>From the moment I finished the previous blog a new stage of the adventure began. People started arriving in droves for the Charleston flight as well as the Baltimore flight. One lady came in, and, let me tell you, she was void of all social cues. I was trying my best to be polite but she was overwhelmingly … overwhelming. I’ll be nice and just leave it at that. One family packed up and left, choosing to wait their remaining hours in the general area, Matt kept having to “run to the car” or “check for the list.” Overwhelming. But we find people like this in all areas of our lives, not just in PAX terminals, and we must learn to co-exist peacefully. This began my slight rise in stress level and it remained a bit raised for the next few hours.
At one point I ran downstairs to ask about the flight and to figure out what we were supposed to be doing and when. The customer service reps are just fantastic at Ramstein and were patient with this newbie. One of my questions was, “Can we leave all of our sleeping bags in a single HUGE bag that is clearly not “carry-on” sized. ” The official answer was no, but that we needed each person to carry his or her own sleeping bag. When it came down to the actual moment, however, we never had to remove the sleeping bags and have individual kids carry one. We were prepared and willing, but no one from check in to loading even noticed the bag. So, the big hint here that we will do again is to put all the sleeping bags in one bag and carry them as a whole, limiting the number of items we had to tote.
While asking that question, however, I found that our flight had been pushed to 16:30. Honestly, this didn’t bother me too much as I began to see that we’d be flying all night, and most likely, sleeping the bulk of the flight. Good enough for me! Matt went to the car and brought all of our stuff in, making a nice mountain in the family room.
Families rotated in and out of the room, and at about 4:00 one family came rushing in, mom on the phone. She finished and then we got to talking a bit. They had been trying for three days to get to Charleston and her husband had befriended one of the girls at the customer service desk. She had informed him that our flight was only going to have 32 seats released, so they were going to give up on that and try for Baltimore. This slightly increased my stress level and I began preparing myself for a night in the Ramstein Inn, something wewere fully prepared to do already, but were obviously hoping to avoid. We wanted as many days in the States as possible.
At about 4:30 they started calling for anyone who wanted the flight to Charleston to come on down. Matt headed down ahead of me, and I got as much of our luggage as possible, leaving behind the carseat and sleeping bags. By the time I got to the elevator he was already at the desk and needed my ID. I sent Carson on down the stairs with it and continued on down the elevator. We were then ready to get into the line to check our bags, so Matt had to run back upstairs for what I couldn’t bring down. While in that line we heard them start announcing Cat Vs, which made us feel pretty good that we were going to be on the plane. We were Cat III and would be on before they would.
Our luggage got checked and we were due AT THAT MOMENT at security but Matt still needed to move our car to long-term parking. This began the most stressful 20 minutes of the day, simply because I couldn’t physically carry all that we had and 4 kids upstairs without the carts, and into security without Matt. (I could have without his stuff, so if I ever try this alone, it would be possible, as I wouldn’t have the extra two bags.)
Matt went as quickly as he could to move the car while the boys and I loaded up our arms to the max. Each boy had been given a long talk about carrying their own weight. I had allowed them to pick what they wanted to take, but I had to nix some of their items. Bailey would have liked to take 100 toys, but he settled on about 5 and his Anakin cloak. I had also packed their snacks in their own bags, telling them that if they wanted snacks on the trip, they were going to have to carry them themselves, as I had my stuff and Parker’s, to carry. They did GREAT at not complaining even when I knew they weren’t used to hauling this much stuff. (I carried a partial pack of M&M’s in my pocket and every 20 minutes or so of not complaining while we were in line, they’d earn one. This technique works so well. In all, each boy earned about 5 M&M’s each so they weren’t all hopped up on sugar, but were motivated to make it to the next M&M.)
Matt returned from moving the car and we made our way upstairs to security. While this is always a major ordeal, I decided not to let it rattle me, as we could only go as fast as we could go. All went well and we were through in about 10 minutes.
Once through that we were at the Gate. We boughtseveral waters from the drink machine so we’d have enough to get through the flight. If we had been awake for more of the flight, this would have been a vital step, but since we slept for most of it, we ended up having water left over. I’d rather have too much than not enough.
