So were the now-famous words so eloquently spoken by, of all people, my lovely wife's skydiving instructor who we will refer to solely as Richard. Not to protect his identity, but I never caught a last name. Funny how that is that you don't grab the last name of a guy who is ultimately going to be the last person with your lovely wife as she plummets toward the Earth at 150+ MPH from about 11,000 feet above the land. But that's another story that you'll have to wait for later.
We departed for the lovely metropolis of Albuquerque Friday morning after making sure all family were en route to their end destination. We had a much bigger mission for the weekend. My wife turned 30 when we were on the road and we gotta stop the car as soon as we can to celebrate. First stop was Santa Rosa, NM where the birthday girl actually treated me to a polish "sausage" that had been rotating over mid-level oven heat for about six hours I estimate. Funny how the suggestion that it was polish, I have no problem with. I do have a problem with the suggestion that it was actually sausage. Either way, in the middle of nowhere, it hit the spot and that's all that matters. Next stop, Hotel Blue in Albuquerque. Pretty fancy sounding, huh? Just wait.
My dear mother had warned me that we were going to run into some heavy law enforcement on the road. In fact, there were news bulletins everywhere claiming that on I-40, from California to Tennessee (actually, I'm not sure where I-40 ends--Tennessee is truly just a guess), there were going to be police officers/highway patrolmen ever 10 miles. That would mean that we would run across at least 27 happy-to-help law enforcement officials out to ensure our safety. Being that I'm not easily duped, I called the bluff. I said we would come across only nine of these guys all the way to New Mexico. My lovely wife didn't counter.
Bring it, Cochese.
Well, as my prediction would have it, we didn't see 27 cops. In fact, we didn't see even nine. In fact, in 275 miles between the Yellow's city limit and Albuquerque, NM, we didn't see a single police officer of any sort at all. Thank you to all the committed law enforcement individuals who decided to take Friday off.
Oops, just confirmed that was only in effect for Thursday (Thanksgiving). Apparently, from Friday on (when the real drinking begins), you're on your own for 275 miles. Interesting how that works. Well, hopefully law enforcement found a lot of non-functional tailights on Thanksgiving. I mean, it's all about safety. For the record, I didn't speed, drive drunk and I wore my seatbelt the entire way. I mean, when a law is broken out in the middle of nowhere and there's not a dashboard-mounted video camera to see it, did it actually happen?
So, tearing down the highway at up to 95 MPH, we arrived in Albuquerque much earlier than expected. That's a joke. We arrived in Albuquerque as expected--around 3PM or 2PM locally. Making our way down to Hotel Blue, we pass the always lovely Dr. Martin Luther King Ave. I've never been certain why MLK always has to be located in the worst parts of town, but it's a fact. There was a nervous silence after I say, "Well, we must be close," as we pass MLK Ave. For those tallying at home, that's not a joke.
It was Historic Route 66. In fact, it's on the most popular drag in the city for weekend activities. There's clubs, restaurants, show venues, sushi places, coffee houses. We were on the very edge of that fun. In fact, you go to very end of that stretch, take a corner, drive past the head shop, tattoo parlor and day labor center, take another corner and another corner, drive past the bums in the lovely park to the right, locate the two police cars on the left hand side and that's your entrance.
No kidding. There were two cruisers right in front of the entrance to our hotel as we pull up and three officers hustling about. We don't see a single cop the entire way in and when we pull up at our hotel, there's two of 'em. Yeah, I'm starting to feel like a real hero booking the beautiful and crime-riddled Hotel Blue for my lovely wife's birthday weekend. Real cool, j3.
My lovely wife is thinking, at this point, that I should ask for a discount. I'm thinking that might be a little rash, I mean, we see three officers and we ask for a discount? At least it's safe. We walk in and before we can even say hello, we're asking, "What the hell is going on?" because as patrons, we want to know. And have the right to. It's explained to us that there appeared to be a stolen identity that someone was trying to check into the hotel with. Okay, a non-violent crime. Stolen identity, sheesh. I thought it was murder or something. I see one cop fly out the front door, dashing through bum park to chase down our suspects thinking, "Not too bad. Just coincidence that this would happen as we're pulling up. Very strange coincidence." However, I feel that after my lovely wife's suggestion of a discount, I really need to take hold of this situation to help put her at ease. I really need to grill these people and make sure this place is safe for us to bed down the night. I want them to know where I'm coming from. I'm not going to stay in a place that's unsafe. No, I'm going to demand this place gets their act together before I give them my money.
"Do you have secured parking?"
Yeah, a real drilling--that's what I gave them. I'm driving a freaking Honda Civic and I'm concerned more about my stupid car than I am the safety of my lovely wife and myself. The answer to the question was "yes" which was, at the very least, positive. I'm unsure though if this was still a pleasant place for us to stay. "Do you have secured parking?" Yeah, I'm an all-star. B'lee dat. There's a million better questions that I could've asked at this point.
What comes up when you Google "Tempur Pedic."
We later ended up at a local Italian place called Saggio's (sAH-shEE-Os not Saggy-Os as my lovely wife had first thought). Good eats. Quick. Relatively priced. Only one problem. Upon opening the door to the main room, I noticed directly to my right the figure of a large man that immediately brought on a vomitous feeling. The feeling that maybe we need to find another place to eat. We were in enemy territory. Abandon mission before we get in too deep.
