Wow. Been a little bit since The Time I Went Back To Boat, Part IV: Mockingjay, Part II. I’ve been a little busy, and pushing myself a little in my ongoing quest to get the stamina built back up to “able to work full time”, and it’s, well, tiring, leaving me without sufficient brain spoons (“Ahh. Dessert. Chilled monkey brains!”) to write gooder enough to do a post.
Making myself do it today to get the actual trip report finished so I can get on with other stuff that should also be talked about.
We’d left off with us back on shore, landed at one of the JoCoTels to hang out with friends (the traditional JoCo Cruise afterglow) until our flight, and we’d regained connectivity to The Interwebs (the tubes that run out to sea are very expensive Space Tubes and not only are they very expensive, they’re very small tubes because they have to go to SPAAAAAACE and back and be flexible ’cause the ships move around), whereupon I discovered that our nonstop flight home that evening had been cancelled due to the grounding of all Boeing 737MAX aircraft.
(Note here: If the people at Boeing, and I’m including the management that signed off on doing it this way, and at the FAA who also signed off on doing it this way, aren’t criminally charged regarding the deaths their fuckup caused, they should at the very least be drummed out of the engineering and engineering management business so hard they might as well move to Key West and open up a T-shirt shop two blocks away from Duval Street on an alley that no one sober ever goes down.)
The email notification of this was sent on Thursday. Of course. The day we went back to sea and weren’t connected as we were in San Juan (which, being a US Territory, has native cell phone coverage. No roaming!). And we got a second email saying we’d been automagically rebooked on a flight leaving Ft. Lauderdale at 6:00am and connecting (tightly) through Atlanta… that’s 6:00am on Tuesday, 2-1/2 days after we were supposed to fly out.
Did I mention we were in Ft. Lauderdale? And it was Spring Break? And because of those two key facts, there weren’t any non-shithole hotel rooms to be found? At all? I’m pretty sure the shithole hotel rooms were pretty scarce, too.
So I got on the phone with Southwest. Not their fault that Boeing fucked up, but they’re the ones who needed to reschedule us. Naturally, there was a wait, so they used their “we’ll call you back when it’s your turn” service and started researching hotels and also one-way rental car options while I waited for the call back. When they called:
“I see you’ve been rebooked on a flight Tuesday morning….”
“Yes. Are you going to find us a hotel to stay in for 3 nights? In Ft. Lauderdale? During Spring Break? Rent us a car?”
“There are 173 people in a similar situation…”
“Yes. We’re two of them. Two of our friends are two more of them. None of us have hotel rooms reserved because we’d been planning on flying out this evening.”
“Let me see if I can get you out sooner…”
::clicking of keys::
“Okay, I can get you on a flight out of West Palm Beach on Monday morning, connecting through [Memphis, Nashville, Orlando, somewhere. I stopped paying attention after “Monday morning”]…”
“Are you going to get us a hotel for 2 nights? And cover the $200 cab ride to West Palm from here?”
“Sir, there are 173 people who were booked on the flight that was cancelled and we can’t…”
“Right. Well, should’ve thought of that before cancelling a full flight out of a spring break destination during spring break, yes? Anything tomorrow [Sunday]? Both of us are due back at work on Monday morning. We’d booked Saturday so we’d have a chance to get home and be ready to go by Monday.”
“No, everything on Sunday is already full.”
“Right. Because spring break.”
“Ok. So let’s just cancel this. I’m going to rent a car and drive 1300 miles and still get home before you guys can get us there.”
Which is how I wound up with nearly $600 in credit with Southwest (split between Kim and me). We’ll likely use it this summer.
I also hadn’t planned on testing my long road trip chops quite so soon. I hadn’t done one since Before Diagnosis, but no time like the present, I guess, plus I was still rather buoyed by how well Boat had gone and was feeling just-drank-Egg-Shen’s-potion confident. Folks, that’s a good feeling. And I still had a lot of spare poop bags. Just in case.
Back to the National Car Rental site, because I have an Emerald Club membership with them, and for reasons known only to them, they still think I work for Former Employer and get the contract rate. I’ve tried to tell them I don’t anymore, but they persist in saying I still do, so whatevers… Plug in the pick-up and return locations, dates, times, and the default is a “mid-size” Hyundai Elantra (or equivalent). How a C-category compact car classifies as “mid-size” is left as an exercise for the reader. Regardless, for that kind of a drive, an Elantra is a hair shirt. Not quite as itchy of one as a Nissan Versa, but close. Hm, what other categories are available? Oh, here we go. “Luxury: Cadillac XTS or equivalent”. And only $30 more? Yes, please. Book.
(Side note: Because of Reasons, I will never ever ever buy a new GM vehicle ever for the rest of my life. They’re making some decent cars, and I’ve had said decent cars as rentals, but I won’t buy one.)
Tell Kim and friends what’s going on, then go get a cab summoned to cart me to the airport to get the car. They don’t have any luxury cars in the Emerald Isle area when I get there, so the attendant summons one, leaving me to look at the black BMW 7-Series sedan sitting there. Evil thoughts crept into my mind. “I have a 1300 mile trip ahead of me. Nothing says ‘born for long highway run’ like a big German sedan. I wonder if I can…” and then some one brought up the Cadillac XT5 (a cute-ute) I’d been assigned and I didn’t get to ask anyone about the possibilities switching to the Siebener.
