April 28, 2017

Adventures in Space A Travel

Eternally pack’d…

Photo by author.

Wanna travel the world for free? Well OK, it’s no big surprise that nothing in this reality is truly free, and what you save in money, you generally end up paying back in time and effort. Hungry? You can hunt (time) and scavenge (effort) to cook a meal from scratch (for less money). Or you can reverse the axiom and pop a five dollar 7/11 burrito in the microwave…

Traveling space available as a military retiree is a similar proposition. It’s free (or usually costs only a small pittance, say, less than 20 dollars US) and a great way to avoid thousand dollar tickets to see the world. The downside: you can end up waiting (sometimes weeks) for that magic flight to depart.

First, though, we’ll catch you up on the story thus far. About two weeks ago, the last (?) piece of the puzzle fell into place when we finally sold our Jeep. The good: we were finally nearing our master plan of achieving a long-term nomadic life, unfettered and unencumbered by a house, vehicle, etc. The bad: we were suddenly stranded in America, without wheels. Rental cars only appeared cheap online, until you piled on the fees. Add this on top of keeping a roof over our head each night, foraging for food, etc and we saw a rapid escalation in our daily overhead living the nomadic life in the U.S.

It’s expensive to be homeless in this county. Thus, a plan was put into motion to at last escape from the U.S. (lest Il Presidente-turned-dictator-for-life Trump close the borders) for a life aboard.

At first, we were cocky. We turned in our rental car at Jacksonville Naval Air Station and caught the first military hop up to Norfolk NAS without incident.

Didn’t know you could travel on U.S. military flights? You can, if you’re retired military. The trick is that’ll you’ll go Category 6 (the lowest category) if any seats are available. That’s the ‘A’ in Space-A. And modes of transport can vary wildly: we’ve rode refueling tankers, contracted civilian flights moving troops, and just once, a ‘blue moon’ C-130 flight from Okinawa to Bangkok. Space A flights to exotic Australia are almost mythical in Pacific Air Forces circles.

But the last few weeks moved so quickly, we ended up bending a few of our cardinal rules: we 1) left Florida in February, when the rest of the world is encased in ice; and 2) we waited to sign up for Space-A after we’d hit the road and made the decision to strike out eastward.

And that leads us up to our current situation. You can sign up for 5 different destinations 60 days prior; the trouble is, you then compete with other retirees for seats, and the longer you’re signed up, the higher priority (within your category) you get. Right now, we’re 10 days and counting, trying to get out of Norfolk to sunny Rota, Spain. Every flight attempt is like a space shuttle launch: you suit up, go through the motions, sit in the cockpit for several hours, only to scrub at the last moment and do it all again in 24 hours on a maybe.

As I write this, we’re sitting in the terminal on our fourth attempt to get out of Norfolk NAS. We’ve attempted to make several hops on U.S. Air Force C-17s that were Europe-bound, but thus far, all were carrying hazardous cargo (read: ammo and munitions) and were unwilling to waiver seats for Space-A passengers.

Hey, it happens sometimes. Norfolk has ample clean and cheap billeting, and right now, the wife and I are on a 24 hour ‘rinse, wash, repeat’ cycle of showing up for flights, sometimes with a few days off in between, It’s all good; we keep writing, working and waiting. We’ve decided to give Norfolk maybe another week, before hopping up to another major hub such as McGuire or Dover AFB to try our luck there.

As with all Space-A flights, tonight’s is a lottery. It’s Schrodinger’s flight at this point, both a promise and a pass over, at least until the final decision of the day is revealed. I’ve decided that, on any given day, I’m happy with the outcome; getting picked means we’re on a free flight to Europe, and getting passed over means we can get some much needed rest.

What ever the outcome, we’ll be on the move once again by next Friday, with more lessons learned.

More to come!

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  1. [...] caught the flight! Last week, we discussed our adventures with Space Available military travel, and how we were stranded in a holding pattern at Norfolk, [...]

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