The Final Third

 Getting to France via space a was the first third of the fun of our autumn travel; touring the beautiful city of Paris, then enjoying Normandy, Brittany, and the Loire Valley were the second. At last it was time to gear up for the final third of our adventure: the space a trip home!

We arrived in the charming city of Strasbourg, near the German border, after a long day of driving. We had made reservations at a hotel across the plaza from the train station, and turned in our rental car just across a side street from the hotel – you can’t get more convenient than that! Our schedule allowed for an leisurely evening and dinner, sightseeing on foot in the morning before a boat tour we had booked, and lunch in the city before picking up our bags at the hotel for the train ride back to Ramstein. Not enough time to do Strasbourg justice, but our philosophy is, we’ll come back – and, we usually do.

The train departed right on schedule. The conductor scanned our online ticket bar code when she came through the car, and then we sat back and enjoyed the ride. It was necessary to switch trains at Mannheim and Landstuhl – easy and efficient. At Ramstein, we waited a LONG 20 minutes for a taxi to lodging on base – we probably could have walked it in that time (it’s under two miles from the station to lodging), but the weather was windy, cool and wet, so I was not in the mood to roll the suitcase. At last, the driver pulled up, loaded our luggage, and a few minutes later dropped us at the door of the Kaiserslautern Military Complex (KMC), where we had reserved lodging for the next three nights.

We had been monitoring the flight forecast for several days, and had developed a plan for departure on a flight to Andrews and on to Wright-Pattersen, in Dayton, Ohio, just a couple hours’ drive from our Ohio family, on Monday. That would give us all day Sunday to lounge, get laundry done, and browse the concession stands in the mall for souvenirs to take home (SMALL, FLAT souvenirs!). Our fall back was a very rare flight to Erie, PA, an hour away from our PA family, on Tuesday.

The best laid plans…

Sunday morning, as we were relaxing in our pajamas with all our other clothing strewn about the room ready to be sorted before going to the laundry room down the hall, my Sponsor checked the flight forecast. Surprise! The Andrews/Wright-Patt flight had been moved forward a day, and roll call was in 45 minutes! Expletive! Sponsor threw on some clothes and rushed over to the terminal to mark us present while I stuffed everything willy-nilly into our bags, jumped in the shower, and dressed in my least laundry-critical outfit. After I was out of the shower, he was in. In record time, we were travel ready and present in the terminal. 

We had considered chucking the rush and just waiting for the Tuesday flight to Erie. It’s a good thing we didn’t; it dropped from the schedule right around the time we arrived for roll call.

We were surprised to find the terminal nearly deserted, though several flights were CONUS-bound that day. Quite a change from the chaos we had heard about earlier in the week. Once we were selected for the flight (YAY! C 17!), Sponsor called lodging and released our room. The only thing left to do was wait…and wait…and wait. It turned out our flight was a medevac, and there was a delay loading the patients, who needed to be aboard before us. The flight took off almost two hours late, but was very comfortable, thanks to our C 17 supply duffel. There was just enough room out of the way of the medical personnel and patients to lay out our camping pad and take turns napping under the fleece throw.

Upon landing at Andrews, we realized that though we were manifested through to Dayton, between our late arrival, unloading patients, reorganizing the plane and refueling, it was going to be nearly 2 AM by the time we reached Wright-Patt. And lodging there, which we had reserved, was several miles from the terminal. After determining there was room available at the Presidential Inn on base at Andrews, we decided to take ourselves off the flight. We’d spend the night, rent a car, and drive to PA the next day. And so we did.

Our family visit circuit had us in Greensboro, North Carolina, as our final stop. When we were ready to come home at last, there was nothing heading west from Pope, Charleston or Norfolk for the next 72 hours. We could have taken a chance and driven all the way back up to Dover and McGuire, but they weren’t looking good, either. Instead, we purchased very reasonable one-way tickets home Raleigh-Durham (RDU), an hour or so drive from Greensboro. A flight and shuttle ride later, we were sleeping in our own bed for the first time in 44 days. It’s great to be home…

Until our next adventure!

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