Photos from Trip to Florida (Including Skydiving Photos)  (January 1, 2009)

(Click on any of the thumbnails below to view the full-sized photo.)

(If there is any difficulty viewing the YouTube videos, the raw files from the camera are here.)

I do have a DVD of most of the footage below (will play in any modern DVD or Blu-ray player), and also a data DVD with all of the raw camera files.  If you'd like me to send you both DVDs, just write me at  The DVDs are not copy protected, so once you receive the DVDs you should be able to copy them in any modern computer.

I spotted this bumper sticker at the Walmart in Battle Creek, Michigan.  It certainly represents a point of view that I have not seen before.

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Lucy lounging on my motorcycle jacket.  Lucy has an unusual method of selecting resting spots—usually she prefers darker colors.  I have not figured out her system.

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Photos of Phoebe, the feral mother cat adopted by me and several of my neighbors.

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Fluffy, the feral kitten of Phoebe.  Fluffy now has a great home in Colon, Michigan.  It is my understanding that he has been renamed to Cain, after a successful race car driver.

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The three-plate feeding system.  For a while, I had three adult cats.  The only way to prevent fighting at mealtime was to dispense the food onto three plates, adequately separated so that no cat could attempt to claim possession of more than one plate.

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Mom and kittens, however, would eat peacably from the same plate.

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Laurie with Tiger (the female feral kitten of Phoebe).

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I do have some additional videos of Tiger and Fluffy playing, of Tiger and Alice playing, of Tiger being brushed, etc.

I was going to go down to Florida to visit Dad and Pat, anyway ... but in a casual discussion with Stan (a skydive instructor) it came out that he was going to go down to Florida at the same time ... so I canceled my airline ticket and drove down with Stan.  This is Stan driving and a few photos from the trip.  (The photos are not especially meaningful—I actually used the photos, taken with my iPhone, to e-mail status reports along the way.

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This is a photo of Lynn and Stan (taken on a completely different occasion).

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One of the things I did rather early in the visit was to bring Dad and Pat into the age of digital TV.  They did have a TV with a converter box, but the system was really difficult to use.  I upgraded them to a flatscreen and a Blu-ray player.

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Things started with a visit to a local motorcycle rental shop.

I found the website of the rental place rather humorous, in that they made it very clear that one must have a cycle rating to rent a motorcycle.  I found it humorous because if you had told me before I started riding that there were at least a dozen different ways to hurt yourself on a motorcycle, I wouldn't have believed it.  I'm now a total believer.  Motorcycles are really, really dangerous.

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The motorcycle I rented was a Honda Shadow Aero, which is about 100 lbs. heavier than my Honda.  I had heard lots of bad things about the Aero, but I have no complaints.  It has more power than my motorcycle (keeps up with the Florida traffic) and rides better.  Honda has an interesting product line, in that the smaller motorcycles are carbureted rather than fuel injected.  I don't have any complaints.  For a low-tech inexpensive V-twin cruiser, it was just fine.

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The motorcycle had a couple of impressive warning stickers.  I do consider myself qualified to evaluate the weight and balance of the motorcycle.

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While walking around Orlando, I did notice the office of a couple eminent domain attorneys.  This struck me as unusual because eminent domain is seldom invoked in most areas—not often enough to have specialized attorneys.  I do understand why Orlando may be different.

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I did stop at the local FBO to pick up some instructional materials to prepare for a BFR and my return to flying.  I did notice this license plate.  I've never crashed an airplane or had a forced landing, but I can definitely believe it could be very unpleasant.

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The next part of my trip was a miracle eye-opener.  On the drive down to Florida, Stan indicated that he was going to a skydiving resort; but it really didn't dawn on me until I actually saw it that there are people who really enjoy skydiving.  One of the gals in the photos and videos was from France, one was from Germany, and one was from Finland.  I never knew that there were unconventional tourists who came to the U.S. to skydive.

Special thanks to Stan for inviting me out to Lake Wales, Florida to actually see the process; and for arranging for me to fly right-seat in the jump plane.  Special thanks also to the Florida Skydiving Center and to all the jumpers who put up with my silly questions.

These are the general goings-on in the hangar.  It was a mixture of parachute-packing, socializing, debriefing, and practicing aerial maneuvers; and they even had a video game set up for kids who come with their parents.

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Before I could fly in the jump plane, I got to sign a very impressive waiver at the office.

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This is the jump plane itself.  It is a twin turboprop.  They have a separate battery cart (just below the tail numbers) to start it up, as many or all of the batteries have been removed to save weight.

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The jump plane rolling out with a load of jumpers.

I rode in a trailer out to the jump plane.  The gal across from me (dark hair, red and black jump suit) is going on a tandem jump.  I spoke to her after the jump (not recorded)—she really enjoyed it.  The guy next to her with no hair is the skydive instructor.  In the jump footage (below), they are the last two out of the plane.  I like his hat with the purple spikes.

Videos and photos from my ride in the right seat of the jump plane.  The pilot descended at over 3,000 FPM (to save fuel), which caused me a lot of pain (not the pilot's fault—I suspect my sinuses were blocked that day).  The pilot is an airline pilot with about 16,000 hours of flying time.  He was rather remarkable in his ability to multi-task: he was managing the aircraft, me (smalltalk), the skydivers, and ATC all at the same time.

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I did make a video of more action in the hangar and a load of skydivers landing.

This is Stan and other skydivers boarding the airplane and going up.

This is a full planeload of skydivers (including Stan) coming down.  The stairs give a way over the barbed wire in case skydivers land in the farm field next door.

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These are miscellaneous other pictures from near the drop zone.

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I found a rather unique T-shirt being worn at the local Walmart.  The gentleman wearing it was a retired New York firefighter studing in Orlando to be a chef.  He indicated that a lot of people didn't get the humor of the T-shirt.

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These are a few photos of Dad.  Pat did not want to be photographed.

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Speedy, playing.  He is normally more vigorous, but he was watching Dad eat and contemplating whether he might get a taste.

At the time I had to return the motorcycle and get to the airport, Dad and Pat had a medical appointment.  To keep it simple, I strapped all my stuff on the motorcycle, returned it to the rental shop, then took a taxi from there.  I did get a few strange looks from motorists and from the rental shop employees when I had so much stuff on the motorcycle.

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Alice wanted to play hide-and-seek while I was unpacking.

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