One of the perks of being stationed overseas is that we’re eligible to fly back to the states on military cargo planes. While it’s not always the most reliable means of transportation, it is free and that’s pretty hard to beat when commercial tickets start at $1000. As it goes with the military, there’s lots of paperwork involved and quite a few hoops to jump through as well.
The first step was to get all our identification in order – passports, social security numbers and contact info. Then the Sarge took all of that to his Commander, filled out a piece of paper verifying that we were eligible for travel, and got it signed. I then had to physically take the paper to the base terminal so we could get into the system. Since Jason isn’t currently deployed, we fell into a lower category but were still above the retirees. Categories above us are reserved for active duty and dependents of deployed soldiers, etc. This was all new to me upon moving to England so I’m still learning the ins and outs of it all.
The tricky thing about flying on a hop is you’re never guaranteed that the flight you want will actually be available. The schedules are posted three days out and even then, everything is subject to change. In other words, if you’re an OCD planner (I’m talking to you, Melissa!), this mode of travel will send you into a giant panic attack. It was a Sunday afternoon and I saw a flight come up for Washington state leaving the next morning at 7am. So I did what any sane person would do and decided to try and catch the flight. Then I watched some Netflix because I was too overwhelmed to actually start packing.
On Monday morning, we loaded up the car with one suitcase, a giant blanket and several layers of clothes. The Sarge and I had a little scheduling confusion and ended up getting a late start which inspired him to fly down the freeway like a Nascar driver. It got even worse when we got turned around in a series of roundabouts causing us even further delay. We definitely pulled a Clark Griswold and did some repetitive roundabout loops.
We ended up getting a seat on the flight despite our late check-in time. There were just seven of us traveling with the crew that day and three of them were kids. After some false starts going to the jet, circling the flight line, then loading and unloading the bus, we finally got the okay to board the jet. Jason had scared me with stories of freezing cold temperatures and cramped quarters but it really wasn’t too bad. The bathroom was definitely scary – two white tubes for the guys and a rectangular box for the girls. All I could think of is how horrible it would be to get sick on the plane because I’m fairly certain that tiny room of stink was harboring the next deadly plague. Even the three Scentsy air fresheners hanging on the wall couldn’t touch the funk in there.
The Bacon Bit ended up taking a short nap in her carseat while I “slept” on the floor. It was more an attempt at being a contortionist than actual sleeping as I was pinned between the luggage and the seats. Additionally, we were right below one of the main vents so the temperature fluctuated between 90 and 30 degrees for the entire nine hour flight.
Eventually, we made it to our destination: Fairchild AFB, Washington. Since my final destination was actually SeaTac airport, I had a loose plan in place to just catch a cab to the Spokane airport and then fly into Seattle. What I didn’t think about was that I had no American cell phone, no internet service and no American cash. Once we deplaned at Fairchild, we were left in an empty waiting room with no personnel and no working phones. There were two other moms traveling with me and we all kind of looked at each other in confusion once we realized this was the end of our military assisted travels. After a solid hour of no luck on the phones, trying to walk to the library for internet, and no one being able to give us any answers, I decided to take action.
A truck pulled into the parking lot and before the guy could really even get out of his car, I asked him if he could help us get a cab to the airport. I explained we had just flown all the way from England and been left for dead in this deserted waiting room with no working phones. I also had on no make up and might have had a hint of body odor after nine hours under the heat vent. I’m pretty sure he took pity on us when he offered to just drive us himself.
So we loaded up our kids and our stuff in a stranger’s car and made the 10 mile drive to Spokane airport. I know that probably sounds crazy but he was in uniform and we caught him on base so we knew he’d had a fairly decent background check at some point. He didn’t have kids but said he was considering adoption from China. At that point, the Diva decided to do her signature ear-shattering scream. Some poor Asian child may never have a home now thanks to my daughter’s untimely performance.
We got lucky at the Spokane airport and were able to catch a flight to Seattle without too much hassle. Since my mom is a flight attendant, we caught a break here as well. We flew standby so my entire trip from England to Washington cost me $30. My cousin, Tor, picked us up in his awesome new PT Cruiser (I can’t tell you how hilarious I find that) and we made the final trek to Gig Harbor.