Flying for Free

Less than a week after our little Clio turned one the girls and I decided to leave Matt at home and go on a military space-a adventure. We registered for a flight which was making its way to Texas, stopping in Yokota, Japan and California; 4 hours after being selected for the flight we were at the terminal ready to board the C5. As I handed over our boarding cards the pilot walked past and questioned the terminal staff why they were boarding people as the plane was broken down; I had heard many stories about the C5 and its notorious reputation for breaking down all.the.time.

The plane we flew on from Okinawa to America

The plane we flew on from Okinawa to America

An hour waiting in the terminal we were finally able to board and make our way to Yokota (near Tokyo) where on arrival we were not only informed that the plane had broken down again but that Yokota was expecting a foot of snow and instead of staying the one night there was every possible chance we may end up staying 2. At the advice of the shuttle driver I booked a second night, just in case.

It was a good thing I did too because sure enough the next morning I looked out the window and there was indeed a foot of snow. Apparently it doesn’t snow too often in Yokota and as a result everything was shutting, the BX, the commissary, and ALL food places. Thankfully I had met a lady that was on the same plane, trying to get to California, with her 2 little girls (similar age to my girls) and we joined forces. As she had been to Yokota before and knew where the shopette was she braved the snow to buy some supplies, while I watched the four girlies. Lucky she went when she did as not only was it about to close but the shelves were pretty empty. That day we ate some microwave meals, chips and drank ice tea.

5 a.m. I woke the next morning to the phone ringing, it was my new friend informing me our plane was ready to go with an early roll call. 30 minutes later we met in the lobby to find out that there would be no shuttles taking us to the terminal as they were stuck in snow, and when it was finally free it would only be used to transport passengers on the Patriot Express. While its not a long walk from the lodging having all our bags, 4 kids and a foot of snow to navigate, we knew it was going to be a challenge.

Our first attempt was to push the baggage trolly, Clio in the stroller and the other baby in the front pack and have the 2 older girls walk, unfortunately we only got 2 meters, before the trolly got stuck, the stroller got stuck and the 2 girls complained about cold feet. Returning back in the lobby of the hotel we came up with a new plan; we would leave the luggage, and walk the girls to the terminal, then one of us would stay at the terminal with the kids while the other returned for the rest of the luggage. Thankfully we only made it a third of the way before a van of young airman picked us up and dropped us to the terminal; I even had to offload Clio to one of them who I am sure never had held a baby before, but he entertained her, so all was good. We left the kids with another Mom while we both walked back for the luggage.

Luck was on our side again as we were picked up right outside the terminal by a nice guy who not only drove us back to the lodging but also loaded our bags and returned us to the terminal so we could wait for our flight to California and onto Texas. We made our roll call and checked our bags only to be informed our plane was delayed, I honestly can’t even remember the reason now. At around lunchtime we found out that the plane was no longer going to be stopping in California and going straight to Texas instead, great news for me, but sadly not so good for my friend and 2 kids.

Many hours later we entered the departure lounge where we couldn’t believe our eyes; the air crew were shoveling snow, I guess they were just as desperate as us to get on that plane. Hungry and unable to leave the terminal for food, we (all 14 passengers on the flight) managed to talk one of the passenger terminal staff to walk, in the snow, and pick us up half a dozen pizzas which we shared with the flight crew, who were extremely thankful. With only 30 minutes left before the air crew were to run out of flying hours to get us to Texas we boarded the plane, using the airplane ladders. For me, this was the scariest part, seeing my nearly 4 year old climb this incredibly high, narrow ladder, with me holding Clio behind her; so not much help should she slip.

Air Crew clearing the snow

Air Crew clearing the snow

The flight was painless, both girls slept virtually the entire 13 hour flight. Upon landing in Texas we, along with a young Navy dude, caught a cab to San Antonio airport where I was only an hour too late to get a flight to Omaha, Nebraska. After sharing my story to the nice American Airlines ticketing agent she booked us into a hotel for the night and even got me a good discount; the distressed rate! I didn’t think I was too distressed, but hey it was 50% off so I am not complaining. The hotel even upgraded my room to a king size and threw in free dinner & breakfast!

midnight snack with my girlie in San Antonio, Texas

midnight snack with my girlie in San Antonio, Texas

Another early start as we headed back to the airport for our last 2 flights before arriving in Omaha. The first flight from San Antonio to Dallas was delayed because the plane couldn’t handle cold climates or something random like that, so we had to change planes but after that little hiccup we finally were on our way to Dallas. In Dallas we changed planes, exhausted and not looking forward to having Clio sit on me for the flight, who was equally exhausted, it was so nice to sit next to a very interesting Iranian woman, who was also a Mom. We chatted the entire time and she gladly took cheeky Clio and entertained her so I could get a break.

Eden, who had yet to sleep all day, fell asleep literally as we were coming into land, and it took forever to wake her up. After everyone had left the plane and I woke Eden up we walked out and I nearly burst into tears at the sight of Mr & Mrs C, it was so nice to have them come meet us, to know that we were done with planes and delays, for a couple weeks at least, and of course I knew we would get to enjoy some delicious home cooked meals and not eat any more vending machine food, which is what I felt like we lived off for the 5 days it took us to get there.

This was my first space-a experience and while it didn’t go quite as I expected it was definitely a memorable experience. I met some great people, the passengers on this flight really stuck together, we shared what little food we all had so no one went hungry, we helped carry luggage for each other when needed, watched each others children and the hours of waiting around didn’t seem so long as we told stories and got to know each other a little better. The C5, while its interior is no where near as nice looking as a commercial flight, the 73 seats had a lot more leg room and reclined so much more than a commercial flight. I imagine its not everyones cup of tea, but for me it was perfect, the noise drowned out any cries Clio made, and the darkness (there were only 2 small windows) made it easy for us all to sleep but the biggest seller for me was the price..military space-a travel is FREE!


3 responses to “Flying for Free

  1. Pingback: Visiting Lincoln, Nebraska | FUN FLYING FOUR·

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