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