|Four words can best describe the Rocky Point Skydiving
Boogie 2002: Best. Rocky. Point. Ever. It was a trip that none of us will ever
We decided to do things a little bit differently this year. Since Janice and Danny and Joshua were not coming with us, John and Mary and I had the option of riding down to Mexico in the Verleys’ motor home. We decided, however, that we preferred to tent camp in our own adjacent space in the RV park, rather than sleep inside of the motor home, because it allowed us more privacy. For that reason, we opted to drive down to Rocky Point in our own Jeep.
As the trip drew closer, we learned that Erika would not be driving down to Mexico until Friday, as she was unable to take Thursday (April 25) as a vacation day. With that in mind, Bill offered to tow our Jeep behind the motor home, which would save us quite a bit of money on gas. We whole-heartedly agreed. Then, a week before the trip, we learned that Erika would not be driving her car down to Mexico at all; instead, she would be hitching a ride with their neighbors, Bob and Becky Burchett. Without Erika’s car as a tow vehicle, we would be able to tow the Jeep both ways and ride in comfort in the motor home…
…that is, if we could get the vehicles out of the neighborhood!
While John was away on a business trip in San Antonio, TX, I packed up the Jeep with all of our camping gear and toys for Mary to play with on the beach – including her brand new red wagon with cargo tires. John returned home on Wednesday night to find that I had once again successfully prepared for our vacation, so all he had to do was wait for Bill to pick us up on Thursday morning.
The Verleys’ motor home arrived right on time, at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday morning. After loading ice chests, parachutes and gear bags into the motor home, Bill and John loaded the Jeep onto the car tow and secured the wheels. Then, once they were ready, we all climbed into the motor home and drove away…
I think we managed to drive about ten feet before we heard a loud squeal, coming from the Jeep. The tires were not turning at all, resulting in a ten-foot skid mark on 37th Place! Bill and John tried several experiments to see if they could get the tires to turn, to no avail. No matter what they did, the end result was the same: a loud squeal and a large skid mark.
Did that mean that we were going to have to drive to Rocky Point? It was certainly looking that way, so I pulled Mary out of her car seat and prepared to put her into the Jeep. However, as I jumped out of the motor home and walked around to the back, I found that John was underneath the Jeep, busily working with tools in his hand.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Well, I’m dropping the drive shaft,” he replied. That would allow the rear tires to roll freely, which would allow us to tow the vehicle all the way to Mexico. How clever!
While he was working, Bill and I played with Mary next to the motor home. Mary, however, could not help but notice that her daddy was underneath the Jeep, so she squatted down to get a better look. “Mary, where’s Daddy?” we asked her, and suddenly, without warning, she crawled underneath the Jeep! Imagine my surprise when I saw her do that!
Fortunately, Mary was only under the car for a few minutes, which was how long it took for John to finish dropping the drive shaft. After stowing the part on the front seat of the Jeep, we all climbed back into the motor home and headed towards the freeway…this time, without leaving skid marks behind us!
The rest of the trip passed without incident, and we safely arrived in Mexico at 1:00 p.m. While I paid for our RV spaces, John and Bill (along with Mary) drove into the RV park, where they prepared to take the Jeep off of the car tow. That, of course, meant that they needed to reattach the drive shaft. John was busy working on it when I returned from the registration office. Ignoring him, I went into the motor home to tape up the parking permits…only to discover that Mary was nowhere to be found!
I climbed out of the motor home and asked John, “Where’s Mary?”
“She’s right there,” came the voice of Terry Schumacher, one of the skydivers who frequents the Rocky Point Boogie. (Terry is a cameraman and puts together the Rocky Point documentary every year.) As I made my way to the back of the motor home, I found Terry squatting down next to the Jeep, videotaping: he was filming Mary, who was sitting under the Jeep once again, helping John with the drive shaft!
As soon as our home was set up, the four of us went over to Manifest to register for the boogie, which was just getting underway when we arrived. The Twin Otter had arrived from Skydive Arizona on Wednesday, meaning that they were ready to fly loads on Thursday, as soon as people began to arrive at the RV park. The first load flew at about 3:00 p.m., and they managed to send up two or three loads that day, which was the most they had ever flown on a Thursday!
While John registered, he also purchased T-shirts for all of us…including a toddler-sized T-shirt for Mary. Dawn Rae and Marc Hogue, being the parents of a fourteen-month old toddler themselves, had decided to print up T-shirts for the kids this year…and they sold out the first day! In fact, they had to set one aside just for Mary, because they knew that we wanted one for her.
