What to do when your planned southern Italy/Cretan vacation plan goes down the toilet when unceremoniously booted from your flight mid-trip?
Make some lemonade.
To be fair, Lady Cat 6 and sponsor were warned before boarding the old faithful C 9 (no longer in service, having been replaced by the FABulous C 40!) at NAS Whidbey that, due to duty passengers and gear scheduled to be loaded at McGuire, we might not be able to continue all the way to Sigonella. We decided to take our chances and hope for the best.
The best did not materialize.
As we waited for the bus to arrive at the US Navy hangar located out in the hinterlands of McGuire (JBMDL) to take us to the main terminal (thank you!), the strategizing commenced for Plans B, C, and whatever. We would call lodging and see if we could get a room, then, hike over there (it’s about a mile from the terminal and this was around 10 PM) for the night and assess our opportunities within the Andrews/Dover/McGuire/BWI qudrangle when we were fresh in the morning.
When we walked into the terminal, they were in the middle of a Roll Call to Ramstein. Quickly heading for the desk, we discovered the plane was not full. “Let’s just keep going!” my sponsor enthused. We were already signed up to travel out of McGuire. The PAX Rep (bless him!) told us that as soon as they got done processing the other passengers, he would manifest us, too. We called Ramstein and secured lodging, and before we knew it, we were flying backwards in the dark on a C 5 to Germany.
Arriving in Germany rather than Sigonella did require changing our original itinerary. No catching the train from Sig to Naples and the Patriot Express from Naples to Souda Bay this time around – the flight links no longer worked. Instead, we developed a new plan: spend the night in Ramstein, catch a space a seat on the medevac bus to Vicenza, Italy (a beautiful 12 hour ride through the Alps!), lodge overnight on base, then catch the train the next morning for Rome. Instead of making our way to Greece, we decided to spend a few days in Rome, then another few in and around our old stomping grounds in Naples. After that, we’d catch the overnight ferry to Palermo and circumnavigate Sicily, visiting some sights we had missed on previous adventures on the island. When we got back around to Sigonella, we’d catch a flight from there to somewhere.
We thoroughly enjoyed the itinerary we cobbled together on the go! Piazza Navona, gelato, vino, Neapolitan pizza, fresh cannoli and ancient ruins, renewing old friendships, salty alici fritti with lemon spritz – who could ask for more?
From Sigonella, we ended up flying back to Ramstein with the same Whidbey crew on the same C 9 that had dropped us at McGuire. They were happy to hear we had a fabulous trip despite it not being what we had originally planned.
Two days after arriving at Ramstein, we caught a nice C 17 to Dover, where we rented a car and spent a couple of weeks visiting family and watching Facebook 72 hour flight forecasts. The day before a promising-looking 3-flights to McChord, we headed back to Dover, returned the car, lodged on base, and then caught the first flight home the next morning. Success! Two commercial shuttle rides later, we were back home at Whidbey.
Two of the most basic rules of space a travel are: be flexible, and always take the first flight heading in the general direction you want to go. Works for Lady Cat 6!