I was excited when I saw these little snowdrop wonders peeking out of the ground.
We found a harbor located on Nieuwkoopse Plassen …
The wide open water provides big waves and wind to practice paddling on open water.
Early August we headed out from our urban area close to Amsterdam towards the wild area of water located in The Netherlands province of North Brabant.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Bring a warm jacket!
- Pack clothes that can be layered. Tempetures can range from low 30’s to 80’s! in November
- Travel I75 in off peak hours to avoid the crazy high speed driving of other drivers on 5 lanes of traffic.
- 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.
- 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.
Thank you Ophelia! Yes, I am thanking a rare Atlantic storm that is now blasting Irish coastline with waves and wind. Why? This storm brought weather that is rare to the The Netherlands, clear blue sky, mildly warm temps. This was maybe our last day before winter to experience a close to perfect canoe paddle.
The fact was we had pulled our cedar canoe home from the harbor where she sat most of the summer two weeks ago was considered. We had just wrapped her in a cocoon of blue tarps, weighted down so that the brutal Dutch winter winds did not blow her cover around our crowded neighborhood. She sat on a new stand built in our small back garden just above my kayak that also silently waits for the next outing.
We had heard for about a week that the weather was going to be usually nice for a couple of days with Ophelia pumping warm air and blue skies into The Netherlands.
So we started frantically planning on unwrapping our treasured canoe and taking her out for one last time. That was if the weather held.
On Sunday morning the wind was light and the air felt like fall as we unpacked her from her winter blue cocoon. There was a bit of worry that the winds would pick up on the open water as the warmth from the ocean filtered inland.
We picked a spot close by after reading a review on kanoroutes.nl. A short drive from our house brought us to the Haarlemmermeer ringvaart. A canal that circles the Haarlemmermeer polder. This canal also leads into The Kaag lake which we paddled this summer. We were looking forward to exploring a new part of the lake.
One of the challenges to kayak or canoeing here in The Netherlands is finding a canoe/kayak safe place to enter the water. There are plenty of private and public harbors that cater to a motorized boating community but very few have areas that have safe and easy access to the water for canoes and kayak.
We found this one on the ringvaart to only have a marginal cement barrier. The barrier was barely wide enough for your feet and slick as heck with mud, but close enough to the water to enter with a canoe. Thus – it wasn’t the prettiest of entries as my husband slipped and I tried to maintain my footing while holding the canoe as we dipped her into the water.
From there we loaded our gear and headed towards our planned route.
As we paddled along we glided with ease along the waterway lined with small vacation and farm houses. The smell of the local dairy farms brought to mind my days growing up in Minnesota only to look around to see the windmills in the distance.
This late in the season this paddle also was a reminder of how far we had come as team, now paddling without struggling. The light warm breeze of the morning adding to the enjoyment as we silently glided through the water.
Along a non motorized canal leading into the lake we had a large older sail boat pass us. The sails contrasting starkly against the bright blue cloudless sky. We were able to keep up with the sail boat and then as we came to to bend in the canal the sail lost the wind. Suddenly we felt noble in our paddle power, passing the boat, pulling out in front to the lead the armada of two into the lake.
We paddled for two hours and almost 6 km in the fantastic fall weather. As we returned home we cleaned cedar and placed her back in her cocoon for the winter. We know that just as Ophelia leaves and heads back into the ocean we will once again return to normal Dutch fall weather.