End of the World Tour, Puppies, BASE Jumping, Writing, Friends, Family and Fungus, Not Necessarily in that Order

Warning: Rambling will begin in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…

Lists, lists and more lists recapping the year in review.  Facebook told us what our personal highlights were for 2012, not close folks.  Even WordPress produces a report with the statistics from the past year about your personal website. Numbers, numbers. Google profiled 2012’s searches and trends online.   I suppose if I worked at it and went month by month I could assemble my list of at 12 “happenings”.  However, I really don’t want to work that hard, instead I say thank you to everyone who crossed my path while highlighting a few memorable moments.

The last installment of ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’ featuring Livia Dickie was published in Blue Skies Magazine.  Six female BASE jumpers from six different locations in six months.  The completion of the project culminating with the January interview left me with a sense of validation, and new friendships signaling a new chapter for the New Year. Thank you to the lovely woman who stuck it out with me to make the project a reality and to Lara Kjeldsen of Blue Skies Magazine for your trust and encouragement.

Denmark, home to twin sisters whom I affectionately refer to as my sisters from another mother to express the connection we share. Five years after meeting via the internet we finally met in person at the exit of the Copenhagen airport as they greeted me with smiling faces and hugs.  It felt as normal as running into a friend at the local grocery store in my hometown.

For the next 7 days, they would travel by train to my Copenhagen hotel and we would embark on a day filled with taking in Denmark as they seen through their eyes.  Castles, beautifully landscaped parks, amazing architecture, boat rides on the canal, dinner at their homes with family and the famous Tivoli Gardens; an amusement park and exquisite gardens combined to enchant it’s visitors.  The whole experience was a buffet of food for the soul.

I climbed & survived the Round Tower in Copenhagen following in the footsteps or horse-steps of the Russian Tsar Peter the Great who rode his horse to the top.  The tower has a 209 meter spiral ramp that serves no purpose as the 8 turns lead to a narrow staircase taking you to the rooftop that once served as a stargazing point. Thankfully they have constructed an iron barrier of fencing along the edge; all that walking up in a circular motion makes one dizzy.  Descending is at a faster pace as gravity pulls you down and you attempt not to trip yourself up ending the excursion with a face plant.

Many thanks a thousand times over to Ms. Charlotte and Ms. Maria for taking me into your hearts and home. I will always remember our Happy Birthday-Merry Christmas-Happy 4th of July Party.

From Copenhagen I headed to Andalsnes, Norway for 10 days. Andalsnes becomes the Daytona Beach of Florida for Base jumpers from around the world.  In July, competitors from the Pro BASE World Cup meet to take on the challenge of the World BASE Race.  As several of my friends would be attending, I decided this would be as good of place as any to meet up for the first time.

BASE jumpers, BASE jumpers, and more BASE jumpers.  BASE jumpers checking the weather, BASE jumpers packing their rigs, BASE jumpers moaning about the weather, BASE jumpers logged  on their Facebook and YouTube accounts, BASE jumpers having coffee during the day and beers at night, BASE jumpers from Brazil, Australia, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, Austria, the United States, Russian and of course Norwegian BASE jumpers.  Between the Bellevue Grand Hotel, the store Friluftslek and the Cafe downtown, you can’t help but meet up with two or more jumpers doing any of the previous mentioned tasks.

Being in Andalsnes at this time of year easily beats any trip to Disney World hands down.  BASE is not a dirty word and with the exception of the Troll Wall you won’t hear about  jumpers slinking about under the cloak of darkness.  At dinner one evening with Norwegian jumper, Hege Ringard, she put it this way, “if someone wants to come to Norway and jump, then come and jump.  We, (the local jumpers) don’t police who can jump and who can’t, everyone is welcome.”

I was hesitant about traveling to Andalsnes and what type of reception I would receive from those who were just as unfamiliar with me as vice-versa.  My worries were unfounded as I was introduced to the friendliest, open and non-assuming people in the sport.  I met people who I had heard their names, watched their videos and some much to my surprise had read my work.

