An Adventure – Learning to Skydive Part 2


Today’s Music: The Black Crowes – Go Faster

When last we left our intrepid adventurer, he had just let go of a tiny beer can with a propeller plane…
…is leaning out of the plane, peeling my fingers off, one by one.
And I think to myself that if my left hand lets go and my right one doesn’t, I am well and truly screwed.
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So I let go….

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…and I don’t know how much time passes…
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…if it’s 5 seconds,5 hours or 5 years.

But I don’t remember anything until I look up and see my canopy open above me.

Every skydiver I’ve spoken to tells me the same thing. None of us remembers the first moments of our first jump.
I think it’s because of the enormity of it, the stepping out into nothing. The brain has no frame of reference, no way to understand what’s going on. So there’s a gap.
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Modern parachutes are air-rams. There is a row of cells that hold air. Using the steering lines manipulates how much air is in the cells on the ends and gives the skydiver steering and speed control

The Air Ram Parachute


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After I come out of the confusion and see that my chute opened correctly (as shown in the classroom pictures. I have no idea what I’d have done if it wasn’t) I fit my hands into the loops on the control lines. Then the voice of the spotter comes over the one way radio.
The spotter is standing at the landing zone with a pair of binoculars, watching me and guiding me in by telling me when, how long, and in which direction to turn.
It’s a one-way radio because, as the instructor put it, they don’t want to listen to everyone screaming.

Oh yeah, I screamed! I was whooping it up and cheering and howling and laughing my head off like I’d just won the lottery. I was happier than the the first time I got laid, the first time I drove and the fist time I got high rolled into one.

Just like that. Well, maybe a bit more like a little girl...


I knew the spotter could see my reaction through his binoculars, because he was laughing along with me and cheering me one.
Then we moved on to tricks.

To steer an air ram parachute, one of the lines is pulled. That collapses some of the cells on the end, causing the chute to turn towards the collapsed cells. So the spotter tells me turn left. And hold it…and hold it…hold it…
And I start whipping around, centripetal force stretching me out from the canopy, almost parallel to the ground, faster and faster, the view below me blurring as I whooped it up. Talk about going around in circles!
That’s also the moment where you find out exactly how strong your stomach is.
Mine did fine, thanks.

WHEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Gravity does its thing, and I drift slowly towards the landing zone, making my turns and just enjoying the view.
My jump was from aobut 2,000 feet, and I was under canopy and floating along by about 1500 feet. Not so high for things to be unrecognizable, but high enough (and peaceful enough) to enjoy the big picture,that feeling of connectedness to everything. It was strange, feeling so serene with so much adrenaline flowing through me, but somehow, that just made it more perfect.
So I float in, making my turns as they’re called out to me.The ground gets closer.
When navigating in for the landing, ideally the diver moves into the wind, so that the wind will slow his speed as he comes in.
And I realize “slow” is a very relative term.
Unlike, say, “rushing”. The ground is rushing towards me.
And it’s surprising enough, as I close that last 100 ft stretch between me and earth, that it doesn’t even occur to me to rattle off some Hitchikers Guide on the the way down.

At about 20 feet, the spotter yells for me to flare.

Flaring is where the skydiver pulls both control cords all the way in towards their waist, arms fully extended.
This causes the parachute to curl all the way down, and for a moment, causes the diver to lose speed.
The problem is, once the air rushes out, the chute collapses. It takes 400 feet for a chute to re-expand.
Just keep that in mind, and don’t do this too early.

No. No, I didn't look anywhere near that good.. Even if I did have cooler colors.


I flare, and dump enough speed to keep from really really hurting myself when I land.
Instead, I only just really hurt myself.
Remember those practice landings jumping off the picnic table?
Those have nothing to do with real life.
Add in the fact that I had plenty of forward momentum, and the landing was just comical.
My feet hit the ground. I rolled forward, dragged by the parachute.
It yanked me over to my knees. Onto the rock.
Seriously, in a field that big, how did the guy guide me into a spot that guaranteed that my knee would smack into a rock at 15 miles per hour?
I have no idea, but it’s a skill.
And I was down.

A moment later, I open my eyes, and see the spotter standing over me, a big grin on his face.
And I let out a shot of joyous, elated pain!
He laughs and asks me what’s wrong.
I tell him and congratulate him on his aforementioned skill. He laughs again, and helps me up. We gather up my parachute and I set off, limping, back to the shed, a million square yards of nylon flapping around me.

Worth. Every. Penny.

There was only one downside. I had paid for them to take a picture of my exit – that moment when I let go of the wing strut.
The Jumpmaster didn’t snap it.
He was too busy peeling my fingers off the plane.
Bastard.

Fortunately,the experience is one I’ll never forget. And now I want to go and do it again.
πŸ˜€

BASE jump anyone?

