I went up and he came by with his fancy new camera to take pictures. This time I tried doing 360 turns both ways and was able to do that, though it was a little shaky by the end of the turn. Then I tried a back flip. I got one, then kept spinning around and did another, then kinda floundered a little more until I was back to stable. I really hope I get these back flips figured out. This time I was better about starting my landing pattern lower, but I still overshot a little, and of course since Doug was taking pictures I didn’t stand my landing. Oh well.

I got my chute packed again, even more by myself, and was on the fifth load. This time I tried more of the same. I’m getting really comfortable with my altitude awareness, turning, maintaining stability, thinking while I’m in the air and watching around me, but these back flips are still elusive. This time I only did half a flip and ended up on my back. I tried flipping forward to get back on my belly, but couldn’t manage it, so I flipped backwards the rest of the way. This time my landing was good, and I stood and had no problems.

I packed for a fourth jump, this time entirely by myself (but I did have someone check at the critical steps). It was getting windy, and I was wondering if it would be such a good idea to try. Unlicensed divers can’t jump in more than 14mph winds, and when I got in the plane Larry said it was at 12-14mph. When we got to altitude, they radioed down and got a reading of 15-20, so another student and I couldn’t jump. We spent a long time getting set up for the other jumpers because it was windy and there were clouds. Right after they all jumped, I closed the door, and the plane dropped. For a couple seconds I was in free fall in the plane, which was pretty cool. I moved forward and strapped myself in and enjoyed the ride down. We had some really tight turns on the way down and I could see the ground almost right below me out the window and feel the weight of the turn. That was pretty cool.

I’m a little disappointed I didn’t get to jump the fourth time today, but I’d rather be safe and able to jump another time than injured and out of commission. Besides, it was interesting to take the ride down. I think tomorrow I’ll go skiing. By comparison, it’s much cheaper, and skiing is not cheap at all. Eventually I’ll be licensed and the price will drop dramatically, and I’m looking forward to that.

Jumps 13, 14, 15, 16

Sunday was beautiful. There were only a couple thin clouds in the sky, the wind was very light, and I felt good. It was a great day to go skydiving. I showed up at about 10, but everyone else had partied a little too much for St. Patrick’s Day, so we didn’t get rolling until 11. I went up to 13,500 feet and jumped out first with Larry, the owner of Richland Skysports. I was supposed to work on my left and right turns, but I was still struggling with them. I did get some turns in before the back flips started. I would do one back flip on accident, then two more before I could get things straightened out. Then I’d try turning again and I’d flip all over. Fortunately, I was watching my altimeter, so I wasn’t in any kind of trouble, and I straightened out long before I had to pull, but I was still frustrated that I wasn’t getting my turns right. On the plus side, it’s a lot of fun to do back flips in the air.

The second jump was more of the same, but I was definitely in a lot more control. I still flipped on accident a couple times, but was doing much better at turning, and was a lot more stable. I was still sliding some, but I think I’ve got it mostly under control. I’d like to try a jump where the instructor stays stable and I just try to stay in the same position and maybe even dock with him.

The third one (jump number 15), was a little different. This time I was supposed to flip in between my turns. I did a left turn, then went back, then a right turn, then back, then a flip. Only I was a little gun shy from doing multiple flips in a row, so I broke out of my flip early and ended up on my back. No big deal, I just finished the flip, but still.

The final one of the day I didn’t do any flips. I was in a lot more control as I did my turns. Still not perfect, but I’m getting there, and fine tuning now.

Most of my jumps were stand up landings, and I had no problems finding a spot on the field. On one of the earlier ones I wasn’t watching everyone else as much as I should have and was oblivious to a close call, but he told me and I’m now watching everywhere as I get closer to landing.

I’m also learning to pack. It’s a little frustrating because I’ve been watching them pack all along but as soon as I get the chute in my hands I forget what needs to be done, and I have a long way to go with getting the techniques down so that it’s not so tiring. I did pack my parachute and jump with it and it opened just fine, but I’m definitely glad I have the instructors watching me the whole way.

I’m really sore now, though. I have a couple bruises, and my ears haven’t finished popping, and on one of the jumps one of the risers hit my sunburned neck, but I’ll recover quickly and be back at it again soon.

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