Friday, September 14, 2012

We made it! And other amusing stories...

Holy bananas! This week has been a crazy ride.  We did finally make it to Connecticut, and our Space A adventure was actually a fairly good success.  Our thoughts might have been slightly different after spending 24 hours in the Ramstein passenger terminal, but in hindsight, it all worked out for us.

It is true, we did spend literally the entire day at the passenger terminal.  Our luck was paper thin, and a normally busy and bustling terminal with often 2-3 flights to the US daily, had only 1 flight to Bangor, Maine, with a mere 5 seats available. Our odds weren't the best, but we were trying to remain optimistic.  We were also hoping the C-5 heading to McGuire would automatically start working and that they'd want to get it off the ground pronto.  Yeah, that didn't happen either.  So, we kept thinking about getting out to Maine and how we'd use that to get to an optimal destination.  Rental cars were reasonably cheap and we were hoping to get an unexpected overnight with friends that live in Maine.

Our sour luck continued though, and with only 5 seats available, when they called our name, they only had 2 seats left. Back to the drawing board.  There were three scheduled flights bound for the US the following day, so we felt pretty good that we'd be getting out.  Only time would tell!  One thing we knew was that we weren't going anywhere that night, so we took all of our baggage (ugh!), which we were dead sick of dragging around, and headed across the street to pray for lodging somewhere.  With the three US bound flights the next day, the lodging options were slim because everyone else was also planning ahead.  After much griping and mild cussing (hey, we were getting really tired and irritable at this point, and little r was beyond done), we finally found a place to stay for the evening.  It was quite a bit more expensive than military lodging, but it was close and we needed a shower and a comfortable bed like no other.

Through this process we happened to meet some pretty incredible people.  There are both active duty and retirees that put themselves through this Space A experience quite regularly (crazy souls), and we all enjoyed talking, sharing experiences, and learning more about some amazing people.  One couple in particular, Col. and Mrs. Hullinger, were incredible and some of the nicest people we had ever met.  They knew we were having a rough go at the whole experience, starting with the car trouble, and missing out on the first flight to the US that morning, and they were extremely helpful.  They allowed us to store our bags in their hotel room while we ate dinner and tried to find some lodging for the night.  We didn't realize how much lugging all those things around was affecting our mood.  Even little r lightened up a lot when we left all our baggage behind.  THEN they bought us a drink and appetizer at dinner (Macaroni Grill - we were at Ramstein, which in all intents and purposes is a little America).  After all of this wonderful show of friendship, and they then offered to take us to our hotel so that we didn't need to hire a taxi.  We bought them a card in thanks, and I feel that was such a small token of the gratitude we felt.  Col. Hullinger, if you and your wife are reading this, we really can't thank you enough and we hope that our lives cross paths again!

We got to the cute little hotel, and the hostess could not have been more friendly giving us a discount because we'd miss breakfast and calling a taxi for our ridiculously early leave time of 3:45 a.m.!  We showered and literally fell into bed.  And this is where the fun started...

I woke up before my alarm (what is wrong with me?!), and realized something wasn't right.  We had NO power. None, whatsoever.  Luckily we had laid out all of our clothes and our bags were pretty much ready to go because trying to get out the door quickly with all our stuff and a zombie toddler was a crazy challenge at 3:30 in the morning. By the lights of our cell phones, we packed up, dressed little r, and got all our things out to the taxi, which was prompt and ready to go just as we had asked.  Not 10 minutes before we reached the terminal and Big R noted that they changed that freaking C-5 flight to McGuire again from 4:10 a.m. to later that morning at 7:30 a.m.  Seems cruel somehow, doesn't it?

Upon checking in "present" at the passenger terminal, we got wind of information that the Dover-Westover flight scheduled for later that afternoon was anxious to get home, and they were leaving as soon as possible.  FINALLY something was going our way.  We were the second name on the list during roll call, and before we knew it, we were walking through security, showing every form of ID we had about 10 different times in a dozen different ways.  We took a bus across tarmac to this HUGE C-5.  It was surreal to say the least.  We climbed some sky stairs to the first level, and then a metal ladder to the second story of the plane where we found our seating.

We were exhausted, and luckily they only allowed a dozen passengers even though there were seats available for 60 of us.  That meant once we made altitude, we all got a row of seating to ourselves.  The whole plane slept nearly the entire flight.  Pretty awesome.  Little r didn't even last through the plane taxing to the runway and slept through the entire dramatic takeoff.
So, what's it like to ride on a C-5?  Man, is it super freaking cool.  All we kept thinking was, the whole process was worth the wait to take that flight across the ocean.  We all loved it.  I'm not sure why it was so great, and maybe we were just so thankful to finally be on the plane heading to the U.S., but we definitely gave the whole flight end of the process a big thumbs up.

You sit in regular passenger seats up on the second story of the plane above the cargo.  The seats sit facing backward, so it is a trip when the plane takes off and lands.  The seats are anything but luxurious.  They are ancient and randomly comfortable.  Falling apart all around you and yet they provided comfortable places to sleep.  I never realized how stuffy commercial flights can be.  Military flights have a whole different feel to them.  The people expect less, the flight crew is awesome, and we all have a common bond (and most likely have gone through a long waiting process together).  The rules are more lax, so you can get up and walk around, spread out, stretch, without having a flight attendant breathe down your neck.  Of course it helps that you have a ton more leg room and the aisles are much wider.

We actually caught up on some much needed sleep on our trans-Atlantic flight.  The landing was memorable - these planes are amazing pieces of machinery! We were greeted with a flight crew in Dover, and we made our way to the tiny terminal to wait for the second leg of the flight.  Here are some pictures we took of the plane while we were waiting in the bus on the tarmac to be driven to the terminal.  It was impressive to come off that plane and realize where we were sitting.  So freaking cool... that's all I have to say!

Not only did we need to go through customs (the EASIEST customs check I've ever had), but the flight crew informed us that they are never sure if the plane will be able to take off again. HA! These C-5 are super reliable, can you tell?!  I'll admit I was a tad bit nervous that we were in for another adventure or a drive up to CT from Dover, but it all worked out for us.  The three of us were the only ones on the plane to Westover.  That was pretty awesome in and of itself!

The flight to Westover was quick and painless. We could tell the plane left much of its cargo behind in Dover because it was much lighter and more maneuverable.  The local flight crew met us in Westover and helped us get to a meeting place to find Big R's mom.  The rest of the story is history!  We are all signed up at several passenger terminals for our trip home.  We have no doubt the adventure will be equally as fun on the other end.

p.s. The C-5 to McGuire STILL has not left Ramstein.  HA!   

1 comment:

  1. Glad you made it. And I love your blog-very well written and amusing.

    We finally got out the next day to Charleston. Good luck on your future Space A adventures.

    Beth and Craig Hullinger