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25 April. The clouds are thinking about a blockade. Wind capping around ten.

And I have a new trick. He brings his arms down to his sides, uneasily, and brings his feet together - zoooooom. He can even quit tracking, and then do it again.

Turn to the right - check. To the left - check. Whoa. It works. How'd that happen?

And I remember being granted another privilege last weekend. Now's my chance... Cautiously, I pull my knees up -

Backflip. Oh yay. Re-extend the legs and arch... and I'm stable right away, belly down. Well I'll be.

As I was told, small arm and leg movements do the job. Overcompensating like crazy, I can see this finesse will be a while in coming. But that's okay.

I land 9 meters from my intended target.

The wind drops a little before I creep back into the King Air. Climbing up to altitude, I'm shown how to confirm a satisfactory pin check - ending with a good slap on the container.

Track, turn each way, and it's still a surprise when I promptly recover and hold position.

But landing brings another lesson. My eyes on my target - too firmly. Staring at the spot where I wanted to land, I watch it go by under me and don't flare hard enough. As a result, I'm not ready to touch down - 16 meters from where I wanted - but it's happening anyway. I tumble. Bad partial somersault. The good news is I didn't have too much speed left when I hit, so my pride was the only thing injured.

Wait - there was better news. It was apparent right away what I did wrong... Concentrating almost completely on where to land, I neglected to pay attention on how to set down. At a certain point, it seems I have to quit eyeing the spot and think instead about... ending the ride.

So I gotta go and put this knowledge to use...

Track, turn, turn. Backflip. Goooooood.

Pulled a little early. Anticipation, maybe?

With the memory of the prior landing still fresh - rolling like a tumbleweed, only minus the grace - I make a huge circle around my target. Too much "how" this time, maybe... Flaring better, I land gently enough. But I'm 164 meters downwind. The wind speed and direction are the same as the last jump, so I really didn't need that last altitude-burning turn. At least I didn't repeat my ground-thumping performance. Tahoe signs my log book, as I think about next weekend, and the happy medium of spotting and braking that's sorta elusive.

1 May.

Much wind, little of it helpful to rookie skydivers.

After a few hours, a slight lull. I'm cautioned and warned and told to grab a smaller canopy. 210 square feet, instead of 230.

On the way up, I learn the potential benefits of disconnecting the reserve static line when getting ready to land. At 1,000 feet, say. Reach up and tug on this clip, and if the wind really gets ahold of your main chute it won't inadvertently pull the reserve ripcord as well...

I have a good time in freefall.

Under canopy, I descend more quickly with this chute. I stay over the practice field, as commanded. My last turn at 500 feet could've been earlier, though. Or smaller...

My approach would've been fine if there hadn't been any wind. Unfortunately, the wind has gotten stronger since we took off. I point myself westward, against the wind...

And back up. This is new. Instead of angling toward a point in front of me, I'm floating backwards. I'm headed for the landing field where the "big" jumpers get to land, maybe 250 yards west of the freeway. My big concern is that there are people all over the place down there and I don't wanna squish anybody.

Come to find out they're catching us. Tandems are usually reeled in by helpers on the ground, because of the large canopy. I haven't been the recipient of this kind of help since jump #2 with Lodi Mike. (For many jumps to come, I will pick landing targets way out west in the practice field. This is safer for me, the other jumpers, and the hangars. Later, it's more or less confirmed for me: One of the Parachute Center philosophies is that newbies gotta learn to land sometime or other, so train 'em right and point 'em toward the big, wide open space where no cars are whooshing by. This might also explain why no radios or flags are used to guide new students in - it reinforces the fact that no one else can do for me what I need to do for myself.

It's downright blustery when I finally touch down, and I appreciate the help landing the chute... particularly I forgot to disconnect the RSL. Over 300 meters east of my target, with an unintended landing on the field I'll someday get to use - but unfortunately another jumper landed on the freeway median, wrenching his back. That's enough loads for the day.

The weekend before, another rookie did harsh things to her (his?) leg. This is not a tame sport. Lest we forget.

The next day, the wind is so unkind to beginners that I sit and watch everybody else jump. This is not easy to do. Being persistent (i.e. grovelling) might've paid off. Probably not. After about four hours, I decide I'm taking this way too personally. Time for a break...

Be forewarned, gentle reader - if planning to jump at Lodi during May, you'd better be well past student status and PD 230's...

By the next weekend, I was still freaked out. And the weather was terrific, too.

The weekend after that was - you guessed it - windy. Trees slam-dancing outside my apartment. Strong winds in Stockton too, so saith the Internet. Saturday and Sunday. O-kay...

The next Saturday, things look about the same.

23 May. Really starting to hate wind in general. Watch the 'net, look outside, fidget, give it up, change my mind, check the 'net. Repeat.

At something like 3:45 in the afternoon I drive down, watching the trees flop around as I do. Southwest winds, ten to fifteen. I-have-no-expectations. Just-making-an-appearance. Watching-is-better-than-nothing...

Shut off the engine and take a few breaths. Stick my head out of the t-top and sneak a look at the wind socks. More breathing. Let's try getting out of the car.

Slinking into the hangar, a pause for more breathing, and I'm going in. Easy now. Can I...

After a slight pause, the answer is - yes, but stay way, way out there.


Of course I remember how to do everything. Uh-huh. I spend a lot of time figuring out where I want to be at 1,000 feet, and at 300 feet, and how I'm going to make my turns.

On the way up, there's a bunch of freeflyers who want to pull at 4,000. Well, okay, I guess I can pull at thirty-five...

It's nice and warm up here. Turns, backflips, and track. Oh yeah. Watching the needle touch four, giving it a couple more seconds, wave off and pull.

Good canopy. I'm staying so far west I can taste salt in the breeze.

Right on my mark at 1,000. Last big turn at 600 feet - okay. No, wait, I didn't go far enough downwind to hit my target, the windsock with the big 'X' - or did I?

Nice, smooth set-down. Nine meters past where I'd wanted.

Whew. I don't have any complaints with that one.

Of course, the wind happens to have died down at landing time. Or so they tell me.

And I'm chided for believing what I read on the internet. (Ironic. I think.) Last weekend wasn't all that windy, or yesterday either, et cetera. Mike tells me to call and ask next time. Kathy says the same.

Bill reminds me they start running loads up at nine in the ay em...


Next weekend: The long-awaited first boogie. 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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