Tag: extreme sports

Epic Adventures: Stratosphere Sky Jump with Monica

Epic Adventures: Stratosphere Sky Jump with Monica

Are you looking for new ideas for adventures to try? In my Epic Adventures series, I interviewed some friends (and then made new friends to interview!) in search of adventures I’ve never heard of.

This week, I interviewed Monica Von about her Stratosphere Sky Jump experience in Las Vegas. Monica is the founder of Giving Adventures, which organize a epic international vacations that center around connecting to and giving back to the local community.

Watch Monica’s Stratosphere Sky Jump video!

Want to be featured in an Epic Adventure interview? Contact me with your idea and your current location.

Epic Adventures: Hiking to Mt. Everest Base Camp with Manish

Epic Adventures: Hiking to Mt. Everest Base Camp with Manish

Are you looking for new ideas for adventures to try?  In my Epic Adventures series, I interviewed some friends (and then made new friends to interview!) in search of adventures I’ve never heard of.

This we meet Manish Balakrishnan, who helps startups takeoff by handling the business side so that they can focus on production. His website is DSHG Sonic.  Manish talks about the time and some friends flew to Nepal and ended up deciding to hike to Mt. Everest Base Camp on a whim.

Want to be featured in an Epic Adventure interview?  Contact me with your idea and your current location.

Epic Adventures: Rappelling for Charity with JR

Epic Adventures: Rappelling for Charity with JR

Are you looking for new ideas for adventures to try?  In my Epic Adventures series, I interviewed some friends (and then made new friends to interview!) in search of adventures I’ve never heard of.

This week, JR Hinds talks about the time he rappelled off of the tallest building in Portland, OR, for charity! When he’s not doing extreme sports, he likes to fly airplanes and woodworking.
To find rappelling for charity events near you, check out Over The Edge.

Want to be featured in an Epic Adventure interview?  Contact me with your idea and your current location.

Epic Adventures: Bungee Jumping with Ryan

Epic Adventures: Bungee Jumping with Ryan

Are you looking for new ideas for adventures to try?  In my Epic Adventures series, I interviewed some friends (and then made new friends to interview!) in search of adventures I’ve never heard of.

This week, Ryan Sefko recounts his bungee jumping experiences. Ryan is an aerial sports enthusiast on a quest to find the top 10 bungee jumping spots in the world. For more inspiration on where to bungee jump, check out 17 highest bungee jumps in the United States.  Many states have banned bungee jumping due to accidents, so make sure you go with a reputable and legal company.  Due to these laws, you may need to travel out of state to go bungee jumping.

Want to be featured in an Epic Adventure interview?  Contact me with your idea and your current location.

Overcoming Fear on the Flight: My First Skydive

Overcoming Fear on the Flight: My First Skydive

I wanted to go skydiving ever since I discovered it at 17 years old.  But I went back and forth several times throughout the years.

“This is going to be the most fun EVER!!”

“Hmm, maybe it will hurt my back when the parachute opens.”

“Why would I want to jump out of a perfectly good airplane?”

“What if the parachute doesn’t open?”

For many years, I let other people’s fears get in my way. I dismissed it and decided I probably wouldn’t do it. Then one day after seeing many friends post skydiving pictures, I decided I was ready to try it.  Unfortunately, my friends were not.  After several attempts at getting someone to go with me, I decided to do it, friends or no friends!

The last thing my best friend Devon told me before he died:  “Go skydiving immediately.  Don’t wait.  Don’t worry about having friends.  Go alone and you will meet new friends who won’t chicken out.”

I made it an “unofficial meetup” for the World Domination Summit, which is an awesome gathering of entrepreneurs, world travelers, adventurers, and changemakers.

I made an “open reservation” at Skydive Oregon.  They sent me a link to share with my friends.  Anyone interested in joining me could follow the link and join my group by paying the deposit.  I was fully prepared to go alone if nobody clicked my link.  I created an event and shared the link with fellow WDS attendees.  As long as everyone in the group met the physical requirements and the clouds were above Mt. Hood, we were good to go!

When the day finally came, two other attendees had signed up.  I was so excited!  As I was on my way to pick up my new friends, I looked east and could not see Mt. Hood.  I started to panic.  The clouds are too low.  What if we don’t get to skydive today?

I immediately called the drop zone and let them know I couldn’t see Mt. Hood, and asked if that would be a problem.  They said to call back in an hour.  That gave us time to go out for breakfast.  After breakfast, I called back and they said they had blue skies, and they were ready for us to come over!

It seemed so surreal.  It took me three years to find someone willing to go with me.  I was a little nervous.  I got nauseous from motion sickness while hang gliding.  Would the parachute ride make me sick?  What about the plane ride?  I don’t do well on small planes.  And lately, I’ve been feeling motion sick on large commercial planes.  The skydiving airplane is barely bigger than a helicopter!  What about being harnessed to a man?  I don’t like men getting that close to me.  Maybe I can make an exception if he’s the one with the parachute?

We took our training class, geared up, and walked towards the plane.  Any minute now, it’s going to hit me and I’m probably going to be terrified.  Hopefully I don’t freeze up. If I do, hopefully the instructor pushes me out before I realize what’s going on.

As I approached the plane, the smell of diesel exhaust made me slightly nauseous.  I climbed the ladder and got in the seat.  When we took off, the plane swayed back and forth.  But it was a smooth ride. It felt like riding the monorail at Disney.  I can do this.

I sat in the plane, now harnessed to my tandem instructor, waiting for reality to hit me.  I’m in a plane on my way up to 13,000 ft. How will I react when the fear hits me?

Then I remembered something.  Every single time I’ve been scared before an extreme sport, I was anticipating how it was going to be.  For example-

  • Ziplining:  When I’m standing on the platform about to push off, how far will I freefall before i start moving forward? (none)
  • Whitewater rafting:  What if I get seasick?  What if I can’t paddle fast enough, in the right direction?  (I didn’t, and that’s not how it works.)
  • Hang Gliding:  What if I’m going too fast and I end up 100 miles away from where I’m supposed to land?  (The glider goes pretty slow.  And they make sure there are no strong winds before you take off.)
  • also Hang Gliding:  I’m terrible at running.  Do I have to run off the side of a cliff with my instructor?  What if I trip over my feet?  (You can’t do a running launch as a tandem.  And you have to have lots of experience.)
  • Waterfall Rappelling:  What if my feet can’t grip the rocks because they are wet?  What if the waterfall pushes me down?  (It doesn’t work like that.)

Sure, each of these activities requires some training and safety. But in general, the thing I was most afraid of DIDN’T HAPPEN! Could skydiving also be on that list? Possibly. Whatever I am waiting to be scared of probably isn’t going to happen either. We’ll see!

I decided not to anticipate how it might feel. Instead, I’ll just be present in the moment and OBSERVE how it feels.

When it was my turn, we got up and walked towards the door. I was surprised that I didn’t feel like I was going to get sucked out of the plane with the door open. My tandem instructor approached the doorway until my feet dangled off the edge. I had seen this a hundred times in other people’s skydiving videos. Despite being 13,000 ft in the air with my feet dangling into the sky, I did not feel like I was about to fall off the edge.  I felt secure.

When he jumped, I felt the drop.  I was freefalling towards the earth! The sensation quickly disappeared; once we reached terminal velocity, it didn’t feel like I was dropping.  I felt the wind and the cool air.  It felt like going outside in the winter with no scarf during a strong wind.

Once he pulled the parachute, I felt the acceleration once again. Even though we were slowing down, it initially felt like we were going faster. The parachute ride felt similar to parasailing or hang gliding. It was a nice, relaxing ride with gorgeous views of the landscape. Except that I got nauseous as soon as we started to steer.

We made a perfect landing. Feeling sick, I was happy to have my feet back on the ground again.

It was definitely a fun experience, despite feeling sick. However, I was disappointed that I didn’t feel an adrenaline rush. I might do it again if I were able to find something to take away the motion sickness. Perhaps I could try sea bands or Transderm Scop.

How did you overcome your fears before an extreme sport?

Epic Adventures: Cliff Jumping with Slade

Epic Adventures: Cliff Jumping with Slade

Are you looking for new ideas for adventures to try?  In my Epic Adventures series, I interviewed some friends (and then made new friends to interview!) in search of adventures I’ve never heard of.

This week, I interviewed Slade Sundar about his experience cliff jumping in Jamaica.  Slade runs a fitness apparel brand called KRKN Brand.  His brand uses humor and positivity to promote fitness.

Want to be featured in an Epic Adventure interview?  Contact me with your idea and your current location.

Throwback to my Hang Gliding adventure!

Throwback to my Hang Gliding adventure!

Ever since I was a little kid, I always thought it would be fun to go hang gliding.  I could soar above the trees and it would be just like I was flying!  I dreamed about hang gliding often, but figured it was something obscure that I probably wouldn’t have the opportunity to try.

In September 2012, I heard that my friend Clay was putting together a hang gliding trip to Lookout Mountain, near Chattanooga.  Yes!! Here is my chance!

I RSVP’d for the trip and was very excited about going.  Unfortunately, my brother died before the trip and I had to cancel.

Clay and his friends enjoyed the trip so much that they decided to go again.  This time I was able to go.

My friend Heather had recently moved from Atlanta to Cleveland, Tennessee.  She recently started skydiving and loved it so much, she wanted to become a skydive instructor.  She loved the idea of hang gliding but was unable to fly, so she came to watch.

Heather and I met up at a Mexican restaurant near Chattanooga for lunch, then drove over to Lookout Mountain.

644217_10102874551552463_1610912875_n
Lookout Mountain Hang gliding launch ramp

When we arrived, we found the Lookout Mountain launch ramp.  We watched several people do a “running launch,” which basically means they strap a glider to their back and run off the side of a cliff.  I had seen videos on YouTube such as this one.  I’m not going to lie, the only Lookout Mountain videos on YouTube at the time were of running launches.  I thought that’s what I would be doing and hesitated.  Is that safe?  I’m really bad at running.  What if I don’t run fast enough?  What if I trip over my feet?  What if I don’t know how to land?  But Clay assured me that running launches were only for people who were experienced.  We would be towed up to altitude by a plane.

998597_10102874544007583_856780079_n
Ready to learn to fly!

We signed waivers, attended safety training, and got fitted with harnesses.  We paired up with an instructor, and one by one we took off!

First, we each got in the glider with an instructor and were strapped in.  Then the glider was attached to an ultralight airplane.  The plane took off and towed us up to height. Once the glider was at the desired height, the glider was released from the plane.  We were flying!

Soon after we were disconnected, my instructor asked me if I wanted to fly it.  I said, “Hell no! I don’t know how to fly a glider!”

He let go of the bar that steers the glider. That is how he tricked me into steering it.  At high altitudes, it’s pretty foolproof.

The view was breathtaking.  From Lookout Mountain, I could see Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama!

After I got comfortable hang gliding, he showed me some tricks.  He stalled the glider by putting the steering bar over our heads.  That caused us to slowly stop moving.  But once we he pulled the steering bar back to chest level, the glider dropped like a roller coaster going downhill.  He did another trick where he made the glider spin in a downward spiral.  He said he knew more tricks that could make me feel like I’m on a roller coaster.  I told him that roller coasters are not fun for me because they make me feel sick.

That was one thing that surprised me about hang gliding.  It was not as smooth of a ride as I imagined.  I did feel a little motion sick, but it was worth it!

Hang gliding was a blast, and I’m glad I did it.  Like many of the best extreme sports, it is pretty expensive.  I would go again in the right situation, but it would have to be a special occasion.

Here’s the video of my hang gliding experience:

Throwback to Cave Rappelling and Yosemite in California!

