We began our adventure by signing by our lives away. I understand that skydiving is dangerous. I understand that there are no medical services in the area. I agree to not sue in the event that I die.

My friend Rebekah and I are not exactly thrill seekers. You wouldn't find either of us, for instance, jumping the Grand Canyon on a motorcycle, suspending ourselves over the River Thames, or even jumping the really big mud puddles.

We both enjoy the more tame adventures, and over the years we've looped on roller coasters, soared on sky coasters and zigged and zagged on all sorts of rides that claim to be the highest, fastest and scariest.

It was time to take it up a notch. A tandem skydive was the next logical step.

Like any true adventurers, we brought our mothers along. As we were signing an endless amount of forms, my mom said "It's not too late to back out," hoping that we would.

We suited up. Mine managed to look spacey, yet Abba-like in essence, with purple spandex sleeves and large pink piping (or tubing, actually), which seemed to have no apparent purpose other than looking cool, an effect it was not achieving in my opinion.

Rebekah, who was outfitted in a baggy camouflage hunter suit, said of my get-up, "Who ever thought of that?"

"At least they'll be able to see me," I joked, since mine was definitely not meant for blending in.

As we waited for the plane, it seemed our mothers were more nervous than we were. I looked at Rebekah, who, on all of our big rides, I have never seen afraid. She was calm.

Even as the plane climbed, and the ground shrunk below us, she didn't show any sign of fear.

I looked down at the monopoly-like house buildings below thinking, "This is pretty high - I'll bet this is 'the top,'" the highest altitude of 12,000 feet that we would be jumping from.

I snuck a peek at the Inspector Gadget-like altimeter watch that my instructor was sporting. We were at a mere 3,000 feet.

It was a beautiful September day. Any other time would have been a better time to appreciate the view. As I looked out the window, I could see views of Mount Rainier, Baker, Hood and St. Helens, as well as the mouth of the Columbia River. My fascination, however, was directed at the inside of the plane, specifically at the altimeter, which no matter how ridiculously high we seemed to be climbing, would not reach its mark.

Mostly, though, I was too preoccupied with the silly and surreal notion that I would actually be exiting the plane in midair to pay much attention to the magnificent sights being pointed out to me.

The door opened and cold air rushed in. I'm going to be falling from cold air to warm air, I realized - that's how high we were.

From then on, everything went fast. In a second, Rebekah and her instructor were gone. I was inching toward the door, putting my foot on the wheel strut, holding my arms in and leaning out as directed.

The whole time, I was in absolute disbelief about what was happening. The rapidness of the commands allowed no time to think, for if I did I would surely have clung with a vice grip to any part of the plane. I would have pleaded with the pilot to forget this business and fly me to the ground.

But, then, I wasn't thinking, I was falling. In a belly-to-earth arc we plummeted for what I was later told was 55 seconds.

My face certainly felt it. It was shaking like never before, and my ears felt like they were flapping in the wind. The pesky collar of the shirt I was wearing worked its way out of my Dancing Queen ensemble and was whipping me in the face.

None of this distracted me from the thrill of it all. With a pull of the rip cord, we began a gentle descent. Floating, hanging limp, like a napping baby in a backpack, we circled.

My instructor, who feels the thrill of every jump, even with what he repeatedly assured me were hundreds of jumps under his belt, asked me what I thought.

"I love it," I managed, amazed that we were chatting as though sitting in a coffee shop somewhere, instead of floating to the earth strapped to each other.

After our gentle landing, my instructor handed me a certificate congratulating me on my first jump. I got much more out of it than a paper and a head of intensely knotted hair. I got the thrill of knowing what it's like to look down from "the top" and feel gravity at its finest.

Lori Assa, a photographer for The Daily Astorian, admits to sometimes having her head in the clouds.


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