Even though it was a rest day, we still woke up at 5 am. Not for bike riding, though. This time, for sunrise skydiving! 16 of us departed the host before sunrise and ventured to Skydive Moab. We gathered in a hanger and filled out paperwork (regarding our lives). We watched an instructional video and then got suited up. Jeff, Elliot, Draper, and Cario went first. Lauren and I paired up and went third. Our videos will definitely be edited into our Amazing Race applications. Kevin and Nick were our instructors and were as pumped as we were. We climbed into the tiny cramped plane, with Kevin and I in position to jump first.
The entire flight up 10,000 feet (14,500 feet above sea level) was awesome. We joked around with our instructors, they pointed out different canyons, national parks, and rivers we flew over. Kevin also mentioned his sister-in-law, who brews beer in Philadelphia under the name “Ars.” At about 8,000 feet, our instructors began to attach our harnesses. In all honesty, I didn’t have an ounce of fear; complete excitement filled my body. It wasn’t until we reached 10,000 feet, and the pilot opened the door directly next to me that I felt nervous.
The wind hit me hard and all I could do was stare at the ground, thousands of feet below me. I quickly let go of any fear and began following the instructions given to me inside that hanger far, far away. Hold your harness and start climbing out of the plane, putting one foot out on the bar at a time. I felt Kevin get out behind me. This was the moment. As instructed, I put my head back and waited. Maybe about 3 seconds of mystery and anxiety passed before Kevin initiated the jump. In that moment, all fear was gone and complete adrenaline took over my entire body. As we fell, backflipping off the bar, I watched the plane grow further and further away. We were free-falling. He grabbed my hands, letting me know it was fine to let go of my harness. We flew down at about 120 mph for about 30 seconds. It was probably one of the most amazing feeling of my life. Yes, the scenery was breathtaking; but it was the sensation of the free-fall that was so amazing. After those thirty seconds, he pulled the harness, and we jerked up a bit. We coasted the rest of the way, enjoying the views, and even getting the chance to steer the descent a bit. As we got closer to the ground, I could hear the cheers of my teammates. On the landing, I stuck my feet out and let Kevin land first. Kevin landed, running it out, and then had me put my feet down. It was a pretty cool landing, because we didn’t slide into the ground; we remained standing. Not more than twenty seconds later, Lauren met me on the ground. We ran to each other (much like a lifetime movie) and celebrated. The entire experience was more than I imagined, full of excitement, adrenaline, and the most free-ing sensation.
After, Draper’s parents planned an impromptu ATV Off-roading trip. Elliot, Jeff, Cario, Draper, and myself hopped in the bed of his uncle’s pick-up truck, and flew 20 miles to the ATV center. Elliot and I got single ATVs while the others got “Aces,” basically ATVS with cages around them. It took me a while to get acclimated to these things, learning the gears, brakes, and that in order to steer, you had to use your entire body (not electric steering). We tackled large rocks and slabs of stone, constantly on large angles with the ground and feeling like the ATV would flip at any time. It was an awesome ride, with breaks scattered throughout where our tour guide spoke interesting facts and showed us the landscape. One particularly cool stop was Tusher Tunnel, natural tunnel between two rocks formed by rain water slipping through the cracks and wind creating a pathway. We also so pictographs (old pictures made of paints seen visible on rocks) and petroglyphs (old pictures made of etchings and carvings in the rocks). At one point on the ride, I hit 47 mph, which on those ATVs on gravel and rocks, is pretty freakin’ fast.
On our way back to those host, Draper’s family took us out for margaritas and food, just what we needed after a fun-filled day. I went back to the church, watched my awesome skydiving video, and took a nap.
At 6:30, the team headed over to Draper’s family apartment, where they had a catered dinner and beer for us. They were located right off a gold course, underneath beautiful canyon walls. It was a much needed relaxing, fun night with the team. Before we left, a bunch of us laid down for a while, staring at the stars. Living in Philadelphia for so long, I forgot about the purity and beauty of the night sky. I miss nature.
Draper’s family is so nice – truly fun, generous, and welcoming people. Thanks guys!