The Dance

“We dance for laughter, we dance for tears, we dance for madness, we dance for fears, we dance for hopes, we dance for screams, we are the dancers, we create the dreams.”

~ Anonymous

Life is a dance … a frivolous frolic through the chaos of the moments which we are blessed to breath in. At times we may lead the pack, and at others, follow like a lemming, learning along the way. Whatever the dance, inspiration of our journey stems from our dreams and the dance we see interwoven between the depth and breadth of our choices.

With this in mind, today, I opted to be the co-cre8tor of our dance out of Burner’s hot-air balloon. With grace, trepidation and fear at the edge, my husband and I embraced in a dance, whilst holding on to the metal railing of the burner, literally. And with a deep breath and a ‘one, two, three, JUMP’, we held each other tight, and danced off the edge. It was awe-inspiring, thrilling, a mutually satisfying joyride that we’ll share again and again and again, in whatever form it takes. A dance of sorts, into the unknown. Wicked fuN! And that’s what life is supposed to be all about …. enjoying our time on this earth, making the most of every moment, when we can and with all that we have. Live it, love it, kick it! Breath it all in.

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Burner the Balloon Guy

Ballon shadows on inflationBurner inflationThe luxurious life of travelling on the road like nomads following our bliss has been exceptionally exciting. Today would be no different, with waking to the sounds of the whistling wind tunnel vibrations as the sun was rising out of bed. This was our cue, parked in our Airstream at the edge of the landing area — our room with a view. We could hear the familiar sound of Gary ‘Burner’ Born — High But Dry Balloons — rumbling his way across the airport, with diesel truck and balloon trailer in tow, arriving to anxious passengers and skydivers waiting to make the sunrise airship flight to 5000 feet over the blossoming desert. Wanting to greet Burner with a big hug and a kiss after 4 years, slaDE and I wandered over to the launch point, happy to be back in our familiar zone of crewing, skydiving and in the company of our desert friends. Balloon parahuteWanting to watch the balloon lift off and help to inflate the 220 cubic feet beautiful dirigible, I was ecstatic to hear that Burner had a space left for a lone skydiver if I was up for the free jump, giving the second round of passengers a show for their money.  Balloon lift-offWithout a second thought, I ran to the truck and grabbed my rig, somewhat sad to think that I’d make my first balloon jump alone and without my husband. but Burner, never one to disappoint, called down to his crew, and said that if slaDE was wanting, he come jump on board as well! Literally jumping for joy, we were up for the challenge and in the truck, ready to go as quick as you could blink your eye. Yippee! A winter spent crewing for Burner had paid off, and we were on our way waiting to meet the landing balloon after the first set of skydivers landed back at the drop zone (not often that the winds up top allow for the jumpers to make it back). Chase vehicle driving on balloon shadowWith light winds, the balloon set down and in we climbed along with 4 new passengers, aloft just as quick as he had set down. The climb to altitude was breathtaking. Green pastures of desert spattering filled our view, from the Arizona vastness to the mountains in front of us. I’ve never seen it so lush! Obviously, the recent rains had sprung new life to the desert below. Approaching 4000 feet, Burner suggested that I climb around the basket rim to my husband at the other side of our compartment. Being afraid of heights, laughingly I scurried over to his side, without looking down. There is something about being completely motionless in a balloon up high, even with a parachute on my back knowing that i was just about to jump out, that had me frightened to climb up and move around the edge of the basket. Hard to describe, but nonetheless, I stood on the edge with my husband holding my hand, pointing out a suggested area to land below. And with a ‘Three, Two, One’, we stepped off at 5000 feet AGL. Talk about the sensation of falling! sKY & BurnerThere was no opportunity to scream, with stomach in my throat. The sensation of pure quiet to a screaming sound of freefall building was unmistakable and unbelievably surreal. Nothing in my 1300 jumps has come close to the blissfulness of jumping from a balloon. With a kiss pass at 3500, I deployed my parachute and landed a few minutes later with no wind on a beautiful flat hard-packed desert runway. Thankfully I was able to touch down in a run. If I had biffed in, I’m certain that I would have hurt some appendage on my body. Despite the recent rain, the desert was as hard as asphalt for the sprinklings of thorny bushes everywhere. Been there, done that, have the thorn-buried scars to prove it.

Skydive AZ from 1000 feetHelping to back up the balloon was a pleasure. I think this high of jump # 1301 will have me riding in cloud 9 all day long. WOW.  Déjà vu of many crew clean ups had us out of there in record time, and for old times sake, slaDE, myself and Bruce rode in the basket, now secured tightly on the trailer, with Brian blazing trails of dust into the morning light, ready for a day of jumping ahead of uS.

