Pretty sure the text I received from my mom after sending her the Cliffhanger pic was, "neat." A few seconds later she then writes, "I don't like the lack of coverage though.."
Figuring I probably wasn't going to dig myself out of sending this one, I waited to call her later and just enjoyed the fact that she responded. My parents don't like to hear about jumping I don't think but they're always a listening ear which I am grateful for. I don't keep much of anything quiet and the cliffhanger day I for sure couldn't keep quiet. Dead air jumps are hands down my favorite right now. It's hard to explain but each time I consciously say to myself in the absence of wind resistance, "I'm flying." Lame, I know. I wish I could say I have these epic thoughts like "this is what I've been searching for!!!" But in the moment I don't. I simply feel and think the obvious but it's crazy, you don't get that with regular skydives and I for real wish this experience on everyone.
As the story of this jump goes, it wasn't actually my idea. I do often pride myself in coming to the dz with a mission. Mostly just a mission of something I recently saw on Instagram and ready to rally anyone willing to share in having the fun I just watched someone else have. This particular day however, I had much less of a plan than what transpired. Justin Francois, Dustin Gresham and I were headed to a 4 for $100 heli boogie in Ocoee, TN and I hadn't thought past just getting a second shot at hanging from the skids (I had done a heli jump a couple weeks prior and slipped off). Justin, however, filled my position and came with the mission. Cliffhanger he called it. Getting out of the truck to help me load my rig and the rest of my life I bring with me, he said, "I got it, I should hold on to the skid and dangle you from one arm.."
Two and half hours later we pulled into a grassy open space off a two lane road. A few tents and tarps lined up along the edge as a Bell 206 sat out in the distance looking regal. Clouds had been low all morning but holes were beginning to appear just as familiar faces did too. The cool thing about skydiving is how small the community really is. Turns out the helicopter and its owner were both in Moab a couple weeks before and it was the same heli I slipped off the skids from jumping there. We also met some fb characters (those who I'm friends with on fb but havent necessarily met in person yet) including "One Man, One Van, No Plan, Sunman." Tullahoma friends Chase Milhorn and Joseph King were also there along with Ricky DeMann, Hunter Poe and Ben Morris. I had flown with Ricky during the solar eclipse but hadn't jumped with him yet.
As for the Cliffhanger, it was actually our second attempt that we got our prized pic. Attempt isn't quite the right word cause we nailed it the first time, camera angles were just a little high. A big safety issue on this jump was crawling all over the skids with our handles in contact. Having Justin lay across worried me a little especially if I pulled him down in such a way that he couldn't protect his handles. We had him lay toward the front though where the skids are smoother. There was orange tape on the most dangerous parts on my end so as long as I could slip my lower body down smooth in between them, I was safe. We succeeded and the leverage from my drop didn't phase him!
Having done it well once I thought there was nothing to change until I remembered my Tiffany ring. Wore it the first time and realized seconds before getting to altitude. Rings can always be a hazard but now without gloves on, I became more focused on how I was gonna hold on to the darn thing than how I was gonna hold onto Justin. It has Romans 12:12 engraved on the inside and it's been with me from sometime in the midst of five stress fractures in college, through my hip surgery in 2016, made the move to Nashville and eventually here with me today as a freaking skydiver. Never would have dreamed that all the heartbreak and physical pain that once was (and still is a lot of the time) would lead to this life I'm loving so much. That my friends, is the work of God and I will always dig deep to be "joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer."
We geared up to load up, this time without my ring on and a clearer mind. Sunman organized the jump with him and Jospeh King filming. When questioned about the exit order he assured us his plan was the safest way and that he wouldn't be risking anything because he had brisket in a crock pot he had to get home to after. I still giggle every time thinking about how serious he was. So with that, we loaded in the chopper and the Cliffhanger was captured as you can see in the raw footage below!! I'm so in love with this sport and sky fam. It's real and I'm hugging it tight.