Saturday, September 10, 2016

50 for 50: 1 -- Indoor Skydiving With Cousin Brian

It begins.

I am super excited about this whole venture, even though I've only got 40 things on the list and maybe 10 things actually claimed.  I've got two years to do this and a lot of interest and... screw it, I'm doing this.

Indoor Skydiving with Cousin Brian was one of those things that was fated.  When I realized this was a good week to start the 50 for 50 trips, I contacted Brian to check his availability and offered a few activities I thought he might like to choose from.  When I suggested Indoor Skydiving, he asked where you do that.

This threw me.  I'd assumed there were Indoor Skydiving places pretty much in every big city and Baltimore should count.  I googled it and discovered that iFLY Baltimore was opening that very day.  I cheerfully reported to Brian that, actually, as of the afternoon we were putting this together, there was, in fact, an Indoor Skydiving place kinda near him.  Cousin Brian looked into it and said he's in ... and his wife and kids, too!

This, too, was kind of fate-y.  They have a "family package" for ten flights and five video clips you can share amongst your group.  That we had a group of five was just about perfect.

So, we show up at iFLY an hour before our reservation, as directed.  

This is the reason they have you show up an hour in advance:  When you walk in, they try to upsell you on a high flying add-on.  Basically, on your second flight, the instructor takes you up high in the air tunnel and spins around with you a few times.  They're playing a video of it to entice you.  And you watch the video, and think of all the money you've already invested in the package, and you say, "No, thank you."  And then you have about 45 minutes to kill, when you're in the building and there is pretty much nothing to do except sit there and watch the people in the session before you fly.  Or attempt to fly.  Or delicately crash into the walls.  Or -- and this is key -- gracefully hold the flight position while the instructor takes them high in the tunnel and spins them around.  Because even if you are an adorably flight-suited pile of elbows and knees when you try to fly by yourself, the fly-high-and-get-spun-around add-on is idiot-proof.  

The kids had wanted to sign up for it from the start.  The oldest, in particular, was all over it.  He was disappointed you couldn't do flips on your beginner flights, and certainly wanted to be spun.   Seeing it happen just made him want it more.  Cousin Brian (who had been ACTUAL skydiving before) was not interested in spinning (I think he was comparing it to spinning in actual skydiving, which is somewhat stomach-churning), so he was telling his kids that it wasn't going to happen.

About 20 minutes into the waiting and watching -- when we'd seen a bunch of people have their first flight with varying degrees of success, but all have a lot of fun with the spinning -- me and Cousin Liza cautiously suggest to each other that we're reconsidering the spinning thing.  We share this with Cousin Brian, who reluctantly goes over to the counter to add spinning for everyone but himself ... and then I kinda peer-pressured him into adding it for himself, too.

Before you get geared up (flight suit, helmet, goggles, ear plugs), you get a short lesson.  Five hand commands you have to learn, and a general understanding of the position you'll try to put your body in when you're in the wind tunnel.  Our family was not flying alone -- the five of us were with another group of seven, mostly kids.  (It was someone's birthday.)  We'd been kinda hoping we wouldn't be with the kids, because some of them were a little rude and annoying, but we had a great instructor who kept them in check.

So did the wind tunnel.  It had been our plan to let the birthday group go first; this was our instructor's plan, too.  Worked like a charm.  Because there's nothing like flailing around in a hundred-mile-per-hour wind to make you think, yeah, maybe you DON'T know everything.  The birthday kids wriggled around and kicked (and one of them ended up flying on his back, which isn't exactly how Superman does it) and did pretty much the opposite of what the instructor directed, and they quickly figured out that the perfectly good reason you can't do flips is because your first flights are a minute long and you want to spend that 60 seconds just finding your balance in there.

OUR group, however, kicked ass.  I am proud to report that Cousins Brian and Liza have really good kids -- and the kids were calm, relaxed, took direction well, and FLEW.  So did the three adults.  I was the last in our group, and felt a little bit of pressure to live up to the standard of my family -- but it went really well.  I got to fly around some on my own, which was super fun.   You're just riding on the wind in the tunnel (and pushing off the walls, when you get too close).  At one point, I (slowly) dropped to the floor.  We had been directed to just hold the position if that happened; they'd crank up the speed on the wind, and we'd fly right back up.  Sure enough, more wind.  And the bestest part was that the instructor told me to move my arms a certain way, and I did, and I actually controlled where I was going -- not just (literally) bouncing off the walls.  

When that was done, everyone had a second flight.  The birthday kids (suitably chastened) did a bit better the second time around.  Then, our family got to go, and we had that fly-up-and-spin-around thing, which was a lot smoother than I'd imagined, and a really neat feeling.  

When we finished, we took that "after" photo with our instructor, who really was terrific, and managed to give us (yes, and the birthday kids) a good experience.  We selected our video clips (the rest of the family got their spinny ones; I took the first flight because I really liked the flying alone bits) and headed out.

About a minute after we got in the car, it started raining.  We'd totally dodged it.

A perfect first start to this project.

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