The bouncing Helicopter

Monday after returning for our big trip found us playing around Neuss, going for a long bike ride, and cleaning up the house.  Tuesday, however, it was back to travelling.  I was ready to head back for the states, and I knew Zoe was when she declared (after a month) that Bethany’s house was boring.  Why? I asked.  “Because there is only the bathroom to go to” was her reply.  true that.  She did express that she wanted to play on her playground: no mention of her toys though.  After packing up all our junk we went on a last bike ride to the bakery and the big “train” playground….at that point Zoe changed her tune a bit and said she wanted to live in Germany and at home.  It’s tough having to pick, for all of us.  I felt ready to go, but I’m also not looking forward to getting back to all the driving around and lack of sidewalks awaiting us in Valdosta.  Neuss has been so nice for that.

Bethany picked up a rental car on her way home from work, and we were ready when she got in.  Packed up 2 strollers, a backpack and a small checked bag with my Turkish rug….plus my diaper bag and Zoe’s carry-on bakcpack of entertainment.  The drive to Ramstein is about 2 1/2 hours, but we needed to stop at a roadside BK for dinner, so it turned into 3.  We rolled through the gate around 9:30, checked into lodging, and drove to the TLF.  I called the terminal and verifie the flight to Charleston the next day around 1500 – it was moved to 1325.  Fine.  Off to bed.

In the morning Avi woke as usual at 7:30.  I called the terminal and the flight was cancelled.  gag.  No flights stateside today, and none tomorrow of use.  Bummer I’m not heading to one of the 20+ places in the middle east they are going.  I called Spang to see if their schedule changed.  The day prior they had no flights to the east coast in the foreseeable future.  Well, that changed.  Today around 1700 – Charleston, and another tomorrow am at 0630.  OK.  In the car, folks.  We took care of some errands since we had a bit of time.  Went to the post office, got groceries at the commissary, and then Bethany drove us the hour or so up to Spangdahlem.  First thing we drove to the terminal and checked on the flight.  It was still expected to go, but depending on when it arrived and not sure about passengers…they should know more in an hour.  There was also a flight to Hunter Field in Savannah leaving soon if I was interested.  They weren’t originally allowed to take passengers on it and now they would.  Well, my car is at Charleston and the terminal rep seemed to think the Charleston flight would easily take pax so I passed on that.  We got some lunch at Taco Bell and played at a playground before coming back.  The rep now said the Charleston flight was cancelled – they weren’t coming in until Friday.  Bummer.  BUT, he offered, the Hunter Field flight hasn’t left yet and changed to include going to Charleston afterward. I said I’d take it, and when is roll call.  Now, he said, lets check you in.  So I got us checked in, they took our bags, I bought 2 box lunches, and we got our tickets.  This whole time Bethany had taken the kids upstairs to the kiddo play area, thank goodness.  It was very helpful to have her along.  I didn’t need to wrangle kids and all our stuff while at the desk in the terminal.  What a difference she made!  We waited for about 15 minutes and then went to security.  It was tough to say goodbye to Bethany.  Zoe needed multiple hugs before she could go.  Then as we watched the car back out she got very sad and wanted to stay. 

We very quickly went through customs and security without a hassle.  There were about 20 space-A passengers going on the plane – over half were kids.  On the bus out to our C-17 we were told why they originally weren’t taking passengers.  There was a helicopter on board!  It was a secret ops copter, so there were to be no pictures whatsoever inside the plane…or your device was to be confiscated. There were also 3-4 giant metal pallets and about 35 army guys on the flight.  It was full!!  I’ve never been on a full C-17.  Other times we’ve had lots of space to lay out.  The flight was 10 hours.  ugh.  We made the best of it though.  The helicopter was quite good entertainment for a long time as we took off and levelled.  It bounced like crazy and almost his the floor – the chains pulled tough and made crazy noises.  Seemed quite unsafe until they tightened it down.   We napped for a while in our seats at the beginning, then I put our seats up on the wall to carve out a little niche for us to play for a bit.  Watched the Little Mermaid and Marmaduke and then tried to nap.  Zoe wouldn’t so she colored while I layed with Avi.  Then we had to get back into our seats because the plane needed to refuel, which was really bumpy.  Avi slept through that.  I just wrapped him in our sleeping back and strapped him onto his fold-down seat.  Zoe fell asleep, too.  So after the refueling I camped out on the floor again with Avi and spread Zoe over our seats.  All the troops and other passengers were all over the floor, too.  There was very little space for people to walk to the bathroom – they had to step over sleeping people.  Some of the army guys were even under the helicopter which seemed super sketchy. We all slept for a long time and were awaken by the news that we were landing!  yippee!! Back in our seats and a big cheers when we made it back to the United States. They unloaded all of us pax going to Charleston first and we walked to a big deployment hangar to wait for 45 minutes.  Zoe and the other kids all ran around like loony bins.  It was great.

When we bussed back out to the plane all the troops, the pallets, and the helicopter were gone.  Amazing. The kids ran in the space before settling in for our short flight.  We basically took off, got altitude, and then landed.  It took a half hour from the time we buckled in at Hunter Army Air Field to when we unbuckled at Charleston Air force base.  The crew got working right away, but seemed to take longer than normal outside – and unpacked the water coolers first.   Well the one loadmaster came back in soaking wet, so we figured out where the water went.  It was his fine flight!!  The ground crew guys came in and took out all our checked bags…on a C-17 they are just strapped to the floor in the center so we could watch them the whole way.  It’s kind of funny.  We then all got off, bussed to the terminal and waited for our bags.  It was about 11pm and I knew I couldn’ve drive back home so I called lodging and got a TLF for the night. 

Walking out to the car is about 2 blocks away, so Avi rode in the big stroller, I bungeed the old stroller to the side, hung the rug bag and my carry on along the sides and wore our backpack.  easy peasy.  It was such a nice warm night walk to the car which promptly responded to the beeper and seemed in great shape.  Thankfully, nothing was left inside to smell.  (as we left I panicked about a banana peel under the seat; I guess I had gotten it). 

Now it’s 5am and we’ve been up for two hours in our room at lodging.  We got to sleep easy enough around midnight, but jetlag woke us around 3:30.  Time to go back to bed for a nap until checkout at 11 – then we’ll drive back to Valdosta!

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