Wednesday, January 7, 2009

3..2..1.. BUNGEEEEE!

The first bungee trip was yet another last minute idea of Greg's. The original plan was to head north from Monterey, CA, to Crater Lake, Oregon. Plans had to change when almost everyone from our group backed out. As usual, we came up with a last minute back up plan, because sitting in the barracks all weekend wasn't a sound option. Bungee America! It was a place in Los Angeles where you first had to hike 5 miles through the Angeles National Forest to "The Bridge To Nowhere". Then you got a class on bungee safety. Then you jumped!

The Bridge To Nowhere is quite the site in itself. The history behind it is back in the 1940s when an attack from Japan on our western shore was a possibility, the government decided they needed an emergency evacuation route for Los Angeles residents. Their answer was a road through this valley through the Angeles National Forest leading further inland. Well, while construction was still going the valley flooded and washed the road out completely. By that time, with the war coming to an end, they decided to abandon the project. The only thing left was this bridge (lucky for us!).

The hike out to the bridge is an adventure in itself. There are something like 5 or 10 river crossings and a few short wooden bridges that seem very questionable. And some spots where a small mis-step could take you 80 feet down to the river bed with likely terrible results. It is extremely scenic. For me, kinda surreal. I mean, 15 minutes before we were parked in some shady grocery store parking lot right outside of the urban sprawl of L.A. Now we seem to be a world away from civilization. And if the awesome hike isn't enough, you get to jump off a bridge at the end!

My first time jumping was back in Fall of 2005. I think October. I remember when we got to the bridge and sat down for the safety course, the first thing they told us was, "You guys don't need to worry, you just survived the most dangerous part of your trip today: the hike!" If I was supposed to feel relieved, I didn't. You see, this whole time I had myself pumped up and ready to jump off the bridge. I had come to terms with it and was really starting to get excited. That all changed instantly when we arrived at the bridge and I took my first look over the rail. We sat around waiting for the rest of the group to show up (some people were really slow hikers). As our safety class went on, I started feeling better and better about jumping. I could do this.

We decided we were going to be in the last group to jump, so we spent the day climbing on rocks and playing in the creek, and watching grown men come almost to tears trying to throw themselves from the bridge. We laughed and had a great time. Then it was our turn. I again felt like I had psyched myself up enough to jump. But then... BAM! As if staring over the railing for the first time wasn't a smack in the face, actually strapping the cord on and trying to step over the railing is a like taking a right hook from Tyson. But standing on the little platform on the other side of the rail, I knew I couldn't let myself freeze up like some of the other guys did. Even though my muscles were giving out and my mind was screaming, "DON'T DO IT!" I refused to be the guy who couldn't jump. "3..2..1..BUNGEE!" Holy Cow! If I tried to describe what it felt like jumping off that bridge, we would be here all day and it still wouldn't do it justice. I'll say it's feeling like you know for sure you are about to die, but you don't. Scary. And the feeling you get when you are finally standing back on the bridge is euphoric.

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So this past October I got another one of those calls from Greg. "Hey man, if you get a plane ticket, bungee and everything else is on me." Since that first trip to "The Bridge To Nowhere", I had been back twice. This trip was going to make it three returns (four total trips). Greg got lucky enough to be stationed in San Diego and he had been back so many times that he was not only on a first name basis with all the guys who worked there, but he was getting to do a lot of special jumps. So our group made it out to the bridge and we had an excellent day of jumping. A lot of the guys had never been before, so it was hilarious watching them freak out trying to jump off the bridge. When it came my turn, they said since I had jumped so many times I could try some of the harder jumps. I got to do a back flip... which is nuts, and, scariest of all, a running start jump. On that one, instead of jumping flat-footed from the platform on the other side of the railing, they let you run from the middle of the bridge and jump the railing as if you were jumping a fence. It was wild.

The above picture is Dani. It was absolutly hysterical watching him jump. If it hadn't been for a 12 year old boy jumping earlier in the day, Dani never would have jumped. But he admitted that since the little boy jumped, he couldn't back out. Once Dani moved over the rail to the jumping platform, it was 4 loooooong minutes before he finally jumped. When he did, we got to see a man who was truly scared out of his misery has he fell to the bottom of the valley. We weren't completely sure that he wasn't going to die of a heart attack on the way down.

We jumped late in the evening and camped right there beside the bridge with one of the bungee employees. It was an awesome night. As the sun went down we got to see a handful of big-horn sheep moving along the ridges high above the bridge. The next morning we packed up and headed out, passing the next day's group of bungee jumpers as they were on their way in. Yeah, we were all jealous.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Wheels Are In Motion...

I just finished talking to Greg, and it's official. Plans are being made for another week-long excursion. I asked Laura for her blessing on one last week-long hoora before our baby boy arrives. She said yes, so I phoned Greg. As I knew he would, he said,"Let's do it." So, the plan is to get together some time during his spring break and head into the Carolina mountains.

Our adventures like this never, ever disappoint. Let me highlight a few for you. If you check out the side bar, you'll see pictures of things like Death Valley, the Western Continental Divide, the largest tree in the world, Crystal Caves, Badwater Basin, Mt. Whitney, etc. These were ALL accomplished in one amazing three-day weekend. It was the Thursday before Labor Day weekend and I got a call from Greg. "Hey man, you doing anything this weekend?" I said, "No..." He replies, "Good, because I bought you a plane ticket to Cali for the weekend." This is how Greg operates. He is all go. We can think about it and make plans on the way. I never was like that before, but after a few amazing weekends in Northern California, I just made the decision that when Greg asks, just go with it. It's what has made us great friends. It's also made for memories that I will never forget, experiences I wish everyone I knew could have experienced.

Now, he was responsible for making that one happen. This one is on me. I feel a little pressure, but very excited at the stories I am going to come back with. The Carolinas don't quite have the same wow-factor that California does, but I'm sure when we get back we'll have some great stories to share.