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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Dysfunctional Poetry

Sometimes you just gotta say "what the fuck?"

Up at 2 A.M. today, (after turning in around 12:30 last night), to chase the full moon over the saddle just so we could be at the tiny Upolu Airport in Hawi for our skydiving excursion.

The boyz, Jaycob, Jameson, Brian and Dave showed up at Pahoa Auto Parts, where we had preloaded the truck at around 2:30 A.M.with all of the essentials for a full day road trip around the island of beach, barbecue and site seeing,

We rallied with Lance at the KTA parking lot before heading up Puainako to saddle road under the guidance of Alexa’s navigational expertise.

I was almost falling asleep at the wheel, so even though I didn't have to use the toilet THAT bad, I pulled in for a pit stop at Mauna Kea State Park.  Good call. The cold wind whipping across the mountain slapped me hard. Seems the boys all had to make use of the facilities also.  Each of us, in turn, skated toward the cinder block lua.  Muttered or exclamatory observations on the wind chill emanating from one and all. The architect of said facilities must have planned for economy in maintenance, leaving several blocks out of the wall at the floor level, presumably to allow for the chill winds to blow any stray rubbish away and sweep the restroom floors dry. Mission accomplished. Everyone returned to the vehicles wide awake and ready for the next leg of our journey.

We came off the other end of saddle road and wound our way toward Waikaloa just as the sun was breaking over Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. Alexa directed us to head north, so we turned right onto Highway 19 and followed the directions dictated by my cell phone until we finally found our little band of travelers driving down a one lane black top road past pastures full of cows and a large wind farm to the plywood shack that is laughingly referred to as the Upolo Airport.

We were a few minutes early, arriving just before the Big Island Gravity flight crew. After our long drive, we availed ourselves the use of the on sight port-a-potty. Before checking in with the skydiving instructors, Rocky and Rob.

We were required to watch a video of some Duck Dynasty looking dude saying that if anything went horribly wrong for any of a number of reasons, the skydiving company could not be held accountable by any of us or our heirs.

Lance and I were first up when the clouds finally lifted enough to allow the small jump plane to take off.

I stepped into my harness, as directed by Rocky, cinching up the leg straps, and getting a quick rundown on body movements and hand positions for exiting the plane.

When we climbed into the plane through the space where the door had previously been, it was hot and the odor of airplane fuel filled the cramped compartment. I was instructed to sit in front of my instructor, Rocky, on a small low almost bench. My right leg cramped up from trying to keep my butt on the end of the worn bench seat and trying to keep my knee from banging on Rob’s and Lance’s chute pack.

Rob seemed to be getting text messages in flight. At one point, he turned his head toward the pilot and explained the peculiarities of the plane’s communication equipment to our pilot du jour.

“There’s no master switch for the radio. It comes on when the engine is on. In fact, the only time you’ll know that it’s working is when you’re using it.”

We climbed to altitude along the shoreline cliffs of the Kohala coast. With the pilot, Rogue, (not sure if that was his real name, a nick name, or an attitude statement but that’s what everyone called him), pointing out various gaps and spaces in the clouds along the coast and several references from both Rogue and Rob about “the blue house”, that they apparently use as a point of reference before Rob, the lead instructor, finally said “It’s not happening. Take us down.”

We were above a thin wispy band of clouds and high enough that the one-hundred foot cliffs that made up almost all of the shoreline looked to be only about half an inch tall.

I was having second thoughts when we had originally climbed above the clouds. Something that one of the skydiving instructors had said back on the ground about being hit by a raindrop when you were falling through air at 140 miles per hour gave me pause for concern. “Every picture that you’ve ever seen anyone draw of a raindrop shows it being round on the bottom and pointy at the top. When you’re skydiving, you come at ‘em from the pointy end.”

When we banked back toward the old landing strip, I felt Rocky’s breathing behind me. So I tried to keep my own body weight forward, although the momentum from the small plane’s decent was more or less forcing me backward onto Rocky’s chest. More cozy than I normally like to be with strangers, but such is the nature of tandem skydiving.

We flew over an ancient Hawaiian hei’au on our return to the air strip. The landing was smooth.

We waited around for the final verdict on skydiving for the day. The clouds had dissipated, but the wind had picked up to 25-27 knots, too intense for safe jumps. We hadn’t been charged for our time in the sky.

As we drove back up the narrow road past the wind turbines and cattle, I was already on the phone to Big Island Gravity, rescheduling our jumps for the next morning at 7A.M.

