Woman tandem skydives to celebrate 80th birthday
While most people would be elated to even reach an 80th birthday in great health, for Joretta Allen of Pueblo West, the big day needed a little spicing up.
As in a tandem skydive from a height of 8,000 feet.
The active mother of six — she participates in water aerobics, the Silver Sneakers program and finished the Bolder Boulder 10K walk last year — decided to celebrate her eighth decade on Earth on Wednesday by checking off one of the items on her “bucket list,” a skydive.
“I’ve been thinking about this for several years,” Allen said. “I wanted to do it on my 75th birthday, but it didn’t work out. So I figured 80 was a good number and a good day to do it.”
With a nervous daughter, Vickie Renteria, and granddaughter, Ashlee Renteria, along for support, Allen — a physician’s medical clearance in hand — signed up for a jump at High Sky Adventures Parachute Club in Penrose.
After viewing a short film and then listening to instructions from the jump leaders, Allen was fitted with jump gear and ushered into a very small plane. Once onboard, she was buckled onto her tandem partner, Mat Clark, who would guide Allen through the jump.
But not before a hitch that would have made a less dauntless person call the whole thing off.
“Right before I was going to jump, my foot got caught in the plane’s door frame,” Allen said. “And it wouldn’t come out. My first inclination was to try to free it, but they told me to keep my hands in my lap. So Mat and eventually the pilot had to pull on my leg until my foot came loose.”
Now free, Allen and Clark began a freefall that reached speeds of 135 mph.
“I knew we were moving fast,” Allen said. “And I’m not sure, but the freefall seemed to last about a minute. Mat said, ‘Don’t worry, I got your back” and I said, ‘Good, you stay on my back.’ ”
Once Clark pulled the parachute, Allen said the ride truly began.
“That was the most exciting part,” she explained. “It was just a surreal feeling. I had no sensation of falling and felt like I was on top of the world, taking in all the view. I could just see so far!”
After this soothing descent, which Allen said lasted about seven minutes, it was time to touch ground. The landing, Allen said, was as “peaceful and soft as you could hope for. I skidded on my butt only a few feet and it was over.”
While Allen would recommend a skydive to persons of any age — “especially my partners in Silver Sneakers” — she doesn’t plan to take another leap anytime soon. There are other things — swimming with the dolphins, visiting all 50 states — she would like to do instead.
“And right now I’m preparing for the Queen of the Kitchen competition at the Colorado State Fair, which I’ve won four times,” Allen said.
“She’s just wild sometimes,” said granddaughter Ashlee. “She does a lot of different things. She’s very adventurous.”