Packing up the balloonWe managed to fit in a few more jumps today, one organized by a Skydive Chicago old-time friend and the second as a four way, launching a real cool steep exit out of the tailgate of the Skyvan. Yippee! All my jumps today had me blazing in screaming hot on landing (jumping a Spectre 135, no less). With no wind (unusual in a thermally bumpy Arizona afternoon) and fixed landing paths in the 2 different landing areas, I was extremely cautious of the mass exodus of canopies landing around me. With much luck and perhaps a little skill, I managed to run out each of my landings with no harm but dust covered canopy and jumpsuit. Not so lucky was our friend Tim on our final jump of the day. He skidded and tripped on a desert mound and slid in on previously injured left shoulder, re-dislocating it. Oh gosh, accidents such as this leave me painfully aware of the dangers of our sport — I could so feel his pain, with images of my own shoulder injury coming back to haunt and remind me of the high speeds we are generating in this sport, both in the air and over the ground. A good lesson in humble gratitude for the privileges we have in jumping out of airplanes. Amen!

Porpoises in the Desert, Running on Fumes

Leaving Skydive ElsinoreLeaving Lake Elsinore was somewhat nostalgic in that we’ve had such an incredible and monumentally eventful stay there. 6 weeks of pure frivolous enjoyment driven by our daily needs and desires. During this time, it was truly opportune to discover a yoga studio so close to the dz, let alone have a Twin Otter as the backdrop to our daily living. When out for my daily walk, I was always tickled by the closeup vantage point of the plane’s underbelly on takeoff and landing. There are not many places where one can go walking so close to a runway and see the skydivers on approach directly above. Otter & AirstreamI love living on an airport, truly!

So off we sped, in our silver bullet tin can (I think we should get sponsored by Red Bull … living the skydiving and yogaFLIGHT lifestyle that we do), driving south around San Diego and heading east on Highway 8. The climb across the southern Rocky Pass was quite the slow and heavy duty slog, but the view from the top and winding down through the valley was gorgeous.DC3 & Airstream Imagine large red and grey boulders interspersed with pockets of desert brush. And rolling on through to Yuma, one could see RVs stretched across the desert for miles, boondocking in the vast open plains and burning sun. What’s the draw you might think? The free camping amongst the sand dunes opens up to vast playground  …. EVERYONE seems to come out to the desert with their quads and dune buggys, riding the waves of sand, like porpoises ducking and diving amidst the ridges of desert mounds. It was a cool sight to behold, especially with the backdrop of Mexico’s borders tightly lined with triple wired fences standing guard of the US border.

Once crossing the Arizona border, we made our way to a small town called Dateland. Uncertain as to whether any stores would be open (it being Good Friday and all), I was extremely excited at finding a place to pick up a healthy supply of Medjool dates. They are my favourite dried fruit to sweeten raw treats and smoothies with, so of course, I had to stock up. Wonder if we’ll make this an annual run? If not, I do know that they ship anywhere within the continent.California mountains Yippppeeee!

Thinking that we had just enough fuel to get us to Eloy, we opted to stick with our 1/4 tank to steer us to our next skydiving home. Unfortunately, we had a bit more climbing to do and underestimated the amount needed. Not such a great idea on a Good Friday evening when stations were closed left right and center. Ack! Never before have we run down our tank to ‘0 miles, Distance To Empty’. With sweaty palms and the fumes of our empty tank, we slithered into Casa Grande and found a station with diesel (about 2 in every 3 gas stations here in the US stocks diesel fuel). Vowing to never run below 1/4 tank again without refueling, we have hopefully learned a valuable lesson in fuel management.

It was quite late when we pulled in to Eloy. A much longer than we anticipated, but with numerous stops along the way, we were happy to settle in for the next few days. It being Easter and all, we could count on there being a holiday Boogie, with lots of friends and fun aircraft to jump. Perhaps we’ll get some wind tunnel flying time in? And of course, I’ve already booked a Sunday morning balloon jump with Burner for uS, and our friends Tim & Kari. I’ve been waiting 4 long years to jump Burner’s balloon (this is when slaDE~ & I were here last, crewing balloons in the desert, and me with my injured wing at the time couldn’t get in any free balloon jumpS!). There is no way I’m going to miss out making a balloon jump on this trip, even if I have to pay for it! Stay tuned 🙂