Cerebral Gibberish

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Archive for the 'Travel' Category

First New Year Photos: 2009

Posted by heymoe on 4th January 2009

It has been awhile since I’ve posted some new photos and that’s not because I haven’t taken any. I’ve just been too lazy to post process them and get them uploaded but they will come sooner or later.

Any ways, to start out the new year I decided to by myself a New Year gift. I’ve been using a Nikkor 17-55mm for almost a year now and it’s a wonderful lens but I found myself wishing it was a little wider. I thought about getting the Nikkor 14-24mm thinking that I would start collecting some full frame glass but in the end I decided to hold off since I would only gain 3mm on the wide end and it costs around $1500. I also looked at the Sigma 10-20mm and in general it sounded like most owner liked it but seemed to have some sharpness issues especially around the edges. After looking at a few others I happened upon the Tokina 11-16mm. Released in mid-2008, this lens has collected a lot of glowing reviews in the short amount of time. It has a constant f/2.8 aperture, very good sharpness numbers, good build quality and very well priced at around $570. Another good sign that I ran into was that this lens was out-of-stock at most of the reputable on-line dealers so I thought I was out-of-luck for the time being.. or was I. I stopped by Peace Camera to see if they had a filter I was looking for so while I was there I checked to see if they also had the lens in stock and they did. Well, my need for some instant gratification kicked in so I bought it even though it cost a little more then buying it on-line.

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So last Saturday I joined the Triangle East Photography group and went to their State Capitol Tour. I arrived downtown a little early so I took a quick detour to the N.C. State bell tower to test out the new lens. Now I’ve used my Nikkor 17-55mm to take pictures of the bell tower before and it worked fine since I had space to back up to get it in the frame but the new Tokina 11-16mm pretty much allowed me to get right up next to the bell tower and still fit the whole thing in the frame. This allowed for some really neat perspective shots.

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Well after about 20 mins at the bell tower it was time to head back downtown to meet up with the group next to the capitol building. We spent some time outside to mingle some and to take some shots of the building before we headed inside for the tour. This is the first time I’ve actually been right up next to the capitol building and it was neat to see the architecture up close. I also didn’t realize that there is a church at each corner of the capital building so I thought that was interesting.

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Heading into the capitol building our tour started on the 1st floor in the rotunda where a statue of George Washington sits in the middle. The tour guide explained how the capitol building came to be and a fascinating story behind the statue. From there we headed up to the 2nd floor and got to view the inside of the House of Representatives and Senate chambers. Outside the chambers was the 2nd floor rotunda. We then moved up to the 3rd floor where you can view down into the two chambers on the 2nd floor from the balcony. The 3rd floor also housed the Library and the Geologist’s Office.

After the tour of the capitol, the group took a short walk down Fayetteville Street to take some photos. I got a few shots of the Wachovia …. er.. I mean.. Wellsfargo tower and the RBC tower and other random stuff.

All in all it was a fun first photo outing of the New Year with hopefully more to come.

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Carolina Renaissance Festival 2008

Posted by heymoe on 11th November 2008

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Last Saturday I took a trip back in time to the Village of Fairhaven in 16th century Europe. Travel back in time was as simple as hopping into my car and a little over 2 hours later I was there. No need for a DeLorean and a Mr. Fusion either.

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This year the Carolina Renaissance Festival was celebrating their 15th year. The festival started in 1994 on 6 acres of land and has grown to 22 acres over the last 15 years consisting of 10 stages, an arena for jousting, arts & crafts shops, food, games and rides for the kids and grownups alike and more.

This was my first visit to the Carolina Renaissance Festival and I’m wondering why it took me so long to go. I’ve only been to one other Renaissance Festival when I was growing up in Atlanta and it was nothing like this. Granted that was years and years ago so things have most likely changed. Any ways, walking into the festival you really get the sense that you are in a 16th century village.

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The buildings and other structures are real and functional. Not something that was built up temporally just for the festival and to be torn down when the gates close for the year. Now I’m sure the buildings aren’t 100% authentic but you still get the feeling of being in a different time.

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Then you have all the dedicated people (staff and guests) in their period costumes to add even more realism to the festival. This past weekend was one of the festival’s special / themed weekend which tossed in some pirates into the story line which reminds me of the whole pirates vs. ninjas thing at Animazement.

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I was surprised by how many things there were to do at the festival. With their 10 stages there is always some show sit down and enjoy. Then you have all the shops to wonder though while trying to talk yourself out of spending even more money. Then you can’t forget the jousting which has its own storyline that is played in out three acts during the day so you really have to see each act. I arrived at the festival at around 11:30am and was planning on staying no later then 4pm but ended up sticking around until the gates closed at 5:30pm. I really need to plan out my time better next time.

I really had a lot of fun at the festival and think it was well worth the price of admission, which wasn’t really that expensive. Especially when you consider all the stuff you can see and do that is included in that price. I didn’t really get a chance to sample the different foods the festival had to offer but the prices didn’t seem to be insane and you do seem to get pretty big portions for your money. I look forwarding to going back next year.

More Photos Here (PicLens PicLens Button)

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The Lafayette Report

Posted by heymoe on 7th September 2008

Well, my trip to Lafayette, LA. was not canceled after all so I flew down there last Thursday. Total travel time including the almost 2 hour layover in Houston, TX. was ~7 hours. Both legs of my trip down there were on the small, 50 seat (1 x 2 seat configuration) Embraer RJ145 jets which really sucks to fly on if you’re taller then around 5’3″ which included me and the NCSU Women’s Volleyball Team that was on the flight with me to Houston.

Any ways, I arrived in Lafayette around 1:30pm and while waiting for my baggage I tried to find a hotel room using the airport kiosk without success. After that I got my rental car and headed to the job site. The drive there was pretty easy and over all the damage from Gustav looked to be pretty minimal on the outside but I’m sure places were still without power and unseen water damage. I didn’t really get much work done on Thursday since the other vendor that was there was still getting the SAN storage and servers they were responsible for up and running so I started to do some research on the blade hardware the company was using and how the networking in the blade chassis worked as well as learn more about how the existing network was setup and how our setup will fit into it.

Around 6pm I decided to try and find a hotel again and this time I got lucky got a room at a local Hilton that had some last minute cancellations. Leaving the customer site around 9pm I headed to the hotel looking forward to some quite relaxation time since I’ve been on the move since 6am. Entering the room I was greeted by the sound of two carpet drying fans and a dehumidifier. When I left to grab some dinner I checked with the front desk to see if I could turn them off but they requested that they be left on so the room could dry out without damage. So being a nice guy I left them running all night which pretty much ruled out any quite time.

Friday was pretty much non-stop 17 hour work day. I didn’t even get a chance to have lunch or dinner and by time I left for the day at 2am, there were no places open to grab some food. I pretty much lived on a cold sausage biscuit that one of the guys had left over in the morning, hand fulls of Coco Puff and some peanut butter on crackers. Saturday I spent about 3 hours tying up some loose ends which left me with about 2 hours to do some site seeing before heading home. I was hopping there would be time for me to take a side trip to see the French Quarter but no such luck.

My flight back was actually more enjoyable since both legs of my trip back were on bigger planes. I arrived back in Raleigh around 11pm and this time was able to enjoy a quite (IE: without fan noise), relaxing evening.

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Travel: Lafayette LA.

Posted by heymoe on 1st September 2008

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Humm.. My company is working on a project for another company located in Lafayette LA.. I’m scheduled to fly out there on Thursday to get the hardware out there configured and placed on network so we can remotely finish the install from Raleigh. Normally I’m all for traveling for the company. In the past it has provided me with opportunities to visit places like Guam, Adak Island, Japan, Hong Kong and Anchorage which I would most likely not visit until sometime in the future (IE: Retirement). So traveling to Lafayette would be yet another opportunity to visit a place I’ve never been before and depending on how fast I get the gear up and running, I could take a side trip to New Orleans and see the French Quarter.

