Sunday, May 6, 2012

Road Trip - San Francisco

           Our next stop was San Francisco. Here, we began working on our documentary project on skydiving. We planned to meet fellow Missoulian Jeff Shapiro in San Francisco to log some time in the wind tunnel at iFly. The wind tunnel is basically the equivalent of a free-fall during skydiving. Jeff and his instructor in Lodi, Ed, considered this experience important in learning how to maintain a stable body position during free-fall. The upward force of the wind moves around your body in different ways depending upon how your body is positioned. The most stable position in free-fall is called the hard arch, which is when you lay on your stomach and try to bring your head and heels upwards to make a banana with your body.

            This documentary project also allowed us to participate in some skydiving ourselves. But, as we got closer to the dates of when we planned to jump out of an airplane, I was starting to rethink my participation. When you jump, the plane is going about 120mph. So there is the initial wind-force on your body before gravity sets in and then the pull toward the earth causes you to fall at about 120mph. I’m not a physicist or a scientist, so this is all based on my gathered understanding. Basically, you are falling pretty darn fast. I have never really been in a super stressful, life-threatening situation before and I was unsure of how I would react. Would I panic and flail my arms all around? Would I freeze up and be unable to even pull my parachute?


I told Jesse how nervous I was beginning to feel and he suggested that we try out the wind tunnel. We originally planned just to watch Jeff in the tunnel. But lucky for me, they had some open slots on the same day. Jesse and I told the instructors that we were considering getting AFF(Accelerated Free-fall) certified for skydiving and they gave us some tips that translated to a real dive. We asked them about their skydiving experiences and oddly enough, most of them said that they had only dived a couple times. They were so talented in the wind tunnel, walking upside-down, spiraling through the air. It was really cool to watch, but I was so surprised when they told us that they weren’t interested in actual skydiving. I guess the free-fall lasts longer in the tunnel and the risk factor is minimal, but it’s kind of like only climbing in a gym.

The tunnel was definitely beneficial for my nerves and my confidence. Both Jesse and I did pretty well in the wind tunnel. We weren’t too squirrely, but the tunnel time definitely helped us figure out how to not spiral out of the sky.


          The people who worked at iFly were such nice people, as well. They cater to birthday parties and so the wind tunnel instructors were pretty goofy. They bring giggling little girls and little boys who want to be like superman into the tunnel and swirl them around. It was pretty hilarious to watch the kids and their gangly limbs blowing all around.

            After playing in the wind tunnel, Jesse and I thought it might be cool to stop and see the Golden Gate Bridge. Jesse has seen it before, but I have not. We thought that traffic might not be so bad since it was between noon and five, but we underestimated city driving yet again. We got to Treasure Island, which is halfway across the bay and decided that it just wasn’t worth our time to sit in traffic for hours. But, when we went to get back on the highway, we discovered that the entrance was under construction. So, we wandered around Treasure Island, which is not very big, looking for another way onto the highway for about half an hour. We finally figured it out and scadoodled out of San Fran.

            Even though we didn’t get to see the Golden Gate Bridge, I still felt like we might have gotten a tiny taste of San Francisco. So many people. So much hustle and bustle. And yet, when we drove around Treasure Island, the pace slowed. A young woman stood alone and gazed over the bay, her white dress billowing from the breeze. She did not seem aware of the thousands of cars rushing past the island less than a mile away. She only heard the siren song of the ocean.

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