Thursday, it became clear that we had some options for getting out of Spain. Rota was offering two flights that would work for us. One had a “showtime” of 00:10 very early Friday morning. The other had a showtime of 5:55am. Of course, I was inclined to choose the later flight. Both were supposed to stop in Bangor, Maine and Warrensburg, Missouri. The earlier flight had a final destination of Travis Air Force Base in California. The other had a final destination of Charleston, South Carolina. Bill and I ended up in Charleston the last time we did a Space A flight. Of course, at that time, we were living in North Carolina. Landing in South Carolina wasn’t such a great thing, though, since we left our car at BWI in Baltimore. We ended up having to fly from Charleston to DC, where we took a series of subways and buses to get to the airport. Yes, we could have flown directly to Baltimore from Charleston, but that would have required going on Southwest Airlines and I preferred not to do that.
Now that we live in Texas, we figured it was better for us to go to Missouri. Stupidly, we figured we could get a direct flight from Kansas City, Missouri, since we had done it before. Of course, that was in 2007 on a now defunct/merged airline. But we didn’t know Thursday what we know now, which was that in order to get to Texas, we’d end up going through Atlanta again.
Anyway, Bill walked to the terminal to speak to the Space A folks. He was told that the earlier flight was going to originate in Spain. That meant that they might skip the Bangor stop. The later flight was originating in Turkey, so that meant the crew would need to rest. We’d end up overnighting in Bangor and probably trying to get commercial flights from there. We decided to go for the earlier flight.
It almost looks like you could swim…
In the meantime, we had Thursday to kill in Rota. We walked more around the town and went back down to the beach area. The weather was pretty good and it was almost warm enough to take off our coats.
We stopped at a cafe and had a nice lunch. I had ham croquettes and Bill had beef with Pedro Ximenez sauce. I later learned that Pedro Ximenez refers to a sweet type of grape used to make wine. Again, the area we were in is noted for its sherry. Sure enough, the beef had a sweet sauce with raisins in it. We both enjoyed a couple of beers before we walked back to the base to rest up for the evening. I had to pee like a racehorse by the time we got to the gate, so we stopped at Baskin Robbins to see if they had a restroom. They didn’t, but we got some ice cream anyway.
We walked to our room and I took a nap while Bill washed clothes. While I don’t really enjoy military lodging, I can’t deny that having washing machines available is a huge plus. It really cut down on the wash I’d have to do when we got home.
At about 11:00 or so, we checked out of the hotel. We thought we were going to have to walk to the terminal, but it turned out taxis can get on base. One picked us up and delivered us to the almost deserted terminal. Bill noticed an older couple sitting near the sign up area. He noted that those same folks were there earlier in the day and perhaps either declined to fly out or weren’t able to.
There were fifteen seats available on our flight and only seven people claimed them. One was a dad with his three kids, all heading to California. There was Bill and me and a guy who was a Seabee. His wife was in the Navy and stationed at Rota, while he was the equivalent of a Naval Reservist. He had to go to Virginia to drill. The elderly couple seemed interested in our flight until they were told we wouldn’t be stopping in Bangor after all. I’m guessing they must have stayed in the terminal for the next flight. If so, that’s a long ass time to sit around an airport. The Rota terminal offers free WiFi, though, so that’s one way to pass the time.
In any case, the flight was free, save for the $12 Bill paid for two boxes of food. We didn’t even have to do that, really, since we were provided with snacks that were pretty generous. They also gave us blankets and pillows, which was a good thing. It got a bit cold on the plane. I also had my own blanket and pillow and was actually able to sleep for a few hours on the floor. I almost never sleep on planes.
The box of food.
We were on a C17, which is a huge Air Force plane that usually carries cargo. We flew on one on our last hop back to the USA. That time, the cargo was “hazardous”… probably ammunition or the like. This time, we flew back to America with two big Apache helicopters! There were two female senior airmen who were the “loadmasters” and they were very professional. I enjoyed the safety briefing one of them gave us about what to do if the aircraft depressurized. We put in ear plugs because those planes are not as insulated as passenger planes are and they are very loud. I also had Bose noise canceling headphones, which were a Godsend.
This is the plane we were on last time we went Space A… very similar to the one we got in Rota.
As far as I’m concerned, flying on Air Force planes is the best way to travel. A lot of times, you sit along the side of the plane, so no one reclines in your lap. The crew is very laid back. No one cares if you listen to your iPod or play with your iPad as you take off. When the plane is in the air, you can lie down on the floor and sleep if you want to. Some people even bring sleeping bags or air mattresses. Baggage limits are liberal and you don’t have to pay for them. The food is usually pretty good or at least edible and doesn’t stink. And you get to fly home with helicopters! I love it!
Inside the aircraft!
I got a kick out of these ads, obviously targeting Americans…