Southern California is the ultimate bucket list location. It offers endless opportunities to fulfill all of your dreams. Last weekend, I planned an unbelievable 48 hours filled with art and culture, extreme adventure, and natural beauty. It included skydiving and a jeep tour in the mountains flanked by beautiful artistic expression at the Pageant of the Masters and sailing along the coastline. This type of hyperactive bucket list weekend isn’t for everyone, but if you’re willing to be creative and realize even the sky isn’t the limit, what you can achieve is miraculous.
It all began Friday evening with the Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach. The 2016 Pageant of the Masters, Partners, was a one-of-a-kind theatrical event, featuring live narration and original music performed live by the Pageant’s orchestra. It is world-renowned in the artistry and theatrical illusion of living pictures. For ninety minutes, the stage came to life with “living pictures” – incredibly faithful art re-creations of classical and contemporary works with real people posing to look exactly like their counterparts in the original pieces. It is held in an outdoor amphitheater with a professional orchestra, original score, live narration, intricate sets, sophisticated lighting, expert staff, and hundreds of dedicated volunteers. It’s something that I look forward to every year and I longed to make it part of a greater weekend like this since I moved here five years ago. It was the ideal way to start my bucket list weekend in southern California.
I woke up Saturday morning with a racing heart. I was going to jump out of a plane in a few short hours with Skydive Coastal California. It’s a 100 mile drive, which is how fast I was going to fall through the sky once we reached altitude. I’ve jumped plenty before but that feeling of, “OH MY GOD” never gets any less intense.
When I arrived at Skydive Coastal California, the staff were exceptional. It amazes me how calm the instructors are when they jump out of planes for a living. My instructor, Leon, was clearly an adrenaline junkie, like myself, but to an even greater level. He turned on the video, smiled for the camera, and asked me what we were about to do. It’s always that moment when my breathing quickens and a permanent grin comes on my face. I wish I could wake up every morning and jump out of a plane to start my day. Image how productive you’d be with that much adrenaline every morning. I wonder if it would ever get old?
I prefer to jump tandem. I love having all the pleasure with none of the responsibilities.
We hopped on the tiny plane and I got really acquainted with Leon since I was practically sitting on his lap for the flight.
When we reached altitude, the door of the plane was opened and the first jumper prepared to take the leap. I was second, which had the added bonus of watching someone else’s expressions of utter terror before I could take the plunge for myself.
Somehow I always get from the open door of the plane to falling away from it. I’m never quite certain how it happens since I’m usually completely petrified. That moment is my other favorite part of the experience. The few seconds before you willing exit the plane and you have to take control of all of your emotions like they are fireflies waiting to be captured and then released. Coming out on the other side of fear is where the magic happens.
Then, you soar through the sky like Superman before the parachute opens, which is yet another miraculous moment. When the chute opens and you realize your safety net is in place, you feel invincible. It makes me feel beautiful and alive. I get that feeling every day when I’m with Athena but there’s something special about experiencing it at 10,000 feet.
Skydiving in California gives you the bonus of unbelievable views on the way down. Forget the scenic helicopter flight. Pay the same price, jump out of a plane, and glide back down with a parachute overhead.
I had another 100 mile drive to get to Enjoy the Mountain‘s jeep tour in Lake Arrowhead but I was so full of adrenaline that I felt like I could run all the way there. I decided not to chance the run and take the car but I was pumped up the entire drive.
I arrived almost an hour early for the tour, yet the driver, Chuck, was already there and willing to get started.
The tour combined gorgeous scenery with off-road thrills. Chuck customized the difficulty of the two hour tour based on my need for speed and adrenaline. We climbed obstacle after obstacle and there were times that I was doubtful that we’d ever make it. He approached massive boulders and drove down steep slopes like they were paved highways.
At one point, I was in disbelief as Chuck managed to lodge us between six massive boulders. The idea of getting out without backup seemed impossible. He got out of the jeep and moved a few boulders around like he’d been in this situation a thousand times and drove that sucker right out of there. All I could do was laugh. He knew what he was doing and he was doing it well.
Once darkness fell, it was like an entirely different tour. Small drops in the road appeared like an abyss and sharp rocks jetted out before our eyes. It was as intense as skydiving just in a different environment.
That night, I slept like a baby. I had fallen from the sky and driven off of cliffs. All that was left was the sea.
Sailing with Captain Dave’s Dolphin Safari in Dana Point on Sunday morning offered an exclusive eye-to-eye underwater and above water sensory experience with 100’s of dolphins, as well as California Sea Lions and other beautiful sea creatures. We set out on a hi-tech catamaran for 2.5 hours of dolphin fun, and it was one of the most peaceful adventures of my lifetime. While the dolphins swam and played right off of the bow, we stood with our mouths open at the unique experience. The exclusive underwater viewing pod let us swim with dolphins without getting wet and the hydrophone created the sound of underwater music for our ears. The certified naturalists made this exciting excursion educational and entertaining, too, and the homemade triple-fudge brownies made this a one-of-a-kind adventure a tasty treat. Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Safari is a joy for all of the senses, and the best way to proved a calm at the end of the adrenaline storm.
There are so many ways to spend a bucket list weekend in Southern California. I combined my love for art and culture, adventure, the mountains, and the ocean to create my ultimate bucket list weekend, but there are dozens of other adventures waiting to be added.