Late February is not a pretty time in the great Pacific Northwest. The skies are dark slate and hang so low they press like weights on our shoulders. The January sunbreaks are long gone. Day after day of nearly constant drizzle leave us feeling positively mossy.
Definitely time for some sun!
Hawaii looked FABulous. We’d stay with friends near Kaneohe, or perhaps visit one of the other Islands we’ve yet to explore. There had been lots of flights lately, so it sounded like a great plan! Just the thought of soaking in the bright warm rays all day long perked us up, and we packed our bags for sun and fun.
And then the flights dried up.
Day after day after day after day, week after week, our hopes raised high each morning, only to be dashed when the 72 hour forecasts were consulted. Neither of our wonderful departure bases had anything going to or through sunny Hawaii.
Well into March we were still sloshing about in our damp parkas and rain pants. My shoes were practically sprouting mushrooms!
But, wait –
Out of nowhere, NAS Whidbey posted a flight – to Souda Bay, Crete!
We gathered in serious consultation to weigh the pros and cons.
After about 30 seconds of intense deliberation, the decision was made: “Sign us up, baby!” Quickly, reservations were made for lodging at Lajes and Souda, and car rental was arranged on base. An island circumnavigation itinerary was hastily thrown together, and we were all set to go!
Early morning 72 hours later found us in the terminal at Whidbey, our bags mostly none-the-worse from the mad dash across the parking lot through the deluge. My Sponsor, having had to hoof it from the long term parking about a quarter mile away, needed to spend more than a few minutes in the men’s room with paper towels and electric hand dryers to dehumidify himself. We were so ready to fly this coop!
As is usually the case at Whidbey, there was hardly anyone in the terminal (Shhh! Don’t tell anyone!), aside from the duty passengers.
Around the appointed time, what passes for roll call here: “Okay, anyone going to Souda bring your bags over here for processing,” takes place, and, soon after, we’re all happily, drippily, boarding the C 9!
Our first stop was frosty but clear Duluth, for fuel, at a little commercial terminal that served warm chocolate chip cookies! Then, on to Bangor, ME, for more fuel, this time at an Air National Guard terminal with nothing on offer but a few vending machine selections. Finally, we took off on our overwater leg to Lajes, to spend the night.
For the first time in our multiple transits of Lajes, the plane did not break down, and late the next afternoon we were on our way to Rota and beautiful Souda Bay (well, Hania is beautiful, anyway).
It turns out there was no one at Souda to handle immigration, since our flight was not the Patriot Express. And, we had not been processed at Rota. They were only handling passengers terminating there. So, we were in passport limbo, advised to “just tell the outgoing immigration officers there wasn’t anyone here when you arrived” to explain the lack of EU entry stamp. Having flown all night and arriving early in the morning (delay at Rota, to make up for uneventful stop at Lajes), and being in a rather compromised state, we stumbled off, bleary-eyed and exhausted, to try to get a few hours of sleep before being ejected from lodging. One night had been reserved, and now they were full and accepting no extensions.
Just as we are falling into blessed sleep, the phone rang. It was the passenger terminal. Having re-thought their immigration advice, they wanted to take us over to the civilian airport to get the passport issue taken care of – now – because the immigration officer there was tired and wanted to go home. It’s Greece. So we bumbled back into our clothes and waited out front, as we’d been told to for pick up in five minutes, for about an hour, before someone from the terminal, a 10 minute walk away, pulled up in a van with the other space a passenger aboard to take us to the civilian side of the runway.
With our passports officially stamped, we returned to lodging and passed out for a couple of hours. Then, still a little punch-drunk from lack of sleep, we showered, dressed, checked out, picked up our car, and headed out – into the bright, warm, wonderful sunshine – to Iraklion, and our Cretan adventure.
Sometimes, if the planes aren’t going where you want to go, you need to want to go where the planes are going!
Next time: Touring the island of Crete, and a roundabout journey home.