Head in the Clouds

| April 07, 2005

When Cox married his wife Carrie, he moved to Mobile and needed a new line of work. It was then he remembered all the drivers he had talked to when they delivered to the San Diego boat. Recognizing that the all-around skills he had employed on the boat would be helpful as a trucker, he sat and talked with Carrie.

“We discussed what it would mean being away from home. We could see it would be good for us financially, but because of our background as Navy brats, we knew that time away from your family can be a real problem,” he says. “But we talked it through, and we realized that that very same background would be a help to us; it had given us an understanding of how to deal with time apart and not let it destroy you. We felt we could handle it.”

So Cox chose a two-month, government-sponsored course and joined the industry. Six years later he says the decision has worked out beautifully, with his own career thriving and the Cox family now including 5-year-old son Ammon.

“I do most of my jumping on the road,” says Cox. “I’ll find myself with free time, waiting for a load and having to park it for a while. I go to some places over and over to jump, and if I’m in a place I don’t know, I’ll pull out a drop zone directory and find a place to jump. With the 34-hour provision in the new hours of service, a lot of truckers will have a lot more truckstop time on their hands. I, for one, won’t waste it sitting in the cab.”

After Cox decides where to dive, he goes on a quest to get other truckers in the area interested. “Sometimes I’ll be bobtailing, sometimes I take the trailer, but I always get on the CB. I talk about jumping and where I’m going to jump with other drivers, invite them to come and watch, and if any want to, to come and try their first jump,” he says. “I’ll challenge them sometimes, you know the ‘man or mouse’ thing, but it’s all because I love it so much, and I’m hoping to find people that will love it as much as I do and bring them to the sport. I’ve had guys from truckstops turn up to watch. I’ve had one or two so interested after I jumped that they’ve gone over to instructors and plunked down their credit card.”

Over the last few miles of a day’s run with a stopover looming where he can jump, and again on the road from the truckstop to the drop zone, Cox’s normal driver’s concentration undergoes a change. “The anticipation gets me tapping my toes and drumming my fingers on the wheel, laughing, giggling, feeling the excitement grow. That’s why I can’t resist getting on the CB and seeing if I can pass the feeling on to another over-the-road driver. I have to share it.

“My favorite drop zone is in Texas, right behind a truckstop. I’d jumped there once, and another driver came up to me and asked me where I’d been. I told him ‘skydiving,’ and he asked ‘Where?’ and I just pointed sort of ‘right over there.’ He came and jumped with me. He loved it, told me he wanted to keep jumping and get to be a sky diver. But I kind of lost touch with him; I don’t know if he made it that far.”

Those first-time jumpers aren’t just hopping a flight and jumping out. There is some basic training and exhaustive safety education. But, says Cox, newcomers can very quickly get to jump.

“You can make your first jump a couple of hours after you arrive at the airfield. For example, you can do a tandem jump where you are strapped to an instructor. You get all the feeling, all the adrenaline, you get to open the chute, but you are attached to a very experienced jumper. You can do that sort of jump in a couple of hours.”

Of course, you have to sign some papers, waivers that will make it clear to you that this is a potentially dangerous sport.

New jumpers can also take training courses that will let them jump off a static line, a military-style jump where the chute is attached by a line to the inside of the plane that opens the chute for the jumper. And some new jumpers will take extended course and jump by themselves in the company of at least two instructors.

The children of longtime Navy dads, both John and Carrie Cox, with 5-year son Ammon, know something about building a successful family life when driving keeps him away from home.

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