When I last wrote, Fil had just assumed command of the 635th Transportation Detachment. Soon after that Brock and I were on a military flight home to visit family and attend two weddings! Boy was this a trip! We ended up staying a little over a month because we were having so much fun it was hard to leave. Not only was it hard for us to pack up and say good bye, but it literally was a HARD process to leave New Jersey. One that took 5 days of uncertainty at the McGuire Airforce Base.
How about a refresher on military flights! The quick summary is that as a military dependent based overseas I am allowed to try for seats on cargo flights that have room. Brock and I have successfully done this 3 times already before this trip, each time with no hiccups. We signed up, watched the flight schedule, arrived at the airbase ready to travel, made roll call and was boarded all within a few hours. If you want more on the process, read the blog I wrote after our first space available trip in 2015: Space Available Travel.
This time was no different. We left from Ramstein airbase without a hitch on a Lockheed C-5 Galaxy. There were 73 seats available but only 20 passengers so we all had plenty of room to spread out and rest. While traveling space available can be stressful not having a plan or even a guarantee, it saves us serious money. The seat is free. I paid $5 for a meal box that included two PB&J’s, a handful of other snacks and two drinks. Totally worth it.
Before we knew it we had landed in Dover, Delaware on a Friday night which worked out perfectly. We took a cab to a hotel and the next morning my parents came to pick us up. Easy as pie. Fast forward 4 weeks and our experience could not be any more of the opposite.
In 2015 we completed our first round-trip flights on space available with no issue. We made the first flight we tried for in each direction. In 2016 we made the first flight we tried for to the states, but then there were not any seats available for a week when I was trying to return so I bought us commercial tickets that cost about $700 total which was not bad at all. This time, 2017, we made it out of Germany super easily, but the return was a story for the record books. Even by the standards of the most seasoned space available traveler.
Ok here it goes. Here is my absolutely insane timeline:
Friday: Roll call is scheduled for 9:30 pm so we arrived around 6. Roll call ended up being early at 8:30 and we were manifested for the flight! Woohoo another easy trip! NOT. I told mom and dad they could go since we were manifested but they opted to stay until we went through security which would be within the next 2 hours. At 10 they announced that there were 11 passengers that needed to be on the flight (active duty missions) and they bumped the last 11 passengers from our roll call. They also announced the flight would be delayed until 4 am… if not longer. About 30 minutes later they confirmed the new roll call would be the next day at 9:30 pm. By this point I had already blown up our pool floats which would double as air mattress for us and was getting Brock tucked in to hang at the terminal. Once they said it was delayed 24 hours mom and dad brought us back to their house which is one hour away.
Saturday: On a whim, I called the terminal around 11 to check on the roll call time. Surprise! Roll call was moved up to 1:30! We had 2 hours to get ourselves together and make the hour long trip. At 1 they started taking the bags for passengers who were manifested from last night… and then stopped right as I was about to hand over ours. We were being delayed again until 3:30. Ok no problem. We waited until 3:30 only to find out we were being delayed further till 8am on Sunday. At this point mom and dad took us over to the hotel on base, 1 mile away. We got a room for the night, stopped at the store to get food for dinner and breakfast and said goodnight. When we left the terminal the attendants said to keep calling because if the plane was ready, roll call would be moved up. So I set my phone to wake me every two hours. I called a few times in the evening and it was still set for 8am. But, just after midnight when I tried calling there was no answer. I gave it a few tries and then panicked. “what if they aren’t answering because they are doing roll call!” I freaked out. Put Brock in the stroller and loaded up. I walked the whole mile in lightning speed just to get to the terminal all sweaty for it to be empty. The USO was filled with sleeping passengers waiting like I was, and for some odd reason nobody was at the desk (the terminal is 24 hours). Finally someone confirmed that the flight was set for 7:30 and absolutely would not be a second earlier. I got a ride back to the hotel and we finally rested.
Sunday: Feeling much better after sleeping for 4 hours, we woke up to no power in the hotel. I knew this would happen because it was scheduled maintenance, but it didn’t click in my mind that it meant no elevator. So at 6am I carried all our stuff down 2 flights of stairs while Brock watched impatiently. The same driver took us back over to the terminal just for us to find out the power outage was base-wide! Not just the hotel! The only power in the terminal were 3 small battery powered lights, and it was DARK. Nobody knew for certain if they would do roll call without power or wait for it to come back on which was scheduled to come back on much later in the day. We hung out. Brock especially liked the rides I was giving him on the luggage carts. Finally, around 8 they said roll call would be at 4:50pm. I called my mom. There was no way I was hanging out at the terminal with no power, in the rain, ALL DAY and she came to the rescue. We went out to lunch and walked around Target for a few hours. When we got back to the terminal around 3 we were feeling good. At 4 they announced that roll call would be delayed AGAIN until midnight. At this point I got mad. I searched for commercial flights and the cheapest I could find that would not have 3 layovers was $2,500 a piece! $5,000 was not an option and the terminal agent assured me that the flight has to go eventually. Back to the hotel. Got another room and said goodbye again. When I called at 8pm roll call had been pushed again until 10:25am on Monday. I said screw it and turned off my phone and went to bed.
Monday: Roll call was on schedule! A lot of people gave up over the course of the days so the 11 people who had been bumped but stuck it out all got seats! Around 1pm we were on the plane and took of shortly after for our 7 hour flight back to Germany. AMEN.
Now remember, all of this time I had Brock (who is now 3 years old), a carseat, 2 suitcases and carry on items which all weighed in at around 90 lbs plus Brock. I swore I would never do it again. I was done. I was so grateful that my parents were so close by! I don’t know what I would have done without them. There was no car rental on base so I would have been really stuck without them. And at the same time, I know that this nightmare was not so bad. Another family was manifested with me and they were visiting family in Puerto Rico when hurricane Maria hit. Their story was unimaginable. One thing is for sure is that the military family takes care of its own. We were all struggling, but we were all doing it together.
But just to convince me to not fly home again, we did not fly on the huge C5… we were on a C17. Ugh. No airline seats for us. We strapped into our jumpseats and had the ride of our lives. As you can see in the picture, the back of the seat is actually the parts to your life vest, and the seat was just a fold down steel frame with canvas covering. The C17 is also much louder so I was extra grateful for the ear protection I had brought with us, and it was WAY colder, so I was glad mom gave us an old blanket. All I can say is never again. At least not with Brock.
I am not so sure the free flight was worth it this time, but I just have to remember all the things $5,000 can buy. We landed in Germany at 3am local time on Tuesday and were home by 4 am… just in time for Fil to wake up and go to work. We didn’t really see each other until he got home that day. Since then it has been an absolute whirlwind. Brock missed most of his soccer season while we were home, but managed to make it to one game. Then of course we had Halloweeen and plenty of catching up to do with friends, laundry, and errands. Its now a little over 3 weeks later and I am up with insomnia. Please let everything get back to normal, boy do I need it.
So for now, travel is off of my mind. And it is certainly off Fil’s. The whole time were in the states he was on mission, and his company is certainly keeping busy. So friends, hold tight. The next few posts may just be about the holidays at home.
Oh, but here is Brock as a fireman for Halloween 🙂
Love to everyone!