Throwback to Cave Rappelling and Yosemite in California!

In the summer of 2012, I was sitting at my desk at work when my boss ran in.  Very excited, she said, “You’re about to get a phone call.  They are going to ask you two questions, and if you answer correctly, you might be sent home immediately to pack a suitcase and catch a plane to go work on a winery in California.”

That was the most exciting news I could possibly hear at that time!  I was so bored in Excel hell.  I couldn’t wait to get out of the office and get some hands-on experience!  I don’t remember what the two questions were, but I must have given the correct answer.  The next day I was on a flight to San Francisco for a business trip to Wine Country!

At the winery, we worked long 16-hour days outside on a construction site.  They worked us hard, but we had one day off every week.  I decided to take full advantage of this short “weekend.”

The night before my first weekend, I left the winery in Livingston, CA, and headed to San Francisco.  My phone somehow got bricked within a few hours of landing in San Francisco, so I had to navigate the old fashioned way – with a map and handwritten directions.  I visited a friend from college who (like every time I visit) tried to convince me to come back to do the Escape From Alcatraz Shark Swim competition that he does every year.  It’s easy to see why we are friends.

The next morning, I drove three hours to Moaning Cavern.  I read about the place in a brochure about ziplining and rappelling and decided to try it out.  It was in a very remote place with no cell phone signal.  The roads and buildings made it look like I was transported back to the 1980s in a one-horse country town.

The “parking lot” was a field of dead grass.  There was a white trailer in the corner.  I started to panic.  “I drove three hours to the wrong place! Where the hell am I??”

I got out of my car and looked around. A few minutes later, I heard screaming from overhead as someone flew by on a zipline.  Yes! This is definitely the right place!

320172_10101895254880843_2037409146_n
The entrance to the cavern

I went inside and registered to rappel.  There were a few people ahead of me in line.  The entrance to the cave was on the ground level, so I didn’t have to worry about climbing up before the rappel.

When it was my turn, they fitted me with a harness and hardhat, and taught me how to use their rope system.  Then they opened the gate and let me in.  It was a dark narrow tunnel.  Cool!  Not what I was expecting, but it looks like fun!  I climbed down to about 15 feet to the first platform.  After the platform, I had to maneuver around a rocky area to get to the next section, which was also a tunnel.  After about 10 more feet, the tunnel opened up, and was just a flat wall.  This is going to be easy, I thought.  All I have to do is walk down the wall.  But I was wrong.

When the tunnel opened up to a flat wall, I could see the entire cave.  It was breathtaking!  It looked like something I would see on a SCUBA dive, but without the water.  I climbed down a bit more.  For a split second, my brain was tricked into thinking I could swim over to the far side of the dimly lit cavern to get a better view.

418845_10101895254311983_1800883112_n
The cavern wall opened up and my feet couldn’t reach the wall anymore

The cavern opened up even more – my feet were too far away to touch the wall!  I was dangling from a rope 150 ft in the air!  I panicked and for a moment forgot how to use the device to climb down the ropes.  Then I realized I was stuck; the only way I could move was to use the device.  I struggled for a second, but then it came back to me.  It was fascinating to be able to see the walls of the cavern up close.  On my way down, I could see people from the walking tour (read: too scared to rappel, but still wanted to see the caves).  I waved hello to them and continued my descent.

284809_10101895252186243_1974697579_n
Cavern selfie

I finally made it to the bottom!  Still shaking from the adrenaline rush, I got a selfie inside the canyon.  And then it hit me:  If the entrance to the cave was on ground level, then I’m currently 165 ft below ground level.  How do I get back up?

Climbers join the walking tour at the bottom of the cavern.  The tour guide pointed out some named features inside the cavern.  Shortly after, it was time to go up.  The way up?  A 17 story spiral staircase made entirely of WWII scrap metal!  As an engineer, the idea of an old rickety spiral staircase erected from used scrap metal was more terrifying than rappelling down the cavern!

