Saturday thru Monday - Our Stay at the Dover Terminal
SATURDAY - Up until this point everything has been running quite smoothly. We'd been delayed a few times, but we fully expected to wait around for a flight, which is why we wanted to get to Dover with four days left on Josh's leave.
Saturday morning comes. We had to check out of the hotel by 10am again, have the rental car turned in before heading to the terminal. First thing we did was go to the terminal to check into the flight, which had been pushed back again to 8pm. We checked in and drove around awhile, not sure what to do with ourselves since the rental didn't need to be returned until 5pm, but we didn't have to check in for our flight until 5 either. The weather was awful so we couldn't walk around anywhere outside, which stunk. Walmart ended up being "the place to be" for the next few hours. I have never been a fan of Walmart, but that was pretty much the only available hangout other than going to the terminal early, which didn't make sense since we hadn't turned in the car yet. We wanted as much time as possible with our vehicular freedom before calling a shuttle and being stuck babysitting all our bags at the terminal. So many bags. Walmart also happened to be very close to the rental place and we didn't want to burn up fuel since we'd be charged if the tank wasn't full upon turn-in.
Our shuttle arrived at the rental place early, and so did we. It was 4pm. It was freezing outside and raining. There were muddy puddles everywhere. We had to load all the bags and kids into the shuttle. Josh went inside the tiny office to pay and wasn't allowed to do a split tender on 2 credit cards, even if one was a debit card. He had to find an ATM and pull out cash while we waited in the shuttle. Transaction finally complete we made our way to the terminal. Still raining. Still cold. And now we were without vehicle or hotel room. Cue the fun!!
The Dover terminal is tiny. There are bathrooms, one check-in counter, a security area, the USO, and 2 seating areas with maybe 100 seats total. As soon as we rolled into the terminal, and then back out to get more bags, and then back in, and then back out for the last of the bags... we heard from the 15 other people waiting that the flight had been pushed back again to 2am. Are you kidding me? But... I don't have a car now! Now that we had to have our bags with us at all times we were stuck. No checking bags for Space-A, not until you're actually being checked onto the flight. CRAP! They projected 15 seats available for the 2am flight though so our chances were decent at getting onto it. Just to be safe we reserved the last room at the hotel, but they'd only hold our reservation until 5am without charging us.
The USO was beautiful - theater room, internet access, lots of food and snacks, reading materials, a pool table... and closed early due to lack of volunteers. Once 8pm rolled around there was absolutely nowhere to go and nothing to do. There was a children's area, which was being remodeled. All we had were a few rows of seats and some TV's. We were trapped inside thanks to the weather, which was worsening still. Thankfully, once I got over my initial annoyance about the situation, I started getting to know my fellow stranded passengers. We made friends with a great family, who was also on their way back to Spain with their 2 adorable little girls. Awesome people, our kids played together nonstop. We talked and laughed the entire time, which lightened the tension considerably. There were a lot of retired couples on their way to Europe, whichever flight would take them. By 11pm we were all pretty comfortable with each other. I took orders from everyone who wanted Angelo's Pizza, and successfully talked the delivery guy into bringing a big load of food up to the door of the terminal. The pizza arrived at 11:45, and as he walked out the door we heard an announcement. "The 2am flight will not have any seats available". We all lost our appetites.
SUNDAY - It's now Sunday. Josh and I considered calling the shuttle to take us back to the hotel again for the night. Neither of us wanted to try and sleep in the terminal, especially not with our poor tired little boys. But, we had food and good company so we waited until 2am just to be positive there weren't any available seats. 2:30am - absolutely, there weren't. We were about to leave. Someone told us about another projected flight at 6:30am with 73 seats, and it was the last flight to Spain until Monday. Josh ripped into the sergeant behind the counter for not announcing the flight, knowing full well he had 15 people waiting for a flight to Spain. It was already 2... was it worth it to pay for a shuttle twice, load everything up twice, and pay full price for a few hours in a room? No. We went ahead and canceled our hotel reservation so we wouldn't get charged. The younger kids were asleep so we stayed, hoping to get onto that 6am flight. We'd know in a few hours if there were any seats available. Noah eventually passed out while playing his DS. We tried to get some sleep. It was flippin' freezing in there. We weren't allowed to push the rows of seats together to make little beds for the kids because we were told it was a "fire hazard". I wanted to kill that guy, the same guy that didn't announce the flight. Seriously... at least think of why the rules are what they are and give me a good reason. He was an incompetent, apathetic, heartless a-hole.
Josh and I maybe slept 3 hours total between us. Finally it was 6am. Announcement time! "No seats available". How the hell can a flight with a projected 73 seats magically now not have any seats available? Half of the people cleared out of there. The last ones left were us and the other family we'd been talking to the entire time, plus a few retired couples. We called the hotel and the shuttle. We were going to share the last available room with our friends and take turns with the shuttle. Josh and I loaded up first since the reservation was in our name. We got all the bags unloaded and rolled into the room. A knock at the door. It was the shuttle driver. "Your friend called, he said there are seats! Let's go!". Part of me wanted to be happy, but most of me wanted to get to the terminal and rip that guy's face off. Freakin' idiot. Maybe he did it on purpose because Josh and I got in his face that evening for being a moron. All I know is thank GOD we met amazing people in that terminal who called all over the place looking for our shuttle driver so that we could get on that flight.
