Bicycling in Kilkenny

Bicycling in Kilkenny

Flying for Free: Part VII

One of the philosophies of the space-a traveler is to make the most of every time and place they are in. There is no need to waste the mone...

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Flying for Free: Part III

We used the next day to get caught up on sleep and work because we wanted to be prepared for a flight to the east coast the following day. We figured it might be easier to catch a hop to Europe if we could at least get to the other side of the United States, so we set our sights on a flight to Dover, Delaware, and hoped for the best.

Still, after what had happened with the Spain flight, I didn't trust it. There was no way I was believing we were getting to Dover until we were up in the air, and I didn't bother even making hotel reservations.

There were people buzzing all over the air terminal when we arrived for the 1630 showtime. With so many people waiting to board a C-17, I wondered if we would even be chosen for seats. Still, we had to make the attempt, so John handed the agent our IDs while hoping for the best.

Knowing the drill, Darren quickly asked if he could scope out the USO's Girl Scout cookie offerings for the day. Already knowing that Darren was going to make that request, I quickly asked him to get a box of Tag-a-Longs cause the first box had already gotten eaten along with all the other plane snacks. I wasn't quite sure how that had happened being we had never even made it off the ground, but after 23 years of parenting, I knew better than to worry myself with such silly questions like that.

Since this particular flight was not delayed like the last one, the process was much quicker. It wasn't long before the announcement to approach the passenger service desk for a briefing was broadcast. "This is it," I told John, "Do you think we'll get selected?"

"I don't know, " he said with a little uncertainty, "It looks okay, but we'll have to wait and see."

They slowly invited one family at a time to individually weigh and check their bags before getting handed  the highly coveted boarding passes. Surprisingly, our family's name was called just after three others. Relieved to be selected for the flight, I happily lugged my very heavy suitcase over to the counter and gladly accepted our boarding passes with open hands. Our vacation was finally starting. Even if it was starting in an area as obscure as Dover, Delaware, I was happy to just get it going.

But we weren't there yet, and even when we made it on the plane seated next to one of the treasured electrical sockets, I still wasn't convinced, but my doubt didn't deter John's excitement. "See," he said, "The feel on this plane is different than the one the other day.. There is so much more activity. They're all busy, and they're clearly working their way down the checklist."

I believed him because he knows a thing or two about prepping for a flight mission aboard a C-17. He worked for years on the Air Force's heavy C-17 and its big brother, the Herculean C-5, so he definitely knows what he is talking about. His reassuring words brought calm to my mind as I mentally prepared for the next 6 hours in the air.

The big door shut and we were on our way. As soon as the plane finished its climb to above 30,000 feet, Mikey started building his own Minecraft world while Darren began unwrapping the pool floats.

We had felt so smart buying the pool floats to use as travel mattresses the last time we had flown Space-A, but that intelligence depleted just as quickly as the air in the mattresses. Thankfully,successful ingenuity often follows failed ingenuity, and I was not about to get beaten by some dollar store pool toy. I thought about weight distribution and how it affects things like pool floats and then realized that if we stack two of those floats on top of one another, they will better retain their air which will allow us to not only be on a softer cushion but also provide much needed space between our bodies and the ice cold floor of the metal tin can the Air Force calls an aircraft.

So after several hours of listening to a child scream at the absolute top of her lungs and getting kicked in the foot by my excited 9-year-old Minecraft architect, I arrived in Dover, Delaware, at 3am. The few hotels I called while waiting for our luggage were booked solid. I decided to wait and see what flights were available next in hopes that maybe the idea of dropping over $200 on a hotel would be moot.

All the luggage had been picked up, so we followed our flight companions out into the darkness of a quiet parking lot. The lucky or unlucky few whose final destinations would be Dover, Delaware, disappeared into the darkness of the quiet parking lot while we wanderers herded towards the entrance to the terminal. Exhausted and ready for sleep, the single and retired Space-A veterans each found their way to an empty line of chairs and set up camp while another family and ours got our bearings.

"This is where the fun begins," the super happy middle-aged father said as he rubbed his hands together in sarcastic excitement, "I'm just gonna wait til I can get a car at 10. I ain't even gonna try to get a hotel room for just a few hours sleep."

I silently agreed with him but knew my husband probably didn't share in his counterpart's enthusiasm for a night in the terminal. I called a few more places. "There must be something big going on this weekend," I said, "All the hotels are locked up tight. Some of them aren't even bothering to answer the phone." The other family had already bedded down for the night in the much less bright playroom while their exuberant father was intently watching his carefully selected Netflix selection.

John laughed, "What could be happening in Dover, Delaware?" he scoffed, "Big weekend at Dover Downs?" He picked up his phone and started reading off hotels, "Have you tried Mainstay Suites?"

"Yeah," I said hoping that the new line of questioning would lead to a quick resolution and dismissal of the hotel plans. I already knew there weren't any rooms, and even if there had been one available I really wasn't fond of the idea of paying 2-3 times the normal price for it.

He asked about a few more hotels before he started calling them himself. After a few no answers and several unanswered phones, he finally gave up and helped the boys get ready for some sleep.

I stacked our suitcases into makeshift ottomans while John helped the boys find the last couple sleeping spots in the playroom. We both sat down in the chairs, put our feet up, and plugged into our headphones hoping to drown out the announcement about not leaving baggage unattended occasionally aiming to interrupt our few hours of rest. Shielding my eyes from the blinding terminal lights with my hair bandanna, I found a semi-comfortable position and drifted off to sleep.

I woke up just a couple hours later to the sun blaring in through the terminal's exterior revolving door. Happy for the somewhat minimally interrupted sleep, I began to think about how we might approach the day. Sticking to my usual morning routine the best that I could in such a circumstance, I immediately brushed my teeth. The coffee would have to wait, however, because the USO had not yet opened its door.

Thankfully, they had left their wi-fi on the night before because without it, I would not have been able to search for plane tickets from Germany to Spain. "Look honey," I said excitedly pointing to my phone, "I found one-way tickets from Frankfurt to Jerez for $81 a person on Wednesday, and it's not even Ryan Air!" Ryan Air is a no-frills, terrifyingly torturous flying experience that is not for anyone needing to carry more than a toothbrush and a clean pair of underwear with them on vacation. Anything more than that, and their baggage will end up costing them more than the price of a couple regular fare tickets which then makes unsuspecting passengers wishing they had bought the full-priced British Airways ticket in the first place. Doing so would have not only saved them the heartache of having to dump half their belongings into an airport trash can, but it would have also prevented them from having to endure several hours of being sold anything from 5-day old vending machine mystery meat sandwiches to never-win pull-tab lotto tickets amid manipulatively chosen bright neon blue and yellow decor.

I was looking for commercial flights into Spain from Germany because while I wasn't seeing any free military flights headed for Rota, Spain, I did find several bound for Ramstein and Spangdahlem, and one of them was scheduled to leave that very same afternoon.

Armed with that information, we still weren't quite sure what our next move would be, but the one thing we did know was that we weren't going to be going anywhere until at least 10am when the one and only car rental place open on a Sunday in Dover, Delaware, would begin answering their telephones.


1 comment:

  1. aside from the blinding lights, never-ending intercom announcements, shoulder-to-shoulder metal armrests, cold linoleum flooring, and no where else to hide and sleep, it's the best terminal John could ever ask for next to the Gulag in the former U.S.S.R.!