Our flight from Rota was pretty awesome. It was very smooth and I was able to sleep for a good part of it, despite lying on the floor and being a bit cold. We landed at Whiteman Air Force Base at about 9:00 in the morning. It was absolutely FRIGID there. The temperature was about one degree and the wind was blowing like crazy. We were on the plane as the load masters removed the chains and cables from the helicopters, so it was cold as hell. An airman came on the plane to clear us through customs. It was a very laid back interview and the guy who did it was quite cool (in a good way).
A bus was waiting to take us to “base ops”, which is a very small lounge with TVs and couches. Someone in charge at the base explained to us that there was no support for Space A people and taxis were not allowed on the base, so we might have to walk to the front gate, which is not close to base ops. It was also freezing!
Fortunately, the guy who drove the bus was available to give us a lift to the visitor’s center by the gate. Bill and I and the Seabee called Enterprise and they picked us up, not realizing that there were three of us going instead of two. For some reason, the sales agent from Enterprise had a driver, so we all had to squeeze into the car for the twelve mile ride to Warrensburg, Missouri. We got our rental cars and said our goodbyes. The Seabee was planning to drive to Virginia, while Bill and I planned to get a commercial flight out of Kansas City, Missouri.
I had booked us a room at the Embassy Suites at the airport because after some cursory research, it was clear that trying to get home on Friday would cost significantly more and wear us out. As it was, we were already pretty tired and needed to sleep.
Bill started the 90 minute drive and we stopped in Independence, Missouri for a bite to eat at a place called The Corner Cafe. The parking lot was absolutely full of cars and it was barely 11:00am. I figured that was a sign the food was going to be good. I had never heard of this place, but it’s obviously a chain in Missouri. We walked into the place and it kind of made me think it was what you’d get if a Perkins and a Cracker Barrel mated. The menu was full of comfort food and there were a lot of pies. The clientele appeared to consist of a lot of people with walkers, blue hair, and oxygen support.
We bought this to go and ended up eating it for dinner.
The food was indeed quite good. We were hungry and I was ready for something comforting. I had fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, and some surprisingly good green beans. The meal also came with a roll. Bill had a sandwich and fries. Walking into the restroom, I could hear the 50s era rock and roll playing. I took note of the toilet and realized that this was the kind of place that served food that led to taking a big dump. I saw evidence of that… ’nuff said.
I had to take a photo of this huge American flag on our way to Kansas City.
Bill after we checked in at about 1:00pm.
A folksy note left for hotel guests…
One thing I noticed about Missouri is that everybody seems really down home and “folksy”. Another thing I noticed is that obesity is a significant issue there. I mean, I am by no means thin, but I was feeling almost petite in The Corner Cafe, the hotel, and even at the airport. I saw a lot of people using canes, walkers, and oxygen, too.
Anyway, when we got to our hotel room, I took a shower and started watching college gymnastics. Bill went to bed. I joined him about an hour later and promptly fell asleep. The bed in our room was surprisingly and delightfully comfortable. We slept through the manager’s reception and didn’t feel like going out for dinner, so we ate the pie we got to go at The Corner Cafe. Then we went back to bed and slept until about 5:00 Saturday morning.
Bill was fretting a bit about what he was going to do with the rental car. It turned out it wasn’t an issue. We ran into another guy, obviously military, who told us he works in Hawaii. We found the rental car facility and got the shuttle to the terminal driven by a kindly older gentleman named John who was very chipper, especially for the time of day it was.
We went to get our boarding passes and drop our luggage. Since Bill is active duty military, he can check two bags for free on Delta. So we checked in and it turned out our flight was so packed that we were assigned seats at the gate. The agent who helped us then said that only Bill was entitled to get free bags. Bill said he knew, but since he’s allowed two bags, he claimed mine as his. I’m not sure why this was an issue for the agent. I mean, in his shoes, wouldn’t she do the same thing? Who wants to pay $30 a bag? She let it go and then asked us to take the shoulder straps off the bags.
