My fourth week of work at PRA saw me flying off to Denver to attend a SOAR train the trainer. The training was taught by my colleagues – Kristin, Pam and Jen but being the newbie on staff meant that I was a full-fledged participant! The week long training was intense, informative and invigorating! I was able to meet SOAR participants from all over the country, connect with representatives from my states and truly absorb all the information that comes along with applying for SSA benefits. The final day of the training ended around 4 PM (MTS) and after realizing that I had seen very little of Denver during my time there I headed downtown to shop, take in the sites and eat a fabulous meal before my 11:30 redeye flight to Boston.

Being a PRA-newbie also meant that I was more or less a travel-newbie. Prior to joining PRA I had traveled for vacations and occasionally for work but never more an a couple times a year and never a location that was more than a couple of hours away. So when the travel agent suggested a red eye flight from Denver to Boston with a five hour layover before the final flight to Albany I really didn’t think twice about it. This ultimately led to my best and worst travel decision to date.

After tooling around downtown Denver for a number of hours (mind you, after a full day of SOAR training and a very stressful teach-back session) I headed to the airport for my 11:30 PM flight. I was tired but figured I would be able to sleep on the flight – boy was I wrong! I ended up sandwiched between two rather rotund individuals on what had to be one of the warmest flights in the history of JetBlue. The comfy neck pillow that I had purchased at the Denver airport could only get me so far and I arrived in Boston around 5 AM deliriously tired. Once there I found the gate for my next flight – Cape Air – and settled in for a five hour layover (a layover so long I could have driven to Albany from Boston and squeezed in a two hour nap upon arrival). It turned out that my layover was extended to six hours due to plane changes and fueling but finally it was time to board!

The flight was called and approximately ten individuals, including myself made their way to the gate. Being the eager beaver that I am I was sure to be first in line. After waiting at the tarmac door for what seemed like an eternity we were led out to what I assumed would be a small plane – little did I know exactly how small the plane would actually be.

Airplane gears - Author provided image

Airplane gears

We were asked to leave all our carry-ons next to the plane so they could be placed in the wing since there would be no room inside and they had to balance the plane’s weight. Once that occurred I knew we were in for an interesting flight. Since I was the first one in line I was also the first one to board the plane. The pilot was already seated and as soon as I stepped in the plane I heard him ask, “Hi, do you want to be my co-pilot?” At this point I had been awake for well over 24 hours and was beyond tired, two thoughts went through my mind, first – ‘why the hell not’ and second – ‘man I really hope I don’t have to touch anything.’ Either way I was game and sat myself directly parallel to the pilot in the little Cape Air Cessna! There was a steering wheel in my lap, dozens of buttons and knobs directly in front of me and I am pretty sure that if I could stick my hand out the window it would have been decimated by the propeller. Not to mention that our plane looked minuscule compared to the JetBlue aircraft that was taxiing next to us.

Airplane pilot - author provided image

Airplane pilot

Take off was intense – it felt like I was flying and not in the ‘I’m flying in a plane’ sense. The feeling is completely different when you are able to see everything around you during takeoff.The views during the flight were also amazing – I was able to see downtown Boston, the Taconic Mountains, and was even able to pick out familiar landmarks coming into Albany. The pilot was great and understood that this wasprobably a once in a lifetime experience. He asked if I was ok, encouraged me to take pictures, and pointed out sites along the way. The best part of the flight was the landing. The experience of a plane landing from the pilot’s perspective as the airport and landing strip get closer and closer was both awesome and terrifying! Overall, the flight was smooth and we landed safely in Albany.  Despite the exhaustion, delays, and two less than comfortable seatmates, the segment from Boston to Albany was great and something that I will not soon forget!

View from the plane - author provided image

View from the plane