41 hours and 14 minutes.
And then I was in Greenland!
I had to leave the house so early to get on the National Express bus to the airport that I didn't bother going to sleep on the 15th. I had no problem sleeping through the entire bus ride, luckily waking up just in time to see signs for Heathrow. I don't think the bus driver made any announcements about arriving there (it had more stops afterward), so I'm really glad I didn't sleep through my airport!
I got checked in and was happy to learn that my bag was checked all the way through (except for my AMC/military flight of course). The airport was freezing and I was still exhausted. I was asleep the minute I got on the plane! I wasn't sure I wanted to sleep on the short flight to Dublin, because I wanted to be tired enough to sleep through the trans-Atlantic flight. I had an aisle seat, which made me happy.
The most bizarre thing happened in Dublin... I cleared U.S. customs. When the customs officer with the New York accent handed me my passport and said, "Welcome back!," I was still under-rested and easily confused enough to wonder whether maybe I had already taken my long flight! I hadn't. :) I got on the plane, once again, an aisle seat! And this time was even better... there was nobody else in my row, so I was able to lay across the seats and sleep my way to JFK. I stayed up long enough for the meal.
Landed in New York and...didn't have to do customs. But I did have to pick up my bag and drop it back off at my American Airlines flight. I had lots of time at JFK so I enjoyed an Auntie Annie's pretzel-dog, wrote out some Christmas cards (but couldn't find a mailbox) and did quite a bit of window shopping. Lots of nice shops in whatever terminal I was in at JFK.
Continuing my lucky streak, I was assigned an aisle seat again on the way to BWI. And, once again, I was asleep before take-off. At BWI, I picked up my luggage and found my way to the military/AMC terminal. David had drawn me a handy map. He had written that they closed at 6, so I needed to go straight there. I showed up and almost freaked out because there was nobody there...and it was only 5! I began to worry that they closed at 4...because sometimes I see 1600 and think 6 instead of 4. I walked closer and saw that they would be opening 6 hours before my flight...which was scheduled for 0200. So I figured I'd go hang out at the USO until 8 and then head up to check in. But I caught a glimpse of a mail box, so I wrote a couple more cards and put them all in the box. By the time I walked past the desk again, there were people working there. I got on the list for Space-Available travel and was assured I'd make it on the flight, and instructed to come back at 8pm to drop my bag. So I headed down to the USO.
Have I ever taken time to sing praises to the USO here before? It is such a wonderful organization! On my way down there, I walked past "Operation Welcome Home" preparing to welcome home a big group from the desert. I thought about standing there and being part of the party, but that kind of stuff gets me weepy, so I moved on. The USO at BWI did not disappoint! The volunteers were friendly and they had lots to offer. I put my luggage in the storage area and was glad to be free of it for a while! I got on the internet and read an e-mail from David. He informed me of a storm at Thule that might delay my plane a little. I chatted with a mil-mil couple who was PCSing from Ramstein to Colorado. Then a man came up and said he overheard me saying that I was on my way to Thule. He was going there for the first time for 3 weeks. He said, "I don't know if we're going to make it out of here tonight". I told him that David had e-mailed me and said the storm should just delay the plane a little bit, but then I realized that David was probably just telling me that to keep me from getting worried... this guy's contacts had told him that the plane probably wouldn't be able to come in on Thursday...and possibly not on Friday either!
I wrote out the rest of my Christmas cards, had an ice cream bar, an orange, and a cup o' noodles (I love the USO!) and sat around reading, playing with my pink DS (I don't know why I always call it my pink DS and never just my DS. But I do.) and talking to other people who were hanging out at the USO. We got lucky that a big group was coming in, because the USO, which normally closes at 10, stayed open all night! I stayed there until the fire alarm went off! Seriously! Right around midnight. Then Max and I headed up to check on the status of the flight to Thule. The lady said they were just going to delay it for an hour, so we could go ahead and go through security if we wanted.
There were about 12 of us waiting for the plane.
Before we could get on the plane, we had to get in this weird contraption that moved us. It was like a time machine. Or like we had already gone through a time machine before we got in it... it seemed like a bus or a subway car. The driver closed the door and the whole vehicle jerked like crazy. Then we started to lower down to the ground... we traveled for about a minute, and then had to raise up again to connect to the plane. The "veterans" of this trip said they have no idea why they use this machine, as we could've just walked the 20-30 feet to our plane on our own. They also explained that on the return trip, it has to go all the way around the airport because the machine is too big to make the turn into its "parking space". Weird!
On this plane, I had the row to myself again! Loved that! I fell asleep right after the snack and woke up just about in time to hear the pilot say that the weather at Thule was making it impossible for them to clear the runway so we were being diverted to another airport! Oh no! We were at Sondrestrom, a little further south in Greenland. It was light outside there so seeing the terrain on the way in/out was really neat. No houses, etc. Just craggy mountains. We sat there for a few hours and had a little snack. Then I made the mistake of stopping in the souvenir shop where I saw.... YARN! I had to buy some! Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately?) I had no idea what the exchange rate was... it was only later when they started talking about how much the snack cost in Danish kroner vs. dollars that my mind started making the calculations about how much I spent. Oooops.
Back on the plane, the flight attendants served us breakfast and I was really excited that since there were so few passengers, they let us have BOTH entrees instead of having to choose. That was really a relief, because I really wanted the pancakes, but the omelet was served with bacon and I wanted bacon!
We landed a couple of hours later and it was pitch black. I think it was 2 pm! I had no idea though, because I had been traveling for so long! As we got off the plane, a bunch of people shook our hands saying "Welcome back!" and "Welcome to Thule!" and "We're glad you're here, Rebecca!" It was pretty weird. And really cold! Once we were in the airport, I gave the girl my passport and my letter from the commander and then I saw David around the corner! He wasn't allowed to come into the area where I was, but he told me where I needed to go to get my bag (they only let 5 people in at a time) and waited for me to walk out into the hall. I was really excited to see him! We went directly to his dorm building because I was dying to take a shower! When I walked in his door, I stopped the timer on my watch... it was 41 hours and 14 minutes from my door to David's door.