I hadn’t planned a post since we are holed up in Ft. Myers, Florida, for about a month taking care of a few projects. But then we attempted to rent a car.
Before I tell the tale, I have two things I want to share. First, while we were traveling, we had a group of dolphins join us. I just kept snapping photos. It was magical! Rick had to drive so he missed out. (I think that’s the real reason we are apparently getting an autopilot now.)
I also want to take a moment to tout Rick’s captaining abilities. Nautical Dreamer is 47-feet long, but with the bow pulpit and the swim platform, it’s more like 50. The space the marina held for us was along a dock, in between two other boats. We were told on the phone that it was “tight.” Coming in, we could see it was very tight. Luckily there were several guys on the dock that were willing to help us. Rick nosed into the space and I attempted to throw the line. It fell into the water. I moved a little ways back to try another line and I commented the wind was taking us. We were about to hit the boat behind us, so Rick threw it in reverse to pull out and try again. I, of course, was ready to give up immediately. I suggested we anchor out another night and deal with it the next day when we might not have any wind. Rick ignored me. The guy I was talking with about the wind was the owner of the boat we almost smacked. He decided to get ON his boat to help guide us away from the side of his boat in an attempt at self-preservation. We headed back into the space and I managed to throw the ropes in front and back to the remaining guys on the dock. They pulled us in, Rick killed the motor, and got off to help.
Initially, our bow pulpit was literally sticking into the aft deck of the boat in front of us. They adjusted as needed until we were equal distant between the two other boats. Success! I felt the need to share this, because I often write about our troubles in maneuvering the beast. So there you have it–we can and are successful at times. Now back to the actual topic of this post: car rentals.
First off, let me say that it’s spring break around these parts, so renting a car is on the expensive side. But we needed to get the lay of the land. We also needed supplies from Home Depot, which was a little too far out of our comfort zone for biking.
We have been using Enterprise on and off since selling our car. Yes, its true, they “pick you up” which is perfect for us. There are some irritating and inconsistent things about Enterprise, however. The first thing we noticed at each location is that their cars are never full of fuel. So you have to bring the car back with the same amount of gas you started with. In theory, not a big deal, but you try to fill up to 3/8th of a tank. So you always end up filling it more than you started with. Its just seems petty of them to do this rather than starting and ending with a full tank. We’ve also noticed they are wildly inconsistent with the abilities of their personnel. We’ve been in highly professional locations where we were picked up in a timely manner and processed with ease. We’ve also had many phone calls saying the driver is lost and asking US (the visitors) how to get to our location. Okay, how would I know? I’m new here. Besides, the entire world uses GPS for directions. In fact cars now come with it. Figure it out, dude.
On the upside, they have a weekend special. Friday to Monday for $9.99 per day. Perfect for us. Unfortunately, this was not available for the weekend we decided to rent, due to Spring Break. So we rented for two days, at $50 per day (ouch!), and crammed all our errands into that time frame.
Having anchored out for the three nights it took to get to Ft. Myers, we decided to walk to Enterprise so we could stretch our legs. It was about a mile and a half. We set the GPS (see Enterprise, it really does work if you use it) and headed out. Rick put his phone in his pocket and we began discussing politics as we are want to do lately. (How could you not?) We started wondering why the GPS lady kept talking. Usually she tells where to turn and is silent until you have to turn again. But she was talking every few seconds. So Rick pulled out his phone. There was a roundabout a ways back and we had ended up passing where we should have headed. Now, I realize this looks really bad after I just berated Enterprise for getting lost, but its not our JOB to get it right like it is for Enterprise. The only people we inconvenienced were ourselves. Plus, I think its quite gutsy of me to admit the mistake.
What should have taken about an hour was more like and hour and a half. But it was a beautiful day and we enjoyed getting out in it. Once there, we saw that there was a fairly long line. The staff handled it expertly and we didn’t have to wait long. But once up to the counter, we learned they had run out of cars. We had a reservation but they had no car for us. Our choice was to wait two hours when one was supposed to come in or accept a panel van with their logo emblazoned on the side. It was quite obvious we weren’t amused, but they did offer to comp the gas, so we took the van.
The first issue I had with the van was that there was no step to help get into the thing. I’m not THAT old, but my legs don’t go that way. There was a hand hold but it was impossibly high and back so I basically had to hurtle myself into the van each time we completed a stop on our errand odyssey. I was not happy. Since it was quite tall I was sure we would flip over every time we took a corner. There were windows on the sides of the front seats and on the back door, but none on the sides. So parallel parking was a bear. Then there was the fact that it was a cargo van. If it wasn’t for the logo on the side I would have worried any nearby kids might run from us shouting “stranger danger!”
By far however, the biggest irritant was the fact that there were no passenger seats. It was a true cargo van. Just a giant open abyss behind our bucket seats. Handy if you want to transport a dozen illegals across the border, say, or more likely panels of plywood. But we had empty five gallon jugs of water to exchange and plastic bags of produce from the farmer’s market. We gathered all the produce and kept it at my feet. The water bottles, however, were behind me. We took a corner and, even though Rick was exceptionally cautious, the bottles went flying backwards, smacking into the back door. Then they just rattled around, bouncing off one wall, then the other. I tried turning up the radio to drown out the noise (it always worked when I heard unwelcome rattles in my cars), but to no avail.
Finally, Rick said, “Get ready to catch them,” and hit the brakes particularly hard. The bottles rolled towards me. I grabbed one and placed it between us. Then I reached behind my seat to coax the other to me and placed it behind the first. Now I needed to hold onto the back one and we’d be okay. I forgot a couple times, though, and took my hand off for a minute (it was a long day). I patiently waited for it to roll towards me and retrieved it once again. Eventually, we replaced them with full bottles and the problem took care of itself.
We headed to Home Depot. Ft. Myers residential streets tend to be dead ends at a waterway. I tell you this because the Google lady took us off the main roads into a residential area that wound us everywhere but where we needed to be. We found our own way out eventually and got onto an expressway, at which point she was able to direct us again. (Yes, I see the irony of my previous words.) We finished our shopping and made sure all the bags were tied in a knot so we wouldn’t see a watermelon or cans polyurethane go flying around back there.
When returning the brute, Rick made his displeasure known. The manager overheard and reduced our cost in half. I will say, the next weekend when we needed another car, they redeemed themselves, giving us a brand new truck to haul our plywood. We even used our points, making our out of pocket cost ten bucks! So all in all, not such a bad thing.