Sunday, March 04, 2018

C-17 Flight Out

Sunday morning, Feb. 18, found us once again at the terminal.  This time things looked positive, however--the flight to McGuire was releasing 53 seats, which is all of them on a C-17.  I assumed it must be an empty plane. 

Roll call was at 9:30, but it took a long time.  They would call off several names, and then have a period of waiting while those people went up and got their luggage weighed and received boarding passes.  Then they would call off more names.  We knew it would be iffy for there to be room for all of us, but still, we were happy so many people were being called, since we knew we would have an excellent shot at getting out on the next flight to Dover that evening.  There were several more flights to Dover the next day, so things were finally looking up!

FINALLY they called our name.  We were one of the last ones.  We made our cumbersome way up to the check-in desk to get all our bags weighed and our passports/IDs checked.  At the very last minute, I realized Micah was wearing crocs, which is a big no-no on military aircraft--"No open toed or open heeled shoes allowed".  Praise the Lord, I realized it when I did because I was able to grab his tennis shoes out of the suitcase for him to put on.  Whew!

We also bought 4 box lunches for the flight at the desk.  These cost $5.50 each, making the grand total for this leg of our trip $22.00.  It doesn't cost anything for the actual flight when you are on military aircraft, so we saved a lot of money by not getting on the Rotator!  I think that costs $36.20 per person for the flight from Ramstein to BWI because the airport tax is much higher than when you fly from BWI to Ramstein.

After we got our boarding passes, it was more waiting.  But at least we were excited about heading back to the US!  We started thinking about what on earth we would do once we got to McGuire, which is a little under 3 hours from where our van was at BWI.  I messaged with Joanna, a friend from Maryland, but we had no idea when we would take off, or when we would land.  In fact, the computer screen at the terminal said the flight was going through Gander International Airport in Newfoundland, so who knew how long that would take?! 

Finally we got in line to go through security.  It was there that we realized Caleb had packed his full-size tube of toothpaste in his backpack instead of his suitcase.  Oops!  Oh well--plenty  more of that at home!
This is what a C-17 looks like (although this is not the one we were on).  We had ridden on them before twice--once to Travis and once back to Dover in 2014 on our big Hawaii adventure.  They took us by bus out on the flightline to the aircraft. 
When we got on, I was surprised to see it was most definitely not empty!  There was a big pallet in the front, then 4 big propellers, then more pallets in the back.  On our previous C-17 flights, we had been able to spread out all over the middle of the plane, but that was not the case here!  It took awhile for people to move around to we could have 10 seats together.  I would have been happy to let someone else sit by Micah, Drew, or Verity, but apparently, no one wanted that opportunity.  Ha!
Better picture of all the propellers and pallets.  It is definitely a cavernously huge aircraft!
Verity fell asleep really quickly.  We taxied for approximately forever, and she might have fallen asleep before we even took off, lol.  No, I think she waited a little bit longer.  They provide plastic-wrapped bundles of blankets with pillows, which are nice because it's cold at first.  The door stayed open for a while, so it got pretty chilly.
We broke open our 4 box lunches fairly soon after take-off, since it was lunchtime.  I think we took off around 2:00 German time.  The lunches are pretty nice, which we remembered from our other trips and was why we didn't buy one for each person!  They included either 2 Uncrustable peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or a submarine sandwich or a box of chicken tenders.  We also had the rest of our lunch meat and cheese, which some remaining brotchen, so the rest of us had sandwiches with that.  Then there were also chips, and various snack options like rice krispie treats, granola bars, bags of mini cookies, candy bars, etc (at least 2 options in each box) and a water bottle as well as either a can of pop or a bottle of gatorade.  Plenty of food to go around!
Faith had her Christmas headphones (a present from Anna and Grace) to listen too.  Everyone else had to wear ear plugs.  I had thought ahead and ordered of amazon squishier, nicer ear plugs than the ones they give out.  They worked great for those of us with more adult sized ear canals, but I still struggled to keep in Micah's, Drew's, and Verity's!  I wished I had thought to bring one of those stretchy hair headband things--something like might have helped the earplugs stay in Verity's ears.  I had even cut in half a bunch of pairs the night before so that I could use skinnier ones, but they still were not a perfect solution!
I made the little kids wear their hats, since that was all I had, to try to keep the earplugs in, but they were not incredibly successful.  Next time, I'll have a better plan . . .
Right above the girls' heads was the only set of plugs on our side, so people kept plugging things in there to charge them.  Again, a perk of military flights!  On previous flights, people brought aerobeds and blew them up with the electric outlets!
There was no room for aerobeds here.  You totally can't see in this picture, but we actually did spread the 2 sleeping bags out in the aisle right by our feet.  The kids liked to lay down there, although no one slept there!  The good thing about the C-17 is plenty of leg room for everyone!  The seats really aren't too uncomfortable, although 9 hours is a little bit long.  When people were in the sleeping bags, that opened up extra seats, so I laid across 2 seats with a pillow in the gap.  I fell asleep a few times, but boy, I must have been interrupted 20 times by various people and various complaints!  Very trivial ones, I might add.  Plus, It was pretty much impossible to hear anyone since the plane is so loud and we all had ear plugs in, so I would be awoken by violent shaking, and then someone would lean over me and move their lips.  Eventually I would sort of understand what they were saying (usually things like, "I need to poop, but I don't want to go to the front of the airplane by myself" or "I can't sleep" or something earth-shattering like that).  I made many trips to the tiny bathroom up front with people because I was the favored escort.  How special, lol. 

