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18 July. Late afternoon.
Finally ready to pounce on that 'B'-license quantity of jumps.
Wondering if I can be ready for the test... next month?

Flip, turn, backflip, turn. An attempted barrel roll. Not arching hard enough between moves, so there's a little more of a delay than there has to be.

I ready myself, and let my head drop. And lo, I'm vertical. It holds for about three seconds, before I turn over. A new personal record.

My last turn is so low, I end up with a base leg that's too short. Sixty meters south of my target.

Time for one more. Last load.

Flips, turns, good barrel rolls - and I try the head-down again, holding it a wee bit longer than last time. Still overcompensating, big moves, not relaxed enough.

Closer landing, though - fifty-nine meters south of the goal.

Finally! The big five-oh.

Logbook in hand, I hunt around for someone to sign me off. Rick's in the student room, an easy target.

Unaware of the reflex kicking in, I start to snitch on myself. Jerky moves, landing all over the place -

He interrupts. Louder than usual. I'm supposed to be flailing around for another fifty or hundred jumps. It takes that long to get comfortable, flying. And landing.

"Where are you, jump... fifty?" And behind the curve, I think. But wait, he says I'm catching on more quickly than most. From what he's seen.

Well, huh. It's the answer I would've hoped for, to the question I didn't realize I was asking...

This superb mind-reading is a byproduct of long memory. It stretches from poobah to student, old hand to novice, then to now.

25 July. Another late Sunday arrival...

Kathy steers me toward another Mike, a taller one. He's got a few jumps on me, and we work out a simple set of moves.

When our turn comes, I ease outside the door of the plane and grab the handrail. Another first. Mike gets ahold of my chest strap. Ready, set, go -

Out-side. The plane shrinks behind him. We get stable without too much delay, and break apart. I slip down, but we match up again - or, more likely, he counteracts my backsliding quite well. Then he's below. I arch a little harder, and we're lined up again. Yeah, this unwanted movement is my fault. Most of it, anyway.

We lock hands and start a helicopter... and notice we're coming up on five thousand. Break, turn and track away.

A little bit better than my last 2-way. Still thinking about it, I miss my reference point and overshoot by 122 meters. Nice gentle set-down, though.

Okay, I gotta get closer than that.

Up again. Flips, turns, de-arching so I don't drop as fast. Then I wonder what'll happen if I make like a 'U' when I'm on my back...

Pulling my right arm in, rolling that way slowly - whoa. I sneak my arm back out, and stay there. Upside down. Head lower than feet. Not quite vertical, but it's a start. Flop over, do some tracking...

Pull at 3,500. O-kay. That was satisfying. I'm right over the windsock, so extra turns are in order to burn some altitude. Then it's time to head downwind, then base leg -

At about 400 feet, here comes the last turn. But I swing around fast. Odd. Unless...

Rotating so I end up against the wind, it dawns on me - I'm low. This can't be two or three hundred feet, no matter what the altimeter's saying. Oh no, not another cross-wind landing.

I get my nose facing west. Just barely, though - it's almost time to flare. Not the most gentle touchdown.

After my feet and legs check in, I look at the altimeter. It says it's still 150 feet off the ground. Coulda fooled me. There must be a lesson here, something about developing a good "eye" or not depending too much on the little red needle...

Twenty-two meters south of the target. Rougher than it had to be, but not as rough as it could've been.

I ask Lodi Mike about this landing business, and get the idea that repetition will develop an "eye" for the ground rush. Methinks I'll make a point of " memorizing" what the view looks like from a thousand feet, five hundred, four...

1 Aug. The wind's around seven, out of the southwest.

Everyone's either doing formations or pulling lower than I am. It's been a little while since I was the last one out the door...

Practicing the sequence that's required for the 'B' license, I finish the last turn around the time I think, "one-thousand-fifteen". Slower than usual, but still with three seconds to spare. Barrel roll this way, and that way. I'm still over the grapes, so I track hard. Home free.

Touching down thirteen meters south. Maybe a hopeful sign, first jump of the day being that close.

Stacy and Tom are going for a two-way, and they let me horn in...

I get to crawl outside the door and back (toward the plane's tail). Stacy latches on to my chest strap, and I get a death-grip on his - and we shove off.

Stablizing without too much delay, we get each other's hands, then break apart. So far, so good - but I drop. Tom finds me, so we dock... and start to spin. That isn't part of the plan. I let go of his hand, and stabilize - and look up. The other guys are docked, over my head. Way over. Huh. I'm at 8,000 feet... and that's an awful lot of de-arching to catch up with 'em. Not enough time. I wave off and track away.

Twenty-five meters. Overshooting - and staring hard at the target as I sail over it. Apparently not too attentive to where I'm landing, since I come down on my left foot first. Ow.

No harm. This time. Maybe I'm due to revisit the landing posture that was drilled into me the first day.

At some point it dawns on me - I was the low guy. The "base". Would've been nice if I'd quit chasing the higher guys and let 'em catch me, as previously arranged. I troop back to the hangars sheepishly.

"Your legs were up," Stacy says right away.

Aarrrgh. So I was backsliding. This also suggests I was reaching, with my arms... so the air shoved me down, and back. Tom confirms this theory.

Knees below, or feet-on-butt - guilty of both, and neither are good for playing nice with others in freefall. It's another "project," then - putting my limbs where they should be, and leaving 'em there.

Inexplicably, Stacy is inclined to try, try again...

