Sunday, January 19, 2014

Back on Kwajalein

Jan 14, 2014

After a long, but not arduous, trip from the U.S., we are back aboard Soggy Paws. We left Melbourne on Dec 27, and didn't arrive back aboard until Jan 13! We made 2 stops in Florida, spent a few days in Brooks, Georgia, where we left the car, and then flew commercially to San diego, where Dave's son lives. We had a nice few days in San Diego with Chris and Sandy, sightseeing on the Midway air craft carrier, and checking out Jack & Nicole Midence's new catamaran, Let It Be. We also drove out into the desert to see the Planes of Fame Air Museum. There we met up with Tom Cleaver, who has just finished a book on Dave's Dad's exploits in WWII (not published yet).

On Saturday, Jan 4, we rented a car and drove 8 hours to Travis AFB, near Sacramento. We hoped to get a "Space Available" military flight out to Kwajalein via Honolulu. We knew there was a 40-passenger flight that left on Sunday. We thought we'd timed our plans such that the active duty people would have all finished traveling with their families and be back to work. But, alas, when we were arrived at Travis, the Space A list was so full that we were on the second page--priority wise. We started about 100 names down the list, and as flights carried people away and took them off the list, we'd climb higher. But every day new active duty people would show up, pushing us back down. There was originally a 73-passenger C-5 scheduled for Monday, which would have virtually cleared the list, but the C-5s are notoriously cranky airplanes (they are very old and require constant maintenance). This flight got delayed for a couple of days. But we didn't even come close to getting on it. It finally went about Weds, and we were hopeful of getting on the next one. We almost did... on Thursday, another C-5 went to Honolulu. Due to "mission requirements" this one was down to 70-seats. We ended up being #71 and #72. Bumped again. But at least we were now on the first page of the roll call list.

Each time there was a plane leaving (at least one every day) that we *might* be able to get on, we had to be "flight ready" at the time of roll call. This means we had to be checked out of the hotel, rental car turned in, and waiting with all bags and paperwork. During the week we waited in Travis, there were at least 2 0630 roll calls. :p Once all the flights had gone for the day, we'd haul all our luggage back to the hotel and check back in. Fortunately, the hotel was reasonably priced, within walking distance of the Passenger Terminal with a luggage cart, and also near a cafeteria. We had good wifi internet in the hotel and in the Passenger Terminal, so it was easy to stay occupied. We also had a car rental reservation in Honolulu--which we'd have to change daily as we didn't get on the flight. At one point we had TWO reservations I was changing each day--one for the Passenger Terminal at Hickam AFB--most convenient but with limited hours, and one at the Honolulu airport--open 24 x 7 in case we got a flight that arrived in the middle of the night.

On Saturday, there were 2 pairs of KC-135's scheduled, each with 10 passengers (a total of 40 seats). We were pretty hopeful that Saturday was the day. We finally made it on the 2nd set of flights. We were excited to learn that the "mission" on this flight was providing tanker escort (aerial refueling) for some fighter jets being ferried out to Honolulu. Though the entire "passenger cabin" had only one tiny round window in it, the airmen handling the flight were kind enough to escort us to the back to watch an in-flight refueling session. Now THAT was worth a week's wait in Travis!!

We spent Saturday night and part of Sunday night in the Ala Wai Marina in downtown Honolulu aboard Intrepid, a Hallberg Rassy 42 that we had met in Majuro in September. Dan had single-handed Intrepid from Majuro to Honolulu while Cecily flew back to the U.S. to work. They were both aboard enjoying a holiday break in Honolulu. We also got a chance to have dinner with John & Linda from Nakia, and Eric & Sherrill from Sarana, whom we'd first met back in 2009 or 2010.

At 2:30am Monday morning, we tip-toed off of Intrepid, and drove down to Hickam AFB for hopefully our last leg of the long trip home. We were again worried that we might not make it on the flight--we didn't drop off the rental car keys until the roll call was completed and we knew we were on. This turned out to be a 42-seat 757 that does trips between Honolulu and Kwaj a couple of times a week. It was a nice plane, with nice seats, breakfast, and an in-flight movie!

By noon, we'd landed, cleared Marshall Islands customs and Kwaj Army Base formalities, and assembled our luggage at Geoff's (our sponsor for this trip) place.
Sherry & Dave
In the Marshall Islands for the summer.

At 12/01/2013 9:38 PM (utc) our position was 08°43.63'N 167°43.94'E

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