You can see that the lighting is different in the above picture.  At some point (cruising altitude maybe?) they turn off the nice bright lights that run along the sides of the aircraft and just have this green lighting.  I had thought before it was because it was night time, but it turns out that is just what always happens!  It made reading hard for me, but I persevered.  I was able to finish Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, about making good snap decisions.  It was very interesting, as I have found all his books to be, and I really enjoyed it. 
Verity did fall asleep again, and she stayed asleep until we landed and taxied in.  She had pulled her hat over her eyes in a sort of "do not disturb" sign.  She was not real happy about being woken up!  

By the time we got into the McGuire terminal, it was 5:15 eastern, which is 11:15 PM Ramstein time.  We got our passports stamped, got our bags, and went through customs (which consisted of a guy standing in the middle of us all and asking us if anyone had anything to declare?  No?  Okay, free to go.)

So . . . where to go??  Since it was after 5:00 on a Sunday afternoon, all the rental places were closed.  Someone told us we could take a train down to BWI, but that would be very expensive, and we would have to get ourselves to the train station in Trenton.  But Joanna came to our rescue!  She drove up to McGuire, which was 4 hours from her house, to pick us up!  We were SO thankful!  While we waited for her, we had a lovely chat with some of the other retirees that had been waiting with us for the week at the Ramstein terminal.  Space-a travelers are so nice!  

Finally they left, and we had the terminal to ourselves, except for a few guys who work there.  We were just thankful it is a 24 hour terminal!  We ordered Dominos Pizza, since they were allowed to deliver on base, and they brought it right to us.  It tasted so good!  The kid played in the big kids room, which was really nice.  

Joanna got there about 10:45, and she drove us to BWI so we could pick up our van.  Words can't express our relief when she drove up!  She is an angel!  She and I had a lovely visit on the way to BWI, and then we each got home around 2:45 AM.  Bob and I had been up for about 26 hours, and we were so tired!  It was so good to be home and in our own beds!

Funny afterthought--when I was helping Drew write a birthday letter to Luke, I asked him to tell Luke what his favorite thing was about the trip.  Drew said . . . his snack bag.  Yes, the gallon size ziploc bag I filled with snacks (a gallon bag for each person!) was his absolute favorite thing!  I guess they were really amazing snacks . . . even better than palaces and Roman forts!  Haha!  I hope that's not the only thing Drew remembers about this trip!

No comments: