“If Antarctica were music it would be Mozart. Art, and it would be Michelangelo. Literature, and it would be Shakespeare. And yet it is something even greater; the only place on earth that is still as it should be. May we never tame it.”—
Saturday, Oct. 17th was Bridge Day's 30 year anniversary! The event has been commemorating the New River Gorge Bridge's completion since 1979. I could barely sleep the night before. I knew that I only had a few hours, so I just tried to relax. At 4:00am the alarm went off! I awoke to the blackness of the hotel room. Normally I would want to keep hitting the snooze button for another hour, but on Bridge Day I had too much energy, and too many things to do.
Dustin and I got everything packed and ready and we were on the road by 5:00am. According to the schedule there was a 5:30am Pancake Breakfast at the Fayetteville American Legion. We wanted to make sure we got there in time to beat the rush of people, and hopefully get some interviews. Well, we got there at exactly 5:30 and no one was around! We walked inside and the men working said that they wouldn’t be ready for at least another 45 minutes!!!
We walked back to the car in the darkness of the early morning. Dustin thought I might have gotten the schedule wrong, but I took another look and sure enough it said Pancake Breakfast 5:30am. Then we turned around and saw a sign that said Pancake Breakfast 6:00am. I guess there was a change. So we went to the gas station to grab
a few things and then came back.
6:00am: There were still no hungry lines of people. We got our microwaved pancakes and sat down in an empty dining room. The sausage wasn’t bad, and I was hungry so I sucked it all down within a few minutes. We left around 6:30 and still there were only a couple of people coming in to eat. I must have hyped up the breakfast in my mind. Apparently no one gets up at 4am to eat pancakes on Bridge Day :)
On The Bridge
We ended up parking at the New River Gorge Visitor Center and we sat in the car until 8:00am. It was rainy, cold and foggy. We decided there wasn’t much we could do until things cleared up a bit. At about 8:20am we walked out onto the New River Gorge Bridge. We had to pass a security check and wave our media passes. The bridge was basically empty except for a small gathering around the launch point.
We had a short conversation with a couple of US Marshals. They said that in all of the years they worked the event, they had never seen so few people on the bridge at that hour. Normally the bridge was already crawling with people at 8:00am. We figured it would pick up as the day went on and the weather
The view of the gorge from the bridge was impressive. You could even see some of the rapids that are so popular with the whitewater rafters. As we approached the jumping platform we could see a line of BASE jumpers gearing up and getting excited. There was a lot of energy and nervous tension building as 9:00am and the first jump were nearing.
Miles Daisher (Red Bull Air Force)
The first jumper that we had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing was Miles Daisher of the Red Bull Air Force. Miles has made over 3000 skydives and over 2400 BASE jumps (unofficially more than anyone else in the world). On Bridge Day he was totally stoked and ready to jump. We had a great little interview that included a lot of “WooHoos” and laughter. Make sure to check
Miles out in the video episode when it is uploaded in the next couple of weeks!
Later on in the day I got to see Miles make a landing where he nailed the 3ft target circle. Not an easy feat, considering that many jumpers ditched in the water and had hard landings on the rocks. Ouch! Thanks again Miles for your enthusiasm and taking the time to talk.
At 9:00am the first BASE jump of Bridge Day 2009 took place. It was an ash jump by Paul and Lonnie in memory of their friend Dan ‘Danger’ Mathie. For more on their jump read Skydive Chick’s post here. From that point on there was a jump every
30 seconds to 2 minutes until 3:00pm. It was amazing to see all of the experienced and first time BASE jumpers out there doing their thing.
Some of the jumpers held their little pilot chute and threw it as they jumped. Others free fell 1 to 3 seconds before pulling their chute. I was blown away at how far some of them would fall before opening. A few of the low openers were unable to make it back to the landing zone. They had to ditch in the water, and a few landed in the trees. Luckily there were 4 boats and plenty of rescuers to help recover everyone quickly.
Shuttle to the LZ
After about 45 minutes of shooting jumpers from the top of the Bridge we decided to take the shuttle to the bottom of the gorge and capture some landings and interviews. We walked past all of the fair food and apparel vendors and finally found a shuttle stop several hundred yards from the bridge. We jumped on and took a wild ride down the mountain that lasted 20 to 30 minutes.
Our driver was very experienced and had driven for Bridge Day for several years. Some of the turns on the mountain were so sharp that we actually had to back up several times for the bus to make them. The view was beautiful. At points you could look out of the bus window and see straight down to the water. We finally arrived at the bottom and hopped out in search of the LZ.
There was a large tarpped area where the jumpers were re-packing their gear. We walked past them down to the landing zone and setup our gear to get some shots of the incoming jumpers.
I was surprised at how many jumpers ditched into the water. I soon realized that many of them were simply avoiding landing on the gravel LZ to save themselves from broken bones. There were at least two people that did break their legs when we were at the bottom. One of the rangers that was working the event told us
that earlier in the day one of the jumpers went face first into a tree! They had to be taken to the hospital for stitches. Yikes!
There were many other hard landings where the jumpers slid onto their hands and rolled onto their sides. Landing is one of the most dangerous parts of BASE jumping, and one of the reasons that you should have plenty of canopy / landing experience before you attempt one. There were also plenty of soft landings by the more experienced jumpers. They make it look easy, but don’t be fooled!
After a little boat ride to get some more shots from the river, Dustin and I made our way back to the packing area. Here we captured some post-jump footage. Then we started to eye up the crowd for some potential interviewees.
Alexander Polli (BASE Jumper)
First up was Alex. He was bouncing around with energy and gave us a nice flash of his ripped pants. We called him over and he was happy to give us a quick interview before he ran off to make his last jump of the day. Alex had been BASE jumping for about 6 months at that point. He said that he had the desire to jump ever since he saw the videos of wing suit jumpers. He couldn’t believe it was real. Alex also said that he had to make a lot of sacrifices to get to where he was, but that he’s living his passion.
Thanks again Alex! Check him out in the coming episode!
Ashley Mead (Skydive Chick)
Ashley has been skydiving since April of 2009. She made her first jump at the end of a vacation and has been hooked ever since. Ashley had about 64 skydives at the time Bridge Day 2009 took place, so she was just scoping things out, enjoying the festivities, and taking photos of her friends. She hopes to make her first BASE jump at next years Bridge Day event, and she plans on landing in the water.
I asked Ashley how she afforded the sport. She said that she temporarily went in debt to get all of the gear and training, but that it was well worth it in the end. Ashley has a blog chronicling her skydiving experience at www.SkydiveChick.com. Check it out!
She got me so excited about making my first skydive that I scheduled the jump for November 8th 2009 at Canton Air Sports. I can’t wait. Thanks again Ashley for a great interview!
Last Jumps of the Day
1:30pm: After mingling with some more jumpers and rappellers, we decided to head back to the top of the bridge and get shots of the last jumpers. We captured
some great photos and footage. We were even lucky enough to capture Alexander Polli’s last jump of the day. What a jump it was! A double back flip and a low opening. Way to go, man!
The crowds thinned out and the last jumper jumped. Dustin and I grabbed a gyro and ribbon fries on the way out and ate until we were sick. What a great day!
Thank you Bridge Day! Thanks to everyone that participated in the first Traventure. And a special thanks to everyone that did an interview with us! Until next year, happy jumping!
Friday, Oct. 16th Dustin and I made the trek from Yankee Lake, OH to Fayetteville, WV. Though the weather was a little nasty, rainy and cold, it was still a beautiful ride through the mountains. All of the trees were turning bright orange, yellow and red. The total driving time only ended up being about four and a half hours long.
We stopped in Summersville, just north of Fayetteville, and grabbed a quick lunch at Applebees. I have to admit, it was probably one of the most tasteless burger and fries that I ever had. The onion rings were okay, but super greasy. At least I was less hungry when we left…
From there we rolled on to Fayetteville and arrived at the New River Gorge Visitor Center at 1:30pm. There was a light mist in the air and the temperature was a bearable 42 degrees Fahrenheit. Visitors were pulling in and the lot was crowded, signs of the day to come.
