Saturday, October 25, 2014

"We've Been BOOed!"

Huck, Finn and I stepped out of our front door about 7:30A.M. for our morning walk, and as I looked down, I found the following:

How cool!  After reading the little poem, the fine print instructions below the poem told me to place the "We've Been BOOed" side (after cutting it apart) on my door to let my neighbors know that we had been Booed because my next task was to create two bags or small baskets, reprint the poem found at and secretly leave them at the doors of two of my neighbors who do not already have a "We've Been Booed" sign on their door!  The idea should make its way around your neighborhood.  By the way, our little bag contained pencils, a little flashlight, and some candy with the note tucked inside. 

Try it!  It is fun, and the website has other awesome ideas to inspire you throughout the holidays.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Day We Left For Australia but Landed in Korea, Part II

Picture of us from years of 1979-1981 
After retiring from the Navy many years ago, pastoring a local church for 20 years, teaching school, and rearing three awesome children, we once again find ourselves in the military.  For the past five years, my husband has served as an Army Chaplain, and I, not wanting to be left behind, retired from "the best job I ever had" (stole that idea from The Fury) of teaching high school English and got behind the wheel of one vehicle while Roy got in the driver's seat of the moving van pulling our second vehicle, and we moved across country!

Having been away from "home" for a year, we decided to try Space A once again.  My husband watched patterns of when planes went out, how many seats were offered, and how many seats were actually used.  This went on for weeks, and every night he would read me a list of flights and the pertinent information!  He became quite familiar as he is pretty detail oriented. Realizing that Travis AFB is a hub for the West Coast just as Dover is for the East Coast, we debated whether to commercially fly to Travis or compete for a flight from our base.  Finally, we decided to fly to Travis (we probably will not do that the next time, however).

The process is a bit different now as there are no charges for Space A (although, if a Patriot Flight is your choice, there are minimal charges of tax revenues).  Boxed meals are served on some flights, but when this occurs, they are offered for purchase--less than $5.   Otherwise, one must bring his own food from machines or restaurants from within the terminals.  Dependents can now fly anywhere flights are made available, and there are basically six categories that I will not explain at this time.  Suffice it to say the closer you are to the first category, the more likely that you will make the flight.

Flying into Oakland, we had arranged for shuttle service to Travis (about an hour away), but when we landed, we received an email saying that the shuttle we had confirmed the day before had been cancelled as they had double booked.  What to do?  Duke with Aloha Airporter had been suggested over and over, but upon calling Duke--and later meeting him, he confirmed in person--he informed us that he no longer picks up at Oakland.  New fees, really application fees, have forced him at this time to choose to not service Oakland Airport.  So, if you choose to fly into the Travis area, the San Francisco airport is the better choice as relates to shuttles.  So, what were we to do?  I'm so glad that God always "has our back."  As I flipped through several pages of possibilities, on about the 3rd or 4th page the name "Lucky Shuttle" leaped out at me.  My husband, in the meantime, had called several companies, and those who would even come out since it was now 7:00P.M. or so--too late to even use BART--quoted him prices of $110 to $175.  Good grief!  That was almost as much as our commercial flight to Travis from Seattle for both of us!!  We called Lucky Shuttle, and the owner checked to see if any of his children who drive in the business with him were already at Oakland, and since they were not, he left his home where he had already settled in for the evening, picked us up and delivered us to Travis for the price of $75!  Yes, he got a tip!  Roy and I would highly recommend this company if you find yourself in a similar position.  We had awesome conversation for the hour ride;  he is a gentle, compassionate person who cares about people and has a very interesting life story.

Since I am writing this not only for posterity but for the value of what we learned for future travelers, I would suggest that it is best to stay on base in Air Force Inns or whatever is available to military as it is both convenient and inexpensive.  However, DON'T PLAN ON STAYING AT THE INN NOR RENTING A CAR AT THE ENTRANCE OF THE BASE AT TRAVIS ON DRILL WEEKEND!  So, we had reservations for Thursday evening, thought that we would perhaps be on the plane on Friday for Australia or, worse case scenario, take a flight to Hickam on Friday.  Well, the Australian flight was all cargo with no passengers, but we were manifested for Hickam.  No problem!  Let the adventure begin!  Our flight was a C5, but, unfortunately, C5's have their problems, so while the retirees and those in categories V and VI were getting on smaller planes and arriving in Hawaii throughout the weekend, our plane did not take off until Monday morning.  In fact, one of those days, we even were seated on the plane waiting for takeoff when they decided to cancel the flight. Talk about disappointment!  Due to it being drill weekend, we had to find a hotel in Vacaville and rent a car from the Enterprise in the same little town, maybe 8 miles away.  Yay!  guess who took us there?   Duke!  I referred to Duke of Aloha Airporter in Part I of this post, so remember that name if you need a shuttle service in and around Travis.  During our time of waiting, we met numerous retired military couples who fly Space A often and were fun and oh so encouraging!  We also became friends with a C5 pilot (I only add his occupation because he was helpful to talk with about our plight) and wife who were a terrific couple with whom we shared stories and laughs!  It is amazing how adversity bonds strangers!

