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Free Falling: Ohio Skydiving School will change your perspective on the world

Mitch Hooper

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The things I do for content.

My Saturday mornings are typically relaxing. I like to wake up early, listen to some music, play a few games on my Xbox, and then make my way into the world. I like my couch, I prefer pools to oceans, and my idea of a risk is getting pinto beans instead of black beans in my Chipotle bowl. And somehow, on a Saturday morning, I found myself with a grown man strapped to my back plummeting 11,000 feet towards the Earth’s surface.

Making the hour drive to Skydive Greene County was tough with a giant pink elephant in the car—the uneasy feeling in my stomach the entire way where every bone, muscle, and cell in my body was screaming: TURN AROUND. When I arrived, my trusty skydive team trudged forward, making jokes—they say seven out of every eight divers make it to the ground—and we scoffed at the “Hell Is Real” billboard.

Photo: Adam Fakult

The facility at Skydive Greene County has been in operation since 1961, and the numerous plaques, flags, trophies, and more were a reminder of the 50+ years of success they’ve experienced. It all began with the owner, founder, and general badass Jim West. He began skydiving in 1959 and never looked back. Since, he’s logged more than 16,000 skydives and 30,000 hours piloting planes. Can you even think of anything you’ve done 16,000 times?

After an informational video about the “do’s” and “don’ts” of diving, our group was separated to meet with our tandem instructor who assured us, “We always find the bodies.” It may sound morbid hearing these lighthearted jokes about dying, but rather I saw it as a bode of confidence. My tandem jumper does jumps almost daily from sunup to sunset without a single accident. I’m just another day at work, so to speak.

We were informed we were the third group of five to start the jumps of the day. Each time, I’d see one group nervously approach the plane. About 15 minutes later, they’d softly land on the grass with a beaming smile and what I assumed was a new perspective on life. And each time one landed, it was a reminder that I was soon to do the same. My stomach was a war of butterflies and creepy crawlies just at the thought. Dear Lord, don’t let me splat on the ground.

Photo: Adam Fakult

(Okay, maybe that “Hell Is Real” sign had more influence than I care to admit.)

Finally, it was our turn to board the plane. My instructor pulled out a GoPro to keep note of my emotions before and after. My instructor asked me the final question: Anything you want to say before we go up?

BROUGHT TO YOU BY

Tell my mom I love her.

Next thing I know, I was sitting on his lap processing all the steps I need to do before and during the jump. Sitting across from me was a solo jumper checking his altitude meter. A light on the wall was glowing red, then we’d get a little higher and it turned yellow, and eventually it turned green. The solo jumper opened the door, looked back, gave me the peace sign, and like a vacuum sucking up a dust bunny on the floor, he was gone.

HOLY SHIT THIS IS REALLY REAL.

My instructor taps me on the shoulder to tell me we are next. I don’t know if I was walking towards the door or if my instructor did the work for me. He said we’d go on the count of three, but when he got to two, we had already leapt.

Instantly, I lost my breath. Fear rushed through my body like a jolt of electricity. And it was in that exact moment I found peace. All the stress of my day-to-day disappeared for a second. I wasn’t worried about heartbreak or deadlines, I had to focus on what was important in that moment and what I could control. I took a deep breath, we began to flatten out, and pure bliss smacked me in the face. I was free. I was alive.

The more we were free falling, the more peace I found. The views were incredible, the feeling of letting go was powerful, and the adrenaline turned into serenity. Eventually, the parachute was pulled giving us more time to take in the sights, and more importantly, play around. We tried a slow turn and that sensation of your legs falling asleep crept into my body. Then we tried a fast turn and my entire body became numb. And hell, why not? We did another fast turn. Our bodies spun like the slingshot David used against Goliath.

Photo: Skydive Greene County

We finally approached the 1,000 feet mark and began to practice the landing maneuver. It was simple in the moment—just raise your legs and butt up and prepare to slide. But as we grew closer to the ground, nausea and motion sickness hit me. I tried to muster every ounce of energy I had to properly land, and to my credit it was a decent landing. But as soon as I landed, I rolled over on my hands and knees and proceeded to do the sick cat pose. Looking death directly in the face at 100+ miles per hour takes a toll on a fella. But what do we say to the God of Death? Not today.

