Episode V: Space Available Travel Strikes Back

by Travis 
(with some help from Lynne)

When we touched down on Guam on Tuesday (everything is “on” rather than “in” Guam, presumably due to its island status), the flight crew of the C-5 informed us that the next leg of the mission would depart for Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan in about 24 hours. We were all extremely skeptical; rightly so, as it turns out, but that part comes later.

Through the magic of Skype, Dad was able to get in touch with his friend from Spain days, Max, who is stationed  on the island. He was gracious enough to collect us from the terminal and host us during our time on the island.  We were only sorry that his lovely wife Sally and their boys were not there as well.

Max and Dad: BFFs!!!

Dinner at a nearby Korean restaurant was quite an experience! As each of us ordered, the waitress looked extremely uncomfortable, and gently and repeatedly asked each of us if we would like rice as well.  Some dishes were great, others definitely a “fail”- totally operator error on the part of the one doing the ordering!

We had the evening to enjoy the fabulous view from Max’s 11th floor beach condo, and Dad, Mom and Max caught up on family doings and reminisced about  old times.  Max has been to most of the places that we plan to go in Asia when on humanitarian missions, so he was a great font of information!

We reported back to the passenger terminal at 11:00 for the 12:00 showtime. As expected, it had been delayed until 18:00. After a few hours of waiting, we went through the motions of checking our bags and boarding our beloved C-5.

I have not yet taken the time to explain fully explain our flying situation. C-5 airplanes are massive creatures designed to transport large volumes of cargo and small volumes of passengers. The body of the plane consists of an enormous chamber used to hold whatever the military needs and an area above this cavern for passengers. This space is what would happen if a commercial airplane and a 1950’s Greyhound bus had offspring.  The C-5 also has a distinct odor which is a combination of Port-A-Potty and engine grease. We thought we were just being wimps until a particularly foul odor was emanating from the W.C. and a crew member passed up and down the aisle spraying air freshener.  Dr. Dad explained that all air freshener does is anesthetize one’s sense of smell, but we were still grateful.  Flying on a C-5 is also somewhat disorienting because the seats face backwards, there are no windows, and everything has a quality of typical military spartanness. We learned that  C-5s are being phased out and the remaining vessels are breaking down left and right; in fact, our C-5 was on its final voyage! That explained a lot…

At 22:00, we climbed the enormous flight of stairs that leads to the cabin and sat down, ready to fly. Initially there was much banging around in the cargo hold, and after a couple of hours on the tarmac, it was announced that they were missing some parts needed to strap down the pallets, hence the delay.  Next came the pounding rain battering our C-5.  My family tells me that the cargo had been secured, but  the monsoon conditions delayed the flight next, and the flight had been delayed so long that the crew now needed a 12 hour mandatory rest! I can relate since I was too busy taking advantage of the reclining capabilities of the C-5s aging seats to remain conscious for these events, but the rest of the family was rather frustrated by the whole ordeal.

We exited the C-5 through the belly of the plane this time and returned to the passenger terminal at 03:00.  Joy overcame fatigue when we heard that  there was a C-17 scheduled to fly directly to Yokota, Japan (our next destination), which would cut out  the Kadena stop that the C-5 was scheduled to make. We spent the rest of the night in the highly air-conditioned Guam terminal playing cards and drinking hot chocolate from the vending machine.  In the morning, we had little trouble obtaining seats on the C-17.

A military issue boxed lunch...

...contains all of this food for a measly $4.25! What a bargain!

In contrast to the smelly old C-5, the C-17 was much newer. This plane did not have a separate cabin; instead, we were seated in the cargo hold on fold-out seats bordering the area. In a shameless stroke of military recruiting, Nate was invited to sit in the cockpit to experience takeoff from the point of view of a pilot. When we reached cruising altitude, we were permitted to move about. We immediately sprawled out on the floor for reading and naps. Having so much extra space made the four-hour flight seem like a breeze, and we soon touched down in Yokota, Japan.

Dad and I catch some high altitude Zzzzs on the C-17!

A Brief and Kinda Colloquial History of Guam

by N.M. Smith

edited with restraint by L. Morris

The charming and surprisingly small (trust me… we know) tropical island of Guam is estimated to have been populated as early as 4000 years ago by peoples known as the Chamorro. It is believed these Chamorro chaps came from an area around Indonesia in 2000 BCE. I couldn’t find how they got to Guam, but my guess is unless they were all the Michael Phelps type they didn’t swim, which means they probably went by boat.  What they did for the next four thousand years until the Europeans discovered them, included a social hierarchy, religion, commerce, the usual shtuff. First contact by the Europeans was made on March 6th 1521 by one intrepid Ferdinand Magellan. The first European colony (that’s all the Europeans really did in this time period, colonize) was established by the Spanish in 1668. To the surprise of no one, practically the first inhabitant of this colony was a Catholic missionary. Guam remained under the rule of the kind and caring Spanish (cough cough) until 1898 when it was given to the United States as part of the Treaty of Paris. Unfortunately Guam was captured by the Japanese  in 1941, and the natives were treated cruelly yet again. So you could say Guam’s track record with treatment from foreign countries wasn’t exactly great so far. Guam was recaptured by the Americans July 21st, 1944. Then there was lots of partying and happiness; oh and they named the date Liberation Day. Guam is now the western most (or easternmost, depending on how you look at it, look its kinda in the middle of nowhere) territory of the United States, hence the motto, “Where America’s day begins”


About morrissmithtravels

A retired Navy dermatologist, an emergency veterinarian, a college-bound high school graduate and a rising high school sophomore boldly go where no family of four has gone before! Hilarity ensues.
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One Response to Episode V: Space Available Travel Strikes Back

  1. Scott and Michelle says:

    Hi Lynne, Eric, Travis and Nate,

    We’ve been following your blog….what awesome adventures! We are now mapping out our travels and have some time in December and March. Wondering how we go about booking your casita. Do we reserve through the link you gave us? It doesn’t seem to list rates or anything and we’re not sure how this works.

    Enjoy your continued journey…..it is very inspiring.


    Scott and Michelle

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