Head in the Clouds

| April 07, 2005

After his first jump at age 21, sky diving more passion than sport for trucker John Cox.

On his hauls all over this country and Canada, trucker John Cox likes to get high.

Really, really high – say about 10,000 feet. And when he gets way up there, he jumps out of a perfectly good plane and plunges, then floats, back to earth.

“Driving a truck can be downright scary at times,” says OTR pilot Cox. “Now skydiving, that’s a wonderful combination of relaxation and thrill. I’d rather jump than drive; it feels better.”

If you see him bobtailing out of a truckstop, Cox may be headed for the skies.
Cox, 35, has hauled a flatbed for Tulsa, Okla.-based Melton Truck Lines for almost five years now, running the lower 48 and Canada and dropping at Laredo for the company’s through service to Mexico. Based in Mobile, Ala., Cox was born and raised in San Diego, Calif.

Before he was a driver, Cox worked his way through a variety of jobs. “I was actually raised in a family that owned a flower shop, and I worked there a lot. I knew all about that business.”

But his longest pre-driving job was as a deckhand, bartender, maintenance man and jack-of-all-trades on a boat run by a San Diego excursion company. “I did anything that needed to be done. We’d tour the harbor; sometimes we’d run out into the open ocean and do some whale watching,” he says. “But it was real seasonal. If you wanted to stay working and not get laid off in the off-season you had to be able to do anything and everything. I could keep working – and keep my benefits – by working on the boat even when it was out of the water.”

While he worked for the excursion company, Cox spent a lot of time talking to the drivers who delivered anything from parts to food to the company. Later, those dockside discussions would play a part in his choosing the job that would become his career.

In all of those years he was growing up, Cox watched the skies over San Diego.

“I was a Navy brat; my father was in the Navy for 20 years, my wife’s father, too for 25 years. But I never gave the Navy any thought,” he says. “When I was a kid I’d go to air shows at the Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego [the air base in the movie Top Gun]. And wow! I loved it, it was the sort of thrill a kid never forgets. Navy jets doing Top Gun stuff – absolutely awesome. But when the sky divers jumped, that’s when my eyes fell out of my head.”
He had no doubts about jumping. He had to do it. All he needed was to be old enough and to have enough money.

“There was never any doubt,” he says. “I knew I wouldn’t be afraid; I knew what it would be like. It’s as if I understood right from the first time I saw sky divers that I was going to be one, that it was inevitable, a fate.”

When he was 21, Cox decided it was time. So how did the reality match up to a childhood of dreams about it?

“I got the money, and I went out and did the basic training and did my first jump. It was in the morning. I went back and did it again in the afternoon. It lived up to every expectation I ever had and way more,” he says. “I wasn’t scared of the risks; I was worried I wouldn’t do it right. But I was OK. I was back the next weekend to jump again. When I got back, three instructors were looking at me. One crooked his finger and stuck it into his cheek like a fishhook catching a fish, and he just grinned and he could see it. He was saying to me, ‘You’re hooked.’ I sure was.

“After that I went back and took all the lessons I needed to keep jumping, keep improving and to get my license as a trainee. I’ve been working at getting better ever since,” says the master sky diver, now a veteran of more than 400 jumps.

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