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107 responses to “An Adventure – Learning to Skydive Part 2

  1. That is awesome. I can’t talk about it much more, but thanks for sharing your story. I hope you can go again soon.

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  2. This is incredible!!!!! Now I want to go! This post was worth the wait. Loved it!

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  3. Awesome story, Guap! Good luck on the next jump as I’m sure there will be one.

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  4. Fabulous! Love the bit about the one-way radio – it makes sense, I’m sure they don’t want to hear repeated screams, hehe! Sounds like the pain of hitting the rock at 15mph was well worth it πŸ™‚

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    • They were very clear about why it’s a one way radio, Brit. And the way they explained it made it sound like they tried the two way for a while before giving up.

      Like

  5. What an awesome post to read…
    If only you would have chosen something else than The Black Crowes, though…
    Le Clown

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  6. Next up for you should be learning to use those flying squirrel suits – that looks like fun!

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  7. wowwww, wow wow wow wow wow….thats all can say is wowwwww. well I can say a whole helluva a lot more. But I won;t. Oh any lasting damage to your knee? somehow I don;t think it would a taken away the awesomeness…..

    wOw WoW

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    • Thank lizziec. Sadly, I’ve knocked the same knee in the same spot on every adventure, and this was the first. I can feel it throb in the morning a little more each year. But it hasn’t stopped me yet!

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      • oh ..you got years..by the time it gets to be a real problem.. they will have some kind of bionic knee replacement..oh wait they do… don;t ever stop. πŸ™‚ that’s when you get old. silly old knee..
        that’s what I keep telling my back πŸ™‚

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  8. Outstanding Mr. Adventure! Meanwhile, those landings gotta be tough for the novice.

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    • The landings are hard for newbies, especially since it’s harder to gauge your height when looking at it from above, Frank. But the guy on the ground was good, and if the rock hadn’t been there, I’d have walked away with no damage but the dirt stains.
      I would love to get enough jumps to be able to just step out of the sky on to the ground. But it would be a lot of jumps…

      Like

  9. Isn’t that amazing how that works? Going against every natural instinct that’s built into the DNA and it’s terrifying and that’s what makes it the most elating experience ever! Didn’t George Bush Sr. skydive when he was in his 80’s or something? That seems even more amazing to me now that I’ve read this! Wonderful riviting story EG!

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    • That’s exactly what it is, Linda. And a large part of it (for all the adventures) is being part of that small club that is willing to take those risks. Some of us are huge egotistical jerks, but even more of us are among the coolest people I’ve ever met.
      Really glad you enjoyed it! So, um…when are you going? πŸ˜‰

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  10. This is a great story! I actually got nervous reading it. I seriously don’t think I have what it takes to let go and just FALLLLLLLLLLL. So scary!
    I admire your guts. : )

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    • Thanks Lisa. Do a tandem. Not only will you get every “cool” point available in your neighborhood, but it will introduce you to a whole new world!
      And if you do the tandem, it’s not half as terrifying. Well, maybe half. But still…

      Like

  11. Awesome!!! Have you ever been parasailing? You get pulled behind a boat in this hanglidish looking contraption. I did it at Mexico Beach. Best. Thing. Ever. I’ve always wanted to go skydiving! Do you have to be a certain age?
    Andrea

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    • Thank you Andrea! My girl and I went parasailing off Key West. Once they let us all the way up, it was one of the most beautiful, peaceful things I’ve experienced.
      They dunked us when they reeled us back in, but mostly because we were being wise-asses.
      The USPA (uspa.org) says you have to be 16 (with parental consent), but check with the school you want to go to to see if they take minors or if you have to be 18.

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      • Thanks!! When I went parasailing, it was with my boyfriend at the time and it was funny because I really wanted to go and he was apparently afraid of heights, a fact he failed to mention before we were in the air. The entire time he was rigid and scared to death. It tried not to laugh lol
        Andrea xx

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  12. YES! You survived. I kept calling around to all the hospitals to see if they had taken in an injured man who goes by the name El Guapo.

    This sounds like so much fun. Skydiving has always been on my bucket list, and this just moved it up a few notches.

    Great post!

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    • GO!!!! all of it is fun, including the OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD at the beginning, Jen.
      By the way, ask to be connected to the recreationally insane ward. That’s wehre they usually stash me. πŸ˜‰

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  13. If I was 100% certain the plane was going to crash and all aboard were going to die, there would be about a 4% chance I’d jump. Maybe 3%.
    Oh who am I kidding? I’d just kiss my ass and the cruel world goodbye.

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  14. Awesome. I’ve got to try one of those air ram chutes… I jumped with the plain, round, olive-drab ones – little steering, slam-dunk landing.

