I decided to wear my brown pants for this mission…If you have been reading Brooke Geery’s updates on the site you will see that the Hippodrome has now been converted to the Byerly Toe Jam. It’s still at the same lake and you still have to camp and, well, its pretty much the same event. Except now Silas Thurman works a lot harder and there were a few new riders. All in all it was a great event, but what really made it a great event for me was last Thursday. I arrived at the site with Charles Bergquist and Keith Kipp, and we started working right away. I was in the boat filming with the judges and they were talking about how Scott Byerly and Grubb and a few guys went with the famous Vertigo Bungee crew and jumped off a bridge the night before. I was very interested in this because I have heard about these guys since I was 17. Everyone from Nelson to Byerly to Erik Ruck has jumped with them, I think they even did some stuff with MTV. I talked to Scott right when I got out of the boat and asked him if they were jumping again on the trip. Scott said they were jumping “tonight after they rode.” I asked him if I could go and he said “sure”, in a real casual Byerly way, so I figured I’d better follow him the rest of the day so he didn’t just go and forget about me. To my surprise Scott came and got Keith, Charles and I a little while later and we headed up to the bridge.
It was about an hour drive straight up toward Mt. St. Helens, also known as the longest hour of my life. I was very excited to jump and Charles said he would if I did, but half way up ole Chuck had a change of heart and said he would decide when we got up there. That was no surprise to me, I knew Sir Winston wasn’t known for his acts of bravery. I almost psyched myself out just listening to him. We decided to turn the radio on to ease our nerves, but the first station was a preacher proclaiming, "I can’t wait to get to Heaven." Right when we heard that Chuck changed it quick. The next station the song was "Ain’t No Mountain High Enough." Chuck changed that also and then the next song was Metallica “Say Your Prayers.” Right when we heard that we decided maybe the radio wasn’t the way to relax.
We got up to the bridge and it was pitch black and didn’t look all that bad. Then we walked out to the middle of the bridge and looked over and decided it looked really bad and maybe we should just get in the car in go home and make up something about “it’s not covered in the Alliance insurance” or something. But we had a little team huddle and decided that Alliance employees are really known as a man’s men, so going home was not an option — it was jump or be thrown over but one way or another we were going over the side.
The Vertigo guys showed up and got us all familiar with the gear and how the jump worked and it didn’t seem that bad; plus they explained they had a 100% success rate. We got out on the bridge and they all began setting up the bungee cords and the pulley system to get you back up. The first to jump was one of the guys from Vertigo — he did five jumps to test the system. I was up after him so when it came down to his 5th jump I was sitting by myself making my peace with God, apologizing for everything and making promises that only Mother Theresa could keep. Well, there goes Jump Five, looks like I was up. We went over what I was supposed to do again for like the 10th time and I still had no idea because I had lost all hearing and feeling due to fear. I got up on the side of the bridge and looked down into the 400 feet of darkness lit up by only a handheld spotlight. They told me to look at the stars and get a good push off the bridge and do a swan dive. Then they started the countdown: 3. 2. 1…and I was still standing there. I wanted my last words to be better then, "you gotta kidding me." I couldn’t think of anything profound so I just said, “Alright, here we go, ready 3. 2. 1…” and I looked at the stars and jumped.
Falling 400 feet into darkness seems like it would actually be a pretty peaceful way to go. At first it’s really scary, but halfway through it you’re like, “Well, I’m pretty committed, let’s hope for the best.” After the big drop there are several recoils and falls again, but nothing compares to that initial jump. After you stop bouncing up and down you end up hanging about 150 feet off the ground swinging back and forth this is probably the best feeling you have ever had — no noise except for the river below you and your friends yelling from up above on the bridge. They lower a rope down which you attach to your waist and then hoist you back up to the bridge using a truck to pull you up.
So to wrap this up, everyone jumped: Nick Ennen, Matt Malloy (best jump of the night, he was rolling down the windows so hard it looked like he was going to take flight), Brian Grubb, Byerly, Brandon Parker and Charles (Two Jump!) Bergquist. If you’re ever in the Northwest look up the Vertigo guys and go jump with them. By the way, no one shit their pants, which was pretty much the collective goal of all the first-time jumpers.