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3 July.

A long weekend, after payday. Pinch me...

Or maybe just check the wind. Can't believe it. I arrive late in the afternoon - after all, got all weekend, right? - and see the windsocks. Look at the wind gauge, peaking at 18, 19 mph. Being in no mood for rejection, I don't even try to get on a load.

Watch for a while, and stalk off to my car. Hrrmmphh. Maybe after church tomorrow.

Or maybe not.

5 July.

Try, try again.

As I drive to Lodi, I think about a dream I had last night. Bad dream. Snivelling reserve, or maybe it's just tangled in the main. Surprisingly calm, still trying to coax some hope out of the toggles. Asphalt taxiway growing larger under me, ridiculously fast, more and more detail...

I go to manifest and shed a jump ticket, turning down an offer from Kathy of a possible 2-way. Got something else in mind, which I saw on the newsgroup a couple weeks ago - malfunction drills.

And here's Rick. Good. Not many tandems waiting, either. Looks like we're going to get to do that long-awaited RW practice, next load after this one.

Trailing behind him on the way back to the tandem hangar, I jump on a well-timed question. Here goes. "Uh... I had a bad dream. Going in."

"Oh, that. Yeah. Had 'em all the time."

(Or was that "have"? Present tense? Nnnnaww.) He doesn't look back, doesn't break stride. Acknowledgment, but hey, no big deal.

In the doorway of the Otter, the dream somewhat faded, I jump...

And close my eyes.

I get stable... and give it a second. Turn my head, rock a little, count to three. Right hand finding the cutaway "pillow" handle, pretending to twist it free from the velcro and throw it away. Then the other fingers graze the reserve.

I look at the altimeter. Still over ten. Enough time to repeat the process a couple times, with my eyes open... do a couple turns afterward, a flip or two, even a barrel roll.

My relief doesn't stop me from overshooting - by 42 meters. But as landings go, real and imagined, obviously it could've been worse.

And lo, there's still not dozens of tandems.

On the way back to the plane, Rick lays out a very simple plan - he'll change his fall rate, and I'll catch him. Not much to muddle up, there.

He hangs out the door, showing his teeth for a second. I lock onto his shoulder grips. "Ready, set, go-"

It's like being in a cartoon. Mr. Casual there, zero exertion, might just as well be laying on an invisible couch...

And me, bonking into him, open-handed - only to find he's gone, a couple meters below me or overhead, and I lurch around again to catch up. Like a puppy chasing a big smirking dog. On a ice rink.

It's crazy.

It's fun.

Tag. I make contact four times. Maybe five. Mostly from above or below, but hey. I look, we're coming up on 4,000. He's gone - I don't know where - so I do one last backflip (he says later he was right behind me, a trusty hiding place) wave off and pull at 3,300.

Overshooting my landing target again, but only by twelve meters.

I get good marks for aggressiveness, for not pulling back at the time of contact. This is easy to do with Rick. He's got no one to blame but himself... in more ways than one. Skill-wise I'm right where I'm supposed to be. Whew. Gotta relax more, and look around for others without lifting my head and spilling any of that friendly air.

(I keep "riding" on this jump for a good couple weeks. Ad eternum, ad flotsam.)

My next load, waiting for the plane to land, I sidle up to him and his tandem. See, I'd forgotten to spit out my gum last time, and it's yet another little thing left out of the training manual, and eavesdropping hasn't worked. I tell him I managed to not choke on the gum.

"Of course not. You were laughing..."

Arch. De-arch. Arms just so, legs out. This de-arching business is the opposite of what they've drilled into me. A lot more practice... and then flips, turns. Getting stable in between is taking a few seconds. Not enough arch?

With the west wind at around eight mph, I defy belief and land six meters south of the windsock. Good job, if I can manage to repeat it.

A couple days before, my drop zone once again became the only one in town.

A little crowd gathers around the manifest desk, hearing about more than the switched-sign tricks that were common knowledge. A diverted '411' listing, sneaky business license modifications...

One more jump today.

Trying to count how long it takes me to turn left, flip, turn right, backflip... still not recovering too smoothly in between manuevers. Oh, well. Still quite a ways west, so I track hard and pull at 3,500.

But the nice tight landing is a fluke of sorts. Watching the altimeter more closely than the target, I end up 114 meters south. Mystified.

10 July. Mid-afternoon. Delta breeze around five and steady.

Nothing revolutionary, to start. Turn and flip, turn and backflip. Better arch, apparently. Barrel roll...

I pull at 3,300 - which would be okay, except it's a little later than I'd intended. Again.

And lo, I undershoot by twelve meters...

Kathy points me toward that guy named Stacy, and another Bob. It's on. Attempted three-way. We dirt-dive a few times - seems straightforward enough.

Exiting separately, boom boom boom - I'm second - and here comes Stacy. But where's our base - oh. Okay. We de-arch, and turn -and it's working. But he's gone again. We resume the chase. Almost get to him a couple times.

But it's time to track away and pull. Despite the mental reply of what just happened (or didn't happen), I undershoot by ten meters and no more than that.

We're not entirely sure what happened, but they take it in stride.

Jump by jump, the baffling nuances are starting to make their own kind of sense.

These are some logbook entries I don't mind getting signed off by Bill.

11 July. Winds like yesterday - really hot again, too...

So hot I forgo a flight suit. Remind myself of the stability it provides, maybe get those last questions answered so I can commit to ordering one.

And it's so much cooler at 13,000 feet!

My arch is not the greatest. Flips are okay, though. Time for something new...

To do a "head-down", I'd overheard one guy tell another, just keep looking at the ground. It sounded too easy. I drop my head and look at the runway - go vertical - and flop onto my back. Turn over, try it again - same results. And they make it look so easy.

Once again I pay too much attention to where I am, and not where I'm going. But I still make it within 18 meters. Not quite far enough.

Rick answers a few more questions about suit designs and materials...

While the Otter gets fueled, and we're standing around, Ross and Robert let me join in. Without a suit, even. And as the base. It's a wealth of kindness.

On the way up we kick around ideas, decide to keep it simple...

They even let me screw up their exit plan. Ross and I go out docked - stabilize and break. Then Ross drops under. Hey, that's my trick. Robert tracks right in, easy as pie. We hold position as Ross comes up, and I grab at Robert - and get him. We turn a little. He gets my ankle. Ross gets him - but time's up. I flip a couple times as they head out.

They tool around under canopy. I try to follow. The lightest of us three, and yet below the others. Robert hangs in the air like he hasn't decided yet if he's going to land today or not.

There's no wind by the time I land... so naturally I overshoot by sixty meters.

Kathy's not busy, so I get measured and sign my life away. Four weeks, six at the most, and my first flight suit will arrive. At the drop zone, 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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