Although, we had been to Hawaii previously, I was so excited to get there again because I had previously messaged a cousin living there whom I had not seen for 20 years or more, and we had tentatively made plans to have lunch or dinner.  She had graciously offered us a place to stay, but I worked under the assumption that it would be easy to acquire a place in military inns (Hawaii has an awesome military resort opportunity but, of course, requires reservations understandably) and was really hesitant about interrupting their lives completely.

Tips:  (Ignore this section if you are reading for the story only and will never fly Space A) When flying Space A, you need to work on the fly and make reservations on the go.   We have used Skype for a few years now to communicate with family members in other states and that works well out of the country as well, but if you want to be able to call ahead for reservations or speak with family or friends who do not have Skype accounts, I would suggest upgrading your Skype account to include Skype Calling.  It is simple to accomplish, and while it requires placing a deposit into your account, it is well worth it.  We placed $25 in our account, called multiple terminals, hotels, car rental companies, and our son, and we came home with $21.22 in that same account.  Skype    The other suggested tool to place on your ipad is to acquire the app  TakeaHop which allows you to have all of the info that you need at your fingertips to call ahead and so much more.  
 To get back to the story, it was not easy to get a reservation in Hawaii when we were unsure when we were actually going to get there.  We did arrive at a good time, so I called Colene, my first cousin, and what a joy it was to meet her little family, see their remodel that will be awesome when finished, eat wonderful food outside while catching up on lost time, and spending the night in their home.  Colene reminded me of my mother as she would not let me leave her home without giving me snacks and magazines exemplifying that giving spirit that says, "I have thought about your needs before you have, and I will actively seek to meet them because I care about you!"  I found this amount of care in my mother and both of her sisters, so she inherited it honestly, and from her mom as well.  Thanks, Colene, Jason, Jack and Hudson!  You are the best!
Roy and I with Colene and her family
The next morning, we slipped out of the house quietly and made our way to the terminal to catch a flight to Japan.  We had missed our last opportunity to get on a flight to Australia from Hickam.  It left on Sunday (and, of course, we weren't there), and when we checked the facebook page to see how many seats were available, we saw that again zero passengers just cargo.  We agreed that Australia was not to be realized on this trip.  So we began to set our sights on Japan and Korea where we could get flights.  -concluded in Part III

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Day We Left For Australia but Landed in Korea, Part I

Before we travel out of the country, we call our credit card company, our service provider for our phones, our bank and our auto insurance agent just as a matter of alerting them, but also, refreshing our memories of what is offered concerning coverage and benefits!  This time when I called our insurance company, I asked the usual question as to the extent of our coverage, stating that we were flying to Australia or Japan or Korea next week--we weren't sure which--, and the person on the other end of the line laughed!  He later said, "I couldn't figure out how someone could not know exactly where they were traveling when you were about to board a plane!"  Well, it is like this, when you take advantage of flying Space A or military flights and you are open to adventure, you just take what is open and available to you.

Flashback to 1978-1980
In 1978, my husband was a sailor, and I taught at a private Christian school in Virginia Beach, Virginia.  We had little to no money, but we were already blessed with an oversized bump of a spirit of adventure.  I taught Spanish, but I had never travelled to a Spanish speaking country in my life.  I was, afterall, from the south, an only child and the daughter of  a former Airman father who was part of the Korean Conflict and had travelled all he wanted to by the time I came along.  Traveling would not be part of my future unless I took the "bull by the horns," so to speak.  But then I met and married an Eastern Kentucky "son of the coal mines" who hoped to never see the inside of one but did want to "see the world," so he joined the Navy.  We met in Virginia Beach, Virginia and got married. So, in an effort to meet some of my dreams, Roy (my best friend, dream delivering husband) decided we should go to Spain using "MAC" flights--Military Airlift Command--now known as Space A and controlled by AMC (Air Mobility Command).  In the seventies, the rules that applied to active duty personnel were that travelers paid $10 individually and dependents could not fly within the continental US using MAC flights.  Being in the Norfolk area, we were on the coast, so my husband had to take enough leave to give us flexibility, and we were off.  No glitches.  Just signed up, donned our backpacks, got on the plane, ate our boxed meal (paid for by the $10), and several hours later landed in Rota, Spain.  The flight itself does beg for explanation.  Our carrier across the Atlantic Ocean was a C5, a huge plane capable of transporting tanks, other aircraft, etc. on the lower level and move 73 passengers in seats not unlike commercial airlines in the upper level.  By this point in my life, I had only flown one time, so although I was not a frequent flyer, I noticed right off that there was one little quirk!  The seats faced the back rather than the front of the plane for the protection of troops in the event of a less than stellar landing.  Can you imagine my disorientation as we took off with our bodies leaning forward and upon landing, our backs were pressed to the cushioned seats behind us!

