"Be good and you will be lonesome." - Mark Twain    

California VacationUse this URL to link Sunday, July 29, 2007

Monday, 7-23-07

Landed in Burbank late last night, slept in until 9:00am this morning. Spent the day at Perris Valley Skydiving. The DZ was amazing, complete with a vertical wind tunnel (indoor "skydiving"), swimming pool, gear store, restuarant, bar and grill, showers, sleeping facilities, and even an outdoor barber shop.

I've previously only jumped from Cessna's carrying up to 4 jumpers, so it was fun to make jumps #59, 60, and 61 from a Twin Otter, which carries 23 jumpers. These were also my highest altitude jumps thus far, with #59 and 60 from 12,500' each, and #61 from 13,500'. Ironically, I was in freefall for 61 seconds on jump #61, my first time exceeding a full minute of freefall on a jump.

Eli Thompson - Host of Stunt Junkies on the Discovery Channel

I want to watch the sun set over the Pacific Ocean later on this trip, but tonight I got to see it set over the mountains... while in freefall.

Met Eli Thompson (host of 'Stunt Junkies' on the Discovery Channel). Talked to him about why the show was canceled (insurance too high), and sat next to him in the plane on my 60th jump. That's Eli in the attached pic I took.

Also met Joao Tambor, who did the airplane hangar swoop stunt on episode 27 of 'Stunt Junkies'.

Tuesday, 7-24-07

Got up this morning and drove to Hollywood. Spent the morning hanging out in a couple coffeehouses by Hollywood & Vine, and later walking around the Hollywood walk of fame.

Got a 1-hour massage after lunch, then headed for Hollywood Hills. Meandered around there for a while on my way to the Hollywood sign.

I would have expected the sign to be a bit more accessible, but found you have to park at the bottom of the hill, hike up a horse trail, and then split off to follow a service road (for the transmitter tower) to the top. I'm pretty sure the public is not intended to get to the Hollywood sign, since I saw no signs or directions to it -- the only signs I saw were 'No access to the Hollywood sign' along the neighborhood streets, signs along the horse trail warning of mountain lions and rattlesnakes, 'Do Not Enter' at the bottom of a service road (which I was pretty sure was the same service road I later took to the top, but Google Maps later proved me wrong), and a sign warning of dangerous levels of radiation if you pass the fence surrounding the tower. I don't want to glow, so I didn't venture past that one.

Eli Thompson - Host of Stunt Junkies on the Discovery Channel

The view from the very top of the mountain was great, worth the hike. Nobody else seemed inclined to make the trek to see the sign from above.

After working my way back down, I decided to head for the coast, and got my first real taste of L.A. traffic on my way. Got to the beach in Santa Monica a while before sunset and strolled along the shore, but didn't get to see the sunset over the ocean because it was overcast. Wednesday maybe...

Wednesday, 7-25-07

The last two days have been great, but honestly, today was pretty much a bust...

Stayed in Santa Monica last night so I could drive the Pacific Coast Highway today, and woke up this morning to find that it was still completely engulfed in fog. Hit the road at 8am and headed north, hoping it would clear off later in the morning, or at least for the return trip. No such luck. What really bit was that it was only foggy over the ocean and about a half mile or so inland along the shoreline -- hiding the exact view I wanted to see.

I drove on up the coast to Santa Barbara, and swam in the ocean for about 15 minutes. For southern California in July, I expected it to be warmer... a LOT warmer... Now I see why surfers wear wet-suits.

The return trip to Perris was 168 miles, which should have taken well under 3 hours. In L.A. traffic, it took over 6. Yeah. I averaged less than 28mph on the interstate for more than six hours.

Thursday, 7-26-07

Spent the day at Perris Valley skydiving. Made four jumps from 13,000 feet. Did some math and determined I've logged 23 minutes 46 seconds of freefall time in my career.

Was on a load early in the day with Joao Tambor (see Monday's Stunt Junkies reference). Later in the day I met Jimmy Pouchert, who did the reverse-bungee-turned-base-jump episode of Stunt Junkies.

Rode in the co-pilot's seat on the last load, which was cool, but it was a very tight fit with my rig on. With the extra 10 inches on my back, I was pressed up against the controls and had to do everything I could not to bump any buttons or toggles and take the plane down. I had to 'suck it in' each time the pilot turned or increased his rate of climb in order to allow room for the co-pilot's yoke.

I almost decided not to jump on that flight. They're not very good about organizing loads beforehand, so I didn't know until after we were airborne that I'd be leaving the plane following a 20-way formation. This meant that the airspace would be congested with 20 canopies suddenly opening below me, and they were planning to open 500 to 1,000 feet higher than usual. Even if I deployed even higher, I didn't like the risk of getting into that mess and the potential for a mid-air collision.

However, I got the pilot to agree to make a second pass before the last three of us jumped, which gave the first 20 jumpers an extra 45 seconds to get lower and clear the airspace. I still decided to deploy at 4,500 feet just to maintain that extra bit of vertical separation.

All in all, a really good day.

Friday, 7-27-07

Was at NBC studios before 6am so I could get a ticket to be in the audience for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

Having a ticket doesn't guarantee you'll get in because they overbook -- you have to be in another line at Studio 3 pretty early to actually get in. Made friends with a guy in line (Michael Morthorst from Germany), and we got a few covert tips from the girl in the gift shop about where to be, when to be there, etc. (hint: have lunch at noon at Acapulco across the street, ask for a window seat facing Studio 3, and be done with lunch before the line gets past the bench).

We were in line at noon for the taping at 4:00pm. Michael and I were 17th and 18th in line, which garnered seats in the 4th row (the seats in the first three rows were filled by people on the guest list).

The guests were Kevin James (The King of Queens), Jack Pugh (who swam 1km at the North Pole in sub-freezing water), and Katharine McPhee (singer).

Really enjoyed seeing Jay Leno, Kevin Eubanks, the guests and the studio up close and in person.

Saturday, 7-28-07

Today I got to do something I've wanted to do for a long time, and have been planning since Tuesday but didn't think would work out logistically.

I got to jump out of a helicopter. Specifically, I did a reverse swan dive out of a Rogers R44 Raven II from 5,200 feet.

It was different than leaving a plane, where you leave the aircraft already traveling 80 to 130mph (horizontally) and you can immediately fly your body in the relative wind. When you jump out of a helicopter, it's just hovering, so you have no control until you build up speed and have wind to fly in.

The two of us who were jumping climbed out onto the landing skids on opposite sides of the helicopter and rode there, standing on the skids, at arm's length from the chopper for the last five minutes of the flight before the jump. What an amazing view! It felt like being a stunt man, standing there at more than 5,000 feet.

Mark and I faced each other through the open helicopter cockpit. Once given clearance by the pilot, we did an exit count, let go, leaned back, and fell backwards. As we fell away from the noise of the rotors it got quiet for a few seconds, since we hadn't yet built up enough speed for wind noise. Falling on my back and continuing into a head-down position, I looked up and watched the helicopter as I fell away. Once I had enough speed for control, I continued the backflip the rest of the way over, and transitioned into normal, belly-to-earth freefall.

Mark stayed on his back for a few seconds longer than I did and was just below me, so we waved to each other in freefall before tracking away and deploying.

Definitely the most unique jump I made this week.

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