Georgia on My Mind

Today I am still recovering from a whirl wind 10 day trip to Georgia.  Georgia is not a state that I would normally place on my bucket list.  I have told myself in the past “been there, done that, why the heck would I do that ever again?”   I admit, I am a bit prejudice due to my prior experiences of the state of Georgia.  I worked and lived in Georgia for three years some 25 years ago.  The weather always seemed hot and humid to the point where my Minnesota roots found it impossible to do anything without breaking into a sweat. This trip was an unplanned trip to see both my kids who live in the USA and both are military members although only one works at Robins AFB.

I packed all summer attire in my bag. I was leaving the rainy stormy cool weather of The Netherlands.  I was going to enjoy this week I had in the sun!

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Spanish moss

I pulled out my sunglasses and placed them on my face as I walked out the Atlanta International Airport to only be greeted with a blast of cold air and clouds!  This wasn’t the 80 degree forcast I had seen online while packing for this trip. Luckily for me the wait for the rental car shuttle wasn’t long.

I found that once again I do not like driving in Georgia as I headed on I75 South from the Atlanta airport.   Traveling at the posted highway speed of 70 mph I feared for my life, had visions of my last moments on earth as the 5 lanes of traffic speeded past me at light speeds making me feel like I was only doing 5 mph!  Coming from Europe and driving on jet lag already makes you feel like you are going in slow motion. These Georgia drivers jockeying for position at high rates of speed made me instantly look for a good place to stop and caffeine up so that I would be  able to compete.

Ahhhh… Exit 221 off the I75 towards Macon!  A Starbucks coffee and a Target store all rolled up in one.  The travel gods shined upon my jet lagged soul.  Since I no longer have US cell phone service I have become a master of finding the free WIFI spots to text or call along my travels.  This location offered both coffee and WIFI.

Now my renewed jet lagged caffeine injected body coasted down the I75 towards my destination Robins Air Force Base located close to Macon, GA.

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One of the many benefits of being retired military is that I can stay at the military lodging on bases located around the world.  This inexpensive way of travelling is nice on the pocket book.  The Air Force lodging is run by the Air Force where the Army has privatized most of the Army locations using IHG brand hotels.  I have stayed at both types over the years and still think that the Air Force provides quality facilities for a low affordable price.  I checked into a lodging room called a Temporary Lodging Facility (TLF) for $63/night!  This wonderful two bedroom one bath with fully stocked with dishes kitchen was a perfect location to relax and spend quality time with my son while I could also enjoy the surrounding area while he was working.

Located right next door to the lodging was the Base Exchange and the Commissary (the department store and grocery).  These locations provide everything I needed without charging tax. I purchased a hoodie to combat the cool weather that now threatened my short vacation.

Most military bases have everything you could possible need to sustain life without ever leaving the facility gates.  The reason for that is to provide the military members all the opportunities needed in any free time they might have. Most of the facilities are within walking distance of the worksites.  All military facilities and opportunities at those facilities for our service members are supported by our tax dollars and funded in the Defense budget each year.  The use it or lose it mentality is what usually determines how funding dollars are spent.  That is why I encourage all military members, their families, retired and veteran’s with facility access to use these wonderful facilities when at all possible in order to help keep usage up and stop the ax of funding issues.

Robins AFB has a horse stable, camp ground, hiking trails, a 5km loop walking/bike path, and a quality fitness center.

 

I hiked the paved 5km looped trail on the first morning I was at Robins AFB and parts of the trail in the evenings the entire stay. This wonderful trail meanders through the backside of the airbase through old forests and between two lakes then right through the beautifully manicured golf course. Peaceful except for the occasional scream of a F16 aircraft flying overhead.