Well that sounds all good and everything but there is a monkey wrench to this plan and its name is Gustav. I’ll find out tomorrow if I get the green light or not. If it is a go, hopefully I’ll be able to book a hotel, car and airline ticket still. I called around on Friday and every hotel within a 50 mile radius of Lafayette was booked. I’m really hoping the trip gets called off and pushed back at least two weeks since I got things to do next week. Here is crossing my fingers.

Note: The “X” in the image is roughly where I will be going.

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2008 Beijing Olympics

Posted by heymoe on 10th August 2008

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I’m sure that a lot of people this weekend and in the coming days are going to be glued to the TV watching the different events of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. I know my TV has been tuned to the Olympics just about all this weekend whether I’m actually watching it or as background noise.

I missed the very beginning of the Opening Ceremonies but I must say I was completely amazed by the different performances that I did see. I especially in awe of the movable boxes / character type press performance. The whole time while watching it I was thinking to myself that it must have been hell to program the computer systems and the machinery to make the boxes move up and down like that and then at the end to find out actually people were moving the boxes. I mean WOW! they must have spent months and months of practice to get all the people in sync to do that. Just amazing I tell you. Just as amazing was organizing the share number of performers and having them all be on their marks to form the different patterns on such a grand scale. My hats off to everyone evolved in the opening ceremony and the people of China / Beijing in general for all their hard work. The facilities they have built like the National Stadium (aka: Bird’s Nest) and a National Aquatics Center (aka: Water Cube) for the Olympics are works of art and functional.

Once again like the LHC pictures I posted about a few posts ago, boston.com has posted some amazing photos from the opening ceremonies. Check them out.

GO USA!

Posted in Entertainment, Travel | 1 Comment »

Tick-Tock: Clockwork Ball

Posted by heymoe on 29th July 2008

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This past Saturday attended The Clockwork Ball held at Southern Rail. The Clockwork Ball is a bi-monthly Steampunk gathering held in Carrboro/Chapel Hill, NC. area.

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I was not aware of the event until the night before so I pieced together an outfit from what I had available to try and blend in the best I could. Basically I wore black pants, my motorcycle boots, a old stylish looking white shirt with the sleeves rolled up and a oldish looking tie. I thought I had a vest but could not find it. The next gathering is going to be at HELL in Chapel Hill, NC on 9/27/2008. I should have plenty of time to get something better put together for that one.

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Any ways, the ball started at 10pm and went until 2am inside the bar at Southern Rail. It was funny to see the reactions of people who were regulars to the bar coming in and seeing all these people dressed up in victorian / old-fashion clothing. I chatted with some people I knew from Animazement as well as from Flickr and made some new friends as well.

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There were two other photographers there and I teamed up with one of them to setup a multi-strobe lighting setup by combining our gear. We setup the lights next to a rail road track switch and had several people come out and model for us in their costumes. I did learn that I really need more practice at positioning the lights and adjusting their power output and camera settings to get a good exposure. One of the big issues I had with the pictures I took were the hard shadows that the flashes produced on the wall behind the models. I think I know how to fix them but will need to try and reproduce the setup and see if it works.

The ball officially ended at 2am but a bunch of people headed over to the 24/7 Harris Teeter, which from what I was told was the only place in the area that was still open, to grab some food to snack on while chit-chatting out side. I headed home at around 3am and passed out in the bed by 4:30am. Over all a very good night.

More Photos Here (PicLens PicLens Button)

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Posted in Events, Photography, Travel | 2 Comments »

Milling Around: Yates Mill Park

Posted by heymoe on 21st July 2008

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I picked up a new lens on Thursday (Hopefully the last one for a while. This hobby is getting expensive 🙂 hehe), so I decided to take it out for a spin this weekend. My first stop was Historic Yates Mill County Park.

