Space-A is always an adventure. I spent two months tracking flights in color-coded pens and highlighters. Things were looking good! When it was time to head to Ramstein, let’s just say the pattern didn’t hold.
Thankfully we have great friends who let us stay with them for a few nights while we waited for our flight. We went back and forth a few times hoping to make flights only to have them cancel the flight, open no seats, or open only a handful.
On September 2nd the flight disappeared but we spent the day at the USO just in case it was a mistake on the board. Free popcorn, donuts, and movies for all, and video games for the teens. (Fun fact: Anna still remembers a donut she ate that day that was filled, not with cream, custard, or chocolate, but apple sauce. It was GROSS!)
That evening we spent a few hours with the Wests enjoying a German fest before we headed to their house for a sleep-over.
On September 3rd we really thought we were going to make the afternoon flight but they ended up releasing only 45 seats for the 110 people there. We were hopeful that we would make the flight scheduled for the afternoon of September 4th and were not even planning to attempt the 0300 flight. When we left the airport on the afternoon of the 3rd there were only five seats listed for the 0300 flight. We were dejected but still knew we had a good chance of getting to the states.
So that we wouldn’t be too much of an imposition on the Wests I took the kids to the Vogelweh to bowl. After Anna finished her one game (that’s about all she has the attention span for) I took her to a nearby playground where she climbed and ran and danced to her heart’s content. Parker came along (though he would have been happy to play a few more games) and the two of them really had a good time.
At bedtime, to get her to sleep I had to lay with Anna… otherwise she’d mess with Belen’s cool stuff! When we snuggled up there were still only 5 seats for that 0300 flight. At 11:00 PM, when I was actually about to go to sleep myself I checked the Ramstein Space-A page one more time and saw this:
40 seats!! At 0300! Surely the five of us would be in the 40 selected! We had been on the list for 55 days at this point (at 60 days you have to start your sign-ups over). We were Cat V, which is almost the lowest but not the lowest. I sent a text to Matt to get his thoughts on whether or not I was stupid to even be considering waking my kids 0130 and driving to the airport.
I took the info out to the boys, who were having the time of their lives – sleep-over mode for the third night in a row – and presented the possibility to them. They were unanimous: we were going to try for it!
So, I woke the boys at 0130 and we packed up as quietly as possible and at 0215 we were on the road. While just outside of the Baumholder gate I started my stopwatch. Anna had to potty on the side of the road and she was not a happy camper, but by the time we got to the airport she was semi-content.
As we walked toward the building at 0250 I noticed 3-4 other people walking but they were all much older than me (which was good news for me because that meant they were Cat VI). The guy at the desk said that there were 41 people signed in and we were numbers 26-30. We just needed NO MORE CATs I-IV to show up and no more CAT Vs who had signed up earlier than us.
At 0319 they started calling names three at a time.
At 0349 they called our names!
At 0355 we were in line to drop off our bags. (You can see Anna’s leg in her car seat… she wore pajamas that entire flight.)
At 0520 we had gone through security and Customs.
At 0544 we were on the bus to the plane.
The flight was great and we rested as well as a family can rest in this setting. I had packed an entire suitcase full of bedding and heavy winter coats so we were prepared. Dum-dums helped ears adjust to the altitude and all sorts of electronic devices to keep people entertained. I had an airman come strap Anna’s car seat to the floor so that once we’re at cruising altitude I could strap her in and she was as comfortable as if she were in her own car.
We had quite the adventure upon landing:
First, no one had alerted McGuire that we were coming so they hadn’t sent anyone from Customs to clear us. We had to wait in quarantine (sequestration?) for an hour before someone came in from Philadelphia. Then, no one told the airmen that we were cleared and could have our luggage. We waited about 45 minutes before someone noticed we were sitting there NOT leaving. He said:
“Where’s the customs guy?”
“He left 45 minus ago.”
“Really?!? I had no idea he had even come! Sorry. I’ll go tell them to unload your luggage.”
10 minutes later he comes back very apologetically to tell us that the crew had left for lunch and secured the plane. We had to wait for them to come back.
We were all pretty DONE by this time but eventually we got our bags and a USO volunteer (bless his heart!!!) took the kids and me to the hotel (about a mile away from the flightline).
By this time we were so tired. A quick walk to the nearby Shoppette for Pizza and then were in bed for the night around 6:30 PM. Here’s the countdown from the time we left the Wests until we were in our hotel:
Stay tuned for the next post about this trip! Big day: Seeing Mama Kim!