While there I completed my first in person interview with Tony Uragallo of Tony Suits and 2012 World BASE Race winner.  I sat down with Norwegian jumper’s, Kjersti Eide, Hege Ringard and Atle Dahl laying the groundwork for a future interview. I was introduced to Espen Fadness which led to an article that will appear in the upcoming month in Blue Skies.  Good people,  pleasure to be around.

I met people I had interviewed, people I have chatted online with over the past three years, friends and family of jumpers and people who are locals that support the jumpers and sport. You know you’re in a different world when a stranger to you, but a friend to the jumpers asked if you would like a coca-cola or some coffee as he always comes to the landing zone ready to share.

I saw my first BASE jumps in watching a group of jumpers do practice tracking runs in preparation of a possible competition off Gridset.  The most surprising aspect, the sound, I never expected the sound of their bodies cutting through the air to be so distinct.  Their ability to control their canopies, float out over the Fjord and turn about to land in the center of the roadway was impressive to say the least.  My description, “their like bullets fired from a gun, coming to a stop in mid-air and then gently cascading to the ground.” To be at Gridset, look up and see the platforms I have seen so often in World BASE Race photos and video was surreal.  I loved every moment I spent out there, thank you my friend Paul Fortun for the opportunity.

For as inviting as Gridset is, the Troll Wall is possibly the most intimidating, solemn piece of rock on this earth.  I journeyed to the visitor center parking lot to await the arrival of a group of jumpers (via parachute) who had begun their ascent in the early morning hours.  As I stood there looking out at the wall itself, I remarked to one of the jumpers on the ground “damn it’s black and scary looking”.  His reply, “and you’re down here.”  The Troll Wall deserves every bit of respect paid to it and to reference a past quote “it’s a magical place”.

Thank you to Shane Dunn for sharing your knowledge of the wall, explaining the exit points from where we stood and the good conversation.  To Karoline Fine for coming up with the idea to snag Eiliv’s (RIP) van so we would have a place to warm up from the cold and rain.  To Lori Butz for your kindness in driving me back to my hotel when I reached my end point.  To the jumpers on that load, that of course only happened in our dreams because it’s illegal to jump the Troll Wall, you know who you are, “thank you for sharing the experience.  You are some tough M-f*ckers to outwait the rain, snow, and clouds to make that jump.  It was as if that ominous wall was saying “no” and you defied it and said “yes”.

Best compliment given me in 2012: Tony Uragallo walks up to me at the Bellevue Grand Hotel on the front landing, leans in and says, “I like your writing style”.  Me, “Thanks”.  Tony, “You know you aren’t normal.”  Me, “Um, thanks?”  Tony, “It’s a good thing. *pointing to the various jumpers standing about talking* Are they normal?  Me, *silent, looking confused*  Tony, “If you were normal you wouldn’t do such a good job of telling their stories.”  Me, “O, thanks.”

Shifting gears, upon returning home I saw our dog Eli competing and be awarded his Nosework 1 title.  The joy on my sister’s face when she returned to the staging area to tell me he had done it was priceless.  Months of training, practicing and learning on both their parts had paid off.  The puppy who was tagged a “bad dog that should be put down” had just titled prior to his 2nd birthday.  Anyone who has rescued a dog will appreciate the absolute joy Eli gives to me knowing how far we have all come in giving him a second chance.

Cyrus, not be outdone by Eli, came through the surgery to remove his damaged eye like a champ.  He then went on to claim his Bachelors and Masters in the C.L.A.S.S. program for dogs.  He is currently training for Noseworks competition.  Not bad for a dog who was left to die with an open wound eye injury in the mountains of North Carolina.  Cyrus is proof that saving a dog with special needs, such as blindness, deafness, missing limbs or any other life endangering/changing medical issue has every bit of worth as any pure breed show dog.

A month after returning home from Norway, the illness I had fought for over a year was winning the war in my body.  Finally in visiting a specialist, it was determined I would need surgery as soon as I finished pre-op lab tests.  On September 11th, I went into a three-hour endoscopy sinus surgery to remove a fungus that had grown into 98 percent of my sinus cavities throughout my head.  (Think “the monster in me” television show) I didn’t even know we had a pair of sinus cavities in the lower back of the head. Here’s your science fact for the day, a fully developed person has 4 pairs of sinus cavities that can extend from the front to the back of the head.