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Yates Mill was 1 of 70 Wake county gristmills dating back over 200 years. Out of the 70 mills, Yates Mill is the only one left standing today. In 1963 North Carolina State University took ownership of the land the mill is located and in 1989 The Yates Mill Associates began restorations of the mill. In 1996 NCSU and the N.C. Dept. of Agriculture decided to allow Wake Country to convert the 558 acres of land into a park. The park planning hit its first speed bump when Hurricane Fran came through the area and breached the dam draining the millpond and damaged the shed portion of the mill building. Restoration of the mill and the dam was completed in 2005 and the park opened to the public on May 20, 2006. There is a lot more history about the mill available HERE.

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Getting to the park was easy and there was plenty of parking. There is a really nice and air conditioned welcome center which has displays telling the history of Yates Mill as well as information about how mills work and the wild life in the area. There is a nice patio area behind the welcome center that has a view looking over the pond with the mill in the background. The path to the mill is well maintained with benches to rest at and some old parts from the mill along the side of path to explore.

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Reaching the mill itself I was surprised to see people dressed era clothing from mill’s hey day. I have to applaud their dedication to their job since it was very hot and humid that day and they were wearing long pants or full era style dresses. I mean I was wearing shorts and a short sleeve shirt and sweat was pouring down my face as it was. Any ways, it looks like they were giving tours of the inside of the mill as well as demonstrating how it operated. I opted to skip the tour this time and headed down the path to the left of the mill down to the water wheel and dam.

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It was very peaceful in this area with the sound of water flowing and the beauty of the water flowing over the dam like little water falls. The water wheel of the mill was not turning when I first got down there since it seems they only turn it on when there is a tour group going through which seemed to be about every 20-30 minutes. It was really neat to watch them unleash the water with a big gush to get the wheel turning. Once it got turning they lessened the flow to keep it moving. I did run into another snake behind the dam but I saw it well in advance unlike last time. To the parks credit, they did have signs saying that there are snakes in this area as well.

From there the path takes you up a hill to a picnic area and a deck / pier that over looks the pond and gives you good view of the mill. I’m pretty sure the path would take you all the way around the pond but it was just too hot and humid that I decided to head back to the welcome center to cool down and then on to my next stop (so I thought.. stay tuned).

More Photos Here (PicLens PicLens Button)

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Skydiving: I’m Alive!

Posted by heymoe on 14th July 2008

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Almost 3 months after our first attempt, Casey and I successfully jumped from a perfectly good airplane and landed safely.

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This time around the weather was great other then it being hot (in the 90s). We also had a larger cheering section in the form of Casey and Lindsay’s parents, Casey’s sister, aunt and uncle. My attempts to talk our other friends, who shall be unnamed (you know who you are 🙂 hehe), to come out and watch failed.

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Our jump was scheduled for 12pm (noon) but we did not actually get into the air until about 1:10pm. As a refresher, both Casey and I went through the level 1 tandem jump class again and about 10 minutes later we were called into the prep room to get geared up. 20 minutes after that it was time to board the plane, a CASA 212 Aviocar.

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Casey and I along with our tandem jump masters (Dave was mine, I’m not sure who Casey’s was) were the first to board the plane since we are going to be the last to leave the plane. The plane was packed with other jumper and everyone was in good spirits and excited. At around 6000 feet, our jump masters started to double check our harnesses and connecting us to their harness / parachute. Casey actually had to get up and sit in his jump master’s lap due to the tight quarters. As we climbed in altitude, the temperature was going down and made me wish it felt that good on the ground.

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Once we were at altitude and over the drop zone the pilot turned on the green light and the other jumpers started to exit the plane. When it was our turn we made our way to the rear of the plane which was awkward due to Dave being shorter then me. I kept reaching out with my right hand to help keep my balance but Dave kept making me put my arm down for some reason. I was able to hold onto the static line cable with my left hand which I guess was OK. Casey, his jump master and his videographer were the first to leave the plane and then Dave and I moved into position. Once in position I once again reached up for a handle on the ceiling to balance myself but had my hand swatted again but I think I know why that time. Looking down at the ground below seemed unrear and before I knew it my arms were crossed and my head was back as we exited the plane doing a back-flip, or at least I think it was a back flip.

