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My ears stayed plugged for days. Didn't even know I had a headcold or anything...

And when the following Saturday finally rolled around, the clouds were low. Boo. At least I learned about the usefulness of decongestants.

The next day, the sky wasn't any more agreeable. I told myself I'd head a little ways west, just in case it looked better there. This led to more fidgeting, which got me back on 99, heading south. But I wasn't going all the way to the DZ, not with clouds like that...

In Galt, five miles from "home base," the sun broke through. Big hunk of blue sky -

But in the time it took to pull up to the airport the thickest, lowest, ugliest ceiling had raced in from the south. Maybe I could pull off a midweek jump fix...

Or maybe not.

17 April. It's been thirteen whole days. Ground poisoning. I take a decongestant, and when an hour is finally up I'm on the next load...

My arch is better. I start unintended turns, but I can stop 'em promptly. More practice at moving an arm or leg and discovering what happens, and then trying the opposite.

For some reason I'm having a hard time seeing the windsocks. A certain instructor told me that experienced types can see 'em from 12,000 feet. At one-third the altitude, under a nice stable canopy, I'm squinting where I know 'em to be...

I've been told that it's time to start pacing off my landings. See how far from my intended target I end up. This time - 80 meters. Four times the distance required for the 'A' license...

Up we go. This time the plane was full of tandems - so I'm the first one to spring out the door.

After a couple thousand feet I start to buffet, and lower my arms a little. It works. Start to spin, arch harder. That works too. Double-good.

The lines are twisted a little. Not even a half-turn. Haven't seen this since one of the static-line jumps. It might even correct itself, but instinctively I know which way to shimmy and kick. It's obvious, which is a relief 'cause this is another of those things I could read about all day without feeling comfortable.

I release the brakes and see a second minor anxiety above me. The right end cell of the canopy is collapsed. Instead of being puffy and inflated, the "right-most" section of parachute is somewhat curled under. It steers okay... The thing to do is pull down the toggles again, twice. Onetwothree onetwothree - hey, it works. The two ends look the same now.

The winds are a little quirky. Figuring out how to get where, in order to land there, is a tall order. I get so absorbed in this, I end up staring at where I wanted to land and not paying enough attention to how close to the ground I am. I'm flaring too high, which means I go forward less slowly and down more rapidly -

I pitch forward, to my knees. Another new experience. I gather up the chute and pace southwest. Only 25 meters off! Closer... but my knees are oozing.

Rick suggested it, Bill suggested it. I put it off 'cause I wanted to get a couple jumps in first, maybe loosen up a bit...

And now Tahoe Mike's free, and I'm as ready as I'm gonna get.

Time for video.

There was no good reason for having done sixteen jumps without giving in to the camera. Being frugal, more than anything. There's some video taken from the ground in Sebastian that I haven't seen yet. No great rush. False modesty...

"What do you want to do?," Mike says. Like I'd know. Rick has given me the green light to try a backflip, but all I can imagine is kicking the nice video guy in the head. Dunno, maybe I could try a couple turns, see if my knees are dropping again -

We'll do some tracking, I'm told. Turn left, arms back and come to me, back off and turn right. You say when, ready set go, and we'll bail.

Oh, and it's time you quit doing the student exit. Keep your feet back and reach up, you'll dip forward and level out real nice if you're arching.

This vanity business is getting more and more complicated...

I get to the door and forget to readysetgo, so Tahoe does it -

Bobbing forward, and what do ya know, I rock back to a nice belly-down position. And there he is, maybe twenty feet away. All thoughts of backflips, and of being taped, fly out of my head. I try a turn, overdo it, stabliize... Mike beckons. Plenty of altitude -

Bringing my arms in, feet back - and I move toward him. Yeah. I actually have some control of how fast I move forward. I get to him and eventually touch his right hand, and back away, amazed.

I try a turn in the opposite direction, roll onto my back, arch hard and level back out. Oh well. Track in again to Mike. Back, and in, grab his hand, and back... This is fun. But the little needle's at 4, so I wave off and pull.

Good canopy. I don't know where Tahoe is, but figure the videotaping is over anyway...

One of my better landings... Eight paces from where I intended.

Mike sees this, but doesn't tape it. I guess he landed where the tandems and more expert jumpers do. Since I'm still expected to aim for the back forty, I guess it would've been good to remind him of that.

No matter. The video of my freefall turned out great. It's a hoot. I'm jerky and wobbly and prone to overcorrect. But hey, there I am, tracking...

Tahoe says something in passing that turns out to be vital. A week or two ago, he was the one who made the radical suggestion to let the wind shape my body in freefall. This sounded easier than it was turning out to be, but it was coming along -

"Your mind is relaxed. Also relax your body."

I stop in the doorway and look down at him. "Uh... would you repeat that?"

He stops packing and humors me...

Huh. I'm not fixated anymore on what-to-do-next... "Altimeter, ground, horizon" is happening... Actually, I'm not cycling through any mental checklist a hundred consecutive times.

And the other half makes sense. Being relaxed "inside" won't necessarily show up in my limbs. I have to decide to relax and go with it.

So I have another key to try out, and a video to show off. Humbly, of course. and Cinema Insomnia - entropic satireJump number one (tandem at Sebastian) -
Jump number two (tandem at Lodi) -
3 - 7 (starting static line) -
8 - 11 (finishing static line) -
12 - 14 - 15 - 17 - 18 - 22 - 23 - 29 - 30 - 34 - 35 - 40 - 41 - 48 - 49 - 58
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