Warning: this might be the longest post ever, but it details what felt like the longest trip ever!
The past few days I've been finding myself choosing between read blogs or write a post and I've been choosing to read. You all know I'm safe, I figured the details could wait. This post is probably going to sound whiny but it was a pretty miserable trip. That being said, they did a SUPERB job of making it as anti-suck as they could! I consider myself a pretty experienced traveler. After 2 years of "stand by" trips when I worked for Delta, I've pretty much seen it all. This trip will go down as one of the worst of my life but I can't complain because it was free and I had it MUCH better than many of the people that traveled with me.
The journey started when we dropped our bags off between 1500-1700 on Thursday afternoon.
We had a briefing at 1700 to tell us the schedule for the rest of the trip then we were sent home. We were told to be waiting at the nearest school bus stop at midnight. A bus picked us up about 0030. That's where I said goodbye to the husband and our puppers =(
We arrived at the gym around 0100. We checked in and were weighed with our carry on baggage in order to get an exact weight for the aircraft.
After waiting for quite some time, they brought in dogs to sniff our bags
They were prepared with racket ball courts turned into play areas to keep the children entertained
Finally about 0400 people started crashing where ever and how ever they could
Around 0600 they started loading us onto buses
After some discussion and a few cigarettes, the bus drivers decided on the best route from our base to the AF base where we would be flying from
We arrived at the AF base around 0830 and were loaded into a large room where they had coffee and donuts and projector set up playing Wall-E (I told you, they tried to make this as painless as possible).
I was unable to sleep on the bus, so I was approaching 24 hours without sleep and the crankiness was setting in. Luckily I had some wicked cute (and surprisingly cheerful) kids to keep me awake and happy =)
They processed our passports
and f'd up my paperwork then we waited around until 1330 when they started loading us onto buses to be bused out to the plane.
This whole time, I was supposed to be traveling with a friend who was traveling with 5 children but we were in different groups and for accountability reasons, I hadn't seen much of him. When I got to the plane, the flight attendant asked if I was traveling alone and I explained that I wanted to sit with my friend. She told me she couldn't guarantee that I could get a seat near them but if I wanted, I could sit in business elite...um YES, PLEASE! Even when I worked for Delta, I never had the opportunity to travel on this plane much less in business elite, I couldn't say no!
I can't lie, we were like kids in a candy store, playing with all the gadgets. That green light? yeah, that's the MASSAGER IN THE SEAT! After no sleep and lots of sitting in bleachers/on buses, this was pure bliss!
I managed to get a solid 6 hours of glorious sleep before the guilt kicked in (I know, I'm an awful person, I totally ditched my friend and his 5 kids) and I went searching for my friend. I offered to stay with the kids for a couple hours while he went upstairs and slept in my seat but he declined.
We arrived in Denver, CO about 0930 local time which put our time since leaving the house around 24 hours. The kids were enjoying themselves much more than the adults at this point
We had to get our bags before we could proceed through customs and some local soldiers helped keep things in order
From customs we were bused to another holding area where they checked us in (this is where I discovered they had butchered my paper work. They had me down as "mom's maiden name-my last name, Jessica". They had my mom down as my sponsor instead of my emergency contact. oops. Then they had my final destination as City, TN instead of City, IN. OOPS! both I suppose are fairly easy to make mistakes, but they combined to make my processing a nightmare!) They had child care set up, including a giant bouncy house, video games and lots of red cross volunteers to help keep an eye on the little ones. This was such a big relief for the parents who were exhausted by that time. They had a wall of food for us and showers and cots available in a separate room. After more processing, most of us were handed our boarding passes for a flight that evening to our final destination. Some people weren't as fortunate and were put in a hotel in Denver until their flight the following morning.
As soon as I was "set free" for my final flight, my 1st stop was a bathroom to brush my teeth. I don't think I've ever enjoyed brushing my teeth that much in my life!
I had a connection in Chicago and I was terrified that after all of that, I was going to get stuck in O'Hare airport but I made it into Cincinnati around midnight local time putting my total travel time at 36 hours. I feel awful for those that were traveling with children, those that had to spend the night in Denver and those that didn't get to enjoy the lie flat seats. As exhausting as my journey was, I'm sure theirs were 1000X worse!
If you were keeping track, that was 5 bus rides, 4 cities, 3 flights and 2 really long days!
I slept for almost 36 straight hours after getting in, waking up only to shower and eat once. I think I've managed to kick jet lag in the butt after only 3 days which is WAY better than I was expecting! I'm feeling pretty well rested and enjoying the comforts of "home"
I can also now say the real reason I chose to come home is because Jason has deployed "up north" to help with the clean up and rebuilding of the areas hit hardest by the earthquake/tsunami. With him gone, there was no reason for me not to take the free flight home.