John also took a moment to talk to Marc Hogue, to see if he would be willing to take me on a tandem skydive…and not just any tandem, but a tandem in a ten-way formation. I had decided that I wanted to do a tandem during this trip to Rocky Point, so John wanted to put something special together for me – that is, if Marc didn’t have any objections to it. He said that he didn’t, as long as John put together a good group of skydivers. He assured him that he would.
Once John was registered for the boogie, he returned to the motor home, where Mary and I were playing. He suggested that we gather up a few toys and take Mary down to the beach to play, before he started jumping. The three of us immediately put on our bathing suits and, with Mary in her little red wagon, we walked down to the beach.
Unlike last year, Mary was a little apprehensive about getting into the water. She insisted that I, not John, carry her into the water, and as I walked deeper and deeper into the surf, she clung to me tightly. She did become more comfortable, though, the longer we stayed in the water and soon found herself laughing as we bobbed up and down.
Mary, however, preferred playing on the beach to swimming in the ocean. As soon as we put her down on the shore, she plopped down and began digging in the wet sand with her shovel and throwing handfuls of it into the air as she screamed with glee. John and I soon joined her in the sand and helped her build many sandcastles, which she enjoyed knocking over.
The highlight of Mary’s day, however, was seeing the first load of skydivers land on the beach…and for the rest of the weekend, it was her favorite activity. Having spent a considerable amount of time at Skydive Arizona, Mary was already familiar with parachutes and skydivers and knew that that was what her daddy did. Although she was greatly disappointed when John got on the cattle truck to get on the second load of the day (Bill was on the first), she delighted in seeing all of the brightly colored parachutes land on the beach…and as each one landed, she would call out, “Daddy! Daddy!” It was not only exciting to her but to John, because he could hear her calling out to him as he landed.
After the sunset load landed, it was time for dinner and Dos Equis, not necessarily in that order. John, Bill and I put Mary into the wagon and wheeled her over to the Playa Bonita Hotel, where we ate a delicious dinner at the restaurant. Upon our return, we sat under the awning of the motor home and drank beers with several of our skydiving friends, including Glen Medley (the cameraman who filmed our wedding), Jim Sowden and Bekie Thompson (both of whom had never been to the Rocky Point Boogie before), and Terry Schumacher. The party went late into the night, hours after Mary went to sleep, but eventually broke up before midnight, after John gave up trying to stay awake.
The next day – Friday – John and I awoke sometime after sunrise, to a cool, beautiful morning. As we slowly started our morning, we noticed that, one by one, the other skydivers were beginning to emerge from their hideaways. A small group of us began to discuss breakfast, and soon our “small” group of seven (including Mary) went to Manny’s to eat. All seven of us piled into the Jeep – John and I up front, Mary in her car seat, with Bekie and Shawna next to her, and Bill and Jim in the back, holding the tailgate closed!
Friday began the first full day of jumping. After Manifest opened, John and Bill both went to try to get on a load, while Mary and I played on the beach. There, we met up with Glen and his friend Debbie. Glen took a few digital pictures of Mary and experimented with different types of lenses. She enjoyed posing for the pictures but eventually became distracted as the parachutists began to land on the beach. “Daddy!” she shouted over and over again, pointing up towards the sky. (Photos courtesy of Glen Medley.)
We spent most of the day playing on the beach and taking Mary on wagon rides around the RV park while I socialized with the other jumpers and their families. Mary played for a few minutes with Marc and Dawn Rae’s little girl, but both of them became too distracted by other things and stopped playing with each other. In between jumps, John and I joked around with our neighbor, Mike Putz, the owner of the World’s Ugliest Bus (which he swore was scheduled to be painted in three weeks…we told him that we’ll believe it when we see it.) We also socialized with a large group of jumpers who occupied the campsites across the road from ours. We all sat in the shade of the awning next to Bekie’s van, and we supervised as a group of recent arrivals (Monica and her son Quin, Linda, and Bill) set up their campsite.
While I was busy socializing with the others, Mary was sound asleep in the Verleys’ motor home, atop Bill and Erika’s bed, where it was nice and cool. She had already been asleep just under two hours, so I checked on her every ten minutes or so to make sure that she was still asleep. About nine minutes after my last check, I looked at my watch and decided that it was time to go check on Mary again…
…I had just set down my beer when suddenly, I saw this little lost soul coming down the steps of the motor home. As she reached the ground, she stopped and looked around with the most heart-wrenching whimper I had ever heard. Having awakened from her nap, Mary found herself utterly alone in the quiet motor home. She lowered herself off of the bed and wandered through the RV until she found the door, where she began her search for Mommy and Daddy. Fortunately, we saw her right away, so John and I immediately ran over to her and scooped her up into our arms. She clung to us tightly, still a bit frightened by the incident, but all it took was a few minutes before she began to socialize with the group.
