Day One - Driving and Hoping and Hopping
*** the next few blogs will be a chronicle of our vacation, the dates have been changed to coincide with the events of that day, and I will be posting one a day***
We decided a few months ago that we would attempt a military hop flight to the US. We hadn't seen either of our parents for over two years. It was apparent that due to multiple reasons they were never going to be able to make it to Spain before we moved back to the states and we just couldn't take yet another year without them. The few visits we've had from other family members were amazing, don't get me wrong. But, sometimes you need your Mommies and Daddies ;) Our main objective was to see Josh's side and also hit up his 10yr reunion. If we could find a way to get to Ohio to see my side as well that would be awesome. We didn't tell my side of the family because there was no way to know how this would transpire and we didn't want to disappoint anyone.
Friday afternoon we had a brief meeting with Noah's teachers and left from the school to start the 7hr drive to Rota, the nearest US base where a hop would even be offered. We had orders in hand guaranteeing a decent chance to get on a flight, and a general plan laid out for whatever hop would be thrown our way. We finally arrived at our hotel in Rota at 1am and the boys were so ecstatic to be out of the car that sleep was not on their radar. Tickle fights and a relaxing bath and a continental breakfast were though. Josh called the terminal a few more times to check on possible flights. One to Texas - down for maintenance, and cross off one of our plans. One to Bangor, Maine - huh? wow that drive would suck, but let's see what positives we can find... New York would be cool to see. One to Dover, Delaware - OMG that would be perfect! We could drive from Delaware through to Ohio to see my family, and then over to Kansas to see Josh's family. Ooooo let's get that one!! Josh left us at the room to put our name on the list for the day. I tried to get the boys to calm down and sleep. I kinda took a nap. I don't remember Josh coming back in, but I know we all got about 3 hours of sleep. Suddenly it was 7:45 Saturday morning and we were throwing things together to head to the flight line to catch something to the states, preferrably Dover. COME ON DOVER (said like Eliza Doolittle).
There were only 2 spots available on the Dover flight so it wasn't an option. Booooo. We added our names to the Maine flight. I took the kids to eat breakfast next door. Suddenly Josh came bursting through the door "they're getting us on the Dover flight, but we need to go NOW!!!". We literally ran. The ticket agent poked her head out as we were unloading the van, trying to get Brennan's carseat "de-latchified" and warned us we had less than 5 minutes. I believe the word NOW was used several times. We abandoned the carseat and grabbed the booster. We threw bags onto luggage carts, dragged kids through security, and hopped onto the bus that would take us to the C17. They printed and delivered our boarding passes to us on the bus. This is how fast we were pushed through. It wasn't until the bus ride that we really knew which flight we were on. Was it Maine to Dover? Just Maine? Straight to Dover? ::drumroll please:: Straight to Dover!!! SCORE!! Somehow we made it. We thanked everyone about a million times for finding a way to get us home that day.
The C17 was packed with huge metal cargo crates covered in bits and pieces of the red Iraqi countryside. It smelled like Josh's luggage when he finally made it home from his deployment. We were riding with a few retirees and a group of guys coming back from Iraq. Welcome home, guys. The seating was little dropdown canvas "director" chairs that lined the sides of the plane. Our feet faced the middle and everyone had ample kicking space. The plane was loud, but they gave us all foam earplugs and the kids found that pretty dang exciting. Thankfully we brought sandwiches and other various snacks on board. There were little snack bags available, but chips and a snickers bar doesn't cut it sometimes. However, who are we to complain about any free food on a free flight, so we never said anything but "thank you". The military flight ended up being much shorter and more comfortable than any commercial flight we've ever endured. After we made it to our target cruise altitude we were permitted to move freely on the plane. The boys hardly sat at all. Their favorite part was the tiny singular window overlooking the ocean. People were sleeping in groups all over the floors and rested peacefully the entire flight. The flight crew was amazing and loved the boys, even when they were running around. No one complained. Because it was such a large plane, and a military flight, we flew directly across the ocean to the east coast. No curving up towards the UK or Canada, which shaved 3 hours off of our flight time.
We landed in Dover after an easy 7hr flight. Due to the time difference it was as if no time had passed at all. Our flight left Spain at 9am on Saturday, but we arrived in Dover at 11am on Saturday. We had a reservation for a rental car, which ended up being the biggest hassle of the entire trip thus far. What kind of rental car place closes at 1pm on a Saturday! A shout out to the Dover Shuttle driver that lied to Avis and told them Josh was almost there as she sped down the highway 85mph to make sure we were taken care of. People are generally awesome, and we've met a lot of them so far! While Josh was flying down the highway I was watching our luggage in the sun as the kidlets played in a nearby playground. All I had left to offer them was Hi-C juiceboxes and they chugged 3 apiece. Probably not the best idea.
Our first priority was food. Real actual food. Bob Evans was near the rental car place and our shining beacon of hope for real sustenance. We devoured some delicious American food and discussed our plans for the next day. Dover means Ohio... and my family had no idea we were even planning on coming to the states. This was going to be FUUUUUN! We stopped at Walmart to purchase a GPS and then headed out to Ohio. It was going to be at least another 7 hours of driving. The kids did ok, but after so much traveling and sitting they were justifiably cranky and exhausted. We finally called my Mom and Dad at 10pm when we hit Pittsburgh, PA after a failed attempt to surprise Ben at the coffee shop. Mom was just excited that I called her... well if you think that's cool, guess what! She was beside herself :) The last 30 minutes of our drive were the worst. Noah got car sick and was puking in a bag in the back seat. We just kept going. We had to. SO CLOSE! We arrived at around 12:30am. Poor kid threw up a few more time at Grandma's house and then succombed to sweet slumber.
So... all of that. That was our first day of travel. DAY ONE. I'm surprised the kids were so good and we made the drives unscathed. We should have fallen asleep or fought or something, but we didn't. Granted, Noah had a bit of a time with it, but all-in-all I am very impressed with how it all transpired. Somebody up there loves us! We're constantly surprised by the blessings we receive.
Tomorrow - DAY TWO in Ohio