Another awesome thing is that BWI has a "Welcome Home" crew from the USO, and they stand outside the double doors next to baggage claim, and clap, cheer, shake hands, and give hugs to all the returning troops. There were probably 30 people there, wearing red, white, and blue- they were taking pictures and ringing bells! It was amazing! These people were out past 10pm on Valentine's Day just to shake a soldier's hand- I admit that I got a little verklempt!
We headed to the rental car place to pick up our rental, which I had hastily reserved online the previous day. There was some confusion because there was no sign telling us where to go, and when we picked up the airport phone to call Budget it just rang and rang and rang. So we headed to the USO and asked to borrow their phone to call. We finally found out that there is a shuttle bus that runs every 5-10 minutes and takes everyone for all the companies to the car rental hub, which is a little bit away from the airport.
We arrived at the car rental place around 10:45, and their computers had just crashed. They were rebooting everything and setting things back up, so we had to hang out a little bit. We finally got into our rental and on the road around 11:30pm. I let the kids and Marshall snooze and decided to drive until I got tired- aiming for Frederick or Hagerstown, MD. About 1.5 hrs later I stopped in Hagerstown, at a GREAT Comfort Suites hotel. It was cheap, clean, the room was huge, the person at the desk was smart and friendly, and the free breakfast was good too. Can't beat that!
After we slept about 4 more hours the kids woke up (boy I wished I could have kept sleeping!), and we packed everything back up, ate breakfast and hit the road around 7:00am. Marshall and I took turns driving, but we were only about 3 hours from Pittsburgh. We stopped once at a turnpike rest stop to change a diaper and stretch our legs.
As we got closer and closer to Pittsburgh I started getting nervous! Thankfully we had brought our GPS (although you can rent them for a ridiculous fee too). The only part of Pittsburgh I had ever been to was the airport- I didn't realize how hilly it is- there are so many curvy, winding roads! Marshall started pointing out things he'd recognize "I think that's where Aunt Lisa lives", etc. But it had been at least 10 years since he was in Pittsburgh.
Once we arrived at Opa's house it was a little anti-climactic, because HE WASN'T HOME!! We sat there for a minute trying to figure out what to do, and we decided to head to Denny's and see if Aunt Lisa was there. She has worked there for quite a long time, and is a really popular waitress! It was only a few miles away, and the GPS took us straight there. We went in and saw her, and asked to sit in her section. We were just sitting down when she walked up, and Marshall said "Can we get some service over here?!". HAHAhaha! She looked at him and said "What? What? What are you doing here?!" It was so funny! We surprised her so much she cried a little bit! Then she went around the restaurant and told all her friends (and most of the customers) that her nephew from Germany had come and surprised her. It. Was. Awesome.
Lisa told us that Opa was at the grocery store and would be home soon, so after eating a quick meal we headed to Opa's house, and THEN we got to surprise him too! He came to the door and saw Marshall, and said "WHAT?" and then he was basically SPEECHLESS (which I didn't know was possible). HA! We told him we were there to celebrate his birthday with him, which he thought was just great!
Mdx and Opa
Mav, Opa, and Mdx
After hanging out with Opa for a while we headed over to the hotel to get a nap. We all slept for a few hours, and then woke up around 5ish. We had to wake up the kids, which was hard, but we told Mdx that Aunt Lisa and Aunt Phyllis wanted to take her to Build A Bear to make a bear! We met them at the mall. I had never been there before, and BOY is it a production!
Mdx chose a Koala as her animal. Here "Koalie" is getting her heart.
And a bath. Because newborn stuffed animals need a bath, right?
This Air Force uniform cracks me up. A Chief Master Sergeant with one ribbon!
Mav was really tired, and not impressed.
You get to make your Bear's birth certificate on the computer, which is pretty fun.
After Build a Bear we went out to eat with Lisa and Phyllis to The Lounge, where they are friends with some of the staff. We were treated very well and had some great food!
Mdx, Koalie, and Koalie's baby Rosie.
After dinner we headed back to the hotel and ALL passed out!