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Skydive Boogie - DeLand, FL

With a very, very early morning ride from a good friend to Grand Rapids Airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I quickly made my way through the self check in at the Delta Airlines counter and up to Starbucks for a bit of food and a coffee. After my pit stop to put something in my stomach, I hopped on my first flight if the day to Cincinnati, OH. With this small of a commuter jet I have to load from the tarmac, an experience I have had many times before and it goes well. The lift is old and crude, but it does the job. By now the sun is up and the weather is warm already starting to warm up.

Once I landed in Ohio, I had to quickly make my way across the airport to catch my next plane. When you are the last one off the plane and the first passenger on the next one, a layover can be cut really short. I made it with only a few minutes to spare and boarded my flight to sunny Florida. Or so I thought..

On arrival in Orlando the airport was chaotic and no one told me that there were two different “sides” to the whole place and Delta Airlines takes one of them all to its very own. First try had me wandering around the baggage claim not being able to find my flight’s drop off for the life of me. Take 2 is met with success after one of the airport employees let me in on the little “A and B Side” secret.

Out to the curb I go to get my shuttle and I am met with rain and clouds, and cold. I was feeling misled by all the “sunny Florida” propaganda as I sat there for hours waiting for my particular shuttle to show up to take me to DeLand. I finally talked to one of the drivers who’s route was going close to where I needed. In the confusion I get dropped off at a Howard Johnson Hotel out in what seemed like the middle of nowhere and had to call a cab to get me to my REAL hotel, the Comfort Inn.

Finally, I make it to my correct hotel and am able to join up with the rest of my group. This trip is for the Wounded Warrior Project and to put on a golf tournament and Skydive Boogie at Skydive DeLand. It should prove to be a real blast. These are a bunch of really cool guys and it will be my first time skydiving.

A 6:00 am wake up call comes all too early, but I am up and ready to go, charged for the day. We meet for a quick breakfast at the hotel and then we pile in the rental van and head out to the drop zone. The drive is short and we unload our gear to join the rest of the group again.

My time to jump comes up and I am so excited I can’t even contain myself. I get my harness on and we head out to the plane. Bob Crossman is my tandem master and Brian Festi (sorry if I screw up the spelling of your names guys) is my camera man. I get my full safety brief and we are up and out.

On the way up to our jump altitude one of the other jumpers sitting next to me has a petrified look on his face. I ask him, “So, is this your first time?” and he replies, “No, I have done this a couple times.” He then in turn asks me how many times I have gone up before. I tell him that this is my first time as a laugh and a smile come over his face. He retorts, “but, you don’t even look scared!” I give him some serious insight into my mind as I explain, “Ah man, I am too stupid to be scared”, which is met with an even bigger smile and a laugh. Now we are all having fun.

As we crab crawl to the open door of the plane, Bob and I are already strapped together. He makes all the final checks and gets us prepped to make the first jump. My adrenaline is going now for sure, as we lean forward and are off. Falling through the air at over 100 miles an hour is much like riding a motorcycle on the freeway with no helmet on. Very loud and the skin on your face gets distorted and makes for some great black mail photos.

And then with the tug on the ripcord, the chute deploys and it feels like we are instantly frozen in mid air. The tug from the parachute jars your mind back into reality as you are now in the most serene and peaceful place you can ever experience. Looking out over the clouds, Bob hands me the toggles and shows me how to control the canopy a bit as we slowly descend back down to earth with a soft slide in the glass. What a rush!

There are no words to describe the feeling this whole experience brings… euphoric is the only thing even that comes to mind.We all sat down to a killer bar-b-que lunch under a tent in the field at the drop zone. Just enough time to relax and chat about our amazing day. It was such a great time conversing with people and laughing in the sun. For some it is their first time, for others they are seasoned professionals, but we all share something unique in common now.

My ear is perked up by a faint announcement of open seats on an upcoming plane. I am at the counter before she can finish her words asking for anyone to be on that plane. We sign the paperwork and I am ready to go, AGAIN. Quickly rigged up and back with my guys Bob and Festi, we hop on the next flight up.

This jump brings a whole different feeling as we slide up to the door. Now, the adrenaline is pumping once again, but because I now know what to expect a little hint of fear creeps in. Just like any other time I embrace it. “Let’s do this!” After we exit the plane, I was given the reigns again and even allowed to pull the ripcord deploying the parachute. It is such an amazing feeling and even better to be in control of even some of it.

After another great jump successfully landed we hang around the place for a bit watching our videos and then head to the Fish House for dinner. All of our meals are donated by the restaurant as an awesome gesture by the owner. Fed, fat, and happy we retire to the hotel for some much needed rest after an unforgettable day. The Wounded Warrior Project puts on a golf tournament at Pelican Bay North Golf Course. This is their third year of this event in Florida and it draws a pretty big crowd of golfers onto the course. Food on the course was grilled up by a couple of local boys. Doug and DH, thanks for the killer burgers!

During the tournament at one of the stops along the course was a dunk tank with a couple of bikini-clad girls and somehow I was dared into getting in the tank myself. A Facebook auction was even posted up to try and raise enough money and I would be in the tank if the limit were reached. Unfortunately, the bids didn’t reach the reserve. Maybe next time guys..

The day was a bit overcast but we all had a great time. After the tournament was over we all met in the club house for lunch and the awards ceremony presenting the trophies for all the teams that participated in the golf day. My hats off to all the golfers. What a fun day!

Later, a few of us made our way into the booming downtown DeLand and had dinner at the Brickhouse Pub. A great spot with live music in the corner by a small band, good food and a real chill atmosphere.

Today we are invited to attend an Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital event at the PCH Caddy School golf course. The weather is against us a bit as it mists and rains sporadically throughout the day. Our canopy kept us dry for the most part, but from time to time we had to escape to the club house.

This day marks a big day for me because for the very first time ever I actually golfed a bit. Well, I goofed around on a putting green for a bit. I got myself strapped into this wild contraption called a Paragolfer by Otto Bock and was given some very in depth instruction in the world of golf.

Don’t worry, I won’t be donning the argyle socks and silly pants just yet! It was a great experience to be able to push a button raising myself upright and swing from a standing position. Sometimes I forget just how tall I am and what a difference it is to be at that height again.

After we all had enough of the silly weather we stopped for Italian and then to crash at the hotel. Yet another good day of new experiences in the bag. Thanks to the guys at PCH Caddy School for a fun day!

This morning the group met with Fred Williams at Complete Parachute Solutions. They are the main sponsor and organizer of the Wounded Warrior Project Skydive Boogie that we had the pleasure of attending earlier in the trip. These guys run an awesome shop with top notch products for military and civilian use.

Then back to Pelican Bay North for a golf exhibition to show more people the Otto Bock Paragolfer. The weather was much better today and gave us a way better turnout.

After the exhibition we had lunch in the club house with a few folks and then back to the hotel to checkout. We pack all our people and all our gear into the two rental Dodge Caravans and are off to find our way back to Orlando.

We drop the vans off at the rental office at the Orlando Airport and check into the Airport Hyatt Hotel for a short over-nighter. After we check in and drop our bags in our rooms we head to McCoy’s Bar and Grill, the hotel restaurant, for a good dinner. I really dig the atmosphere if this place, very swanky but not stuffy at all. A good burger and beer and it is time to hit the rack. We have an early morning flight back to our homes again tomorrow.