Aviation Museum

One afternoon I toured the Museum of Aviation , 1942 Heritage Blvd, Robins AFB, GA.  This facility has four huge hangers of static military aircraft and aviation history to view for the low price of free!  Maintained by a large group of dedicated volunteers and area donations it provides a unique look at Air Force history and how it influenced the surrounding area.  Each hanger is designated to a time period so if you only have a limited visit you can focus on the era you are interested in viewing.  I visited the WWII and the modern aircraft.  I enjoyed the museum and will return in the future to view the areas I have missed.

As with any trip I was looking for good places to paddle.  The base has a facility called outdoor recreation that provides kayaks and canoes for reasonable rental prices.  If you are interested I have a link here to the prices.  I looked at the equipment and it was not new but there was a large selection of different types for any paddle adventure.  The key to rental on any military base is either be a military ID card holder or know someone who is so you can use and rent the equipment.  There are a number of places close to Macon, GA to paddle. I researched these locations I have many marked for my return trip in Spring 2018.

Ocmulgee National Monument Macon GA

I had a planned a hike for the Ocmulgee National Monument located a short drive from Robins AFB across the Ocmulgee River in Macon, GA.   This location is open each day minus certain holidays 9am to 5pm and is free of charge.  The national monument area has been inhabited by humans for over 10,000 years!  The wealth of archeological information that has been collected from the surrounding area has provided an insight to how people used the river and the surrounding area for thousands of years.

View from the Great Temple

The Great Temple Mound was the highlight of my trip providing a breathtaking view of the surrounding area and of the city of Macon.  If you plan a visit I would add some time to visit the displays in the visitor center which outlines the 10,000 year history of the peoples that have occupied the area.  I was surprised to find that on a nice November weekend that so few people were visiting the site.  I would highly recommend this location to anyone visiting the Macon, GA or Robins AFB area.

As my last two days came to a close, I found myself once again travelling another NASCAR race up I75 into Atlanta. Again gripping my steering wheel to the point where even 3 days later I have tense muscles in my neck. A long wait at the Atlanta airport for my flight out maybe also contributed to my muscle pains.

I enjoyed this quick trip to Georgia.  I found the November fall colors and the hiking temps were perfect for my Minnesota background.  Although the temps still reached into the 80s some of the days I was there. The weather was not the stifling heat and humidity of summer that I had experienced in past while being in Georgia.  I enjoyed the brightness of the sun while I sat outside and drank my mid morning coffee each day. The natural beauty of the treed areas of the Robins AFB can make one almost forget that F16s can come screaming by at any minute in their test runs.  This part of Georgia seems to hide some treasures that I look forward to investigating in future trips.

Tips for travelling to Atlanta, GA in November:

  1. Bring a warm jacket!
  2. Pack clothes that can be layered. Tempetures can range from low 30’s to 80’s! in November
  3. Travel I75 in off peak hours to avoid the crazy high speed driving of other drivers on 5 lanes of traffic.
  4. Be prepared to add an extra hour to your schedule for any travel through Atlanta airport.  One of the largest airports in the world, it also can come to a grinding standstill when concourse trains are full, security lines are long, and surrounding roads have construction.
  5. Extra note here – International and Domestic Terminals are separated and when there is road construction going on you can reach either terminals from the other by processing through security and taking the terminal train to the international or domestic sides.  This is at least a 20 minute ride so plan extra time.

Recommended locations and services:

Park n Fly Plus – I used this parking service while in GA. This facility has a secure 24 hour location with shuttle service to the airport.  The online price was cheaper and less hassle than the airport parking.  The friendly drivers also provided additional information about the location services.

Hotwire – I have use this website for years to reserve hotel and car reservations.  I would recommend this as a travel planning tool.

DOD Lodging – Lodging reservations for all military facilities.  Note: If you live overseas and are retired military this website sometimes does not work from civilian IP addresses.  I would recommend calling the location directly to make reservation.

Hilton Honors Program –  If you travel and you don’t already have a brand program I would recommend this program.  I was able to get a free room upgrade using points this trip overlooking the Atlanta Airport airfield.  This also allowed me access into the executive happy hour on the 17th floor a great place to network with other visitors to Atlanta.