We hit Costco just after they opened. Small kine supplies run: razors, monster drinks, a case of Modelo Especial for the barbecue, some turkey jerky...that kinda thing.

We next set up camp at Kekaha Kai Beach Park. There was an empty table next to a new barbecue, so we unloaded our gear and several of us jumped into the ocean, while the rest of the crew manned the barbecue or fiddled on their cell phones in the shade.

After some sun soaked fun and a hearty meal, we packed up our traveling show and headed out to Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park, (aka “City of Refuge”). We spent some time in the late afternoon walking the self guided tour of this under appreciated sacred monument before heading home, South Point way.

We rolled into Whittington to find more people than I’ve ever seen there at one time.

Then it was over the mountain and homeward bound.

We didn’t unload jack from the truck. I poured some more ice into the coolers from the ice machine at work, cleaned the half empty soda cans and water bottles out of the various pockets and compartments in the Tacoma's interior, took a shower and tried to get a little sleep.

Made it to bed 20 hours after I had gotten up in the first place, after my luxurious 2 hours sleep on Friday night. But we rescheduled for Sunday morning at 7 A.M.

(I’m getting too old for this kinda party life!)

Tomorrow’s forecast, sunny with a chance of jumping.

Easter Sunday

Our abbreviated ground crew departed from the Pahoa Auto Parts parking lot at 3:30 A.M. to again meet Lance at KTA before heading up Puainako Street to the Saddle Road.

Once again, Lance was tardy for the party, but came straggling in soon enough.

Every one was either a little sun burned, a little stiff and sore, or a little disillusioned with the prospects of our insane mission. Every one of us was sleep deprived; having had only 5 hours of sleep since before work on Thursday morning.

The previous day’s aborted attempt had left me with an uneasy feeling about the planned activity. Once inside the cramped confinent of our little Turbo Cessna 206 craft, I had struggled to find a comfortable position. Resting my forearm against one of the starboard windows, I reached across behind the pilot’s seat to the port side for something...anything with which to brace myself and help me find the aforementioned comfortable position. But there really wasn’t anything to hold onto.

I did, however, notice some splatters of a blue-gray liquid on the port side plane window...either engine oil or fuel, I didn’t particularly care to dwell too much on which it might be...that I had not noticed when we were taxiing and taking off, but then my attention had been focused out the windows on the other side of the plane at our friends standing beside the little airport building.

Another thing that added to my anxiety was the four paneled fabric curtain that covered the part of the plane’s fuselage where the aircraft’s manufacturers had originally included a door.

It looked to be made of canvas, or some other heavy gauge material, divided into four horizontal panels so that it could be rolled up out of the way come jump time. There was a clear plastic window in the center, like one might find in the convertible fabric top of some automobiles, which had become unstitched all along its bottom edge allowing instructor Rob to pull it toward him and look out at the sky and the landscape passing by us below with a completely unobstructed view.

That didn’t bother me TOO much. The part that made me nervous was that Rob seemed to be holding this curtain closed with his left foot. It all struck me as ...well...being kinda... “ghetto”.

I mean, I wasn’t expecting a flight attendant to come through the tiny plane wheeling a beverage cart, or anything.

In fact, I’m not really sure WHAT I expected...having never pursued an adventure such as this one.

But the whole scene...fuel fumes, foot on the door, blue splatter, my cramping leg, no “jeezus handles”, the easy access window panel, the Duck Dynasty disclaimer video, ALL of that had me wondering if this was really a good idea, or not.

Again I reached behind the pilot’s seat to the port side of our little flying craft, searching for something in the sparse interior of the small plane with which to brace myself.

Rob must have thought that I was hanging onto the back of the pilot’s seat, because he said “don’t hold on to that, here”, he said, passing me half of a seatbelt that, like much of the interior of the plane, seemed to have been bolted on as an afterthought using whatever screws and fasteners were laying around. “Hold on to this.”

We zig-zagged up and down the coast, gaining altitude. It was early morning...Easter morning...the sunlight playing off the clouds in the distance looked suspiciously like an advertisement for some hoity-toity Sunday School Bible Camp, or something. It was absolutely breathtaking.

At some point I became aware that we were quite a ways out over the ocean. I looked out the window to my right and had a perfect view of Haleakala, on the island of Maui, poking up above the clouds.

