Category: Illinois

Rental Car Blues

The first time I ever rented a car it was the strangest feeling. I spent extra time making sure all my mirrors were correct and that my seat was just right. I was also terrified of having an accident in it; my company included the damage waiver on rentals, but it was my first job out of college and I didn’t want to have to call my boss to tell her I’d hit a wild hog in South Texas that turned my car into an accordion.

Now, renting a car is just business as usual, except for what I call the “Rental Car Lottery.” I typically reserve a standard sized car, but that is apparently the size car that most people rent. Chances are, when you arrive at Enterprise you will receive an automatic upgrade to a different class of car, or something completely different than you expected. This can work for or against you. For example, I had the pleasure of getting a Hyundai Accent at O’Hare airport, and had to road trip that thing up and down Michigan before dumping it in Cleveland. I’ve never been happier to get rid of a car, except maybe three weeks earlier in Ft. Lauderdale.

Because of Hurricane Irma, Enterprise had rented every available car except for white utility vans or minivans. The agent threw in a free tank of gas for my troubles after noticing the look of horror on my face. The poor elderly couple in front of me had just selected their minivan, and considering they almost ran over an employee while trying to exit, I’m betting they wished they didn’t have to drive one either.

I had room for 8 imaginary friends in my Dodge Caravan, and cruised into both Miami and West Palm Beach looking like the baddest bitch in town. The most humiliating part was the valet-only option at my West Palm Beach hotel. At least it had leather seats?

Of course you don’t always end up with a terrible car. Two years ago in Ft. Lauderdale I lucked into a convertible Camaro, which was the perfect car to drive up the Florida coast. The free BMW upgrade I got one other time made for a fantastic trip across Texas. However the Kia Soul I got in San Diego? My only request was that it did not come with hamsters. I’m sure the agent never heard that one before.


A Short Break

It turns out that the road trip I took this past week made it difficult for me to want to do anything more than sleep or relax with local beers wherever I was. I saw plenty of new places along the way, and made my first visit to Northwestern University. While I had applied there for graduate school, I never made a trip to campus. It turns out to have a gorgeous view of Chicago, and hopefully I will be making a return trip next year! Now it’s time to pack again: tomorrow is back to Seattle, and three weeks of travel left this fall.IMG_2360

Road Trip

I mentioned yesterday that I was busy planning and booking flights, hotels, and car rentals for my fall travel schedule. It always varies year to year, but this year I will be gone most of the end of September and all of October for multiple multi-city trips.  I typically fly a lot of places, but this year, since we are expanding and going to more cities, I was looking at ways to make things a little more economical.  Thus, I will be going on quite the adventure. MapIt turns out that the one hour flight from Chicago to Traverse City was going to cost over $300 alone, and the flight from Traverse City to Cleveland was going to go back through Chicago anyway.  Since I have the time to make the 734 mile drive, I’ll first set out for Traverse City, work there, then drive to to Cleveland, work there, and then fly home.  I better get a good car from Enterprise in Chicago, because it’s going to get some use!

I am pretty excited about this drive.  When I first started traveling for work, I rarely was able to fly anywhere except El Paso.  I’ve made the five hour drive to South Texas more times than I can count, and I’ve previously written about my meandering drive up to Amarillo.  While I love flying too, there’s something about setting out on the open road and being able to stop and see anything you want along the way.  We once did an overnight drive to Tampa, Florida and decided to stop off in Biloxi to play video poker at 3 a.m. just because we could.  We only regretted it later because, as it turns out, Florida is big!  It took seemingly forever to get around the bend and headed south toward Tampa. At that point, with intermittent sleep and three hours to go, a plane ticket sure seemed like the smarter choice.

I’m sure I’ll have plenty of stories to share with you about my many mishaps this fall, but for now I’m looking forward to October, cooler weather, and all the sights along the way.

Up in the Air

Only recently has my business travel been almost exclusively via airplane.  I still have a few local trips for which I will rent a car and hit the road, but nothing like before when the inverse was true.  I once drove all the way from Houston to Amarillo (at some point can we please discuss The Big Texan?) stopping in Wichita Falls and Lubbock along the way. Thankfully, for the return trip I was able to catch a plane from one of of the airports’ seven gates, rather than make the 600 mile trek by car.

I’ve never had a problem with flying, but there was a slight learning curve when I begin to book multi-city flights, skipping across the country like a rock on a pond.  Eventually, the rock sinks.  Some issues are avoidable, like when you book a connecting flight, make sure you allow enough layover time.  I’d rather relax in the airport for an hour than sprint off the plane and bowl people over with my carry on as I run in blind panic.

Some issues are unavoidable, like when your plane has a mechanical delay.  It always makes me nervous to fly the day of a work event for this very reason, because too long of a delay could cause me to miss the entire reason for my trip in the first place.  I first experienced this particular situation flying from St. Louis to Atlanta via Chicago O’Hare. I booked a 6 a.m. flight out of St. Louis in order to have plenty of time to make my connection to Atlanta, get to my hotel with a couple hours to spare, and make my event at 6 p.m.  Sounds good, right?

Except, early flights mean that I barely sleep because I don’t want to oversleep.  Funny how that works!  I had prepared myself by having an energy drink ready for when I woke up, but I wasn’t not prepared at all for the rest of my day.  After maybe three hours of sleep, arriving at the airport and lining up to board, we changed gates twice and left over an hour late.  While it is a short flight from St. Louis to Chicago, when I refreshed my United app and asked the flight attendant if I could make it from C11 to F8 in time for my connection, her face said it all.

Hey this map is small.  It’s not that far…

She told me that I could take the shuttle from C15 to Concourse E and re-book to the next flight.  The next flight that put me in Atlanta during rush hour.  Meaning I would be extremely late and/or miss my event.

Blurry and Beautiful

When I exited the plane I made a choice that I was going to make this flight come hell or high water.  With my computer bag bouncing on my shoulder and my carry-on trying to keep up, I proceeded to complete the most incredibly awkward walk/run that anyone has ever seen, gracefully tripping on my own shoes twice.

This was my first time in O’Hare since I lived in Chicago, so the nostalgia and the panic combined to fuel my adrenaline. When I ran up to my gate 13 minutes later, the gate attendant, with a look of shock, asked me how I made it so quickly. Between deep breaths, all I could say was, “I hurried.”

When I walked on the plane, every seat except mine was filled.  I had the privilege of the airplane walk of shame, when you’re sweating and everyone stares at you while assuming you were just late to the airport to make the flight. What makes this boarding even worse was the business traveler next to me who watched as I attempted to throw my laptop bag under my window seat only for it to catch on the arm rest repeatedly.  At this point, it wasn’t even 10 a.m.

I was exhausted, had somehow made it to Atlanta on time, and couldn’t wait to get to my hotel in the galleria area to take a quick nap prior to my evening event.  After setting a thirty minute alarm, I laid down to a chorus of jackhammers that were being used to destroy renovate the floor above me.  After not having a nap, I discovered a baseball-sized bruise on the back of my leg from my laptop case slamming into it during my own personal Chicago O’Hare marathon.

Two weeks later, I had to make the same sprint, this time from C11 to E6.  I shaved two minutes off my time, and left the laptop at work.