So, this weekend I did two jumps in one day. I caved to peer pressure, and also just thought I'd try it because maybe I was wrong about needing to only do one jump in a day. I was there, the weather was great, I had no special reason to head home early, so I stayed.
Well, depending on how you look at it, it was either good or bad.
Jump #1 went fine and dandy.
Jump #2 didn't.
Although it sucked in one way to have a bad jump, in another way, as someone said, it was about time I ran into trouble up there so I could know what I would do, wouldn't do, could do, should do, etc.
Jump #1 was scheduled to be a repeat of the last one, though this time with only one instructor. I wrote last time about how nervous I was with the thought of going out with only one person. Well, when I first got there I saw one of my past instructors and as I chatted with him I said how nervous I was. He showed me the technical thing I should do when I exit to make sure I exited well (extending legs).
And then it turned out the Gnome was there. So of course I had to jump with the Gnome. We had had a back and forth on mental tricks, and so he focused more on the mental side of jumping, and relaxing. On the plane we just kind of sat there, and it was a new experience not having someone check in constantly and go over signals. I thought it was just a lazy Gnome thing, but turns out this jump is the starting point for becoming more independent, as in the second jump I was also left alone a bit.
The Gnome started on the outside and I was left inside alone to do the check in/out, and then read set arch. And it was fairly uneventful. Weird to have a Gnome hovering beside me, but that's it (of course, he only tells me later that he had to push my arm somewhat to make sure I didn't go backwards - see story below). I noticed when he let go, and all was fine, and all I had to do was fall. (altitude, arch, legs, relax). Pull time came quickly, and my chute was open.
The winds were calm and all was well, and I did great in my landing. I could have landed feet up, but had wanted to practice a parachute landing fall, so I fell over, and was not a problem. The Gnome came over and showed me what to do with the brake handles to make the chute packers's life easier (and thus like you more), and we walked on back.
I ate lunch. A much too heavy lunch (pork bbq) - picked up at the local gas station, next door to which is a house with a porch facing the station, upon which sat two old men in rockers, watching life go by. I waved, they waved. Back at the ranch, someone put on Robot Chicken as I was preparing for jump 2, which got me in trouble by my instructor. Supposed to be preparing to jump! Go check your gear! Oops...but it did help to have one of the images in my head to make me laugh along the way.
Jump #2 (first jump in D category) I had to do my first spotting from the plane to check and make sure we are in the right place. That means standing by the open space, looking at the horizon in front of you then down 90 degrees, then looking to the right or left at the horizon, then down 90 degrees. This is to see exactly where you are in relation to the ground, and to know that you are exiting the plane where you want to exit (depending on calculations of wind speed, direction, etc.).
But I got the whole deal. First off I was sitting on the front floor of the plane near the exit, rather than on a bench. Not used to that, and you have to be more aware of not bumping into things and accidentally pulling some essential cord. Then I learned about the light signals, and learned I would help open the door when the time came. Sitting by an opening holding on to nothing... He reminded me what he had said about the wind is more likely to push you back in at that point. Still scary. And with the door open, holding onto a bar, and searching for where you want to start jumping. We weren't going to be the first out either, so we had to scoot out of the way, and then suddenly it's time to jump.
Too much BBQ. Not enough mental prep. Too many new strange things. And I jump, the one instructor lets go of me, and I don't arch correctly, and I flip, not once but twice. Luckily I had asked the Gnome what I should do if I mess up the exit. And no matter what is happening with you, if you simply go into a relaxed arch, you will right yourself. And I did. Holy crap.
Then I had to be reminded to do my practice touches, and did them. I needed to pull my head together to perform the tasks assigned in this category: namely to turn 90 degrees to the left and right. It's a simple concept - you just lower one elbow and you will move in that direction. The trouble is, if you move it too fast or forget how to correct yourself, you'll keep going around, and around. Like a spinning record.
The problem also was that because of the tension of the botched exit (and yes, I'm bad and think more of the botched exit rather than the fact that I recovered), and the fact that I wasn't able to stop myself well on the turns, I was not relaxed. And then I started doing what they call potato chipping, which is kind of like making waves with your body. VERY disturbing. The instructor would signal for me to relax and I would for a second and then become Lays again. The trouble was too that very quickly 6000 feet came and I was supposed to pull at 5,000 this time. Well, I was having a hard time seeing my altimeter because I was vibrating so much, and I focused too much on seeing that I was at the right altitude than I was on the fact that I needed to pull, so I pulled a little late.
Then you are supposed to clear your mind and focus on the tasks under canopy. Ok, that's fine. One of the things you do at this level (D) is learn to use your risers to steer and not your handles, in the event of a malfunction of one of the brakes. I did two 90 degree turns and that was it.
The problem was that day that the winds were variable. As we had been walking to the airplane, the dihedral (which rotates according to wind direction and thus shows which way to land) rotated 180 degrees, so though we had a plan set up, it was important for me to know which direction the wind was blowing. And for the life of me when I was under canopy I could NOT see the dihedral. Thankfully there is also a wind sock in a another location, and thus I had some idea. And although I know that I can look and see how others are landing and land in that same pattern, I was afraid to rely on that because the wind was so variable (I had SEEN it change 180 degress in a few seconds!).
The radio man was on but he was letting me do my own thing, and said he would only chime in if I needed help. I wanted to yell back - talk to me now! So, I basically just hovered over the landing area, trying hard to figure out what to do. I guessed, and did fairly ok.
I landed hard in a semi parachute landing fall (PLF) - kind of forward rather than to the side. And felt really queasy. I had to stand still for a moment to make sure I didn't vomit right then and there. But then walked reallllly slowwwllly carrying my stuff to the hanger. Put it down, and sat down for a while to ease my stomach. Wondering as I sat whether my brain and body could really handle skydiving. I'm still not sure, as I slept 10-11 hours last night, and just woke up from a nap.
I'm not sending this one to my mom... :-) She did know I jumped and had lit a candle for me, but only one, so maybe it's because I hadn't told her about the second!