Last week I went skydiving. It was actually my fourth time going, but since I hadn't been in a couple years, they made me take the training again.
After skydiving, my friends and I went to an arcade. I don't really like arcade games (besides H2Overdrive), so I wandered around until I found one called "Commercial Airline Simulator". You may be surprised to know that no line had formed in front of that particular machine. I played through the entire training mode of it, and was pleasantly surprised at how similar it was to when I flew a plane a few years prior when I took a couple pilot lessons.
The following weekend I took motorcycle classes and got my license. Around that time I started thinking about how awesome first lessons are-particularly those that were swimming around in my mind.
Skydiving is amazing. As I was trying to persuade my friend Phil last week, everyone ought to try skydiving because it's so impossible to imagine without doing that it's hard to fathom how awesome it is without trying it. When I first wanted to go, I couldn't get any of my friends to come with me. One friend, Jessica, finally agreed. This was fifteen years ago, but if I remember correctly, she wasn't particularly excited about it. That all changed when she landed. She jumped up and down, buzzing about how we had to jump again as soon as possible.
I've gone four times now: two tandem jumps (where you're strapped to the chest of a fat expert skydiver) and two solo jumps. If you leave this description of skydiving with anything, let it be this: do solo jumps, not tandem.
With solo jumps you take a five hour course and learn about skydiving. A lot of it is boring repetition, but once you jump you finally appreciate the fact that all of the maneuvers you have to do have been fully ingrained. Some parts of the class are actually interesting and enjoyable.
Once the class is done and the weather is persuaded to cooperate, you get loaded into a Cessna and fly up to about 13,000 feet. They open the door, you step out onto the wing alone, flying at around one hundred miles an hour, and push off with a rehearsed cadence. The instructor sitting at the edge of the doorway jumps at the exact right moment and holds on to a strap on your parachute backpack so that he can fall next to you. His job is to run you through a drill while you fall towards the earth at 120mph.
When you get to five thousand feet, you wave your arms so that he knows you're about to pull your chute. You reach back, pull it, and he lets go. From there on you get to glide down and land all by yourself.
The experience is unlike anything else. It doesn't feel like falling; you're so high up that perspective changes imperceptibly. It feels like you're floating, or maybe just flying. It's thrilling, but not scary.
My favorite part is reminding myself over and over of how real of an activity it is. I'm actually jumping out of a real plane with just a backpack on. That's hard to really wrap my mind around.
Another great thing about solo jumps (also called Advanced Freefall, or AFF) is that it counts for something. Each one you do makes the subsequent ones cheaper, and each jump teaches you new skills. After seven the instructor stops hanging on to you, and after twenty five, you can become certified.
While we're up in the air, let's talk about flying. I have this idea that I should be able to operate just about any vehicle. More to fuel my fantasies of being presented with a hero-opportunity than anything, but it's not hard to imagine scenarios where it might be useful or fun to fly a plane.
Even if you don't want to actually become a pilot, the first lesson you take offers an incredible bang for your buck. For your first one hour flight, you will actually get to take off the plane. I was blown away by this. Push in the throttle, stay straight with the rudder, and pull on the yoke once you hit the right speed.
Once you're in the air you get to do all or most of the steering, and you actually get to stall the plane. You pull back so far that the plane can't grab the air anymore, and you actually cause the plane to momentarily fall backwards amidst a warning buzzer.
That's a lot of cool experience and skills that you get to learn in just an hour. On top of that, you can let your friends sit in back for free and fly around, too.
I haven't done this yet, but if you actually want to get your license, it makes sense to buy your own plane. A reasonable one costs less than a mid range car and holds its resale value quite well. Unlike a car, it's perfectly practical to split it four ways, too. When taking plane lessons, half of the cost is the plane rental. Why spend that money towards rent when you could buy the thing? Even yearly maintenance and fuel are likely cheaper than you'd guess.
My first encounter with a pair of wheels was a scooter I rented in Key West. From there I bought my own moped, which I modified until it was breathing on the heels of the least powerful motorcycles. Confident in my ability to ride that, I took a stab at my brother's 350cc motorcycle. I definitely didn't figure everything out during my five minute ride, but I was impressed with how smooth and powerful it was. I almost wished I hadn't experienced it, because I'm not ignorant of the dangers of riding.
In California you're supposed to have a watered down version of a motorcycle license to ride a moped or scooter. If I was going to do that, I thought, I may as well get a real motorcycle license.
That's how I ended up spending New Year's Eve (and day) learning how to ride a motorcycle. I'm sure the courses vary by state and school, but mine was five hours of class and ten hours of riding. I went in with just enough experience to get a motorcycle into first gear without stalling, and no more.
It's amazing how much skill can be gained in such a short period of time. I'm not going to try to convince you that I'm a good rider, but I can tell you that I went in with no confidence on a motorcycle whatsoever, and no competence for anything other than riding in a parking lot, and left feeling like I understood the fundamentals of motorcycle riding. Driving away from the course on the last day, I couldn't help but mentally plan a motorcycle trip through India.
My only advice for Motorcycle Lessons are a) take them and b) don't be afraid of speed or leaning. Speed means stability, and leaning is the proper execution for turning. The people who had the most trouble with the class tried to drive their motorcycle like a car, rather than leaving preconceptions at the door and absorbing the information provided.