Our bags dropped, we headed toward security, where I noted that I had been pre-selected for “pre-check”. That meant I wouldn’t have to remove my shoes or jacket, nor did I have to pull out my electronics for security, as long as I made it through the metal detector. Well, I was wearing two jackets because it was so goddamn cold outside. I took one off and left the other one on. It had a metal zipper, so I set off the metal detector. So then a member of the security force came over to escort me to get my hands swabbed.
I initially thought these people were TSA, but it turns out the Kansas City airport is one of the few airports that doesn’t have official TSA people on the payroll. Instead, they have a private security force that follows the same procedures as TSA does. Anyway, the young woman who was to swab my hands came over and asked me to go with her. I reached for my stuff and she said that she had to carry it. I still had my passport and boarding pass in my hands and set it down while she prepared to test my hands for nitrates. Her machine wasn’t working, so another security person had to do the test. I went to grab my passport and boarding pass and she said she had to take them. We went to another testing site and the guy swabbed my hands. Naturally, I came up clean. The experience made me think it would have been much easier to just go through the regular screening.
We ended up getting seated in the exit row at the ass of the plane. A very sunny flight attendant confirmed we were willing and able to help the crew if we should crash. The flight was basically very pleasant, until we were about to land. I had left my purse on the floor for the entire flight because I couldn’t hear the announcements very well where we were sitting. It turns out that if you sit in the exit row, you have to put all your stuff in the overhead bin. A different flight attendant came over and asked me if she could put my purse in the bin. I said, “If you must.”
I really wasn’t bitchy about it. My voice was matter-of-fact. I know they have their rules. However, the damn purse was on the floor for the entire flight and no one said anything and I honestly didn’t hear them say that it had to be in the bin. I had put it under my seat when we ascended. So then the flight attendant said in a preachy voice (as if talking to a child), “I must because you are sitting in the exit row!” Fine. The explanation wasn’t necessary, really, and I could have done without the holier than thou tone.
The other flight attendant who had been so nice made an impression on me. I actually went to Delta’s Web site and sent a note complimenting her. I had made a note of her name and wrote that I hoped they’d let her know that a passenger had appreciated her very pleasant personality. Maybe random praise will help her get a promotion.
We were supposed to have a two hour layover in Atlanta. Bill and I decided to have lunch at the Sweetwater Tavern. Sweetwater is a craft beer made in the Atlanta area. We used to drink it a lot when we lived near Atlanta. The waitress ended up chatting with Bill about home brewing, which Bill started doing in earnest when we lived in Georgia. We gave her some tips and it turned out the guy sitting near us was also a home brewer. It was kind of neat being around all the beer geeks.
We left the tavern with a few minutes to go before we were supposed to board our flight. It looked like we were going to get home early. But then, just after Bill called the kennel to let them know, we got word that the plane we were supposed to board had a maintenance issue. Once again, we were going to be delayed.
So then Bill struck up a conversation with a guy who turned out to be a lawyer in San Antonio. Bill is taking a computer law class, so they had something to chat about. I sat there and played with my phone.
Naturally, the plane was packed. It was a very obnoxious flight and we were in the second to the last row, so there was a parade of people passing to go to the bathroom. Some Army guy reclined in my lap and there were conversations so loud I could hear them through my noise canceling headphones. That flight could not have ended soon enough. And then, once it did, it took awhile to get our bags. Mine came out quickly, but Bill’s took much longer.
When we got to the parking lot, we couldn’t find the damn car… And then the road we needed to get on to get to Camp Bow Wow was under construction, forcing us to take a detour. But we did finally get there and the boys were delighted to see us! I even filmed our reunion. There wasn’t any barking or howling, but there was a lot of kissing, tail wagging, and genuine happiness at being sprung from the joint.
Arran welcomes Bill home.
It always takes me days to get everything back to normal after a trip. However, I always learn a lot when we travel. This trip was no exception. I think my next post will be about all the new things I know, now that I’ve gone to Spain and Portugal!