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Travel Notes: Saratoga Springs, NY

In February 2012, I began a 17-day solo road trip through ten US states, driving a total of 2,498 miles. The following travel notes are from that road trip.

After Northampton, MA, my next stop on the road trip was Saratoga Springs, New York, where I was visiting two friends who I met in Florida last year during the NASA Tweetup: Joel Glickman and Phylise Banner.

Joel is an experienced pilot who has flown all around the United States solo in his single-engine Cherokee airplane. Phylise, who was previously terrified of flying, is now training to become a pilot herself.

Joel took me up in his friends airplane last year and gave me the controls for a few minutes -- it was an absolutely incredible experience. I happened to arrive in Saratoga Springs shortly before Joel and Phylise returned from a flight that day and Phylise sent me a message via Twitter (yes, it works up there!) inviting me to meet them at Saratoga County Airport if I wanted to go up again.

I arrived at the small airport just as they were landing and Joel took me up. We skimmed a few feet above the frozen Saratoga Lake and then conducted a few Zero-G maneuvers (the pilot pulls the plane up almost into a stall, then pushes the nose down hard, creating weightlessness for a few seconds before straightening out again).

In airplanes not designed for acrobatics, I learned that you're not supposed to do turns greater than 90 degrees without wearing a parachute, as there is an increased risk of something going wrong. Joel asked me if I wanted to do a few 50-degree turns. With a big smile on my face, I agreed.

The turns were so hard that I could feel the blood rushing out of my head and upper body, being pulled down towards my seat. The forces were incredible! I could only imagine what fighter pilots must experience doing similar moves, going much faster and turning much harder.

After we pulled out, Joel turned to me with a smile and said "So much for 50-degrees... that was 110."

We headed back to the airport and Joel let me take the controls. I've always been somewhat familiar with airplane controls because when I was ten or eleven years old, my dad bought me Microsoft Flight Simulator for the PC, along with the yoke and rudder pedals accessory.

Flying a real plane doesn't really compare to a flight simulator, but having at least some familiarity with the controls definitely helped with confidence.

I lined the plane up with the runway and slowly took the plane down. Joel was handing the pedals, the trim, and basically everything else; I was steering and pushing the nose of the plane down, controlling our decent.

When we were about a hundred feet off the ground, Joel took over and landed the plane.

You can see our entire flight path here. Joel tracks all his flights using an app on his iPhone called MyFlightBook (yes, there really is an app for everything).

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