Why Take First Lessons?
Why take first lessons in things you aren't going to master? Because returns diminish with each lesson. For the first lesson, you get to go from nothing to very rudimentary basic competence. That's huge. The last lesson in someone's studies teaches them perhaps one fine distinction.
That doesn't mean that every lesson isn't valuable, but it does mean that even an introduction to something can open up a whole new world and grant you basic functional skills.
Tonight is my first night sleeping with a Zeo! I'll let you know how it is.
Some major breakthroughs are going down with my new programming project. I can't wait to be able to share more about it.
I'm spending the week in Tahoe. Nothing like skiing and working all day, and then playing poker at night. Perfect.
Sorry there's no picture. I reformatted and haven't set up my photos yet.
More TaskSmash Codes. Tell which one you used in the comments:
In the UK the first flying lesson doesn't include taking off or stalling. It's just basic altimeter, airspeed, compass gauges and the basic control surfaces. Mine was supposed to be 45 minutes, but as there were no other students that day (and the trainer was dead bored) it end up as a two and a half hour flight. Over the then under construction Dartford (QEII) bridge, over Kent and the channel tunnel building site and out into the English Channel. We got all the way to the edge of French air space, and were those French ATC controllers p*ssed at us! Even without the take-off and stall it was fantastic.
I've now been to three parachute jump courses, but never got to actually jump due to bad weather etc. Real bummer.
Isn't it comparable to smoking or taking drugs in that sense?
Addictive, thrilling, getting an adrenalin rush and high, but it's almost a certain way to end up endangering yourself.
I mean everything comes with risks, even crossing the road. But the high probability including the 88% you just posted indicates it might be worth more trouble than it is? Especially for someone like Tynan who does all this crazy (but cool) stuff to prolong and preserve his life.
@ Kenny on top.
Motorcycling is inherently dangerous because you have only your body and the speeds it can involve, plus you REALLY have to compensate for car driver's(cagers)because you will get cut off often because people simply don't look out for small motorcycle profile. Sound can help, but not much.
I was hit from behind by an SUV at 65mph on freeway(freak accident)and I walked away with a small hole in my knee(freeway has about 88%+ fatality rate for bikes. But I looked like a Power Ranger (full gear) so that helped.
There's no comparing to a motorcycle ride. Even if you are extra careful, expect to get hurt at least once. Honestly, your safest bet is a track, full gear, and NEVER get cocky about your ability to ride.
There are some rare people who has never been a bad motorcycle accident, then I also know some bike friends that are not with us anymore.
For me, motorcycling is worth the risks...
Sorry for the thread hijack Tynan :)
I'm glad you still like motorcycling. If you ride bicycle, pretty much all you have to learn is shifting. You're lucky because my first bike was a 15yo 600cc sportbike so she wasn't as smooth as modern sportbikes, makes for fun (read: scary)times.
I would suggest a glider (sailplane type) for people who want a cheaper sensation of flight and learn basic flight mechanics. I abused CAP in high-school in Hawai'i so I could fly gliders and single engine Cessnas. Also, the experience lasts longer than a skydive though not as SUPER exciting.
I wanna get skydive certified on the north shore of Oahu, Hawaii. Beautiful place, and near perfect weather. Been tandem six times in different parts of the world. I think Namibia skydiving would be pretty sweet too.
And I wanna get helicopter certified too.
25 jumps to become certified? Where I live it only takes 8!
I did 4 myself, but after 4 I realized it was awesome but too short.
How much does one flying lesson usually cost?
Tynan, in relation to motorcycles, what's your approach on how dangerous they are then? Your blog puts a lot of emphasis on the value of life from eating to being frozen so you can resume it later on... but also the risks that come along with enjoying it.
Most people I know who have been riding motorcycles for a long time and have quit have all come to the same conclusion that it's just a certain way to die. What's your opinion on that?
I wasn't able to get a code.
Tynan, I started using stickk.com about a week ago and so far it has worked well. I don't even think about putting off my task.
The key has been having a great referee. The structure of some tasks makes it hard to come up with a referee.
I have two weeks left in Austin and ten days in Boston. When we first decided to go on the trip six months ago it seemed like it would take forever. Now every day seems to fly by before I can make any progress on my list of stuff-I-must-do-before-I-go.
Of course, the one thing I've had no problem doing is buying the gear necessary to leave. I'll post a complete list of every single thing I'm bringing with me... some of which will probably surprise people.
We still haven't found anywhere to live in Panama yet. I send e-mails to people on Craigslist in Panama, but nothing good has surfaced yet.
Image: "Wrecked" ... get it? Shut up, I'm funny
OK that post with the slightly depressing title really shouldn't keep on sitting on top. It was never meant as a big feature and does not really tell you anything about my voyage (which I'm sure is what most people coming here are actually interested in).
So, prepare for another recap post because I once again have crossed the threshold of too many small things floating around that I originally planned to write about but then didn't get around to give it a proper edit.
But I've been really busy, you know. Lying in bed ...
Ahh so I spent some time in Krabi, enjoying myself. For two days/one night I went to the beach nearby (Ao Nang) and it was once again a bit touristy for my taste. But still quite enjoyable for a short time.