Arcades, I've found, are very sad places like Wal Mart. Look at the clientel in your average arcade next time you happen to be in one. I saw a kid who was probably about to notch about 20 years walking around aimlessly with a pocket full of quarters playing games at random. He had on a leather jacket (a la Top Gun) and saggy jeans. His eyes looked like he had spent about three weeks in this place without any exposure to sunlight. Dude needed a girlfriend, a boo. He's on his way to a life of isolation and loneliness and cavities from the Laffy Taffy he spends his tickets on.
We were really just blowing off steam before tomorrow's activity. We ran by a local grocery store, picked up a buttercream cake and two forks, headed back to Hotel Blue (crime central) and partied like rock stars.
We awoke (suggesting at one point we actually feel asleep) around 5am locally to get ready for our morning journey down south to the town of Belen. Checked out, paid full price, got about three good cups of coffee in my system. Feeling good, feeling fine. My lovely wife was energetic, excited, anxious. So long as there was a smile on her face we were good. We arrived at our destination at about 0745 hours.
We shook hands with the locals. All of them extremely polite and professional. You could certainly sense that you were in the presence of people much more experienced than you in cheating death and truly taking chances. It was like walking into someone else's house and they were all armed with semi-automatic firearms and you had a paperclip.
Shirt reads "Your blocking the plane door! Stop screaming and jump!"
They all had really hard lines in their faces. Some of them were tanned to a leathery texture. They all seemed to have the most boisterous laughs and speaking voices which could only be achieved by stripping your vocal chords by jumping out of a plane at 11,000 feet a few hundred times.
We soon met up with the instructor and Erin's tandem jumper, Richard (who I previously mentioned that I didn't know his last name) Greenwood. I had heard around the hangar that he had logged somewhere around 4,000 jumps. That's insane. Here's Richard.
It needs to be noted his striking resemblance to GI Joe's very own turned professional wrestler Sgt. Slaughter. This is the kinda cat you'd like to be jumping out with your lovely wife.
Richard briefs all of the jumpers on prior deaths that have occurred in tandem jumps and, if that's not enough, he goes into detail on how they happened. Of course, he states that it's necessary that all jumpers know the risks they are taking by jumping out of a moving aircraft high above the Earth. "You could die" would suffice. Erin remained unphased. Her husband was not quite as lucky. I spent my time cooling my nerves by pacing back and forth around the hangar, peeing uncontrollably (in a potty, mind you) and taking pictures of the dogs that were hanging out around the airport.
This dog is not dead. He insists on sleeping with his head under the tire of a vehicle.
If the stories were not unsettling enough, the presence of crossbones throughout the hangar managed to enduce regular "gulps" of anxiety from this observer.
Erin, in the meantime, was preparing and patiently waiting for her turn up in the plane. They got her suited up and began walking through flight positions so she was perfectly comfortable with what was going to happen.
What you see above is known as "arching" which allows for maximum velocity in a controlled state during your freefall. Erin would be doing this at an altitude equivalent to eight Sears Towers and not the four inches off the ground that you see here. And she'd be doing this at roughly 150 MPH. My body, unfortunately, doesn't go into this position unlessI'm dropping toward the Earth at 150 MPH.
Here, Richard adjusts Erin's "helmet" which really serves no purpose except, as Richard mentions, "It makes it easier for the coroner."
At about 1300 hours, Erin's plane arrived and Erin made the dash to the plane where Richard, once again, made one last run-through of the ejection process to ensure that Erin had it down.
The man in the yellow is another well-experienced jumper named Ron Weagley who was in charge of the videography for the jump. Supercool guy. Before I knew it, the engine was started, I was brushed away with a "I love you, honey!" and a wave--thinking I might not ever see her again. Talk about freaky. But I knew she was in trusted hands up there. Not only that, she's a champ and has been known to deliver some incredibly clutch performances. As soon as her plane (which was just a little larger than your standard coffin) lifted up from the ground, I made my way quickly to the drop zone so I could be there as she touched down.
I located the drop zone not but a half mile away, got the video camera running and began searching the sky for her plane. First pass of their ascent it was no problem. Second wasn't a problem either. Third and fourth, however, I could barely make them out in the sky with all of the high clouds. I would lose them from time to time because they were so high that the camera I was using wouldn't even them pick up to focus.
Begin freaking out.
You know they're about to drop when you hear the plane's engine lower to a slower speed. Once I heard that switch, my camera pointed directly to the heavens where I managed to locate them just as the first skydiver exited the aircraft (not Erin). But then I make out a second and third (videographer and tandem jumpers) start sailing through the sky at a speed which was undetectable at ground level. I, with my back on the ground began rolling tape.
Once the chute opened releasing a subtle "pop" into the vast sky, my body sank in relief. She was alright. The two began to lazily, sometimes seeming like a feather in the sky, descend toward the drop zone. I kept filming. I filmed until they became so close that I could hear my lovely wife let out a playful scream of joy and then I perked up to my feet and set the video camera on the edge of my trunk lid still rolling pointed directly at the drop zone and grabbed my the still camera and took a few shots. One of which you'll see below.
To describe a landing as "touching down" as I did before is quite an understatement. You're basically sailing across the land at about 20 MPH and then you come to a complete stop using your butt and about three feet of dirt.
Once my lovely wife made impact, I darted toward her to find her halfway between laughing and gathering her breath to speak. She's a freakin bad ass, don't you know--conquering something bigger than anything I could possibly imagine.
And I need to take this time to log an official thank you to the fine people at SkyDive New Mexico for their professionalism and incredible spirit and for making my wife's 30th birthday truly a remarkable experience. Ron on the left and Richard on the right.
Plenty of updates forthcoming. Have a good week, folks.