Searching for the Vikings

Monday, June 31 - Day 2 BC (Before Cruise): Undisclosed location about an hour north of Manhattan, i.e. Home

It’s almost time, but not quite. We had decided two things: first, we will drive to Boston where the cruise starts and ends. There is not really a better way to get there from where we live. Flying will take longer, door to door, and probably be more expensive and definitely a much bigger hassle. The train would be nice, but the Amtrak route to Boston would require we go down to Manhattan to pick up the train at Penn Station. Another big hassle.

So we decided to rent a car, drive to Boston, and drop it off. It’s rather easy really. The drive time, with some stopping, is about four hours.

The other thing we decided, mainly due to paranoia, was that we would drive up to Boston the day before the cruise leaves and stay overnight in a hotel. This way we have an extra day in case of an unforeseen, but definitely fore-imagined, event, i.e., the rental car breaks down or there is a major traffic jam, or Interstate 84 is swallowed by a giant sinkhole, something like that.

So we looked online at the Hertz rental web site, and, lo-and-behold, there is a Hertz office not ten minutes from our house. The only other nearby office is forty minutes away in the Westchester County Airport. Renting from airport car rental offices usually costs a lot more because the airports charge the rental companies a large rent. We found out later that they add this to your bill and call it the “Concession Fee Recovery”. They also add the “Vehicle Licensing Cost Recovery Fee," the “Customer Facility Charge," the “Park Ticket Surcharge," the “Convention Center Surcharge," and the “Energy Surcharge”. Wait a minute… “Customer Facility Charge”? You charge a surcharge because you have to have a place for your customers to come to? Where do you expect them to pick up and drop off the car? An abandoned soccer field? How about a “No Good Reason Except Greed Surcharge”?

The Hertz office near us, which we investigated a few weeks ago, is very strange. It’s a little store in a little indoor atrium in a large strip mall not far from us. It is not even close to an airport or a convention center. The store is mainly a U-Haul rental place, with lots of boxes and rolls of bubble wrap, but we asked the owner, apparently the only person who works there, and they do indeed rent Hertz cars and less expensively than the airport location. So we made our reservation on line.

Again, due to paranoia, we reserved the car for the late afternoon of the day before we were driving to Boston. I didn’t really trust that the little U-Haul store in the strip mall was going to have the car on time, and if it didn’t we would still have time to drive to the airport and get one.

(…once again, time passes, on it’s way to where, nobody knows…)

Things sort of worked out ok. The owner of the U-Haul store called us about two hours before our reserved time and verified that we did want the car, and when we drove to the strip mall the car was ready. Bravo! Unfortunately, not everything was exactly what it should have been.

We had reserved a full-sized sedan, so there would be a large trunk to hold our suitcases which were more numerous, larger, and heavier than on any trip we have taken in a long time because it’s a 38-day cruise that goes to different climates and requires casual clothes, dress-up clothes, and exploration clothes. So naturally the guy told us he upgraded us to an SUV. Of course, that really meant that it was the only car he had. I wasn’t really happy because an SUV guzzles more gas and there is no trunk to hide the suitcases in, so if we stopped somewhere for lunch or a rest stop, they would be completely visible in the back of the SUV, but there wasn’t really an alternative.

So we took the car, got in and started it up. Guess what? More problems. Firstly, the gas tank was a bit less than half full. Secondly, there was a little indicator on the dashboard that meant that one or more tires were low. Wonderful! So, we went back in. In truth, my lovely wife went back in while I sat in the car, and the guy said that we only have to return the car with the same amount of fuel in it. She didn’t mention the tire pressure indicator to him. So I decided “the heck with it” and took the car home. I then decided for safety’s sake to fill the tires, which we did, and the indicator light stayed on. What did I expect? Otherwise, the car isn’t bad. It’s reasonably comfortable, roomy, equipped with a good working air conditioner and satellite radio. I guess we’re almost ready.