Monday, June 28, 2010
Haven't had net for a WHILE.... so get ready for one LONG update!
Today is the.... 28th, we touched down in Rota Spain less than 5 hours ago. Local time at touchdown 5:20 pm... I have no idea what it is now. The weather is very warm.
We made friends on the plane, Iris, Johanna and Enrique. Iris lives in Rota with her husband and has generously given us a place to stay while we regroup.
What a hellish week! We are exhausted and glad to have finally made it across the pond. For a while we thought we would have to give up and turn back. I have saved some entries in a word pad to post once we had net again, I will paste and share them now, below.
24th of May - 25th of May
Oppressive heat, sticky humidity, lots of moss and green, green trees. We're in South Carolina.
Guard happily informed us it reached 120 F on Monday. It certainly feels it. The main chow hall is the bowling alley (which serves breakfast if you can believe it) a block or so away.
Lots of flights out... but not for us. Not enough seats on the first flight. Everyone is trying to get to Ramstein. People come out of the woodworks at roll call. We're too far down on the list to have a chance.
Finally got our names called for a Rota Spain flight. Got manifested and everything. Then we waited.... first we were told "Just a 20 min. delay" that turned into 30 mins... then an hour....two hours.... they come back, say the crew is tired and theres no one to take over, might not take off. 4 hours later, the plane is broken and the crew is off line on crew rest... flight canceled.
Next flight supposedly at 1 in the morning... flight roll is never called, look on the board and that flight no longer exists.
All other flights keep getting postponed. First they tell us 2 flights to Ramstien in the morning, that turns into Ramstein in the evening, then Ramstien tomorrow evening. We wait all night and all day. Nothing.
A flight to Rota is posted, " We are pleased to inform you this flight has 73 seats" 40 minutes later "We regret to inform you this flight now only has 7 available seats" people are called for it several hours later... they manifest... and... boomerang back to us. That flight broke down before ever getting off the ground.
At long long last, 11 pm the following night... another flight to Rota 72 seats! We all get called! Those who didn't get on the 7 seater are brought to us, we all load up. We're airborne.... where will we land?
The plane is cool. We're in the troop deck in the tail of the plane. We climbed the ladder up, up, up, we found ourselves in a forest of cloud. The a/c was spewing white condensation clouds and it looks like a special effects studio with all the fog machines set on high. Couldn't even see the safety demo by the soldier in the jump suit through the fog, but we could hear him.
26th of May 4:30am
Three guesses as to where we are right now.
I'll give you a hint; "Take a 'gander' at where we've landed, eh? It's been fondly called "The place the world landed on 9/11" The main town is in the shape of a goose's head and the national anthem starts with 'oh' as a final hint... there's a 1/2 time difference (so they proudly proclaim) from this famous time zone because of a lat/long interesting locacion.
No tellin how long we'll be here for. We landed to fuel up before Rota... but they asked us to take our personal items with us. C-5's are notorious for breaking down... I think the pilot knows something we don't. Supposedly we'll be out in an hour...
26th of May 11 pm
We have a 19 hour layover here while the crew takes a 12 hour rest. Roll call at 1:30 am for a flight back to the states in Delaware to make repairs on the plane. We were only suppose to stop in Gander for an hour to refuel, but a problem was found with the plane and the crew decided to turn stateside to fix it.
So we spent a lovely day exploring Gander Canada- Population: 10,000.
Breakfast was coffee at Tim Horton's- I've never been to a Tim Hortons before! The lady we hitchhiked with laughed when we told her this. "We Canadians know everything about you all, but none of you know anything about us! If you'd paid attention during the Olympics you would have seen advertisements for Tim Horton's on the railings," joked She.
This place is supposedly moose central. I see moose paraphernalia everywhere! And everyone has a moose story. I've been told I should see them in town, but there is a motorcycle rally for Retinitis Pigmantosa today and all the moose have stayed away.
We took a hike to the local pond, beautiful area, and fell asleep on some boulders there. The weather was a cool 70 F all day, very balmy and breezy.
Had lunch at 'Lillies Landing'. According to the awards on the wall, it's got the best Fish n' Chips in town.
Guest Book at the airport has some interesting entries. A couple corny jokes about ducks. An entry from someone who got stranded in Gander for a month, 3 entries from people whose plane caught on fire and had to make an emergency landing in Gander and a whole page of entries from people who were grounded when someone made a bomb threat on their plane. Also, half a dozen scattered entries from various patrons raving about the local soup. Apparently it is very, very good.
Showers at the airport then wait... wait... wait for the plane. We take off and it's a short 3 hour hop to Delaware. The pilot tells us we should only be down for maybe.. 20 mins to an hour while they make a quick repair and then we'll be off to Spain.
They make us go through customs (even though we were quarantined from the others in Gander and went through customs leaving Canada). The Custom's man had a bug up his butt and was very rude. They march us through the x-rays and metal detectors.... then walk us through the back door of the airport and back in through the front doors of the airport where... they make us go through the x-rays again...??? Seriously? And make us take off our shoes and everything all over again... We are brought to a terminal and made to sit for over an hour.
There are many small children riding with us and none of us have eaten for several hours, most of us have not slept since we took off a day before. We ask if we can leave to get food and are told "For security purposes we cannot permit you to leave this room." After waiting for another 40 mins or so we ask if we can have food brought to us, we are told "that is not possible." We ask if we can order anything, again, no. We ask how much longer the wait will be, they cannot tell us.
After another 40 mins or so, it's 2 hours past the time we were supposed to take off, maybe 3 hours, they come in and tell us the plane will not be taking off and kick us out of the terminal. We have no where to go and they won't let us sleep in the airport. They won't help us get food or taxis. These people are very rude...
Ironically... we see signs telling us "Customer Service is our #1 concern. Please, let us know how we are doing!" all over the walls and on the terminal viewer/slideshow banner thing.
First they tell us the new check in time for the flight will be at 11 pm. Then they tell us this will be postponed until 1:20 am the following day. We are stuck.
Bill goes and calls the Commanding Officer. An hour later we are offered meals and told the flight will take off at 10:30 am. We have a little hope things will turn up. But after taking our meal orders the flight is pushed back to 1:30 am again and we're on our own again.
I pass out... and wake up in a hotel room somehow. Guess I'd been out a while because it's 6:30 pm.
After a very, very, veryyyy long day (everything on base is closed, we cannot get food or supplies) at 2 am they begin checking us back in (for some reason they gave our checked luggage back... and now have to re-check everything) we have to go back through the metal detectors yet again.... and at long, LONG last, we board the plane an hour 1/2 later than scheduled at 3:30 am. We are all exhausted and none of us are expecting the plane to actually take off (after so many false alarms). Many people are having de ja vu, I hear a lot of "I think I remember being here before" "This looks familiar" "It's like we're caught in a time warp" "it's like a bad movie" "yeah, but this is the directors cut, it has an alternative ending!" "I hope so..." "No more theatrical version! Lets have a happy ending!" "I won't believe it until my feet touch Spanish soil..."
Then... Hallelujah! The plane takes off!!!
Bill and I pass out again for the entire 9 hour flight. (I didn't think I'd actually sleep the whole way). We wake up in Rota and the whole plane cheers and whoops and claps. We're actually here!
Everyone shuffles off and make arrangements for the night. All the lodging on base is full-up but the hotels and hostels off base have rooms. We say our goodbyes, exchange information and part ways.
Time to Regroup and see what tomorrow brings.
Some pictures from Gander Canada: