Jumping 7/5/21

News from Richard Bleil

Depending on what time you are reading this, I may have already leaped. Yes, I’ve decided to jump, and plummet to the earth.

Fear not, dear readers, it’s not the end. The plan is to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, with some stranger strapped to my butt and in charge of pulling the chord.

I’ve long wanted to go skydiving. I’ve had friends ask me about bungee jumping, but no, not interested. See, what I want to experience is the free fall, and I will fall further from an airplane. The physics of the matter is what is most fascinating to me. Most people misunderstand gravitational force. We know that all objects, regardless of mass, fall at the same rate of acceleration (here on earth, it’s 32 feet per second per second). This is an acceleration, which means after one second of free fall, I will be at the velocity of 32 feet per second, and at the end of the second, I’ll be at 64 and so on and so on. But the reality is that constant acceleration is only true in a perfect vacuum, and most of us live, and fall, in an atmosphere.

In an atmosphere, air offers friction, a resistance to the fall. It’s not enough to stop the fall, but it will slow you down. The faster you fall, the higher this resistance is. Eventually, the force of this resistance equals the force of acceleration. That is, the force pushing up equals the force pushing down. You obviously don’t stop at this point, but acceleration stops, and you fall at a constant velocity. This typically occurs in 12 seconds, at a speed of (according to the internet) about 150 miles per hour, or about 220 feet per second. I’m very excited.

I’ve heard it said that you should spend money on experiences rather than things. I think I agree. I’ve lost most of my belongings several times, but nobody can ever take my memories from me. My doctorate will always be there, unless the university for some reason opts to repeal my degree but even at that they can’t take away the work, the memories, or the knowledge I’ve attained in the process. Nobody can take away my experience, limited as it was, from scuba diving, or the flying lessons I took (I didn’t follow through on this, especially since my diabetes would have prevented me from obtaining a license anyway, by I do know how to fly). Nobody can remove from me the memories of performing comedy on a stage or officiating a wedding. These are mine.

The experiences I’m missing, honestly, are those of travel. I’m hoping to rectify this perhaps by the end of the summer. I have friends in the English Isles (one in England, and one in Scotland) who have offered a place for me to stay. It seems like it would be a great “launch point” to visit Europe, including, I hope, Erligheim, Germany, from which all American Bleils originated. Believe me, there is more to the world that I hope to visit as well, but visiting my friends, my heritage, and maybe a few more places seems like a great start.

One thing I want is to go bull riding. I may be too old for that now. But, the thing about these experiences is that I don’t intend to start up a new lifestyle. My understanding is that there is a bull riding academy in Texas, with bulls rated on difficulty. Maybe I could start on the easiest bull (for children) and move up from there. Eventually, I’ll end up on a bull that is difficult enough to convince me that I’m done.

As for this summer, I need to do some day trips. I’m still not terribly familiar with this area yet. In fact, it’s a ninety minute drive to the next large town just to jump out of a plane tomorrow, so that’s a pretty good start. It’s been awhile since I’ve been to the zoo, which is here in Omaha, so I guess I should do that before the weather gets cold. Not quite sure what else to do, though. I’ve ridden (and failed) a motorcycle, so we can add that one.

Listen, people have told me how amazed they are at what I’ve accomplished. I don’t feel like I’ve done much of anything at all if you want to know the truth. Here we are on the Fourth of July and I’m alone in this large old house, so how can I really be accomplished? But the catch to all that I have done, all that I have accomplished (if I can be so bold as to say that), all that I have experienced is just a willingness to do it. And, by the end of the day, a free fall from an airplane should be one of them.