When we landed in Spain, we were on a viable and hopping busy military base.  We had arranged to stay with a friend of a friend in her small, off base apartment.  I was introduced to studio apartments and milk with a shelf life--the shelf in the pantry rather than the fridge--and in a box, not a carton or bottle.  No, it was not powdered.  Taking in my surroundings, I saw beautiful flower gardens being watered every morning by gardeners (I think our water was being rationed in Va. Bch. that year when it came to washing cars or watering grass), and buildings were white with a view of blue water and swaying palms moving to the rhythm of the cadence of the Spanish language in surround sound.

Well, I digress from flying Space A.  The stories of the trip are for another time or post.  We were so thrilled with this week in Spain that included a trek along the Mediterranean with stops in cities like Malaga (encouraged to not drink the water and we experienced bedbugs), Granada (the Alhambra--total uphill climb). Mijas(a little mountain town where only donkeys and carts provided transportation), Madrid (hostel requiring couples to be married and were serenaded from the street under our window), all of the sights between, and culminated back at Rota where we flew out of stateside bound, that we decided to repeat the experience one more year.  We had learned that if we put our final destination down--not our first stop but where we wanted to end up before flying back to the states (called being "manifested through"), then we would only be charged $10 one time and $10 for the return trip.  Who, in their wildest dreams, could fly to Europe for $10? And, I might add, who gets to go into the cockpit of a C130 while flying over Europe?  Answer:  the blessed wife of a military man! 

The second year, we travelled to Spain, flew an inexpensive commercial flight to Torrejon (outside of Madrid),  flew from there to Germany for one night and day (visited the little town of Landstuhl), and then we flew on to England, rode a bus to Scotland (saw the Crown Jewels, etc) and back, then reluctantly left England for home. We paid for the commercial flight from Rota to Madrid, the bus ride to Scotland, and shared the cost of the ride through the Chesapeake Bay Tunnel with a fellow soldier who drove his car from Dover, Delaware (where we had to re-enter the US rather than Norfolk) down the Eastern Seaboard, dropping us off at the terminal in Norfolk.

We left the Navy and Virginia Beach at the end of my husband's contract for the purpose of  his attending college in Nashville, TN.  Although, he remained in the Naval Reserves, the rules did not allow non-Active, other than retirees, to fly Space A.  So, for the next 35 years, we flew economy class on commercial flights or made a cruise ship our home, competing for the best prices my "Silas Marner" husband could scrounge for us to see England over and over, Italy, Rock of Gibraltar, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Belgium and France (one trip to see Normandy and the other Paris and surrounding areas) plus other states in the US and varying islands in and around the United States.  In case you are wondering. . .I LOVE BEING MARRIED TO SILAS MARNER!  Without his miserly ways, we would not have had half of the adventures because they would not have been affordable for us!

Now on to 2014. . .
I suppose everyone over 50, thanks to Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholas,  surely has a bucket list.  One of the items on our bucket list is to see Australia--specifically, Darwin (inspired by the movie Australia which my husband loves) and the Great Barrier Reef, and, of course, Sydney.  We were excited to see that Australia is now a possibility, though a difficult one, flying with AMC.  So October, 2014, in commemoration of our 1979-1981 trips on MAC, we donned our backpacks with three outfits only, 5 days of undies, and 3.4 liquid oz per container of sundries all properly stored in a ziplock plastic bag, and we flew to Travis to begin our journey to AUSTRALIA!  --con't next post

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

"Jesus Is the Sweetest Name I Know"

Yes, I have sung that old song many times with my mom and dad and congregations across the U.S., but never has it had greater meaning than today as we visited a chapel on Osan AFB, Korea.  As the offering was taken, a group of four females--two Korean and two American gals--sang the song so sweetly, blending their individual accents around the name of "Jesus."  Preview of the voices of Heaven praising the name of Jesus?