A group of 15 of us flew from the UK to jump at Lake Elsinore, where we faced non stop cloud and limited jumping. One of the locals suggested driving to Taft (I'd never heard of it either) so we got in the cars and drove 3 hours to the DZ (its an hour and 45 minutes from LA).
The DZ is on the edge of a desert, with mountains to the south which seem to hold back all the crap weather. Whilst Periss, Elsinore and Arizona were 'clouded out'we jumped everyday (nearly two weeks) and without any weather holds.
Its fair to say the DZ is basic (by Periss and Elsinore standards) but it offers shaded packing areas, a pool, bunk house (showers etc), wireless internet and access to a large fridge. There is no 'gear shop', so lost freebags or other spares could result in a short delay whilst new ones are sourced (although the DZ has rigs for hire, so you need not sit on the ground whilst UPS do their thing).
There are two aircraft (a Twin Otter which requires 10 jumpers to make a load) and a Cessna 182 (for the quieter periods).
Taft (town) is not the liveliest place in the world (it appears to close at 9pm) with little to do if you chose not to jump. However, Bakersfield is only 30 minutes drive away and that offers everything Taft doesn't.
So what makes Skydive Taft worthy of a 5 star rating?.....The staff! Dave Chrouch (the DZ owner/manager)and his team are the friendliest and most accomadating bunch of people I've ever met on a DZ. Nothing was too much trouble, and there was no 'skygod' attitude from anyone. Packers, Pilot and Manifest staff ensured that the jumpers needs were met from hoop jumps to high altitiude loads (18k with oxygen).
Dave hosted a BBQ for everyone for the departing Brit group that found Taft a week before we did (they'd abandoned Periss too). He also joined us for a night out in the local Thai restaurant (which I recommend), whilst his son Alex packed tirelessly to keep the loads turning.
Would we go back? Definitely, in fact we're planning it already. Try and go as a group (that way you can negotiate with Dave for a lower jump rate). Enjoy the rock music from the Otters sound system on the climb to altitude, but don't EVER tune it to Country and Western (unless you want the Pilot to dump you out at 5 grand)!
Skydive Taft (and its staff) made our trip. Thanks guys; we hope to see you soon.