When we first arrived in Lodi on Saturday afternoon, the parking lot of the Lodi Parachute Center Airport had just begun to empty out. The weekend rush of adrenaline junkies and thrill seekers headed back to their, typically, less-mind-blowing routines. The only ones remaining when we arrived were those that had never left. The ones that took one tandem and that was the end of it. They quit their desk jobs and were reborn skydivers.
We rolled in and jumped out of the car into the ninety-degree heat. Jeff had come earlier in the day and had watched the three-hundred plus thrill seekers file out of the airport. He said it was a zoo. We wandered around a bit, looking for him when a stocky guy with shades, a smile, and a beer approached us.
“Can I help you guys?”
We said that we were just looking for a friend who was going to meet us here.
“Are you guys skydivers?” he asked, as if this were a yes or no question.
Uh…Well, we’d never done it before, so “Not yet,” we said and his smile brightened.
“Oh, cool. Well, I’m Wilmar. Let me show you guys around.”
Wilmar was just the first of many friendly faces at the Lodi Parachute Center. He introduced us to a few of the regulars and the employees at the Parachute Center and gave us a brief tour. The intimidation I initially felt about being in a new place and around such an extreme sport was lessened by how welcoming and kind everyone was toward us.
Now, all we needed to do was jump.