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D4DR: The Thrill Seeking Gene

August 17, 2005

Is there a thrill seeking gene?

During the summer of 2004 my daughter Rebecca and I visited the Woodbine Airport in Cape May County, New Jersey where had I opened my first parachute school in 1969.

I took Rebecca on a tour of the old drop zone--which is now a beautiful development of $500,000 custom homes and stables--and the hanger area where I had my office and parachute loft. We also visited the hangers where my jump plane was maintained.

My knees in the breeze over Woodbine

One of the hangers is used by an ultra-light flying operation which sells rides over the Atlantic coast beaches. In fact, while surfing on the beach in Sea Isle we saw quite a few ultra-lights flying up the beaches. Seeing them fly at the beach gave us the idea to go to the airport and see them up close.

I felt considerable nostalgia driving into the Woodbine Airport. I ceased all jumping activity there in about 1974. After leaving Woodbine I opened drop zones in Pennsylvania and another location in New Jersey.

Flying the twin chain-saw engine ultra-light I built

We got out of the car at the main ramp area and looked around. At the far end of the runway we could see a small ultra-light aircraft setting up for a landing.

Rebecca and I watched while the ultra-light landed and taxied to near where we were standing. A woman got out of the ultra-light and a man got in. Rebecca and I were both thrilled to be so close as the ultra-light aircraft took off.

Rebecca, age 7, first hot balloon ride

As the craft flew away the woman who got had gotten off walked toward us and said "Hi."

We introduced ourselves and I told her that I had operated a parachute school in the field she had just flown over before landing.

She told us that she and her husband were psychologists at the state school in Woodbine. She said that they both wanted to fly in an ultra-light since they first saw them flying over the school. Today was the day for their flight. She loved it!

I told her that I built an ultra-light and have a landing strip on my property from which I flew my ultra-light to Woodbine on my second flight.

I told the woman that Rebecca was twelve and had already flown a dozen flight in a hot air balloon and a number of J-3 Piper Cub flights.  During our chat, Rebecca said, "I can't wait to jump out of an air plane."

Daring and beautiful at 2000 feet in a hot air balloon over the city of Vineland, NJ.

After that comment by Rebecca, I turned to the woman and jokingly said "I think she must have my thrill-seeking gene."

The woman gave me a fake look of astonishment and said, "Da ya think?!"

I wasn't quite sure if she was joking or was serious. I said, "Well, I doubt there is really a gene for thrill seeking; I was joking."

The woman said, "Oh, no, there really is such a gene which has been identified in many people who do the things that you do. I can't imagine that both you and Rebecca not having it."  

I was astounded. I told her that I couldn't wait to get home to Google for 'thrill seeking gene'.

With little effort on Google, I discovered that a gene, known as D4DR, has been found in people with propensity toward thrill seeking activities. The first reference below is for a club which has been formed by carriers of the gene.

Rebecca's elementary school in a picture taken by her at age 11 during a J-3 Piper Cub ride with the door open. Her toe can be seen at the bottom of the picture.

After doing considerable research I found that people who skydive, rock climb, fly airplanes and hot air balloons probably have this thrill seeking gene.

It's interesting to realize that both Rebecca and I began climbing trees at a very young age and, in her case, she is a very avid and proficient rock-wall climber.

Some day when I'm rich, I'll have Rebecca and myself tested for D4DR to prove what I'm already convinced is true: Rebecca and I have the D4DR gene.

Research resources for this article can be seen here:

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