The extended vacation that I have alluded to in recent posts was our family’s first “Space A Adventure.”
For those not in the military crowd, flying “Military Space Available” (or Space A) is something akin to flying standby—only it is on military aircraft leaving/arriving at military installations instead of commercial planes to commercial airports. It’s a bit more unpredictable (if you can imagine that), and requires a bit more flexibility (if you can imagine that), but….it’s also COMPLETELY FREE for service members (both active duty and retired).
Yes. I mean it. Completely free.
So, while it can be unpredictable and requires extreme flexibility, it’s one of those crazy amazing benefits to military members.
And… being the bargain hunting, budget minded family that we are…we decided to go for it. We had a huge family reunion taking place on the opposite side of the country, and were looking for ways to minimize the costs of flying across the U.S.
Enter: Our first Space A adventure.
Why didn’t we give it a test run before we had 3 little boys, ages 4, 3, and 1?? I don’t know. But anyway…we did it. God went with us. And though we were completely sleep deprived at both ends of our journey, our trip went extremely well. I won’t deny the challenge of keeping 3 kids (or their parents) calm and rested on an unpredictable flight schedule, but hands down, it was worth the hassle.
The very night Nick signed out on leave/vacation, God provided a direct flight from the Southeast to Northwest (these happen but rarely—as in, twice a month!!) and there were 5 available seats with our names on them. Yes!!
We made our first part of the journey flying in the back of a C-17. Quite an experience to say the least. But really, an amazing one at that.
It was loud and we had to wear ear plugs the entire trip, but we were also able to move around (once we reached cruising altitude, of course) and could run, play, and sleep on the floor of the monster sized plane. It was pretty amazing.
The boys loved it and behaved incredibly well. Or at least it seemed that way. It was so noisy on the plane (loud engines and no insulation) and we had to wear ear plugs the entire 6 hour flight, that I couldn’t hear any whining or crying… and neither could anyone else. Very handy. Haha.
But I speak in jest, I do think the boys behaved really well. In between playing and snacking, all the boys napped on the plane too. What a cool memory for them to play catch in the back of a C-17 while flying above the earth!! Nick was as well behaved as the boys, and gave me a mock presentation of his jumpmaster duties. It’s awe inspiring to think he jumps out of aircraft like this, but a bit scary too. Still can’t believe he does this for a living.
Perhaps one of God’s neatest provisions for us was when we arrived at the Air Force base in Washington. We were tired and weary from traveling most of the night (and the 3 hour time change to boot), only to find that the next leg of our flight (from Washington to California) had been canceled/delayed for 3 days. (See what I mean with flexibility??). While we were registering for continued travel, we were delighted with the somewhat surprise appearance of good friends from our home church in here in the South (the Hilbert’s, for those who know them). They had just moved to the Northwest and were busy getting settled in themselves.
Seeing our weariness, our friends jumped in, whisked us back to their house on base, watched the kids and gave us a little down time while we found a hotel for the night. Then, while we were trying to decide whether to wait 3 days for the flight, or to just make the 12 hour drive to San Francisco, they INSISTED that we borrow their minivan for the journey to CA so that we could get to the family reunion without delay. Wow. Friends in need are friends indeed. It was above and beyond anything we would have imagined possible and made the decision easy.
Or relatively easy.
When they first offered the use of their minivan, we flatly refused. Borrow someone’s brand new Toyota Sienna, drive 800+ miles with 3 messy boys, keep it for 2 weeks and then drive it back before heading farther north to visit my family?? NO WAY. But I think they must have prayed for us all night, because in the morning, when decision time came for us to drive/rent/fly/wait, Nick and I both had the gut feeling to accept our dear friends generosity and borrow their car.
In some ways, I still can’t believe we did it. But it was so obviously God’s wonderful providence, as the family had no need of the extra vehicle (their spouse/soldier was out in the field for 2 weeks and the car would sit in their garage unused). As our friends put it, “It was no accident that we had an extra vehicle during your time of need.”
Anyway, as you can see, God provided marvelously for us on our Space A trip. Our flight home required a stop-over too, and then a bit of a drive to get our vehicle, but all in all, it was a great trip.
And I think I’d say, we’d do it again.