Roll call was bright and early on Thursday, September 20, when we presented to the passenger terminal at McGuire AFB for a flight to North Island NAS. Our daughter lives in San Diego, and we wanted to spend some time with her. We had sent in our Space-A request form on July 28, so we were near the top of the list to be called for the flight. Five and a half hours later, we touched down at North Island NAS after a beautiful flight with some really nice Space-A passengers and a wonderful crew.
We had reserved a beach cottage at North Island NAS but the day before we left, we postponed it until next spring because the family members who were supposed to join us had to change their plans due to illness. We were unable to get into the Navy Lodge on North Island for a few days, so we spent three nights at the Navy Lodge at San Diego Naval Station. After checking out of there on Sunday, we moved into the Navy Lodge on North Island for our week in paradise. What a gorgeous place!
When we visited North Island several years ago, the Navy Lodge consisted only of a two-story building. We thought it was nice then! In the recent past, however, a four-story addition has been built, so the two structures now form a U shape with a beautiful swimming pool in the center. From our room, we could walk about 30 seconds to the beach in one direction and 30 seconds to the pool in the other direction.
There is a rooftop terrace on the new building, and the view from there is spectacular. Beautiful furnishings add to the ambiance. A continental breakfast is served every day in the breakfast room off the lobby, and it can be enjoyed there, out at one of the tables surrounding the pool, or on the patio back at your room. Breakfast consisted of pastries, a hard-boiled egg, oatmeal, cold cereal, yogurt, juice and coffee or tea.
There are charcoal grills and patio tables and chairs on the beach immediately adjacent to the lodge. In the evenings, families were grilling and playing games on the beach and lawn surrounding the lodge. The charcoal fires stayed lit till well after dark, and it was a beautiful sight looking out to the ocean.
On one of our many beach walks, we strolled over to the new beach cottages to check them out. They are located adjacent to the older Navy Lodge building. There are 10 duplexes, so 20 cottages in all. They have either screened-in porches or open patios facing the water with nice lawn furniture and charcoal grills. For $10 per person per week, the pool at the Navy Lodge can be used. The beach cottages are rented through MWR, (619) 435-1227, but check-in is at the desk at the Navy Lodge.
A word of advice: check-in for both the Navy Lodge and the beach cottages is 1500. Do not expect to be in your room immediately. We found this procedure to be quite cumbersome, and we did not get into our room until almost 1630, so we decided the next time we go, we won’t show up until 1630 or later. However, it was worth the wait because we had a lovely stay and found the employees to be friendly and helpful. We can’t stress enough how beautiful the Navy Lodge and cottages are.
With the commissary a short distance away, a vacation there can be very affordable as long as you have a room at the Navy Lodge with a kitchen or stay in one of the cottages. It would be great to have a restaurant within walking distance. In the past, the Island Club, across the street from the Navy Lodge, was open but now is only available for special events.
We checked near the end of our stay for a flight back to McGuire, but there was nothing going out of North Island NAS for several days, so we opted to drive to March ARB and try to get on a flight to Dover. March ARB is like a ghost town due to the BRAC that affected it several years ago. However, the passenger terminal is alive and well, and we were on a C–17 with only six other passengers and two crews bound for Germany, in addition to the crew flying the plane. In four hours, we landed at Dover AFB, and immediately upon entering the terminal, we heard an announcement being made for last call for the flight to McGuire. We had never thought to check on any of the flights from Dover, so were fortunate there was a flight to McGuire, and even more fortunate that we got on. Twenty minutes later we touched down at McGuire, spent the night in the very nice Air Force Inn, and drove back to Pennsylvania the next morning.
Once again, our Space-A trip turned out perfectly. It was our first Space-A trip in CONUS, and we will definitely try it again. It is such a privilege being able to travel Space-A and meet friendly fellow passengers with whom we exchange valuable travel information. Most of all, though, we are so grateful to the military for their outstanding service and the kindness we are shown by the men and women in uniform when we travel Space-A all over the world.
LTC Charles Campbell USA, (Ret.)
and Sharon Campbell
Reprint from Mar–Apr 2014 • Volume 44, No. 2