Jim Nelson wasn't all that thrilled with jumping out of a perfectly safe airplane.

At about 3 miles above the solid earth, Nelson's nerves were as bouncy as a startled grasshopper.

Making the decision to take to the skies above Moab, Utah, and plummet to the earth at around 120 mph was part of a bucket list goal for Nelson.

"Well, fun probably doesn't best describe it," Nelson said. "The thought that it might not go as expected was a little bit unsettling."

After a chuckle, he added "But everything was fine."

By the way, Nelson is 90 years old and this tandem skydive was part of his 90th birthday celebration.

"I knew why I was there, and there was a little reassurance that I'm 90. If the worst happens, so be it. I've lived my life."

Nelson chuckled again.

As he described his day in the sky, there's a matter-of-fact tone of someone talking about a boring round of golf.

After Nelson was back on solid ground, and accepted the obligatory congratulations and pats on the back, he headed off to get in nine holes at the Moab Golf Course.

Nelson's big day was all part of a plan that started flying around in his thoughts back on June 12, 2014.

That's when former President George H. W. Bush celebrated his 90th birthday with a tandem skydive.

"I recall, thinking that President Bush Sr. did that on his 90th and I thought that might be interesting to do on my 90th," Nelson said. "I guess it had been peeking its head out at me since then."

But Jim kinda wanted to one-up George.

That's why Nelson decided to skydive and play a round of golf for his 90th birthday.

"I thought about that, and I wanted to do something that he didn't do," Nelson said with another chuckle.

Nelson wanted to play 18 holes but there was a tournament going on, so he settled for nine.

"That was OK though, it was hotter than Hades anyway," he said.

Nelson has a way of spicing up any conversations with his colloquial phrases.

As a native to Grand Junction — "The stork dropped me here 90 years ago" — Nelson graduated from Fruitvale High School and then Mesa Junior College.

Nelson gives credit to Scott Saunders, Solstice Senior Living executive director for giving him a nudge to make the airplane jump.

"I'll take the blame," Saunders quipped. "Our Vibrant Life program is pretty robust.

"One of our signature programs is Living the Dream. If a resident has something they've always wanted to do, a bucket list item, we encourage them to do that."

A memorable day

Nelson remembers every detail of his July 6 skydive.

Before getting stuffed into the plane, there was the required 10-minute instructional session.

"You sit through this and listening to this person, it seems like they are trying to talk you out of going. They alert you to all the things that can go wrong," he said.

Then it's off to the airfield and Nelson admitted that a few second thoughts started creeping into his head. Especially when he spotted the first plane.

"I saw this plane that looked like the Wright Brothers left behind, but happily, we didn't take that one," he said.

Once the plane started rolling, it was on: "Well, this is really going to happen, is what I thought," he said.

Three miles above the earth, Nelson took in the amazing scenery of the La Sal Mountains, the Colorado River and the desert landscapes, but he was on a mission, so his focus was on the task.

"When the ground starts falling away from you. I wondered if I might exercise that option of changing my mind. But I didn't," he said.

He'd get another repetitive line of instructions — "face to the left, kick your legs back and keep your legs straight."

Before the jump, his instructor asked about his wedding ring.

"He asked if my ring was tight. He said, 'It better be tight or it will fly off, and I said 'What!' "

Nelson's wife, Marianne, passed away three years ago, so he certainly didn't want to lose his wedding ring.

After he tested the ring tightness, they were out of the plane and free-falling.

"There's not a lot of time to process things. We were free-falling for a while and I've never felt and never want to feel it again, the force of that wind against me.

"Then I saw these people flying beside us, taking pictures and waving at me. I think that distraction kept my mind off things," he said.

"It was only about a minute, then the parachute opens and I'm thinking 'thank God.' "

Nelson guided the parachute a little, then the instructor reminded him of the landing instructions and they were on solid ground again.

"We just slid in and I thought, 'Wow, it's in the books.' "

He said he was fine once he landed and just wanted to get over to the golf course and finish out his big day.

As far as his golf game goes, Nelson just smiled and said, "I don't keep score anymore."

Make no mistake, when Nelson said it wasn't all that much fun, he's very serious.

"I was just so darn glad it was over. I'd never want to do it again, and I'd never try to talk someone into doing it," he said. "It's something people need to decide to do on their own. It's not something someone else should try and persuade you to do."

Skydive in the books, then a round of golf and back home — definitely a memorable 90th birthday.

"I'm glad I did it, but mostly I'm glad it's over. I crossed that off my bucket list," he said.

A special 90th birthday that was even a little bigger and grander than President George H.W. Bush's 90th birthday.

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