It was the best view of West Virginia I've ever seen, and an entire perspective I didn't expect to encounter when I booked the appointment. I was even appreciative of the bird's-eye view I had of the Ohio River as I glided above it, which originally terrified me -- the thought of skydiving above a river.
Instead, my only fear was that this experience was actually too fleeting, that it would be over sooner than I was ready for it to be. It was so much to take in all at once, the feeling of being suspended by a harness in the sky, steering the parachute to position us above the landing zone, the stillness of the altitude, and the view -- in every direction -- that was ever evolving and changing with our descent. I'm sure I had a ridiculous grin on my face the entire way down but I couldn't help that. My mind was enthusiastically overwhelmed.
We glided in for a smooth landing in the same grassy field from where we had taken off in the single-propeller plane. My instructor told me that our landing was so smooth that we could have probably landed standing, if I weren't so tall, which would have created too much unevenness to land in tandem.
As soon as we landed, I wished that I was right back on the edge of the plane, being rocked forward and getting ready to experience the entire fall again. We were greeted on the field by several other instructors, who were there to help with the parachute, take photographs and, of course, hear all about my own bucket-list experience.
In the weeks leading up to the jump, people tried to explain to me the whirlwind of sensations I'd experience, from the climb to 10,000 feet in the plane (that has only three enclosed walls), to the steering and guiding that goes into landing the jump -- and everything in between.
I had moments of doubt, though, in the days before the jump. I even called the company two days before, to warn them that the forecast showed rain and to let them know that it was OK if they had to cancel or "reschedule" my appointment. Once again, I was met with the utmost comforting and professional guidance on the other end of the line that reminded me to be excited and confident for this upcoming adventure.
When I arrived for my appointment, I was greeted with the same zeal and confidence from the entire team of skydivers. Any ounce of fear and doubt that entered my mind that morning was quickly replaced by a smile and a laugh because above all, these guys just know how to have fun while running a successful business. I hadn't even started to suit up before they invited me to stick around for their famous Saturday night cookout and bonfire.
I didn't get to stick around for the cookout, but I did get to hang out for a bit to hear from co-owner Bob Dolin, whom I suspect deserves a lot of credit for making everyone feel at home and part of the family when they step onto his property. He pulled up a chair with me while I picked his brain about the history of the business and his personal skydiving career, which consists of more than 1,200 jumps.
I also learned that Dolin and co-owner Carl Bailey are running more than a skydiving business. They've taken full advantage of their riverside land in Lesage, and have established a camping ground complete with river access, nature trails, a volleyball court, recreation hall, clean and spacious restrooms, swimming and boating areas and, as I mentioned above, their campground cookouts make a notable Saturday night.
The men take their business very seriously, but with a healthy balance of enjoyment. I'd recommend them to anyone who may be considering skydiving as their next bucket list goal.
Sarah Francke is a business-development professional living life to the fullest in Charleston. Follow her lifestyle ideas on Twitter at @WVstyleteam and read more of her twentysomething adventures on her blog, www.sarahfrancke.com.