It's 6:30am, the flight will be ready to go with 73 seats available by 9am. I am giving this guy the evil eye from every direction. I fully suspect he will burst into flames at any second. It's shift change... he's leaving... the new guy is compassionate, well-spoken, and helpful. HELL YEAH! We all got to check our bags in. No more babysitting luggage!!! The USO opened and the morning staff was fantastic. We got breakfast for the kids, who were excited about going home. By 8:30am we were all passing through the security gates... make that skipping, all-smiles. We walked out into the sun and boarded our bus. Sitting on the bus we were chattering away, laughing about the events, relieved it was over, exchanging contact information. We parked in front of our glorious C17 and watched them load our bags. Time passed, bags were loaded, but we were still on the bus. I looked over at the flight crew and one of them was staring up at one of the engines, watching it rev. And Again. Stare, walk, stare. Again, walk & stare. Again... shakes head. "Josh... look at that guy. That can't be good". Another member of the flight crew walked up to our driver and told him the news. Something's broken, we have to go back. It had been such a rough time already that all of us couldn't help but laugh in exasperation. At least our bags were gone. At least we had good company.
Since our bags were already checked onto that flight we were at the mercy of the crew and their repair skills. They said they wouldn't know if the flight would be good for takeoff until after 12pm. We trudged back into the terminal, somewhat defeated. Exhausted, but hopeful. We all went straight for the USO. They put a movie in for the kids and we took little cat naps in the huge comfy chairs. By 10 it was apparent we weren't going to sleep much so the mommies (and Brennan) took a short walk to the Post Exchange to get the heck out of there for awhile. It was still cold, but the sun was out and the rain had stopped so we were all about taking a walk. I bought some gum... that's about it haha.
As we were walking back at 11am we saw this crazy guy running towards us from the terminal, waving his arms like a lunatic. Oh! It's Josh! Grab Brennan and RUN! What? What?! "It's fixed, we're loading up. Hurry! Now!" Well crap! An hour early?! SWEET! We check through security again and sit down with our boxed lunches and carry-ons in the secondary waiting area, ready for the bus. Our friends are the first to load onto the bus, one retired couple... "what? I thought you said it was ready now!"... "Sorry folks, they said not quite yet, but soon". And off the bus they go... again. Waiting... again... but one step closer. All 5 kids ran in circles around the chairs screaming and laughing and none of us tried to stop them. They needed to do it. They had been stuck in a terminal for far too long. Our total wait time in that room was about 30 minutes, which was nothing. We all loaded onto the bus and onto our plane at 11:30am Sunday morning and were taking off by noon. Projected flight time 9 hours.
The C17 had a separate seating area much like a commercial plane up over the cargo area. It was filthy, there weren't any windows or entertainment, but it was free. We dug into our boxed lunches and all succumbed to sweet slumber shortly thereafter. There were so few of us that we got to sprawl out in our own rows for some decent shut-eye (finally). I was the first to wake up, the boys were all still asleep. I look over at our friends and they were both awake, kids starting to wake up too.
"Any idea what time it is?", I asked.
"No... I'm afraid to ask"
"I know me too"
Someone a few rows up was thinking the same thing and had the guts to ask. We heard a thirty mumbled in there somehow so I asked him to repeat "Excuse me, how much longer did you say? An hour and a half?" "No we'll be landing in about 30-45 minutes." I turned to my friend "Holy crap. I could just kiss him right on the mouth". We had slept the entire flight. Miraculous! We laughed and started excitedly waking up our offspring. I let Josh sleep. We still had a 6 hour drive ahead of us.
MONDAY - Going to the States you gain tons of time, coming home you most definitely lose. It was 2am Monday morning when we landed. Our friends offered to have us stay at their house for the night, and we changed our minds 3 times before finally settling on no. Once we saw our van we just wanted to get home. Our own home. Our own beds. We wanted to be done traveling. Plus Josh's leave was technically over so he'd have to be at work by 9.
Driving at night is a blessing and a curse. There are less cops and less traffic, but more night blindness and less options for food and fuel. The kids drifted in and out of sleep and watched movies the entire time. They weren't complete angels, but given the situation they were absolutely amazing. We were beyond tired, but we made it home safely at 7:30am. Josh walked in, shaved, and left for work. I put the kids down for a nap and called up Jamie to come over for coffee and catch up. There was no way I was going to sleep while Josh had to work a full day. It just felt wrong. I cleaned the house and brought in all the luggage. Josh worked until 5, poor thing, and we fell asleep on the couch after putting the kids down to bed.
So, that concludes our trip... and what a way to end it, right? It was an experience. I would do Space-A travel again in a heartbeat, even with all the uncertainty and annoyances. To me it's worth the $5,000 I save on airfare. Hope you enjoyed the saga ;) Now back to our normal broadcast.