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    • I’ve heard stories from jumpers that used those, BrainRants. The control on these chutes (in hte hands of someone with experience) is only slightly less than a good family sedan.
      I’ve watched landings where guys have come out of the sky and just walked out of the air onto the ground at a fast stroll…

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  15. Awesome conclusion…and worth the wait! Well written and riveting. I SO want to do this, and even more so now. I bow to your coolness!

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    • Thanks so much Alex! I think if you went, you’d have the entire plane singing campfire songs on the exit. Which would be an even better way to start!

      Like

  16. Sounds great, but not for me. The fear of something going wrong seems to outweigh the thrill high.

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    • I completely understand, Lorre. But if you did consider it, all the jump schools I know are very open and accommodating to questions from cautious students.
      From what I’ve read, a higher percentage of accidents come from human error than mechanical. Doing a tandem with a trained jumper might be a good way to go if you reconsidered….

      Like

  17. And you think I’m crazy for collecting Starbucks mugs!! πŸ˜€

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    • I know you’re crazy for collecting those, Stacy. I could tell because obviously I’m totally off my rocker too. It’s like we’re in different groups of the same club! πŸ˜‰

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      • Ok, I’ll go with that. I mean, if I’m in the same club as you, then I must be cool. I always wondered what it would be like to be cool. Now I know it’s the same as crazy. πŸ™‚

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  18. Noice! Glad you made it in one piece. Respect.

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  19. Hi,
    Wow what a read, well done, it is a shame about the rock, most likely the only one in the field, that must of hurt. But still you survived the jump.

    I know I would never be able to do this, good on you for not only doing it, but enjoying it as well, and giving us a chance to experience it all with you.

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  20. a GREAT description EG…thanks for you doing it instead of me. πŸ™‚ continue…

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    • You’re missing out Tony. But if we can ever work it out so that you’re the spotter, that would be great, even though I would probably be laughing too hard to make the landing!

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  21. I WANT to have the nerve to do this. I WANT to leap out of a perfectly good plane.

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    • Wow, that does sound like fun, Jester Queen. Fortunately, I was in a wreck that I couldn’t wait to get out of. Made it much easier to get outside the plane. (Though not letting go…)
      The next time I jumped was a tandem, which was so much easier, especially since I knew what to expect.

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  22. Base jump anyone I saw that. :+) If your saying lets do it again than it must have been fun. The sore knee hope that’s Okay. They would have to peel my fingers off the plane as well. That’s a big IF I would even go up in the plane in the first place. Glad it turned out to be a great experience. I liked the connected to everthing and the peace part that interesting that you had the time to have lots of thoughts besides just screeming WEeeeeeeeeeeee

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    • You know, Starla, I never thought of the time thing. I couldn’t have been in the air more than 20 minutes I guess. But there was so much adrenaline, it felt like there was plenty of time ot sit back and relax…
      The sore knee still aches after all the abuse its taken, but not enough to stop me yet! πŸ˜€

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  23. That sounds like a phenomenal experience. I totally want to do that – after Dimples is living on her own, maybe. And don’t let Wonderbutt anywhere near my parachute.

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    • It really was, whatimeant2say. You could always bring WB up in the plane with you.He could have chewed off that strut I wouldn’t let go of… πŸ˜‰

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      • He would have been more than happy to shove you out, I’m sure. He loves to tackle people at inopportune moments. I’m picturing you preparing in front of the open door, and him leaping into your ‘nads, making you tumble out backwards.

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  24. whiteladyinthehood

    Guapo, that was incredible…just wow!

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  25. Pingback: An Adventure – Learning to Skydive | Guapola

  26. yeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!

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  27. Woohooo!!! Yayyyy! That feeling of “connectedness”. I wonder if thats how birds feel? πŸ™‚ Hope you didn’t hurt yourself too badly Brian πŸ™‚ I can’t wait to do mine. (I will definitely have pictures)

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  28. Have been waiting for the second installment. EG your descriptions are so damned vivid. and so damned funny. Even though hitting the rock probably didn’t seem great at the time.
    This is great. Almost makes me want to try it again. That feeling of being at one, get that when skiing these days.
    Favorite line: ‘It’s a one-way radio because, as the instructor put it, they don’t want to listen to everyone screaming.’

    You rawk babe!

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    • Thanks for coming for the ride, Miss B!
      When he first said that, everyone looked at him like he was an obnoxious jerk. As soon as I hit the air, turns out he was absolutely right.

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  29. Guap, you still alive? I had to hide my eyes and then press “Like” even though I couldn’t bear to read it.

    Are you on the ground NOW?

    I can’t help it. I am a coward. I fear jumping off the bottom step.

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    • I made it, Elyse.
      And thanks for reading, even if it was through your fingers! You’re welcome to pass this story off as your own to wow your friends.
      Just remember to limp a little!

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      • No one who knows me would believe it. I am a total coward. I am not at all afraid of dying — I am terribly afraid of hurting myself though. If I were tortured I would tell them everything the minute the bad guys stepped into the room. So don’t trust me with anything important. Well, unless you want to share it with everyone. (Like in a blog post …)

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  30. Skydiving is definitely on my “to do” list, have always wanted to try it. Thanks for giving the Guapo perspective blow by blow. I can only hope I can be that articulate after I have done my jump.

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    • The articulate part takes time, Curtain Raiser. For me, it was weeks before I could tell the story to the end without laughing too hard to talk.
      Even typing it up for the posts I was laughing.

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  31. Thanks for the blow by blow description since you know this is never going to happen to me! With my vertigo, I’d be unconscious or in heart palpitations right after leaving the plane! Sounds like a great experience for you & thank you for sharing!

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  32. How’s the knee? Still creasing from the thought of fingers being prised……

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  33. GREAT STORY! I felt like I was the one jumping. You told the story with such honesty and passion, it was almost as if you wrote it while you descended to the ground. As much as this sounds like fun, my idea of risk taking is wearing a red shirt to work, so any chance of me jumping from a plane that isn’t on fire is highly unlikely, but to anyone with the nerve to do it, I cheer you on!

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    • Thank you, SnB. The passion is all real. As far as the honesty, well, the story is told exactly how I remember it. How that lines up to reality will always be a mystery.

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  34. Quien es mas macho! EL GUAPO!!! I myself do not share the thrill of the adrenaline rush, sorry. I think having been through childbirth was enough drama. Plus I don’t think they let manic depressives with PTSD and anxiety issues do this kind of stuff. At least not without signed off on the “no harm” paperwork first! Great story, Guapo, and keep ’em coming, you adventurous puppy! In admiration for your cajones, Amy

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  35. I really don’t think I could’ve done it. I definitely think I could do tandem, but there’s no way I would depend on myself to open a parachute. NO WAY JOSE.

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  36. Sounds awesome!

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  37. YOU ARE INSANE. There. I’ve said it.

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  38. Carrie - Cannibalistic Nerd

    I loved both your sky diving posts, Guap.

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  39. Pingback: …things I LOVED! Week April 16th through April 22nd « …things I LOVE!

  40. Wheeeeeee! I’m glad you had fun with your dive!

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  41. Glad you survived your harrowing plunge to earth. The thing which has been the biggest factor in me never having sky-dived is my extremely well-developed sense of cowardice.

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  42. In video games, hitting that rock would be extra points – or at least a power up of some sort.

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  43. You sound like you were happy as a clam up there!
    Sadly, my first and currently only skydiving trip involved a jumpsuit with collars like a leisure suit. Imagine 14,000 ft of free fall, collars rapid fire slapping you in the cheeks. Completely distracted.
    Haven’t done it again, but it’s more out of laziness than a lack of desire.

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  44. I’m catching up so late to the party but hanging on every word, omg! The way you wrote this, I could picture every word. WOW. It doesn’t sound like you were battling any fear at all, just mostly expected adrenaline and absolute joy. What an experience to read about, let alone live it. That’s really amazing. I want to see a picture next time, hopefully they’ll get it!

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    • Thanks Asplenia!
      Honestly, once I got out of the plane and the chute opened, there was really no point in panicking anymore. And it was such a wonderful ride, I’m really glad my brain didn’t ruin it!

      Like

  45. Oh, oh, oh!!! I just recently wrote about wanting to do a tandem skydive as a way to overcome my fear of heights. This makes me want to do it even more. (I have a twisted reasoning behind it all)

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    • Jumping out of a plane was a great way for me to get over a fear of heights.
      And for a tandem, you just need to control the fear for the moment you both get out of the plane.
      Then you can just enjoy the ride, Lilly!

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  46. You. Are. My. Hero.

    And the rat-bast*rd that was peeling the fingers back? I would have run him over in my car. Five times. At least. Not cool, not cool at all.

    I love that you say it was worth every penny. I am so doing this. I loved the floating sensation of parasailing, it was as close to flying as I’ve ever experienced. And after the initial swoosh when you go airborne, it was one of my most peaceful experiences ever. I cannot imagine the feeling of jumping from a -perfectly good- decent plane.

    Well, yes, I can, because you did an amazing job describing the emotions and the stages and the thrill and fear and joy. Love your writing style. And I must say, I am digging your musical repertoire too. Da Clown did good. I guess I probably owe him one.

    Like

  47. So extremely different from my jumping in a tandem!!

    Like

Ahem *best Ricky Ricardo voice* Babble-OOOoooo!!!

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