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During the free-fall I don’t really remember to much visually, most likely due to the adrenaline rush and concentrating what we were told to do in class. The lack of any visual reference that we are used to on the ground (IE: driving by stationary objects in a car) seemed to cancel out the fact that we were falling at 120MPH. The only real sign of speed was the sound of the wind going by which was quite loud. I remember making sure I had my body arched and arms crossed as instructed until Dave tapped me on my shoulder letting me know it was time to un-cross my arms and hold them in front of me. We performed some left and right turns but I don’t know how many degrees we turned. After that I got tapped on the shoulders again letting me know it was time to re-cross my arms and prepare for the parachute deployment.

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Once the parachute deployed everything went silent and things started to slow down to a more relaxed pace. Dave did the post deployment checks and loosened up the straps on my harness some to try and make things a little more comfortable. He then handed me the parachute controls and we did a practice landing flare and then did some left and right turns. We also did a double turn to demonstrate how the turns get faster the longer you hold it. Dave pointed out where the landing site was and we even saw Casey in the distance below us and the jump plane coming in for a landing. At this point my arms started to get numb so Dave said to put my arms down. I think there was a strap or two still too tight and and was cutting off circulation, oh well.. it happens. Any ways, as we got closer to the ground I could see the cheering squad waving and taking pictures. Our butt first landing was uneventful and it was nice get disconnected and having the blood flowing again.

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After that Casey and I posed for some pictures with our jump masters and then walked back to the cheering squad and posed for even more pictures. We got out of our jump gear and got our logbooks filled out and signed as well as our first jump certificate. We all then headed out to grab some late lunch.

Now the question is should I go for the certification or is one jump enough for me? The experience was great but I kind of wish I remember I remember more of the free fall portion and for that I think more jumps will be required. In theory I could do the level 2 jump and not have to worry about maintaining currency from a training point of view. After level 2 you’ll have to schedule you jumps so that you don’t exceed 30 days or more between. If you do you’ll end of spending more money in the long term since you will most likely have to repeat previous levels before you’re allowed to move on to the next. Hopefully Casey will be interest in getting certified so we and do it together, if not I’ll most likely do it any ways. I highly recommend everyone jump at least once.

Note: Casey is under the white, yellow and blue parachute and I’m under the black and blue one. I also want to thank Casey’s uncle Dayle for taking the pictures of Casey and I making our way back down to Terra Firma.

: ::Update:: :
Lindsay has posted some pictures of Casey’s jump and posted an entry on their blog.

More Photos Here (PicLens PicLens Button)

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Falls Lake

Posted by heymoe on 26th April 2008

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While heading to Home Depot to pick up some yard supplies, I decided to make a detour to Falls Lake (one many to come I think) and continue my exploration of local parks. When I left the house the sun was out with some clouds but nothing that looked like rain. While heading down Highway 50 the skies opened up with a really good down pour maybe about 2 miles from Falls Lake. I kept on going despite the rain figuring it would end as quickly as it started and I was right.

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Falls Lake is pretty big so this little detour is only a taste of what future visits will hold. Since this was my first visit to Falls Lake, I took the first turn off I came upon on Highway 50 which turned out to the the Highway 50 Boat Launch area. I was not really interested in the boats so luckily there was a picnic area and a trail down to the water with bridge over a spillway. The water level was high enough that you could not tell there was a spillway there which I think is a good sign from the drought point-of-view. I was the first one down to the bridge since the rain just stopped but it did not take long for others to show up with fishing polls in hand. I did not see anyone catch anything while I was there though. On the other side of the bridge was a man-made land bridge that went all the way across to the other side of the lake.