Later that evening, right before sunset, Erika arrived with the Burchetts, in their big red truck. They were just in time, too, because the sunset load was just about to go up! We watched as the last load of the day jumped from the Otter and landed safely on the beach. Then, much to our surprise, the Otter returned and flew just feet above the beach, in what had to have been one of the best buzz jobs we have ever seen in Mexico. What a great way to end a great day!
That night, we all decided to attend the welcoming party, which, in years past, was always held at La Curva. This year, however, Marc negotiated to change the venue and held it at Sr. Amigo’s instead. He reserved for us the top floor of the restaurant, and the staff set up the tables to accommodate the large group that they would be serving. Although it was a rather cool night, we did enjoy having the party at Sr. Amigo’s…but because it was such a cool night, we decided to bail early.
On Saturday morning, John and I awoke early again. After getting ready to start the day, we left Mary with her grandparents for an hour so that we could go to breakfast by ourselves. It was nice for us to be able to sit down and have an adult conversation without interruptions from others. During breakfast, John made a list of the people he wanted to include in my tandem skydive, which I was planning to do later that afternoon.
Upon our return from breakfast, John went to Manifest to try to get on a load, so I went to look for Mary. She was with Erika on the beach, and the two of them were having the most marvelous time. Erika had taught Mary how to stomp her feet in the tide pools, so Mary was running through the ankle-deep water, screaming with joy. Erika then picked up some seashells, which Mary presently threw into the water. As they went “plop” into the tide pools, she waved bye-bye to them, just as she had done next to the Verde River last month. When she grew tired of that, she picked up her gigantic pink ball and threw that into the water, to see what it would do. When it rolled away from her down the beach, she chased after it, laughing hysterically all the way.
While Mary played with vim and vigor, I prepared for my big adventure: my second-ever tandem skydive (my first over Rocky Point). With me in tow, John rounded up eight of his friends and enlisted the help of Glen Medley to videotape the jump. He then gathered all of us together to discuss the skydive. He and Bill would each dock on me, and the other eight (Jim Sowden, Eric Asendorf, Monica Dean, Shawna Dorsey, Lynda Robinson, Bekie Thompson, Bill Rangel, and Charley) would form a “zoo round” to complete a full circle.
John talked this over with Marc Hogue then attempted to get us manifested for the latest load possible before the sunset load. Marc, however, had become overwhelmed with requests for tandems and said that it was going to be a while before he could get to mine. I was disappointed at first, but then Glen introduced us to a friend of his who had also been doing tandems all day long. His name was Brian, and when he heard what we were doing, he agreed to take me on my tandem.
Around 3:00 p.m., our group climbed on board the cattle truck to go to the airport. En route, Brian gave the others in our group a few safety tips about jumping with a tandem, for example, never touch the tandem master, stay away from the drogue, do not approach the tandem until the drogue has been deployed, and break-off is at 5,000 feet. He also informed the group that he was going to give us a five-second delay before deploying the drogue chute, which, I suppose, was to give us a head start.
Upon our arrival, we boarded the Twin Otter, which had been waiting for us on the runway. Brian and I sat near the door, next to the Vetters and their group. It was the first time, in all of the times that I had been in skydiving planes, that I had ever had the chance to sit there. It was something that I completely enjoyed…and it made me nervous, too! They say that your second jump is supposed to be scarier than your first, because the second time around, you know what to expect. I can honestly say that I agree with them. As I watched the plane climb higher and higher into the sky, I said to myself, “What was I thinking? Why am I doing this?”
Of course, it’s not like I was going to chicken out – not me! No matter what, I was going through with it!
At 13,000 feet, the door was opened. As soon as the Vetters exited the plane, it was our turn. Once Glen was in position outside of the plane, Brian and I squatted at the door…and then, in the next moment, we were in freefall. At that exact moment, I replied to myself, “Oh, yeah! That’s why I’m doing this!”
It was a long time before I finally felt John take my hand. A few seconds later, Bill docked on my left side, and a few seconds after that, Eric docked on John. By that time, though, Brian was giving them all the wave-off, for we were already at 5,000 feet. Suddenly, I felt the tug as the huge parachute deployed overhead, and suddenly, all became quiet as the sound of rushing air dissipated.
“This is my favorite part,” I said, admiring the beautiful scenery below my feet. “You gotta love this!”
