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Road Trip

Road Trip: Jump Into Bridge Day in West Virginia

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

WHERE: Fayetteville, W.Va.

WHY: Bridge-ho, gorgeous gorges and get-stuffed pizza.

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HOW FAR: About five miles from start to finish, and about 300 miles from Washington.

On Saturday, pigs will fly in Fayetteville.

During Bridge Day, the world's largest BASE jumping event, men and women dressed as swine and other characters will free-fall and parachute from the New River Gorge Bridge. These daredevils are far from chicken.

Costumes aren't required for this adrenaline rush, but courage is. BASE is an acronym for building, antenna, span and earth, the platforms the athletes use as launching pads. The extreme activity was galvanized by cinematographer Carl Boenish, who in 1978 filmed jumpers from the 3,000-foot-tall El Capitan rock formation in Yosemite National Park for "National Geographic Explorer." The sport quickly caught on.

The Fayetteville event started two years later, with five parachutists. This year, nearly 200,000 spectators are expected to watch 450 jumpers from more than a dozen countries leap from the 876-foot-high bridge, the second-tallest in the country. (On any other day of the year, it's illegal to jump off the bridge.) In addition, rappelling teams will dangle from the span, a zip line will hurl folks from the bridge to the banks, and 200 local vendors will set up crafts, food stands and climbing walls.

For the main event, adventurers drop like stones for up to five seconds before releasing their parachutes and landing safely in the New River Gorge. Many will do repeat performances, for an expected total of more than 800 jumps. "When you see it," says organizer Cindy Dragan, "your heart jumps into your throat."

-- Ben Chapman

Bridge Day is Saturday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m., at the New River Gorge Bridge, on U.S. Route 19 at the New River Gorge in Fayetteville, W.Va. 800-927-0263. http://www.officialbridgeday.com. Free. $2 shuttle rides from free parking lots.


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