Dustin and I walked down the long stairs to the lookout point. Here we got our first glimpse of the magnificent New River Gorge Bridge. Until that point I had only seen the top of it as our family drove over on our way to Myrtle Beach. The reason this bridge stuck in my mind all of these years was the fact that my mother would always freak out as we went across. My mom is a little terrified of bridges, barriers and the like :)
The New River Gorge Bridge is 876ft high at its middle. That’s where the jumpers would be leaping from. As I gazed upon it I became a little woozy. For myself, I knew that there would be a lot of fear to conquer before I could get my legs to throttle me from that ledge! Maybe one day…
Media Meeting and Tasting
After perusing the information center and getting some ice cream, we made our way down the road to Smokey’s on the Gorge. This is where the media meeting took place at 4pm. We signed in and received our media passes, wrist bands, and binder of information. There was a crowd of around 30 people when the meeting began.
ndy Dragan gave the introductions and laid the ground for Bridge Day 2009. We also got security information from local law enforcement, learned that we could take a boat out on the river and shoot some video, and were given the details on Bridge Day’s move to go digital.
Bridge Day goes Digital
Pat Strader of Matterhorn Marketing explained that there would be a team of photographers and videographers capturing the days events and posting them online. There was a constant feed on Twitter where you could view the images, links to blog posts, and ask questions using the hashtag #bridgeday. They also encouraged everyone to attach #bridgeday to all of their own photo, video and blog posts so that they could be shared with the community. Traventure Man took advantage of this and we posted several photos and links to blog posts with the accompanying #bridgeday hashtag. It was really fun!
From all accounts Bridge Day’s move to go digital was a success. I’m sure next years event will take the online interactivity to a whole new level!
After mingling and getting some food, we retired to our hotel in Beckley, WV. It was a beautiful Holiday Inn just off of the freeway, chalked full of amenities like a gym, pool, bar, and restaurant. We didn’t have much time to take advantage of them, but our room was very neat and clean. We unpacked all of the gear and prepped everything for Bridge Day. I wanted to keep everything as compact and carryable as possible.
We finally got to bed around 11pm. Bridge Day 2009 would start for us at 4am sharp! Zzzz Zzzz Zzzz
We finally did it! My friend Nick and I joined the rock wall at Bowling Green State University. We tried it out during one of their free weeks at the beginning of the school semester, and we have been talking about it ever since. It was only $56 for the rest of the school year (May 2010), it’s open 5 days a week, and shoe rental is only $1. So today we finally signed up!
The wall at the BGSU Rec Center is 35ft high and full of friendly staff and climbers. There are multiple routes for the novice and intermediate climber. One thing that I noticed on my first wall experience was that some routes were easier than I expected, and others seemed almost impossible. There is more strength and technique required for the challenging routes than I imagined. But I love it for it’s fun workout, and mental challenge. You really need to think through your moves, or you’re probabley going to fall off.
Today we got our memberships and we took the 1 hour belaying class (pronounced /bi-ˈlā/ with a short i). The first thing that we learned was how to tie a figure 8 knot. At first I thought, “Oh, crap. I have to learn a knot that my life will depend on!” But it wasn’t too hard of a knot, and after a few attempts Nick and I both mastered it.
Next we learned how to properly use a grigri (pronounce /grē-grē/) and connect it to our rope and harness with a carabiner. The grigri is a device designed to apply pressure to the rope when fast acceleration occurs. When used properly it acts like a brake to stop a climbers fall. It can also be slowly released to lower the climber safely to the ground.
The most important thing to remember when belaying is to never let the slack go with your right hand. You use your left hand to grab the rope above your right hand and then you slide the right hand down towards the grigri in order to release more slack. You always need that right hand on the rope to catch your climber if he or she falls! The grigri should lock even if the belayer fails to have a grip on the rope, but you never want to rely completely on the equipment. Plus poor belaying technique can result in injury in the future when doing more complex climbs. I know I don’t want a bad belayer holding my life in their hands. So learn and use proper technique!