We sat there for 45 minutes or soand I was worried that they’d eliminate seats while we were there. We FINALLY let the boys play the iPods (the ACE up my sleeve) and I could see Bailey was getting more and more tired. He put earbuds in and listened to “Inventures of Odyssey” while gazing off into space. At last they had us all get in line to board…. a BUS. We rode a bus out to the plane, which was a C-17. This was the moment having the HUGE bag with sleeping bags became a problem. It was so fat it was hard to get down the narrow isle. We managed to get everyone and everything on board for the short jaunt to the plane. When we boarded we noticed right away that there were pallets everywhere, leaving only a walkway down each side, 16 seats long. We were among the last to board, so we had to take what seats we could: 4 together, separated by 4, then 2 together. We were on the left side of the plane, if you’re standing in the plane looking out the front windows (which, of course, we couldn’t see). Starting at the 8th seat, we sat:Bailey, Carson, Parker, me, then four strangers, then Matt, and finally, Hayden. We sat on the tarmac, slightly anxious, because we all had heard stories from the previous days. Remember the family who decided to go to Baltimore? Yesterday they had been ON the plane, sitting on the tarmac for an hour when they removed all Space Aers. We weren’t good-to-go until we were in the air, and we were READY to be in the air.
I had made a hotel reservation on base at Charleston and I needed to contact them to let them know we would be arriving late. Loving my iPhone because I was able to send a quick facebook note to my mom asking her to contact them, letting them know we were coming. She, smart thing she is, let them know, but also got us extended check out, giving us a bit more time to adjust. Anyway, back to our first few moments on the plane. We were given our meals, which we had decided to order for the simplicity of it. Not badfood, and plenty of it. 1 large water and a coke, which we decided to make the boys save for another time. Can you imagine three boys, not used to having a lot of caffeine, stuck on a plane, hopped up on Cherry coke?!? Not to mention the inability to close the can when the can only finish half of the drink. Water, it was.
And finally, we were set. Plane taxing, and in the air! We were supposed to stop at Gander, Newfoundland to refuel, so we expected a 9 hour flight to there, then a 3 hour flight south. When we were allowed to get out of our seatsand I pulled out our sleeping bags and comforters. Because we only had the 3 feet wide section in front of our seats, I laid our stuff out longways. I got Parker out and let him sit upright. Bailey had his pillow and got all snuggly.
(As I write, the natives are getting restless, so my details are starting to blur and are not coming to my mind as easily… Must hurry.) After a about 2 hours Carson and Bailey got sleepy and fell asleep. Parker nursed and fell asleep in my arms. We laid on the floor for a while, me peeking every now and then to make sure Parker was breathing (I get nervous sleeping with him.) I also kept an eye on the big boys to make sure they weren’t cold. It wasn’t nearly as cold on the flight as I expected, but we were glad to have our coats to use to cover up with.
During the night we were told it was going to get bumpy and were asked to get into our seats. This was interesting, as we were all O-U-T. Bailey was able to continue sleeping sitting upright. Carson started watching MythBusters (a new DVD we got just for this occasion). Parker played in his car seat and I read. We had to stay in our seats about an hour before we were released back to the freedom of the floor. I dragged poor Bailey back down and he never even knew what had happened. Carson kept watching movies, Parker was happywhere he was, so I decided to get some rest. I kept poking Carson in the knee, asking him if Parker was crying. About 15 minutes after I got on the floor, Parker started crying. Oh, I guess I should say, I couldn’t HEAR Parker crying because the airplane is so loud. I had to ask Carson because he was sitting beside him and could actually SEE Parker. I got him back out of his carseat and fed him once again. Then he and I drifted off to sleep for several more hours. At one point I got up and the girl next to me told me that we were no longer going to Canada, that they had refueled mid-flight! HOW COOL IS THAT!?!?! It cut our flight time considerably! And eliminated our chances of being stranded in Canada!!!
The above image is of Matt on the floor with the Bob the Builder blanket, Hayden watching a movie on my laptop.
Quickly finishing my story, we landed in Charleston and got our luggage. We loaded two carts with our luggage and walked a LONG way to our hotel, because to get a taxi would have been more trouble that it was worth. Honestly. As it turned out, the walk was a nice break from being on the plan 10 hours, the weather was nice, and the sidewalks were fairly easy to travel. When we finally got to our “hotel” room, we were pleasantly surprised to find that it is a fully furnished house! No joke! Living room, kitchen, dining room, laundry room, 4 bedrooms, two full baths. It’s actually housing they have converted!
(Parker’s first few moments in AMERICA!!!)
After showers and a quick note on FB letting everyone know we had arrived safely, we got in the bed. It was strange to think that we were getting IN BED at 3:00 am local time, but it was already 9:00 am at home (Germany). Try to fall asleep knowing that, if you were at your own house, you’d be an hour into school… strange. Time differences fascinate me!
I don’t have a lot of time to proof read this, but I do want to add a few pictures. Hopefully I can come back and edit later.