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April 18, 2024

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Spring Housing Guide

Maximum velocity at 14,000 feet

I woke up on Sept. 3 with butterflies in my stomach and skydiving on my mind – just hours from jumping out of a plane and plummeting toward the earth.

My nervousness grew during the hour-long drive from Bowling Green to Tecumseh, Mich., and I began to question what I had gotten myself into.

But once we reached our destination – Skydive Tecumseh – I began to soak up the atmosphere and knew what I was about to do would be an amazing experience.

In the lawn area outside of Skydive Tecumseh’s office, divers wait to board the plane and observers watch their loved ones fall from the sky. The lawn was filled with people of all ages and personalities who helped to ease my fears.

Veteran skydivers from all walks of life shared stories of their favorite jumps. Everyone felt welcome in this rag-tag group of thrill-seekers.

Three generations of family shared a picnic lunch.

Another man sat on a bench by himself reading a book in a neon-colored jumpsuit with a cigarette in hand while he waited for his turn, and an employee tended to his pet parrot.

As a steady flow of skydivers swooped down from the sky and landed on a football field-sized lawn, Steve and Kim Kanat landed and began walking toward the visitor’s area.

Without hesitation, their daughter Keller, age 3, yelled, “Daddy, would you like some lemonade?”

Neither Keller nor her sister Sloan, age 6, were phased that their parents had just fallen 14,000 feet out of the sky – they’re used to their parents’ hobby.

“From watching my parents it doesn’t look scary,” Sloan said.

Steve said they make the drive to Tecumseh from Beverly Hills, Mich., three or four weekends per month to skydive.

They like to bring along Sloan and Keller when they can find a baby sitter to come along to Tecumseh.

The Kanats became hooked on the sport when they tried it while on vacation in Hawaii three years ago.

“I like the adrenaline rush that you get out of it,” Kim said.

Like the Kanats, 10-year veteran Cheryl Machouec is addicted to the sport.

She is an engineer for Ford, but spends her weekends at Tecumseh working as a Static Line and AFF Instructor.

Besides the thrill of jumping, the atmosphere of Tecumseh keeps Machouec coming back for more.

“I like the people,” she said. “It’s like my second family.”

Machouec completed her first jump in Wisconsin in August 1995. Since then she has made 1,707 jumps.

With all of her experience, she offered some advice for rookie jumpers.

“It is normal to be nervous, it’s good to be nervous,” she said. “Listen to your instructor. If you follow his instructions you’ll have a safe skydive.”

While the advice and encouragement from the veteran divers was helpful, I decided to seek out someone who could really empathize with me – another first-timer.

I found Mark Mitchell, who was in more of predicament than I was.

Mark, who works for a heating and cooling company in Michigan, left his house that morning thinking he was going to Tecumseh to fix a company’s air-conditioning.

But when he got there, he found the surprise of his life. Greeted by a group of friends, they told him he would be skydiving. It was their birthday present to him.

“I left an hour ago to do a job and now I’m going skydiving,” Mark said.

Mark’s brother Allen decided to surprise him with the gift after Mark expressed interest in skydiving.

“I went once before and put a picture of it on my fridge,” Allen said. “He saw it and rambled on about how he wanted to go skydiving.”

Mark was understandably caught off-guard by the gift.

“I’m very excited about it,” Mark said. “It hasn’t really set in yet.”

His friends offered encouragement and understanding to try and calm Mark’s nerves.

“I was nervous [for him] the day leading up to it,” said friend Molly Harrison.

“It was phenomenal,” Allen said. “I was a little nervous up until the day, then I was more excited.”

I took their words of wisdom with me as I put on my red jumpsuit and gear and got last minute instructions from my instructor, Rich Mulcare.

Mulcare and I boarded a small plane with about 10 other skydivers, all of whom were veterans.

The seating arrangement was rather uncomfortable with everyone sitting on the floor, chest-to-back, cramped in. This only added to my nervousness.

It seemed to take forever to reach an altitude of 14,000 feet.

I enjoyed the beautiful view from the plane, but couldn’t help noticing how small the ground seemed as we rose through the clouds.

As we neared 14,000 feet, all the divers rose to their knees, and Mulcare attached safety clips on the back of my harness to clips on his belly and chest.

Veteran jumpers ahead of me lifted the clear garage-like door near the rear of the plane, and without hesitation, leapt one by one into bright blue sky.

There was no time to think. I thought of turning back, but I’d driven too far – and flown too high – to stop now.

My instructor and I penguin-walked to the door on our knees.

I caught a quick glimpse of the ground as Mulcare hung me out of the plane like a baby strapped to her mother’s chest.

I’ve never felt so scared in my life.

If there had been a few seconds to think, I probably would have tried to crawl back in the plane, but Mulcare rocked backwards once. Before I knew it we were floating.

Overwhelmed by emotion and adrenaline, the wind blowing against my cheeks felt like a roller-coaster 100 times over – and yet my body felt like it was floating on a waterbed.

Our minute of free-fall felt like an eternity before Mulcare released the parachute and we floated to the ground for about 10 minutes.

From there on I sat back and enjoyed the ride.

Mulcare pointed out landmarks around Tecumseh, and we saw people scurrying about at a church picnic.

He let me hold the ropes to the parachute, and by pulling them to the right or left we would do spirals in the air.

After our soft landing, I returned to the office, took off my red jumpsuit, and ran outside feeling on top of the world.

“Now do you understand why we do this?” said Steve Kant with a smile on his face.

I certainly did, and it was clear to me how this sport could easily become an addiction.

Editors Note: Skydive Tecumseh can be contacted at (517)-423-7720, or visit www.skydivetecumseh.com

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