August 6, 2009

3/20/09 Space-A, Part 1...

Hubby and I are at the tail-end of his month of leave. We were so excited to have this opportunity in between training schedules to skip town for a while. So that's exactly what we did!

We moved to our new duty station, got the house completely in order (thanks to our slight OCD, it was finished in 2 days), then sat around waiting for the perfect Space-Available flight opportunity (go here for more information on what this is). Hubby had been stalking the flight schedules for a while, and on Sunday morning found a great chance for us to go to Germany by way of Fort Worth, TX. We discussed this in the car on the way to church that morning and decided to just go for it! We stayed through church and lunch, then drove the hour commute back home, giving ourselves two hours to pack and be out the door. We left for Dallas at 4:00 that afternoon, arriving at 11:00 pm, only to wake up at 4:30 am to drive to Fort Worth for our flight.

We had heard horror stories about Space-A flights being nothing more than a cargo plane. My heart skipped a beat when we walked onto the plane in Fort Worth. The first half of this 737-type plane was, in fact, a cargo plane. Free flight, free flight, free flight, I kept telling myself. Luckily there were normal airplane seats in the back. Other than the momentary fear of having to be military cargo, up to this point everything had gone off without a hitch.

But then we got to Maryland. We flew into an air base there in order to catch another flight that would take us over to Germany. The problems began when the air crew of our first flight didn't know what to do with us when we got off the plane and left us to fend for ourselves. They had no idea where the passenger terminal was, so we made our way into the flight hangar only to find out that we were on the complete opposite side of the flight line than we needed to be. And it's not like an airplane runway has pedestrian crossing zones. We found a nice little Navy guy who got special permission from his CO to take us in the duty van to the correct side of the flight line. The temperature was in the 20's with huge wind gusts ushering in an unseasonable ice storm to the area, so walking anywhere around that huge base was out of the question.

We got to the terminal, checked in for the flight, were pretty sure there would be space available for us, and continued to wait out the entire day on base. We took the base shuttle to the BX to find food and kill time before our late night flight. Unfortunately, the last shuttle of the day was 10 minutes earlier than was scheduled, so we missed our ride back to the terminal. Sure that couldn't possibly be right, we continued to wait outside another few minutes, willing another shuttle to come. I guess all of our shaking and rubbing our hands together did work a little magic, as a nice gentleman and his son (who were waiting on Mom to finish shopping at the commissary) came to our rescue. They invited us into their oh-so-warm car and drove us stranded folk back to the terminal.

Just a few more hours to kill before our scheduled flight, frustrations and nerves doing pretty well, we heard an announcement saying that the flight to Germany was NOT stopping in Maryland. We were naive enough to believe that everything would work out perfectly for us in this (by definition) unstable means of travelling. We were caught off guard and literally did not know what to do.

By that time, it was around 8 or 9 in the evening. Our looks of shock and disgust must have been quite evident, because this sweet retired man named Walt came up to us in the little terminal and asked us if we were also trying to go to Germany. We said that we were and the three of us quickly bonded in our shared complications. This was not the first time that Walt had attempted this trip, as his son and his family were stationed in Germany. He informed us that there was a flight leaving out of Baltimore the next evening if we wanted to try to catch that one. Hubby and I eagerly agreed. But...we still had 24 hours before that flight which would be taking off an hour away from where we were. What to do??

Tune in next time for the conclusion of this exciting adventure!

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