We did a few practice turns and such as we hovered over the Playa Bonita RV Park. Then, we came in for a landing, amidst cheers from the spectators and Mary, who was shouting “Daddy!” as she tried to free herself from Grandma’s arms. Once I was on the ground, the others in the group came round to congratulate me. We eventually made it to the steps of the RV Park, where Erika and Mary, as well as Bob and Becky Burchett, were waiting with a cooler full of Dos Equis for everyone.
We soon ran out of beer, so it was up to John and me (since I owed a case anyway) to take a drive to the distributor to pick up a new case. As soon as we parked the Jeep, the staff quickly scrambled to our car to help us carry in our boxes of bottles to return for our deposit. We then purchased a case of canned beer, and the staff eagerly helped us carry that out to our Jeep.
As John loaded the beer into the back of the Jeep, another truck pulled up behind us, and I noticed that the driver was none other than Mike Putz. He got out of the car and approached us, but before I could say hi to him, he grabbed John around the waist and yelled, “Gimme your money, you stupid gringo!
John nearly wet himself, and I laughed so hard that I nearly fell over. When he realized what had happened, John began cursing under his breath and laughing, for it’s not everyday that people can pull a fast one on John Verley! “You got me good,” he said to Mike.
Upon returning to the RV Park, we spent the rest of the night talking with our friends as we drank beer. The hot topic, of course, was my skydive, in which everyone gave their perspective of the jump. The reason that no one else was able to join us on the dive was that the tandem was falling too fast. The five-second delay that Brian had planned turned out to be an eight-second delay, and by the time the last person left the plane, we were just a speck on the horizon.
“Let’s just put it this way,” I said to them all. “I can now say that I've been on a Flail dive!”
They all whole-heartedly agreed with me, and Eric jokingly said, “Well, I guess now I’ll need to get you a Flail number!”
To commemorate the event, I had each of the jumpers sign my “first” jump certificate, and I thanked each of them personally for being there for it.
The party continued well into the night, until, sometime around 11:00 p.m., John and I went to bed, completely exhausted from the excitement of the day…and very drunk, too.
The next day – Sunday – it was time to leave.
While John and Bill made a few jumps, Erika, Mary and I went shopping at the “Mall” – a strip of little shops where tourists can buy rugs, blankets, clothing, glassware, whatever! It was my intention to buy a dress for Mary – a souvenir of her second trip to Rocky Point – but I couldn’t find anything in her size. At long last, after an hour of shopping, I found her the perfect gift: a doll. In fact, as soon as I picked it up off of the shelf, she grabbed it away from me, and that was when I knew that it was going to be hers. Fortunately, it was only four dollars; Erika stepped in to pay for it, and that was that! Mary now had a new toy.
Upon our return, we prepared to leave Rocky Point. We packed up our campsite and loaded everything into the Jeep, while Erika did the same for the motor home. Then, when John and Bill were done jumping for the day, they hooked the Jeep up on the tow cart. As soon as the drive shaft had been dropped, we pulled away from the Playa Bonita RV Park, with a “see you next year.”
Now, of course, we could not leave Rocky Point without stopping first at Manny’s for lunch, as that was the tradition and it could not be broken. We spent two hours there, eating and toasting to the fun weekend – we even let Mary have one more run along the beach, just to wear her out before the long drive home. Then, once we had had our fill, it was time to go.
The drive home was far from uneventful, despite the fact that there were no run-ins with law enforcement this time. (During Rocky Point 1999 and 2001, we were stopped by police for the stupidest reasons…and did not receive a single ticket!) Instead, we were passed by a line of wild, honking cars, full of wild and crazy people waving to us as they passed us by along Highway 85, just south of Ajo.
So what did Erika do? She flipped them the bird!
“Mom!” John shouted to her. “You just flipped off Eric and Monica!”
D’oh! Sure enough, Eric and Monica passed us first, followed by Bill Rangel and his group and then Jim Sowden in his pick-up truck.
Around 5:00 p.m., we stopped in Gila Bend to pick up some dinner at the McDonald’s. While I waited in the painfully long line to place our order, John took Mary outside to play on the playground, to try to run her a bit before the last leg of our journey. In the process, he removed her shoes and put them in the cubby hole…and then forgot to put them back on her when it was time to go! D’oh!
Despite the fact that we were all getting a bit loopy, we did manage to make it home in one piece, around 7:00 p.m. Once everything was unloaded and the Jeep had its drive shaft reattached, we all retired, eager for a last chance to relax…
…until Bill called us to inform us that we had left a set of our car keys in the motor home! D’oh!
“I’ll get them tomorrow,” I said.
And thus ended the best Rocky Point ever, an adventure I will never forget.
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