564196_10101895254726153_2025596670_n
The view from the top of the spiral staircase

I made it all the way up the terrifying spiral staircase and back to the lobby.

I did it!  It was awesome!

But I wasn’t done yet.  Since I only had one day off, I had to maximize my time by squeezing more than one adventure into a day.  I headed off to Yosemite National Park.

 

 

After a two hour drive, I arrived at the entrance to Yosemite National Park.  This was my first time at a National Park.  I pulled up to the hut and was handed a map.  I figured it would be like a theme park.  Pay for parking, get handed a map, and given directions to the main attractions.  Wrong, again!

After driving a few miles without seeing any signs, I pulled over to look at the map.  The entrance I just drove through wasn’t even on the map.  I had no idea what I was looking at.  I decided to just keep driving, and I’d probably come across a sign eventually.  Several miles later, I still hadn’t seen a single sign.  I started to wonder if I drove all the way out here for nothing.  Maybe I was at the wrong entrance?  Maybe I won’t be able to find anything and still make it back to the winery at a decent hour.

Finally, I saw a sign.  There was an arrow pointing left with a name (presumably something that was on the map), 65 miles.

Sixty-five miles?!  I already drove two hours!  I need to be somewhere now!  Not in 65 miles!  I decided to pass on that one.  Too far.

After what seemed like another lonely 10 miles, I found a parking lot with people walking towards a rocky path.  Not exactly what I was expecting, but I figured it was my best chance at seeing something before the end of my short weekend. I parked and saw lots of other people there.  It turned out to be Olmsted Point.

582737_10101895291018423_890429571_n
Olmsted Point (the big and little domes near the horizon), as seen from wherever I was when I got lost.

Among the rocks, there was a path down into the valley.  It was gorgeous! I walked around and soaked up the view.  I took a few pictures and headed back to my car.  I felt like there was more to see and time was of the essence.

3147_10101895289745973_1195497188_n

I found a paved path among the redwoods.  It was so humbling to be among such enormous trees!  Being from Florida, I had never been on a real hike before (except in Costa Rica).  When I first got there, I preferred the paved path.  But after walking among all of those trees, the paved path in the middle of a forest seemed very artificial.  I understood why real hikers preferred unpaved trails.

I decided to keep driving a bit further.  Just past a campground was the entrance to Hetch Hetchy, which I honestly had never heard of but recognized the view.

199024_10101895293124203_1826441051_n
Hetch Hetchy
292955_10101895293019413_1263636316_n
While crossing the bridge, I discovered that Hetch Hetchy is a dam!

There is a trail that goes around the lake.  After walking over a bridge and then through a tunnel, I came out around the left side of the lake and started hiking.  The trail was magical. Despite the long day, I felt more and more energized with each step along the trail.  As nightfall began, the trail became darker and darker.  I started to wonder if I’d encounter a bear.  A coworker told me he had gone to the non-touristy parts of Yosemite the previous weekend and had a close encounter with a bear.  I still wasn’t sure if I was on the touristy side or not.

305027_10101895299596233_1125771702_nThe trail turned out to be much longer than I expected.  I turned around and raced the darkness, trying to make it to my car before nightfall.  Lights illuminated the inside of the tunnel.  Though the sun had set completely, the moon was very bright.

I got back in my car and started my journey back to the winery.  But first, I stopped at the campground to use the restroom.  When I entered the restroom, I was greeted by an awesome sign:  step-by-step picture instructions on how to poop in the woods.

293077_10101895300170083_800385655_n While there was running water and flush toilets, there weren’t any lights.  (Sorry for the glare in the middle of the picture.)

As I left the restroom, the park ranger came to ask me if I was leaving because they were just about to close the park gates.  I made it out just in time!

On my long drive back to the winery, I reflected on all of the awesome experiences I had in just one day.  I was in disbelief!  I had seen more in a short weekend than I had in any other weekend in my entire life!  I am so happy that I had the opportunity to make this happen.