When the doctor shows you the MRI’s and begins to explain the dangers of surgery because there is no other option, it’s not a good day.  When your brother then asks you if you have any requests about burial, funeral, etc., it’s now officially become a bad day.

Again I say thanks to those of you who looked after me while I was in Denmark and Norway on those days or at those times where it was clear I was losing the battle against the infection.

Thank you to all of you who sent well wishes, encouragement and positive energy to me before and after the surgery during recovery.  Karin, Tine, Jill, Kjersti, Hege, Chrissy, Lika, CS, Karen, Red, Charlotte, Maria, Kolla, Lara, Ingrid, Brian, Feral, Paul, Gina, Blake, Andrey, Matt, Lonnie, Lillyth, Art to name a few angels who regularly reminded me to not give up.

I will be ever grateful to Dr. Banas and her staff for their kindness and professional skills during surgery and even now as I continue treatment.  I can’t ask for a more skilled or caring doctor to entrust my well-being.

Nor could I be blessed with a better sister, Jill Marie, who was the last person I seen going into surgery and the first as I awoke afterwards.  She changed my disgusting bandages in the days following and continues nursing me through the tough days of treatment as I progress forward. (Thanks to my brother Jeff who told Dr. Banas he would be in the waiting room should she need him to step in to aid.  Broke the tension, big time)

Speaking of angels, I don’t think I can adequately state what having Feral as a friend has meant to me.  He pushed me into the Big Girls Don’t Cry project, he harassed me into making the trip to Norway, he threatens to smash me if I become that ill again, and he is the kindest hearted foul mouth tough guy around whether you are called Feral, Da Smackdaddy, Leelou Dallas Multipass, or Cunt.  2012 wouldn’t have all the up’s it did without you mate. If 2012’s BASE trip was the End of the World Tour, what is 2013’s called?

Finally after years of preparing and days of waiting, Felix Baumgartner captivated us all with his jump from space.  Being able to share in that moment with everyone’s favorite BASE mentor Tracy Walker made the historical leap that much more memorable.  As the countdown progressed I clicked away at my keyboard in an online chat with Tracy as he updated his Facebook status with up to the minute insights.  This was Felix’s big moment and Tracy couldn’t have been more nervous or proud of his protégé and friend.  I will never forget sharing that time with my friend, Spacey Tracy.

The end of the year brought about the adoption of a 4th rescue puppy, her name is Francesca Grace.  She is a special needs dog that it seemed would not find her forever home within the year of being rescued.  My sister adopted her into the pack as a birthday gift to me.  Francesca has been a challenge, but gives us great joy also.  She has gained a whopping 5.7 lbs in the past month, which is a miracle considering her illness and that she was skin and bones when we adopted her.  We have started Obedience class and so far she is doing better than I based on distribution of treats.

I began a new project writing articles each week about a dog from the behavior and training center where our dogs attend.  Hopefully their stories will entertain and educate children and adults.  I have enjoyed working on the articles as I learn a bit more about different dog breeds, rescue organizations and training with each one I write.  I am hoping to parlay the project into a way to aid rescue organizations in 2013.  In adopting Cyrus and Francesca from the same rescue organization I have gotten to know some of their volunteer members and really respect their work. The unconditional love a companion dog is amazing and helping to save a dog’s life truly is the act of saving oneself.

Lastly, much love to the Little Fluffer, Tine for your instantaneous friendship, infectious love of life, and of course, the dancing.  You dear sister touched my heart with your honesty and taking the time to reach out when you knew I was hurting.  You are by far the kindest, big-hearted pirate I have ever met.  ❤

Prediction for 2013:  Midget BASE Rules The World

The year brought friends from the past back into my life, dear friends closer, and new friends to journey into the New Year.  My family is my lifeblood and my friends are my oxygen. I truly appreciate everyone who offers their friendship and hope I meet your expectations of friendship in return.

To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven~ Johannes A. Gaertner

Blessings, Peace and Love,


*Thanks to Livia Dickie, Matt Frolich, Kat Noonan, Miles Daisher, Nikki Daisher, Tony Uragallo and Espen Fadness for working with me this past year as well as the photographers who approved photos for use in the articles.*

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