By Tony Overman
Some call it a leap of faith. To others it's a rite of passage. Others do it just for the thrill.
And now Casey Dale, an older adventurer from Ashland, wants it to be your avenue of escape from the humdrum routine of everyday life.
"This'll be a lot more exciting than washing your car or feeding your plants," Dale tells the group of would-be bungee jumpers standing on the Grave Creek Bridge 100 feet above the Rogue River in southern Oregon.
"It's an absolute adrenaline rush," he said. You may not believe that you are capable of doing something like this."
Dale is the owner of Adventure America. His Eugene-based company takes groups bungee jumping in the Rogue River, SCUBA diving in the West Indies, mountain biking in the Himalayas, hiking in South America and kayaking on the Colorado River.
The bungee side of the business is called Oregon Bungee Masters. Dale said his weekends are full with scheduled bungee jumps at two or three different sites around the state. For $55 you can make one jump, or three jumps for $95. Everyone signs a liability release before jumping, but his group's injuries have been limited to bruises and scrapes, he said.
The concept of bungee jumping began as a rite of passage into manhood by tribesmen in the Pentecostal Islands off New Guinea. Some will remember seeing a National Geographic television special featuring the young men who dive from tall towers with a rope tied to their leg, crashing to a sudden stop inches from the ground.
The idea was expanded in 1970 when a group of students from Oxford University started the Davis Sports Club and used bungee cords for their jumps. The sport eventually spread worldwide. It is now quite popular in New Zealand, France and British Columbia, Dale said.
There is no permit or special permission required to bungee jump in Oregon. The sport (as they call it) still is relatively new to the state.
Some injuries and deaths of jumps have led to government restrictions on where people can jump, and Dale sees those limitations soon spreading to Oregon. "It currently isn't illegal in Oregon, but I'm sure they'll try to outlaw it within a year," he said. "They already have banned bridge jumping in California, so it won't be long until it gets here."
A ban on leaping from bridges won't stop bungee jumping, however. Enthusiasts around the world are already jumping from cranes and hot-air balloons to skirt the bridge restrictions. Last year over Albany, an Oregon man bungeed below a parachuter 10,000 feet above the ground, Dale said.
For more information, write Oregon Bungee Masters, P. O. Box 121, Fairview, Oregon 97024, or call 503-520-0303.