Trip Report: Quick Trip to Ramstein Germany, via DC and San Francisco - Major Hoff Takes A Wife

Trip Report: Quick Trip to Ramstein Germany, via DC and San Francisco



     Sorry I've been absent lately. We had a wonderful Christmas holiday and the hubs and I escaped for a few days to Germany. I was writing my trip report for the Military Space A community, so I thought I might share it here as well, as some of you might be interested. I'll forewarn you that there may be miscellaneous info in the post (like taxi cab rides, metro lines, etc)  that is included for the people who might use my trip report as a blueprint for a future trip. I apologize in advanced for some of the particular details.
SpaceAmilitaryexample
 An example of how one might fly Space A, military style. It's not always glitz and glamour!  There can be webbed seats along the sides and it can be very cold on board, but it is always fun for those with a sense of adventure! 

     Many people are confused about how military Space A flights work, and I plan on posting a thorough report later this week. If you have a question, please comment, and I will try to answer it in my follow up post. Basically, military space A works like this: A military flight is going from point A to point B transporting cargo, supplies, or troops. There might be space available (or there might not be!), and active duty, retired, and specific spouses can literally compete for these seats. Again, I'll follow up later with much clearer detail on how the actual system works.
     For those who already travel this way, enjoy any type of travel, or are interested in what one of our trips might look like, keep reading!
     We started out after the Christmas holiday at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX. We were competing for seats to Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland. There were enough seats, but there was a last minute mission change. The plane was now going to Memphis, TN. After a quick review of what Memphis was offering (bases are only allowed to post tentative flights 72 hours in advance), we saw that they had a later flight onto Andrews, and so we went ahead and took the flight out of Lackland. It was a quick flight, and we had a smooth transition in Memphis. We had about an hour wait in a nice seating area while they manifested passengers and transferred our luggage to the new plane that would shuttle us onto Andrews. Before we knew it, we were back in the air, and had a nice flight to Andrews. Andrews is the home of Air Force One, so the passenger terminal had a nice display set up on JFK and his time aboard AF1, along with the return of his body via Andrews. When we landed it was late and most things were closed. We hoofed it about a half mile to on post lodging. (This is a major reason we travel light!)
     We woke up the next morning and grabbed a taxi for $10 to the Branch Ave Metro Station. From there we took the metro to Gallery Place where we switched from the Green line to the Red line onto Union Station. It was around $6 for the two of us. We had our luggage with us (we each carry a carryon that can be converted to a backpack, as well as a small backpack. Both together weigh less than 25 pounds). On Post lodging will store luggage, but since we wouldn't be returning, we took it with us. We were able to store the 2 carryon's at Union Station in their luggage storage area. They do not have lockers like Europe, and the price is much higher. We paid around $40 for 4 hours. We shrugged it off since we wouldn't be paying to sight see. We took the metro to the Farragut West stop and from there walked to The White House, the WW2 Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the Vietnam Memorial. We both were left humbled and in awe of the Vietnam Memorial, most likely because both of our fathers are Vietnam Vets.
Vietnam memorial
            Vietnam Memorial, Washington DC, Dec 2013
     Since it was getting late in the day, we decided to take a taxi from the LIncoln Memorial to Union Station for another $12. We grabbed our luggage from the storage area and took the red line all the way to Glenmont which is the last station. The total cost of all metro rides that day for 2 people and paper tickets was just under $22. Once there we waited in the 4th shelter for the BWI bus. For some reason I got this confused with the Amtrak buses. It runs about every 1/2 hour.  The cost is $6.00 each, unless you have a metro card plastic card (we did not, as we just bought paper tickets since we only spent one day in DC).  The fare must be EXACT change. We had $6 and a bunch of $20 bills. Not helpful for 2 people. A lovely couple from Canada paid for one of us on an extra card that they had. We tried to write them a check, or to repay them, but they were so nice and wouldn't hear of it. What lovely people! The bus ride to BWI was about 45 minutes. I've heard during the day it's a lovely drive, but it was after dark when we were on it. We got off at the second stop, the international terminal. 
     We flew out of BWI last year for our trip to Europe and it is one of our favorites. BWI contracts real commercial airlines to transport soldiers to their posts overseas. Although it can be a bit more competitive, it is always a fun break to take a typical airline over the pond.  They have a great USO here, and they have a fabulous set up to Welcome Home the Troops. This was the second time we have seen troops come home here, and it is always very touching! There were 2 flights scheduled that night. Both were headed to Ramstein, Germany. The first flight didn't even make it out of Cat 3 (Active Duty), but the second one cleared the terminal with everyone who wanted to go. It left at 6am, and so we arrived just as the sun was setting in Germany.
     We decided to stay on base at Ramstein and to enjoy the area. Our last trip was go go go, seeing all the sites and hitting as many countries as we could. Some things you should know about staying at the Ramstein Inn. The actual Inn is for adults only. Families with children are in a different building, due to some guests being on Mandatory Crew Rest. The Inn is connected to a building that can be best described as an "American Mall". Many people call it "Little America". It is full of fun stores. There is the standard BX/PX/ AAFES/ Exchange and it's affiliates (book store, jewelry store), a US Armed Forces Movie Theater, Chili's, Macaroni Grill, Cinnabon, a German Bakery, a German restaurant, Polish Pottery store, Christmas store, Belgium imports (beer, cheese and chocolate) and other unique stores. The Inn was great, and a good price. It was nice to have the mall connected. There is a business center off the lobby so you can use computers. Sadly, the wifi in the inn was pretty subpar. We used the business center more than we thought we would. 
Bakery in Germany
Here is a picture of the fresh bread found at the German Bakery inside the American mall
The highlight for me was being able to visit with friends this time around. My sweet friend Becky that I have known since high school lives there, as her husband is stationed there. It was fabulous being able to hang out with their family and meet their kiddos. They even took us sightseeing! Landstuhl is one of the closer towns to the base. At the top, above the town sits a castle known as Burg Nanstein. There is a cute little cafe up there as well.
Castle Rocks with moss and window
I love moss creeping through the cracks and the tree in the upper left growing out of the brick. 
The curves of the old buildings get me every time. 
Ramstein Castle
A nice illustration shows the castle on top and the points down below towards the town. Written in German, of course!
Landstuhl from Castle
A view of Landstuhl from the castle. The hospital would be off to the left, you can see a church steeple, and the base is off to the right not in the picture.