We bail out at the same time, but not hanging onto each other. That's testimony to how well he can manuever, with his eighty-something jumps - he'll come to me.

First, though, we get stable. Closing the distance, we track toward each other - and dock! Next, shoulder grips... but I'm probably backsliding like crazy again.

Heading back toward him, or so I think - but now he's dropping. Maybe an attempt to intersect. I arch hard, but can't get there. Time's a-wastin' - by the time I wave, turn, track, wave again, and pull, I'm around 3,100 feet. Not so good. 2,500 is no big deal for license holders, and 1,800 is the recommended utter limit. I went below where I intended to pull. Gotta watch that.

This canopy really moves - did I grab a 210, or maybe a 190...?

It flies so far, I overshoot by 76 meters. About the same wind speed as earlier. Doubtfully, I reel in the canopy and look at the manufacturer's tag - nope, it's a 230-square-footer, same as I usually jump. Huh.

More humble words with Stacy, who is such a good sport I feel even more like he's getting cheated out of decent RW action...

And more bad tendencies to overcome. A lot of stuff to remember at once. My brain is getting heavy.

8 Aug.

The winds are moderate, my attitude is better and I'm ready to practice, drill and practice some more. Arriving just in time for a fuel load, of course.

One of the other solo jumpers looks familiar, but I can't place him. While we slouch in the shade of the fuel tank, John asks if I'm up for a two-way. Not if you'd seen my performance last Sunday, I think...

"I'm really, uh, raw." But no matter.

We go out the door of the plane at the same time. He covers the growing distance between us, and does it easily.

Get out there, legs. Arms, not too far... I close in on John - well, okay, he closes in on me - and we almost connect. Closing up that last foot or two is eluding me. Without intending to, I back off. Dearching - whup, get those legs out - and we match up again. A third time...

But I never latch on to his hands. No "points" this time.

Under the canopy, Something else stands out. John was grinning. I was grinning. Despite all that concentration, this dive was sorta... fun.

I end up 22 meters south - undershooting my target - but my touchdown was really nice.

Relax, John says. Loosen up. Another member of the speed-greek chorus. Relax, relax. And that can't-quite-grab-ya phenomenon? That's the result of reaching. Get close to a goal, and my tendency is to move my hands toward it, in order to grab on. When you do that in freefall and you're belly-down, the air spills and you tilt back a little... and backslide. Gotta stop that.

As usual, it's sorta touching that a two-way partner of mine is willing to try it again. These old hands, though - they know just what they're in for. No expectations. I'm still aware of having enjoyed that last attempt more than most.

True to the "sixty seconds at a time" accumulation of knowledge, it seems like a few more... particles of success are sticking to me each time.

Silver Lining is the bus that hauls us over to the plane when it's getting refueled. Bouncing along, I overhear a big clue - someone reminiscing about a legendary party at John's place.

A-ha. He's that John. The birthday guy. The definitive birthday party last April, when I had all of fourteen jumps under my belt. I mumble inadequate praise, set on remembering not to forget.

We're going to try the same thing again. Match altitude, link up, break and match again. I think I can I think I can.

Out the door -

But wait. I'm over him. As in, a yard above. What if I hit him? He's belly-down, and I'm... trying to get off my back. How did I manage to do this? After flailing around for a long couple seconds, I slide off to the side and arch. That was weird.

I do my best to level off, get close, but not quite there. Drop a little, match up again - success! We're grinning again. Yay. It takes so little, sometimes. Fall back, a little higher now... Drop - and back, too. Rats. And it's time. He waves, I wave, we track off...

3,200. Lower than I meant to pull. And I'm west. Way west. Despite that, I get back around. But visions of falling upside down are filling my head. I manage to undershoot by a hefty 89 meters... although I must've flared correctly, because there's no impact to speak of, as if I planned it that way.

Another pointer - when checking the altitude (looking down at my chest), don't spill your air. A sneaky glance will do. The backing away was due to more reaching, but not as much as last time. Progress.

Last load. Not quite sunset, but it'll do.

John's not packed, so I'm on my own. I will not reach, I will not bob my head when checking the altimeter, I will keep my legs out, I will pay more attention to my landing target, repeat from start.

Okay. Out, stable, falling. Time for a flip fix. Backflips too. Barrel roll ro the right, and for balance I do one to the left. Now, I'm going to dearch... Gut in, limbs out somewhat. Enough? Arch again. Well, there's a contrast.

East? Way east. There's time to track home. And then I'm under 4,000. Look, wave, pull. Chute! Whew. I circle around, visualizing the "box" landing pattern. Moderate wind, so the downwind leg should be a good bit longer than the final approach...

Nope. Too much. Fifty meters southeast. That base leg must not have been all that perpendicular to the others.

Aw well, the freefall was still excellent, all day.

John's picking up a few bales of hay, which he cut and stacked earlier in the week... so I go along for the ride, a couple hundred yards, and help (fumble) 'em into the truck bed. This gives me something to do for the next hour or so - picking straws out of my shoes, and socks, and the occasional stray from a sweaty limb.

Rick ambles over. On the sly, I get my logbook ready. He finds out John put up with me for a couple jumps...

"Did a rodeo," John tells him. Huh? "He didn't know we were gonna do it..."

Oh. Kay. Another little RW trick - get right under a guy, and you're blocking all his air. He's stuck there, especially if he's new to the gig. I may be wrong, but it seems like this move is usually done with the, uh, "rider" facing down. At least my tumble wasn't pure incompetence. Now that I know what we did, I wouldn't mind doing it again... 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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