We took our little test at the end of our lesson and we passed with flying colors. We are not the smoothest belayers, but we have the basics down. Now all we need is practice. We spent the rest of the night climbing and bouldering. Everyone was friendly and helpful. The more experienced climbers helped us locate footholds and gave us tips on how to move from one hold to the next. Needless to say we had a blast!
I hope to climb at least 3 times a week now that I have a membership. I will keep you posted on my experience. As I get to know the staff and learn the sport I will take pictures and setup some interviews.
If you ever thought about climbing, now is the time to do it. Look up the closest rock wall in your area and try it out. It’s a great way to meet new people, and to get a great workout doing something that is challenging and exciting.
This is the real deal folks! I am your host John Jurko II, and this is Traventure Man! This will be the first official Traventure, and it is a whopper of a weekend. With the power of the internet and social media, I am taking you, the viewer/participator, to Bridge Day in Fayetteville, West Virginia. It is an all day event including BASE jumping, rappelling, high line rides, chili cook-offs, and loads of other food, music and festivities.
You can ask me questions and follow my adventures on Twitter. I will let you know where I’m at, what I’m doing, and shoot you photos and video clips in real time. When I’m going to do an interview I will ask you what you want to know from the interviewee. This isn’t just a TV show that you sit in front of and veg out. This is Traventure Man, and you get to take part in the making of each episode. So come on a Traventure with me! Read on to get the low down on this weekends shoot.
Part 1 - Road Trip
Friday Oct. 16th, 2009 it all begins. My friend/crew member, Dustin, and I will be leaving my humble home town of Yankee Lake, OH at approximately 8:00am EST. Our destination, Fayetteville, West Virginia and the Bridge Day event! We will be taking I-79 South passing just outside of Pittsburgh, PA. Then we will take US-19 for the last 50 miles, and if all goes well we will get there by 1:30pm. This should leave us time to get the lay of the land and possibly shoot some footage and interviews before our Bridge Day Media meeting at 4pm.
From 5pm-9ish we will be meeting and mingling with Bridge Day staff, other media, and possibly some jumpers and spectators. We hope to get some great interviews and behind the scenes interviews here. Oh yea, and some great food at Smokey’s on the Gorge! It should be a great night and start to an exciting weekend.
We don’t want to stay out too late though, because we have a 25min drive to our hotel in Beckley, WV and we will be getting up extra early Saturday. I’m hoping that the Holiday Inn has WiFI so that I can post some of the behind the scenes video and photos. If you’re lucky, I may even do a Live USTREAM video cast. So watch your tweets!
Part 2 - Bridge Day
Saturday, Oct. 17th, 2009: Bridge Day. The current weather forecast calls for a 40% chance of rain with highs in the low 40s. But don’t worry, we are dressing warm and dry, and the BASE jumpers will be jumping no matter the weather. They are prepared as well, and out of the last 29 years of Bridge Day, there has never been a year that they did not jump!
I want to get a nice sunrise time lapse sequence, so we will be up extra early. Probably around 5am. That way we can shower, eat and setup our cameras in a good location! From there we will probably poke around and talk with some of the vendors. We need to get into a good position at the top of the bridge by 8:30am. The BASE jumpers begin jumping at 9:00am and I want to be there for the fist launch!
From 9am to 3pm Dustin and I will be running all over the place to get shots of the jumpers, the rappellers, and high line riders. I want to get tons of great footage from a multitude of angles, and I want to get interviews with as many participants as I can. If I’m lucky I will even score a high line ride and take you on it with me!
After all of the adventure activities wind down, we will be hitting up the food and music of Bridge day. There is an Oktoberfest & Chili Cook-off in Downtown Montgomery. This will be a good chance to warm up and get into the minds of chili artists. Mmmmm. Bands will be playing all night, and if we are lucky we will get to talk to a couple of them. This is going to be one running and gunning, blast of a day!
12am Pass out…
Part 3 - Day After
Sunday, Oct. 18th, 2009: We will drag ourselves out of bed at a reasonable hour… We will finish any last minute interviews that we arrange, possibly get some more shots of the bridge and surrounding area, and check out the Harvest celebration. By noon we will be on the road homebound with hours of exciting video footage, photos and stories to tell!
