Friday, September 17, 2010

Jumpin' Back on the Travel Train

I must travel a lot, because this is my fourth post in less than three months on my travels! Once again, I'm on the road...only a little sooner than I expected! Being stationed in Guam, the most practical thing to do on a military salary is to Space-A a military flight back to the mainland. Space-A is in a league of its own. Anyone who has been stationed overseas before probably has some experience with this concept. Essentially Space-A is a program for military and their dependents (me) to travel on military aircraft on you guessed it, a space available basis. Anyone who has done this knows the trip NEVER goes as planned. No matter how simple it may look. They can change/cancel the flight at anytime, EVEN after the plane has taken off. I likened myself to media mail, eventually I'll get there on the cheap.

I'd been chasing a flight headed to MCAS Miramar in San Diego for a few days. To catch a flight from Guam to Miramar (when your parents live five minutes from the base) is pretty much hitting Space-A paydirt. A free trip! When I found out that particular flight was taken off the schedule I was a little happy about that only because I wanted to maximize the time I had with Colin. So I quit packing, went to bed and when the alarm went off at 6:20 that morning, I went ahead and checked the schedule to see if maybe the flight popped back up later in the day. Oh it popped up alright. For 6:40am. Needless to say the tornado of Colin and I throwing stuff into my suitcase, grabbing my passport and driving as fast as those rediculous base speed limits allowed us, I ran into the terminal at 6:40. Bam! On the dot. And here's where it gets fun. After forgetting my travel papers and thouroughly ticking off the lady for not only showing up late but forgetting such important papers she said I could check in but ONLY if I could get those papers to her immediately. Colin ran home and got them and before we knew it I was accepted on the flight. Three hours later I found myself strapped into a jumpseat of a ginormous C-17 talking to a a jet squadron of Marines coming home from a 7 month deployment. I was ecstatically talking about how excited I was to be practically flying into my back yard and they gave me some funny looks. I then overheard something about them getting a bus to the hotel when we arrived when my stomach dropped. "Whoa, wait a minute. This plane is going to Miramar, right?" "Well yes of course, we just have to stop in Hawaii for a 48 hour crew rest. We'll head out on Friday or Saturday perhaps." My freak-o-meter about shot through the roof. Here I am stuck on a plane to a place where I could easily caught a plane to next week. Good thing Colin was headed to work already, I didn't want to ruin his day with that news.

So as you might guess I spent the next 7 1/2 hours stewing over this debacle. I tried to make the best of it, I snatched three airplane blankets and a pillow and found a cozy little (I mean little) spot on the cold metal floor and attempted to sleep as the temperature steadily dropped to 40 degrees. I lost feeling in my toes for the rest of the flight as I tried to ignore the A/C blowing on me. I was pretty jealous of the marines who got to monkey climb up onto the storage containers and stretch out for a nap. We arrived in Hawaii pretty late and after Customs confiscated my food (I'm pretty sure she just forgot her dinner and thought my sandwich looked tasty), I fought for my bag bag (they said if I took it with me, I had to give up my ticket to Miramar, seriously?) and was dumped off at the terminal. In both my experiences traveling Space-A I've arrived with no one expecting me. Great feeling. Really. I was lucky (so lucky) to find a flight leaving for Reno six hours later with a ton of seats...sold!

So 8 hours later I was on yet another C-17 to Nevada. This time I chose a seat near the front, away from the vents, still cold but not arctic. I was pretty tired by this point so sleeping (or at least laying, trying to sleep) on an airplane floor with earplugs in my ears was somewhat enticing. We arrived in Reno and since I was the only passenger not staying in Reno I had to find my own transportation to the main terminal. I much have looked pathetic because a guy from the charter jet terminal gave me a ride over there, for free. What a saint! It only got better. I got to the Southwest desk and met the second nicest person I'd seen in awhile. In less than five minutes I had a SWA ticket (no bag fees!!) home. The butterflies finally settled, I'd made it. The trip was uneventful, thankfully and what do you know I sat next to yet another group of jet guys from Miramar heading home from Tailhook in Reno. When I told them I flew to Hawaii with their rival squadron they gave me a funny look (what's with these marines and funny looks?). I'm pretty sure they believed me, or just assumed I'm one very tired, crazy lady.

I must have been tired I slept from 10:00pm until 1:30 the next day! Who doesn't love jet lag?

So for now I'm just enjoying San Diego, I ran the harbor this morning and got a visit to Target in, this girl is happy!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Our Tokyo Travels!

Well our travels continue! Sometime this summer Colin and I finally realized we only had six months left on Guam. A "Woohoo!" and a "Boo!" went through our minds immediately. Woohoo! because we'll finally be in the land of Target, Starbucks and Costco again. Boo because we will be leaving some of the best friends we've ever met. Guam is truly a unique place, frustrating as day but the people we're surrounded by make up for it! So we formed our Guam Bucket List and came up with several things we wanted to accomplish before our departure in February.

  • Try out more hikes
  • Get Colin Scuba certified (check!)
  • Go diving together
  • Dive Palau & Chuuk (see a theme?)
  • Run the Koko's Half Marathon in October
  • Visit Tokyo (check!)

We successfully checked off Tokyo over Labor Day weekend. Wow! If I had sum up that city in one word it would be efficiency. The airport, the train system, hotels, the computerized toilets (seriously), even the convenience stores! Coming from an island where it takes half a day to get anything done, it's totally overwhelming, yet so cool. Upon arrival we were whisked through Immigration right to the train that brought us to Tokyo. The schedule said we would arrive at Tokyo Station at 8:57pm. After a 37 mile journey we literally rolled to a stop just as the clock hit 8:57. Amazing! One of the downsides to Tokyo is the population of 12 million people, with most of the population commuting via train every day. Talk about a mass of humanity trying to catch a train! They actually have people pushers who well, you guessed it, shove people into trains to get the doors to close. Half the adventure was walking and riding all over the city!

Our first day was spent at Disneyland. Colin's never been so I just had to take him there, how could I allow him to pass up a chance to experience Disney? Seriously that place is magical, I went there a lot growing up and just couldn't sit with the fact that Six Flags is the only amusement park he knows. No way. So we were probably the only kid-less Westerners there but that's cool. We FastPassed our way around the park and enjoyed every minute of it! It's just like the Anaheim park, just a little smaller. So fun!

The second and third day we checked out various Tokyo sites. My favorite? The Tsukiji Fish Market! This place is one of the largest fish markets in the world and knowing how obsessed the Japanese are with fish we had to check this place out. We arrived at 5:30am and the place had already been bustling since 3am. The tuna auctions were held at 4am but we would have had to line up before 3 to get thank you.  There were all kinds of crazy fish, things I've never seen or heard of...nor would I ever want to try. I got the shivers looking at the eels swimming around in a bucket full of red water.

It was a quick three day trip but packed full of fun. Before we knew it we were back to the airport in Guam with a full planeload of Japanese tourists. We clearly knew we were home when we were met at the gate by a customs official. "You American?" she asks. "Yes" we reply. "Oh, I don't think there is anyone here [that being the Immigration & Customs desks] yet. Maybe you wait for a while"....

Welcome back to Guam!  

Happiest Place on Earth!

Pagoda in Asakusa

TMG Building, 48 floors!

View from the top of TMG...12 million people live here!

Hama Rikyu Gardens

Mt Fuji-me!
Hama Rikyu Gardens

Market in Asakusa...packed!

Here's an important photo...the computer pad 
that controls the toilet. 

One of the prized auction winners!

A headless one that is.


Geoduck Clams (thank you Lori for identifying this one!)