NC Eatin’: Hoke County
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Aviator’s Grill & Pub
155 Airport Dr
Raeford, NC 28376
This was one of the scariest days of my life. While I was trying to come up with something special to do for his 30th birthday, I thought, “Oh, gee, wouldn’t it be cool if he could do something off his bucket list? He’s always wanted to skydive!” I researched it, and found Raeford Parachute Center in Raeford, NC. Perfect! Not only could we check something off Jason’s bucket list, but we could also hit another county! (Side note – like our shirts?)
We invited about 50 people to a party at our house for Saturday evening, and they were also invited to join us for skydiving. Six of them ended up taking us up on the offer. We were advised that we had a noon slot for the class and jump, which, given the 2 hour timeframe they gave us, would’ve been just perfect. We could eat a late breakfast, drive out, train, jump, grab some lunch, head home, and have a couple hours before the party. And it would have been perfect if it had turned out that way. Unfortunately you cannot take RPC at their word when they tell you your group can get through the whole thing in 2 hours unless your group is only 2 people. I’m not sure why they didn’t tell me that when I asked as we would have taken an earlier slot. We ended up there for 5 hours. Ugh! That said, they were really great. Very safe and fun. I’d definitely recommend them with the caveat that you should prepared for it to take a loooong time. So here’s how it went:
We showed up at noon and took the class. Our group of eight plus one chick without a reservation made up the entire class. They talked to us, had us fill out some paperwork (release of liability!), showed us a video, and talked to us again. Then they split us up. The chick without a reservation got suited up and jumped. Then 2 of our friends got suited up and jumped. Then a while later, I jumped with my husband and our friend. Then quite a while later, the other 3 in the group jumped.
More specifically: We crammed onto benches in a teeny tiny airplane strapped to our tandem partner. These guys were cracking jokes like nobody’s business, getting us to laugh and stay calm. As we got higher and higher, I realized that this was no joke. We were really going to jump out of a fully functioning (apparently there is no such thing as a “perfectly good”) airplane and fall to the ground, all the while hoping and praying the chute would open. We got sufficiently high enough, so they opened up the door and people started falling out. Don’t freak out – it was on purpose. lol (Side note – notice the incredibly attractive soft helmet and goggles.)
Getting out of the plane was wicked scary. Even my husband, who was ready to go again as soon as we got down, thought it was scary at first – he blacked out the first few seconds and can’t remember a thing about it! This makes me laugh. I didn’t black out as we somersaulted once and then started hurtling towards the earth. I decided to take the logical approach: the guy I was strapped to has jumped a zillion times and never been hurt; heck, he’d jumped a bunch of times already that day; if he had a death wish, he certainly would’ve ended things sooner and likely wouldn’t take a stranger with him; since he’s packed chutes a zillion times, the chute was really likely to open; even if the main chute didn’t open, they get the emergency chutes regularly inspected and re-packed by an extra specially trained and certified person, so it should open; given all of this, the chute was going to open in plenty of time, so I really only had to worry about doing my part for the landing.
Luckily, my logic proved correct! The chute popped open, jerking me a little but definitely not giving me any scrapes or bruises (the heavier you are, the more likely you are to get scraped or bruised from the chute opening). Our descent slowed, and my tandem partner steered us around a bit. We went left, we went right, we tried spiraling a bit. The spiraling made my head feel slightly odd. It wasn’t as odd as Mission Space at Epcot, but still odd. To land, I just grabbed the handles on the pants part of the jumpsuit to pull them up, and we slid in on our butts. A tip for those who want to do this and haven’t done it before: do NOT smile, scream, or open your mouth in any way while sliding in. I smiled for pictures and ended up with dirt in my mouth. Yuck.
While we were waiting for our last few friends to jump, Jason and I got a late lunch at the grill on site. I can’t honestly speak to the quality of the grub there. When you’re hungry and incredibly elated that you didn’t die, everything tastes good. I’d definitely recommend eating post-jump rather than pre-jump if you’ve never jumped before. I’m not sure I could really recommend the jumping part of this equation though… lol I’m glad to be able to say that I’ve done it once, but it wasn’t particularly enjoyable (I do NOT like being scared) while I was getting it checked off my list. My husband would definitely recommend jumping though.
For those of you who are more interested in Raeford than my skydiving experience, I can tell you a little about Raeford. It’s the county seat and had just over 3,300 residents in 2000. More from Wiki: “The City of Raeford, named after the MacRae family who lived at the ‘ford of the creek’ was at one time made up primarily of old Highland Scot families. Likewise, the Upper Cape Fear Valley of North Carolina was in the 18th and 19th Century the largest settlement of Gaelic speaking Highland Scots in North America. Today many of these old families continue to live in the area, though their presence is noticeably diminished by the great numbers of newcomers to the area as a result of Fort Bragg. Since World War II many Lumbee Indian families have moved northward from Robeson County and now constitute a significant element of the population that is otherwise European and African-American.”
Photos: Taken by me, a friend of mine, or Raeford staff and published here by license