Part 4 - Behind the Scenes
This is where Traventure Man shines, and is unlike any other show you know of! We will be posting constant behind the scenes photos, video clips, audio clips, and plenty of tweets. We will do our best to interact with you as we run in circles around the New River Gorge Bridge. I will be setting up a posterous site where I will upload photos I take with my phone throughout the day. Whenever I have WiFi access I will upload Flip Mino footage of the days events and travels. I might even post some audio files from my phone to Tumblr. Ahh, technology!
So watch your twitter feed and make sure to follow me: @TraventureMan. If you don’t have Twitter, now is the time to sign up! It’s quick and easy. Go to www.Twitter.com now! If you don’t you are going to miss out on an Entertainment Revolution that you could have been part of. Don’t miss out! Come on a Traventure instead! Oh yeah, and anytime you tweet about Bridge Day use their hash tag #bridgeday.
Part 5 - Completed Episode
Once I get back home, recover from the trip, and find some time between my two “real” jobs, I will edit the footage into a polished episode! I hope to get it completed within a month at most. Sooner if possible!
I’m shooting for 20 minutes as a good episode length. This is the internet and no one wants to sit around for much longer than that. Plus I will be posting full interviews, video montages to music, and blog entries about the Traventure as well. In fact, when I get home I will post an entry giving you an overview of the whole experience from my perspective. There will be plenty of content to feed your hungry eyes and ears, and get you totally psyched about the travel and adventure philosophy!
Live your one life to the fullest, and stay tuned for more Traventures to come!
P.S. If you have any adventure footage, rocking audio, or motion graphics chops, and you love what you see, then please send or do what you can to get this show going. I hope to be doing Traventure Man full time in the future, but I need sponsors and people power! Next summer I want to do a 3 month long Traventure across the US and Canada. I’ll keep you posted!
B. - Building A. - Antenna S. - Span (Bridge) E. - Earth
Jumping - To spring off the ground or other base by a muscular effort of the legs and feet.
"BASE jumping is a highly dangerous sport that can easily injure and kill participants. Think long and hard before making a BASE jump. We do not recommend BASE jumping to anybody. You, and you alone, are responsible for your safety." —www.basejumper.com
BASE jumping is the sport of jumping off of a high grounded object with a specialized shoot that allows you to “safely” float to the ground after a short free fall. One of the first recorded jumps was off of the Statue of Liberty by Frederick Law in 1912. BASE Jumping was sporadic over most of the last century and did not become popularized until the 1970s. Filmmaker Carl Boenish filmed the first BASE jumps u
sing ram air parachutes in 1978. At about this time Carl, along with his wife and a couple of friends, coined the acronym B.A.S.E. and the sport has been growing ever since.
BASE jumping grew out of skydiving, but it is a much more dangerous undertaking. You have less time to react, because of the lower jump altitudes, and you have less control over your flight, due to the slower air-speeds attained. That means, if you make a mistake, your chance of survival is greatly decreased in comparison to that of a skydive. Many BASE jumpers do not even carry a reserve shoot, because they wouldn’t have time to use it anyway.
How do you get into BASE jumping?
First you need to put in at least 100 to 200 skydives. You need to know your equipment and you need to be able to react in a split second. Your free fall and gliding times are significantly shortened during a BASE jump, so you need to have be able to hit your marks. Then you need to think long and hard about your decision to BASE jump. There is a high probability that you could get severely injured or die. This is no joke. Sober up by checking out the BASE Fatality list here. If you still can’t live without BASE jumping then you need to find the proper training and mentors. For more details on getting started, check out Dwain Weston’s article on www.basejumpers.com.
Once you make a jump from each of the four categories - Building, Antenna, Span, Earth - you can apply for you BASE #. Now you are one of the few, the proud, and the… crazy. But, hey, that’s okay, because it’s something that I hope to do one day too :) Sometimes you have to be a little crazy to live to the fullest. From what I hear though, once you jump, you are hooked. Know your limits, and if your gut tells you not to do something, wait another day to give it a second chance.
Isn’t BASE Jumping Illegal?