No matter, the XT5 had most of the mod cons: heated and cooled seats, nav, lane-keeping, collision warning with brake assist, Bluetooth so I didn’t have to buy the extra-cost SiriusXM service as I could just connect the phone and use the app since I’m already a subscriber… the only thing it lacked was adaptive cruise control, which it turns out I’d miss the next day. And it was a nice non-descript silver for blending in, important as I hadn’t planned on driving and thus hadn’t brought my ECM suite with me.
Checked out, back to the hotel, texted Kim, and William Sommers helped us schlep the luggage out of storage and into the back of the Cadute. While it would’ve been nice to hang out for the day at the hotel, hitting the road was necessary, so we did.
And after a quick lunch stop, we were on the road. Turns out the Shelleys (who were in the same predicament) had also rented a car and were slightly ahead of us on the road after taking a more direct route to the Florida Turnpike. We would leap-frog them with stops but not see them on the road.
The drive the first day was relatively tame. I was able to stream IMSA Radio to the car stereo via BT and thus got to listen to the 12 Hours of Sebring while I drove relatively close to the actual Sebring, where many of my marshal friends had pulled the epic triple with the Michelin Challenge and WEC races the day before (and some had worked the St. Petersburg IndyCar race the weekend before, and I’d see them in Austin for IndyCar at COTA… but that’s another post). The XT5 was a comfortable ride — better seats than either the Ft. Lauderdale airport or the airplane, no screaming children, and it cruised along at a respectable pace (I wouldn’t have made better time in the Siebener, because traffic). We stopped for dinner just before making the turn onto I-10 W, lamenting that we’d not be able to hit Flounder’s Chowder House in Pensacola Beach or, because of timing, Parrain’s in Baton Rouge the next day, but maybe next time.
I was hoping to hit Biloxi/Gulfport, Mississippi, for our overnight, so Kim started hunting hotels, and there was… nothing. She got a hit on the western edge of Pensacola, and then nothing until the other side of Slidell, Louisiana, which was too far to push.
And thus did we crash out for the night just west of Pensacola. Up the next morning, McBreakfast (Kim can eat the eggs and the sausages), fuel up, and hit it…
…and the degree of Road Fuckery we encountered that day was breathtaking. By my estimation, we lost something more than 2-1/2 hours to Road Fuckery. There were numerous crashes. On I-10. Which is almost completely straight and level. It runs from Jacksonville, Florida, to Los Angeles, California, and there aren’t any stoplights on it, anywhere. But some folks seem to think there’s one over every overpass or small ridge they can’t see over, hit the brakes, and set up accordions. Which breed crashes.
In addition to the normal road warriors, there were a lot of spring break amateur warrior-wannabes out, and no small few rental cars, probably people doing what we were doing, trying to get home to be at work or school on Monday. Spend enough time on the big road, and you can tell the pros from the amateurs pretty easily. This was definitely Amateur Day.
I expected slowdowns in Mobile as it funnels into the tunnel under Mobile Bay. I expected slowdowns in Baton Rouge where it funnels onto the bridge over the Mississippi. I expected slowdowns on the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge between Baton Rouge and Lafayette because there always are. I expected slowdowns in the runup to the big bridge in Lake Charles. I expected slowdowns close to Houston where one lane of the bridge over the San Jacinto River is closed after a barge ran into the pilings. What I didn’t expect was crashes well away from those sites.
The one just over the Sabine River into Texas we never actually saw, because the backup was almost all the way to Lake Charles (20+ miles). This is where the adaptive cruise with station keeping would have been nice.
There was a construction area in Beaumont that had at least 3 wrecks in it. We were able to bypass around most of it.
We got to the National return lane at Hobby a couple hours later than planned. When the attendant went to check us in, the bill came out to… a lot more than I thought it would be. Seems they wanted to charge me $0.30/mile for the 1188 miles I’d driven, which wasn’t on the rental agreement. So off to the building to wait for the right person to fix that, which they did (I had the rental agreement on my phone, as proof there wasn’t any mileage charge listed).
Then our friend Haaris gave us a lift home… and we were home. A day later than planned, but still sooner than we would have been if we’d stuck with the rebooked flight.
Unpacked, and road-wired me then didn’t get to sleep for a while. Kim had already called in to work for Monday, but I went in.
And thus ends The Boat Saga. Every Boat I’ve been on has had its Many Moments of Awesome, but the overall for me this year is going to be hard to top, because a year ago, I didn’t know if I’d be alive, let alone able to Boat again.
Up next: “People keep asking if I’m back, and I haven’t really had an answer. But now, yeah, I’m thinkin’ I’m back.”
The Boat Saga:
That Time I Went Back To Boat, Part I
That Time I Went Back To Boat, Part II: Electric Boataloo
That Time I Went Back To Boat, Part III: Revenge of the Sith
That Time I Went Back To Boat, Part IV: Mockingjay, Part II
That Time I Went Back To Boat, Part V: JoCo Cruise and the Order of the Phoenix (this post)