Sky’s the limit on what you can come up with for an awesome amazing adventure.
My good friend Gil Figueroa originally came up with the plan for hikers to do skydiving. It was one item in my bucket list to do in my lifetime. Gil already had done it in Las Vegas with the support of his family. So I asked Gil to set up the event on Facebook. We picked Skydive Perris to do our tandem skydive. The date was a little bit harder to figure out since there were a lot of hiking and other events happening in August especially during summertime. My date with Whitney earlier couldn’t have happened if it was scheduled that month too. It doesn’t even help when Skydive Perris had a $50 discount for the month of August. So, Labor Day weekend was the best choice since no events were being scheduled and we picked September 3, 2016 at 10 am. It also happens to be Skydive Perris’ 40th anniversary that weekend.
The hikers who joined this special event aside from Gil and myself are: Normie Chanes, Patty Sanchez, Junie Wood, Melevy Sorto, Viet Tran, and Ismael Cardenas. I would have never done this alone without a group of friends.
Two weekends ago, I couldn’t sleep because of me thinking of Mt. Whitney and the Skydive. A huge combination of fear made me restless. Junie and I were conversing on Facebook on how nervous we were. I got a good night rest prior to the event. The day came and I was okay. Before I left home, I quickly wrote my last will and testament on a piece of legal paper in case something goes wrong. I got to Perris Valley Airport at 9:35 am just in time to meet the rest of our fellow brave hikers. At the Skydive Perris office, I was bummed when I heard Junie wasn’t coming. We took a group photo outside the office. At 10 am, one of the employees bought all of us to a small room where we watch an instructional video. We were then led to another room where we would sign our life away with a signature and a video of each and one of us that we agreed on their conditions. We had to pick if we opt for what type of photo/video package. Most of us selected for the best package since it was their first time. Each of us also had to be weighed in, just like in a full contact sport. There’s a maximum of 240 lbs. for each skydiver. To my surprise, I was so shocked that I really weighed less which I credit it to all the activities I’ve done so far this year. To all of us in the room were much surprised when Junie and her husband Michael Wood stepped in the room. This girl was just kidding around that she wasn’t coming. She knows how to make an entrance. We were all so noisy from the very beginning. I guess in a way the best way to get rid of the nerves. We were then told to wait 2 hours or more anywhere in the area but not in the parking lot to be called. We can eat but no greasy food.
As we got out of the office, we took another group photo with Junie in it. So we waited at the Bomb Shelter Bar and Grill to relax. Some had their breakfast. Patty shared her French Toasts with us. I had to limit my intake because I don’t want to throw up in the sky. We later got out of the restaurant and explore around. I felt geeky when I saw a DeLorean outside. Gil and I took photos with it. We saw a lot of solo skydivers from the sky. I think to myself … nah, I’m sticking with tandem skydiving but who knows, anything can change. Gil was willing to do a solo one.
We took a lot of photos around the area. Some were anxious on when our scheduled skydive was going to happening that they went to the office again to confirm. Hours pasts … suddenly we heard “Hungry Hikers, please report to the ….” That could only mean us but why Hungry Hikers. Michael told us that when he was inquiring about our time, they asked for the group name. Since he didn’t know what name, so he named us Hungry Hikers which was indeed really funny.
We all suited up and met our videographers who are also our photographers and instructors who then immediately harnessed us with gears and made sure that they were all secured. Those who opted on GoPro package gets a pre-skydive interview which I got from my videographer, Dmitri. My instructor, Ande Bell, gave me some skydiving pointers and answers to my questions. All of us hikers were lined up while the photographers on the other side taking photos of us while waiting for our plane.
As our jumbo plane parked on the side, it was ready to load us all up. The airplane is called a Skyvan plane, a twin turbine engine design, in which Skydive Perris has 4 of them. My estimate is 26 people including the pilot fit inside that plane and all seated. Our hearts starts pumping as the plane lift off. My hat goes out to Ismael who was sitting close the planes door. He could see it all. We kept looking at our altimeters on our wrists as the altitude goes higher. I prayed that nothing goes wrong with the plane too. Our ears start popping because of the air pressure and altitude but I remedied that by blowing through my nose. Above 11,000 feet, our instructors start attaching themselves at our backs as we got ready. The videographers moved in the middle of the plane. Then Ande told me to put on my visor at the same time he was making it secured. The plane door opens and the adrenaline kicks in.
At 12,500 feet high, one by one, off we go out of the plane, with Ismael going first, then Gil, me, Patty, Melevy, Normie, Viet, and Junie at the end. Wohoo!
I was surprised that my heart wasn’t pounding fast before getting off the plane. Few seconds off the plane, it was really hard to breath with your mouth opened and smiling with the force of air that was on my face. As I closed my mouth and breath through my nose, it became more comfortable. I didn’t feel any tingling sensation in my stomach as I was dropping like on a roller coaster. I read about it online that the reason why we don’t feel the uncomfortable feeling of your stomach dropping is that the airplane you are on is flying at a high speed of more than 100 miles per hour (mph) and once you exit the plane, skydivers quickly transitions to terminal velocity which is a stable feeling as you literally ride on air molecules. A roller coaster has a different sensation when sudden acceleration occurs that makes you feel that your stomach drop and gives that sick feeling. Skydiving from a hot air balloon or bungee jumping would also have that same sick feeling. Free fall is typically about 120 mph that lasts about a minute. As the parachute opens, it felt I was being lifted up but it wasn’t. Our rate of descent decreases by about 10 mph. I also felt at the back that was loosen up. My instructor told me that was okay and to take off my visor. Gliding down was really a lot of fun especially those wide turns just like a roller coaster ride but with more ease. My instructor then tells me each location around us while we were gliding. I told him that I was hiking Mt. San Jacinto the next day with a friend. As we were near the bottom, Ande tells me to raise my legs as we landed. It was a soft landing indeed on my butt. I gave high fives and hugs to the hikers on the field. Wohoo! I’m still alive and lived to tell my adventure. 🙂
We later got back near the office and took off our suits. Our instructors gave us our certificates and other paperwork. We thank them for bringing us back safe on the ground. While we were waiting for our video package being prepared, we ate some fruit popsicle from their freezer. Since we were told that the wait will be longer than 45 minutes, we first got our complimentary T-shirts and went to the Bomb Shelter Bar and Grill and had two bottles of cold beer and some food courtesy from Michael. Thanks so much Mike. Minutes later, a commotion erupted when we saw a small airplane blown away by the strong wind from the runway. As we got closer, we saw the marines airplane with its nose down on the ground and the tail up. Fortunately, the two people on the plane survived with no injuries.
Overall, it was an amazing fun experience. Should I do it again? Hell yah! But not so soon. 😀 LoL A big shout out thanks to Gil Figueroa for creating this event and to all my co-brave souls who were crazy enough to do this, congratulations to everyone.