I replayed my brief conversation with Rocky about the real-life practicality of the fanny-pack floatation device I was required to wear. “Those cliffs are a hundred feet tall. What happens if we go down in the water?”
“If we land in the water, we have to call Coast Guard Rescue.”

I didn’t bother to ask if that call had ever been necessary. That was one detail that I didn’t really want to know. Don’t ask. Don’t tell, indeed.

I looked out of the starboard window. “Is that the blue house?”, I asked. Below us was a structure that looked large enough to be several houses, even from our elevated vantage point.

“Yep. That’s it!”

We had reached our jump altitude and Rob rolled up the red curtain covering the large opening in the plane’s fuselage.

After a little maneuvering...for my part, I was told to put my left foot on top of Rocky’s left foot and my right foot on the low padded bench that Lance and Rob had just vacated to get nearer the gaping hole in the side of the plane...easier said than done. (I may be a freak of nature, but I’m no sideshow contortionist.)

And then my buddy Lance was gone.


“Can we land now?”

Of course not!

I positioned myself in the opening where my buddy Lance had been sitting a moment before.

I had been instructed to put my feet back under the plane. This instruction turned out to be completely unnecessary. As soon as my feet were outside of the plane, they were sucked underneath by the force of the small plane’s forward thrust.

Rocky said it was time to put the goggles on.

And then we were out...airborne...spinning ass over tea kettle... falling through space at 140mph. My eardrums immediately felt the pressure. What a rush! No worries. No fear. Just falling, tumbling. Rocky stabilized our position and tapped my shoulder, the sign that I could let go of my harness and extend my arms.

Just as I was getting used to free fall, Rocky pulled the cord and I felt the weight of my body on the sturdy harness. Our chute deployed and our rapid descent slowed.

“I’m going to loosen this just a bit. Don’t worry, you’re not gonna fall.” I felt my weight drop a couple of inches in the harness.

We circled down toward the smiley face mowed into the grass just north of the “airport”...first swirling over pastures, around toward the 16 huge wind turbines, then back toward the air strip. We wound our way down. As we got closer to the grass, I looked around for Lance. “Are they already down? I don’t see them anywhere?”

As we landed right on target, the guy from the Isle of White and Coral, the nice lady who would later relieve us of our money, raced forward to grab the lines from our chute.

I stood and walked toward Jaycob and Brian.

Then I saw Rob and Lance come spiraling out of the sun. Rob came in on a much steeper descent than Rocky and I had. One second they were tree top high, and the next they were settling gently to the ground.

We had, or I should say, I had neglected to load the cooler on the second day. After the jumps...Dave’s was from the next flight after Lance and mine...everyone was parched and hungry.

We drove through Hawi looking for a restaurant that was open on Easter morning, but eventually took “the high road”, route 250 to Waiamea.

After a hearty breakfast at the Paniolo Country Inn at Waimea I drove back to Hilo via the Hamakua coast for the first time since the Saddle Road improvements had been completed just so Lance could honestly say that he had driven completely around the Big Island on our weekend adventure. By the time we reached Hilo bayfront, I was nodding off...again. But I managed to get us back to Pahoa safely.

The Luquin's family barbeque was already underway, complete with birthday cakes and bouncy castles, but I told Dave "you go on down with the coolers. I need to lay down for 10 minutes." (What I really wanted to do was download what videos and photos I had from my phone and wannabee Go-Pro camera into my laptop computer for editing.)

I stretched out on my bed while the videos downloaded first to my laptop, then uploaded to FaceBook. Then I was off to catch up to Dave, the coolers, and the rest of the family. It was a long couple of days, but I wouldn't change any of it. It worked. 

We parted ways with hugs and discussion about what the next item on our bucket list should be...swimming with sharks on the north shore, driving tanks in Texas, or bull riding school in Colorado.

Alls well that ends well. We put the first check mark on the bucket list.

What’s next?

Submitted: April 23, 2019

© Copyright 2020 ShadyBrady. All rights reserved.

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Add Your Comments:


Bobi Leutschaft Poitras

A wonderful read! I love the way you write - you paint beautiful pictures with words. I'm going to look you up on Facebook. I want to see those videos!

Fri, April 26th, 2019 11:27am


Thank you. I don't think that I paint a picture so much as give a narrative. I try to keep my facts straight, although I sometimes combine elements for clarity and convenience.

I'm glad you enjoyed the story. I don't have anybody hereabouts that I can share my words with, so a little positive feedback is very encouraging.

Fri, April 26th, 2019 11:20am

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