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