Believe it or not, BASE jumping is legal in the US and in many other countries around the world. The reason that so many people are covert about their jumps is because of the fact that they are jumping off of private property designated “No Trespassing.” But there are many places that are open to “Legal” jumps, including the New River Gorge Bridge in West Virginia. One day a year, since 1979, Bridge Day has been held in Fayetteville, WV. It hosts over 450 jumpers who legally launch off of the New River Gorge Bridge within a 6 hour period.
BASE jumping at Bridge Day 2009
This weekend I will be at Bridge Day and I will get a chance to interview and film many BASE jumpers. I will ask questions about what drives them to partake in such a daring sport. I will ask them how they can afford to live a lifestyle that includes the expense of so many jumps and days away from home. I will ask them the questions that you Tweet me within the next few days. So what do you want to know about BASE jumping?
Travel route 19 into the heart of Fayetteville, West Virginia, and deep within the Appalachian mountains you will find the second largest arched bridge in the world. It’s the New River Gorge Bridge, and it is 3,030 ft (924 m) long, with a span of 1,700 ft (518.2 m) at a maximum height of 876 ft (267 m). This steel-arched monster was completed on October 22, 1977, and it only took two years for thrill seekers to decide it would be a great structure to jump from. Okay, I thought two years was a long time to make that decision too.
The Bridge Day event is sponsored by the
Fayette County Chamber of Commerce, and it has made BASE jumping off of the New River Gorge Bridge legal for one day per year, since 1979. The annual event commemorates the completion of this amazing structure, and this year, on Saturday, October 17th, 2009, Bridge Day will be celebrating its 30th Anniversary. Fayetteville is expecting over 80,000 spectators and participants. The event includes BASE jumping between 9am and 3pm, rappelling from underneath the bridge, 700ft high line rides, and rows of food and festivities.
My good friend Dustin and I plan on arriving in Fayetteville this Friday in order to attend the media briefing event and get the lay of the land. This will be the inaugural Traventure Man episode and we are taking you with us. Let us know what you want us to ask these daring BASE jumpers. What are your favorite foods? Maybe we will try to find them at Bridge Day, or on our trek to West Virginia. We will be keeping in touch through Twitter at @TraventureMan. We will also be posting short behind the scenes updates on this blog through YouTube. AND if we can pull it off we are going to try to do a Live USTREAM video cast.
So come Traventure with us to Bridge Day ‘09 in West Virginia!
Well, if you have been following me for a while you will know that the first big Traventure is this weekend: Oct. 16th - 18th. We are going to Bridge Day in beautiful West Virginia. This is possibly the worlds largest adventure sporting event! BASE jumpers, repellers, and adventure enthusiasts from around the globe convene on the New River Gorge Bridge in Fayetteville, WV.
Bridge Day is turning 30 on Oct. 17th and they are expecting over 80,000 spectators and participants. Traventure Man (me, John Jurko II) is going to be there to cover all of the excitement. Finally here comes the reason for having a “temporary” website. I have been working my butt off at two jobs while trying to prepare for this first epic Traventure, and time has not allowed me to complete the full featured Traventure Man website. So I am using a Tumblr template to get things going. That way I will have a means of connecting with all of you during Bridge Day 2009, and I can concentrate on preparing for the event instead of building a website.
Eventually this Tumblr site will be the home of the “Behind the Scenes” section of Traventure Man; where I will upload photos and short clips from my Flip Mino. But like I said, right now this site is the main Traventure Man website :)
How this all works
These are just the beginnings of Traventure Man. I see it as a fully interactive Travel and Adventure show where you, the viewer/participator, will get to communicate with me in real time through social networking platforms, as I travel the world. You will get to help create each episode and experience by suggesting places to go, people to talk to, and questions to ask. Right now you should follow me on twitter here. I will post updates as my trips go on, and I will ask for your input and suggestions. I will also tweet out every time there is a new blog post or episode for viewing. I hope to tweet with you this coming weekend as we go to Bridge Day in West Virginia!
P.S. If you happen to be at Bridge Day this weekend, tweet me and we can meet up! Happy Traventuring!
P.P.S. Stay tuned for more posts about Bridge Day and Traventure Man.