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I didn’t see a lot of wildlife while I was there but did come across two geese so I practiced using my zoom lens on them. My photos of the geese are nothing to write home about but it was still fun “stalking” them to get into position for the shots. I did not adventure to far off the main path this time around and I was very careful where I was stepping especially on the loose rocks. I did not want to have another unexpected run in with a snake like I did at Pullen Park.

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Wine, Skydiving and Barbers: Oh My!

Posted by heymoe on 20th April 2008

Phew! The weekend is over.. Finally.. Saturday was the annual Uncork the Fun wine festival in Cary and since I forgot to buy tickets advance, I got up early so I could get there when the gates open to beat the lines. Getting their early also had the benefit of not having to deal with the lines at each of the wineries’ tents which allowed me to take my time while sampling their selections without feeling rushed by the line of people behind you. This year several wineries put out wines made wholly from strawberries or as a blend with traditional wine grapes. The strawberry concoctions typically ranged from semi-sweet to OMG sweet. I bought one of these concoctions that had a semi-sweet to sweet start and finished with an interesting “kick” that caught my attention vs. the others I sampled. Any ways, sometime between getting there and around 1pm, when I took a break for lunch, I started to feel really “happy” after all the tasting and Casey has the voice mail to prove it 🙂 hehe..

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At around 2:30pm I decided I tasted all that I could and it was getting crowded so I hit the road and headed to Carolina Sky Sports in Franklinton NC. to check out their facilities and to get more information on jumping out of an airplane. Getting there was pretty easy and the drive down Highway 56 was scenic. Being that this is the first drop zone I’ve been to, I have no reference on how good or bad it is compared to others but I liked what I saw and everyone I talked to were really nice and were more then happy to answer any questions I had.

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There was a large observation deck out back and I was able to take some photos of some skydivers making their way back to Terra Firma. Well, after talking and watching for a bit, I decided I really wanted to jump from an airplane so I went and asked about scheduling a jump. They told me that due to the 4 straight weekends of rain they had a back log of people already scheduled but they did have spots for one or two people tomorrow (Sunday). At this point I gave Casey a call again, this time not so “happy”, to see if he was up for a jump and he was, so I scheduled us for the 2pm class and headed home.

To end my Saturday I watched Sweeney Todd on DVD. I was not sure what to expect but I was pleasantly surprised and really enjoyed it. I thought Johnny Depp and Helena Carter did a great job playing Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett as was their singing.

On Sunday, Casey, Lindsay and I met up at Carolina Sky Sports for our 2pm class and the first line of business was to watch a short video explaining the dangers of skydiving. It was hosted by a guy who looked like he was a member of ZZ Top which was amusing. Next we had to sign away our ability to sue pretty much anyone that we, our family, our next of kin, etc could sue in the case we are injured or die from skydiving. Then we paid for the jump and moved to the training room were an instructor ran through the gear used and the process of the first Tandem jump. During this time we could hear a down pour of rain going on which caused a weather delay for the three groups ahead of us which means our jump also got pushed back. The weather delay was lifted not long after we got out of training and the weather was looking good… so we thought. When the third group was on their way up, Casey and I were called into to staging room where we were given a jump suite to squeeze into. Lindsay came in and took pictures of Casey and I in our jump suites and we all chatted with the other two guys and their family who were in our group. Our jump masters came in about 20 mins later after completing their jump with the previous group and attached the tandem harness to Casey and I. So at this point we were ready to go but another storm front moved in and we were grounded. We waited for a while hopping for it to clear but when it got to be around 6pm it was decided to call it a day so Casey, Lindsay and I spent 4 hours at Carolina Sky Sports and all we had to show for it was a rain check to try again later.

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We all agreed that the next time we make our attempt that we would try to talk two other friends to jump with us or at least have them come out and be our cheering squad as we fall from the sky (hopefully cheering for our safe decent 🙂 hehe). Lindsay has update their blog with her account of our skydiving adventure including the pictures she took so check them out.

More Photos Here (PicLens PicLens Button)

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