Arrive there just before noon. It looked like a couple of entire project teams from Microsoft were there doing tandems. The weather started out great, but then some clouds started rolling in before my load went up. But instead of canceling, they just started using an alternate landing field a few miles away.
It was past 2:30pm by the time we went up. I didn't like any of the student goggles they had, and I remembered the first time I jumped from real altitude that the wind had broken past my goggles seal, deformed my contacts, and blinded me. So I made my first capital hardware purchase, and bought a new pair of smoked sealed goggles.
There was a lot of camaraderie on the way up. There was a cohort of francophones, and they were teaching anyone who asked how to say "I don't speak French" in French. My student accent came right back after a few tries, flooding back memories of Jr High. It's amazing what comes to mind when you are tried to not be terrified. I asked one of my AFFs about the fear, and he said it took about 40 jumps, a student's set and again, before the fear went away. All the instructors, both my AFFs and the large crew of tandem masters were very friendly and professional.
The 3 of us went out after the solos but before the tandems. We only were at 10500ft instead of the more usual 14000ft, in part for clouds and also because there was a military airshow going on somewhat nearby.
I did the exit pretty well. It was the part that I was certain I would screw up, so it was the part I played in my head over and over again. The mental exercise worked. In the ground review after, the instructors agreed with my guess that that would be the part that I would mess up, and we would just tumble and run out of altitude, we were were all happy that that didn't happen.
Then came the parts that didn't go so well... I got a legs signal, but didn't actually move my legs. When doing my PRCPs (practice rip cord pulls) I wasn't actually touching the handle. I realized that about at #3, it wasn't quite where I was expecting it to be from ground training, instead just a bit farther back out and up, and the fact that my shoulder was stiff from gym yesterday didn't help. Rightside instructor kept trying to catch my hand, but apparently my body motion was too fast, later on the ground he said that he rarely saw anyone moving quite so fast.
Anyway, at about 8000ft, I don't remember this part at all, by this time I was in full brain overload, apparently I pulled my knees up, which scared the piss out of the instructors, they had to dive their heads down between their arms and pull hard to keep us from flipping over (and over... and over... and over again). Finally I flatted out, did one more PRCP, except that rightside held my hand on the handle, so it started pulling for real, which is what he wanted. But as soon as he let go of my hand, my hand let go of the handle.
About this moment I saw 5500ft crawl by on the dial of my left wrist, and actually formed a coherent thought. Specifically, it was "Oh Shit!". The instructors were thinking the same thing, because we were now "in the basement" and my cord was pulled about 6 inches and flapping in the wind.
My next coherent visual memory is seeing them fall away from me, my cord flapping in rightsides's hand. A second later opening shock pulled me up short, about the same moment saw their canopies bloom far down below me.
The canopy opened perfectly, I found the landing zone with no problem at all. The ride down was a little bit gusty, but easily steerable. Unfortunately, I was more than a little bit nauseous, in part because I hadn't had a lunch (next time, bring a few sandwiches in a cooler, fool!), and in part because I was exceedingly disappointed in myself. At about 1000ft, the radio came on, they guided me in, and I landed with only a small bump on my ass, with my legs out in front of me.
I did a thumbs up to let them see I wasn't hurt. And then I sat there, in the tall soft grass, just not moving, for about five minutes. And then bundled in the truck for the ride back.
But, I'm not giving up tho. I'll do better next time.