      My friend took us to a fabulous restaurant in Landstuhl for dinner, named Taorminas. They had both Italian and German food and it was fabulous. A very nice hearty meal for 2 plus drinks cost us around 30 Euro. They also recommend Sanders Cafe for breakfast. We prefer to go to Landstuhl for quaint places like these, and also because a taxi cab is only about 10-12 Euros vs. 28-40 Euros for nearby Kaiserslautern. We did spend New Years Eve in K-Town, and were told it was crazy, but we didn't believe it. The craziness didn't occur until about 20 minutes before midnight. Fireworks are HUGE, legal and all around in Germany. There are people letting them off 4 feet away from you in every direction around you. It was an experience for sure, as was the fast cab ride back to base (our driver reached 175km).
We attempted to catch a flight back right after the New Year's Eve festivities, but the flight did not release seats. Turns out, a winter storm was pounding the Midwest and was about to pound the East Coast. We tried for 3 other flights and either they did not release seats or they did not make it to our category. The Inn is nearby, and we were always able to get a room. We ended up with a bit more leisure time than we anticipated, but we found little things to keep us busy. We discovered that a "Polar Vortex" was also headed to the East coast. BWI was not getting in flights in or out, and so we did what most people flying space A sometimes have to do. We went a bit out of our way. We ended up taking a flight to Travis Air Force base which is located in California. We thanked our lucky stars we got on and made the cut. The flight was a military cargo plane, so it was cold, especially flying over the "polar vortex". We survived and couldn't have asked for a friendlier crew. We landed to sunny weather in Cali. We caught a bus right outside of the terminal that took us to the BX which has a rental car right inside the strip mall. A quick signature on the paperwork, $87 dollars later and we were out the door. We had a roomy car, and it was about a 2 hour drive to the San Francisco Airport via the Bay Bridge (and toll booth). We arrived with time to spare, turned in the car and spent some time in the airport. We had purchased commercial seats as soon as we landed in California. The rental car I reserved before boarding in Germany, but after we knew we were manifested. Commercial tickets last minute were not the most ideal, but not outrageous either. There were very cheap tickets in the next day or 2 that we considered, but we were already behind because of the storm and I knew my parents were itching to head home (and get a break from kids), so we bit the bullet. We arrived in San Antonio after a quick change in Pheonix at half past 11pm. By then the jet lag was really hitting me. We took a taxi to Lackland and it was $50 (I swear I am going to become a cab driver!). I would have asked a friend to drive us, but I wouldn't ask someone that late at night. We picked up our vehicle from the long term parking of the passenger terminal and headed home. It was a 3 hr drive and don't ask me how hubs stayed awake! It was a miracle as toothpicks wouldn't have even propped my eyelids open.
Bay bridge
Bay Bridge in San Francisco. I posted more photos on my instagram account: MrsMajorHoff and used the hashtag #WhereIsMrsHoff for our adventure.
From Texas to Washington DC/Baltimore, Maryland to Germany to San Francisco to Texas Again: 15, 685 Miles
9 days, 3 hours (3 days longer than anticipated)
Less than $1,660 spent (including commercial airline tickets of almost $700)
memories----Priceless