And just like that, it was over. I can’t lie, the emotions got the best of me. I went to the bathroom and sobbed while I laughed. It was strange. It was weird. And I can’t say this enough, you need to try it at least once. Whether you’re in a funk because of life or in a creative rut from work, the experience here is a wake up call. Living is fun, and we can’t let fear hold us back. Make the leap, catch your breath, and enjoy the views— that’s all we can ever really do.

Feel like falling out of a plane and changing your life? Go to skydiveohio.com

millennial | writer | human

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2 tiny Columbus Zoo babies bring big hope for endangered species

614now Staff

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The newest babies at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium may be small, but they bring big hope for one of the most endangered species on the planet.

On November 1 and 3, reptile keepers at the Zoo’s Shores region successfully hatched two rare yellow-headed temple turtles (Heosemys annandalii), the first ever hatched in an indoor zoological environment. The breakthrough is critical in efforts to boost the numbers of temple turtles, which are facing extinction, according to a release from the zoo.

Keepers note that the two hatchlings are "very active" and "very healthy." They are being cared for in behind-the-scenes habitats as they continue to grow stronger. Right now, the hatchlings are about the size of a racquetball and weigh approximately 80 grams–the same weight as a small tomato. They will grow to be up to about 2 feet long and weigh about 35 pounds.

These two turtles were the only ones to survive out of their mother's nest. Of five eggs, one turtle hatched on its own, and the care team helped another break out of its shell when it was experiencing some difficulties. Two other eggs did not contain viable hatchlings, and the fifth egg did not hatch.

“Our team is extremely proud of hatching these turtles, as well as being able to do so inside the Columbus Zoo’s Reptile House," said Becky Ellsworth, Curator of the Zoo’s Shores region. "This is a wonderful achievement as our Animal Care staff has been able to learn more information about this rare and important species, contributing significant knowledge to the zoological community working to help protect these turtles."

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Local attraction makes “World’s 50 Coolest Places of 2019” list

614now Staff

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Today, TIME For Kids revealed the first-ever World’s 50 Coolest Places of 2019 list, and among other international attractions, a Columbus business found itself in the mix.

Otherworld, which shook up the local entertainment scene when it opened earlier this year, was named one of the "World's Coolest Places" because of its quality, originality, sustainability, and accessibility. 

For those who haven't made the trip out to 5819 Chantry Dr. in southeast Columbus yet, Otherworld is an immersive and interactive art installation, featuring dozens of adventures, mysteries, and puzzles throughout its 47 rooms. Read more about it in our (614) Magazine coverage.

See below for the Otherworld write-up by Ellen Nam of TIME For Kids:

"Otherworld is an art installation built by more than 40 artists. They filled a 32,000-square-foot facility with large-scale works, secret passages, and playgrounds that blur the line between virtual and digital. Each of Otherworld’s 47 rooms is designed to resemble a science-fiction fantasyland. Visitors are encouraged to explore freely. Kids can fill in magical coloring books and solve puzzles. Those who are feeling adventurous can crawl into the mouth of a giant fuzzy monster."

To see the full list of the World’s 50 Coolest Places of 2019 and to learn more about how each attraction was chosen, visit time.com/kid-places.

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Sonic Temple announces full lineup for 2020

Mike Thomas

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Update: Sonic Temple has announced the full lineup of performers for the 2020 edition of the fest. Check it out below, via the Sonic Temple Facebook page:

***

Exit light, enter night: Sonic Temple Fest has announced all-time metal legends Metallica will grace the stage for the first time ever in 2020.

One of the "big four" of thrash metal, Metallica have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and have sold more than 125 million albums worldwide. The group is currently the only act announced for the second year of the hard rock festival formerly known as Rock on the Range.

Sonic Temple 2020 is scheduled for May 15, 16, and 17 at Mapfre Stadium. Passes go on sale on October 14 at noon, with layaway options available. For more information, visit sonictemplefestival.com/.

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