This story is for Mac.
I want to say thanks to all those structural engineers that build bridges for us. They're great!
More to the point, in the tradition of the Stone Arrogant Bastard toast: "Here's to me!"
A short while after I started BASE jumping, I heard of some of the adventures the oldtimers (said only in respect) had trying new things with parachutes. One of the most fascinating, and one I decided I needed to try, was the story of the Hobo BASE. Find references to clue yourself in.
After I had more than a few jumps from the Freedom Bridge that holds onto a great history of the sport, I decided I could improvise. Instead of a train, a car will do. I had originally planned on executing this jump, probably the dumbest idea I've ever willingly pursued, last fall. I had a difficult time organizing it. It was so scary that I knew I'd probably do it only once. So I, being a non-oldtimer, wanted video. After many failed attempts trying to line up moonset and sunrise, winds, and people willing to shoot video, it became winter. While you might think winter here is not really very cold, for us thin-bloods, it's cold enough.
So last weekend I was having dinner with my girlfriend and a couple others and it was mentioned that I should do the jump for my birthday. Sounds like a good idea to me. I checked the weather forecast, winds, water flow, moon and sun. Everything looked good. I could only round up two cameras and people that don't know how to use them, but screw it. I'm doin' it.
So this morning we arrived at the bridge. We did a few practice runs to get the driver close enough to the edge, to get the exit point right, to get the cameraman situated. We pulled off to the side of the road and I got out to gear up. As I'm lacing up my Hanwags, I'm thinking to myself, "This is a dumb idea." But I pin check my rig. "This is stupid." I put on the rig and cinch up the chest strap. "WTF am I thinking?" Legs straps get tightened. Knee pads go on.
Then we wait. We're waiting for it to get just a tad brighter, you know, for the video. We wait for what seems like forever, all the while I'm getting more scared. Screw it. Let's go. I put on my helmet and climb on top the car. A tractor trailer is coming down the road from the opposite direction. Crap. Try to blend in like only a man wearing a parachute harness while crouching down on top a car can. He passes, but I'm not sure I know what he thought he saw as it was still pretty dark. No one coming, let's go. Cameraman says, "wait, I need to figure out this camera."
"Let's go fucker, I'm on top the car!" That's all inner monologue, but I'm screaming at the top of my lungs inside my brain. "Let's fucking go!"
I calmly say, "Let's go." He says, "All right, I got it."
The girl starts driving and pulls out onto the road. She accelerates and I'm fighting to stay on the car and re-position at the same time. The light stick that marks the exit point is getting near, but I'm getting that "This isn't a smart thing to do" feeling.
The driver gets super close to the edge, closer than she had in any previous practice attempt. It's perfect. Fuck that feeling, I'm going. The light stick comes up and I leap off the side of the SUV as hard as a can. I do some ninja BASE moves to position myself in the air and try to get my torso as perpendicular to the relative wind as possible. The bridge steel is whizing by in my peripheral vision. The bridge is 360 feet high from the deck, so I don't have all the time in the world. I pitch thinking that I'll still have a second or two to get "level" with the wind. As soon as I let go of the pilot chute, I'm calm. I realize I'm doing just fine as far as the position goes. Now I'm just using the eternity between pitching and inflation to take in the visual of the opposite side of the canyon coming up at me. It's like tracking from only 360 feet. *SLAM!*
The canopy opens on heading. Nice! I'm lower than normal and I set up to land on the sandbar that's only 1/3 the normal size due to the higher water in the canyon. Hey, I didn't say the conditions were absolutely perfect, I can hit this sandbar if it were still a 1/3 the size of this. Wait. I'm too low and still not lined up. Fuck. Is that a house sized rock? Shit! Flare! Crap, I'm going to get wet. Swoop! Nice. Slight chum, but I made to dry land with some muddy hands and toggles (I can really dig those things down there!) and a dry canopy.
Woo! The adrenaline was huge. It was the scariest, dumbest idea I've ever willingly walked into. But I wouldn't trade it for anything. Hobo BASE? Not quite. But we've got no trains around here!
PS - Thanks again, Mac!
PPS - The video came out like crap. Too dark, no wide angle lenses. I'll see what I can do in post.