This was a shorter trip than last time (time wise), and a lot more low key. It was a great time for hubs and I, but it was nice to get home. Can't wait to start planning another trip again! If you know me, I don't like my feet to stay on the ground long!

9 comments

  1. My favorite part was the college football bowl games at 2,3 and 4 am in the morning! And Belgium beer made by monks.

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  2. Don't forget to mention how your parents had come to visit us for Christmas and watch the boys for us. I'm sure they had a good time but when we arrived home at 3:00 am they departed back to Illinois at 4:00 am, ignoring the weather warnings and driving right into the heart of the Polar Vortex on their way home.

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  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  4. I have yet to go to Europe, even while in the military. Now that I am retired, I hope to be able to get there. I plan for my wife and I to be at Octoberfest in Germany in 2105. I sure hope we get to do that. Actually we will be traveling Space A next month and probably will be in San Antonio for a short time. I use to be stationed there at Kelly, so it will be nice to see again. We will be trying to get out to Ft. Hood in Killeen, but if we don't get a flight, we can just take Amtrak or Greyhound, preferably Amtrak for me. We had a bad experience on Greyhound last time from Texas to California. Anyway, thanks for the story. It makes me wish we could afford to go to Germany, right now.

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  5. UJ: How long has it been since you have been to Kelly? If it has been a few years, then Lackland/Kelly will amaze you. We love San Antonio. Be sure to eat at Rosario's if you are there. Some things to remember about Ft Hood- it's not very Space A friendly. You can fly into it (without much support when landing), but you can't fly out (it is extremely rare that someone has). The navy base in Ft Worth is also an option, or you can do amtrak up to OKC and leave out of Tinker (we've done that in the reverse route). Hope that helps! Keep me posted on your trips and safe travels!

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  6. Is the long term parking lot you mentioned on the base? How secure is and can you leave your car there over 30 days? Any fees associated with using this lot?
    Thanks

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    1. The long term parking is located in the parking lot in front of the passenger terminal. Lackland is odd though, because the passenger terminal is not located on the base. It's located on the Kelly USA (public) side and vehicles can come and go as they please. I'm sure there is security for the other companies (Boeing might be there? Kelly USA, etc), but it's not the standard show your ID and go through the gate like other bases/forts. You'll have to contact Lackland passenger terminal and ask them about time lines. We did not pay to park there.

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    2. Thanks so much. Also, we are trying to fly over to see our daughter (active duty AF) in Germany. We plan on trying to get out the first week in March from Lackland. It appears the most flights going to Germany are flying out of Dover. In your experience, how hard is it to get to Dover from Lackland or to Germany in general?

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    3. I've never flown out of Dover. Your best bet is to pay to be a part of Dirk Peppard's online forum for space A info. (http://www.pepperd.com/vb5/forum/) There is a free option, but the paid membership is well worth it. They will tell you the best way to get to spots. Honestly, in March, as long as it's not during spring break time, I would buy a one way commercial ticket to BWI and fly out of there to Ramstein. We did that our first time, and paid about $120 each for the 1 way ticket to BWI. We purchased it the day before. I know some flyers will buy from Southwest because you can change your flight dates, but I've never done that.

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