Skip and I got home yesterday at about 4:30pm. Our local grocery store that is usually open on holidays was closed so we couldn't get anything for supper to make at home. We ended up sharing a sub at Subway. Happy Easter!
Our cat was very glad to see us and didn't stop purring for hours after our arrival. The neighbour who fed him came in twice a day and often sat with him after he ate and cuddled him, so the cat did well during our absence. I sure missed him and he has kept close by me since I got home.
Our drive home was uneventful. We both heaved a sigh of relief when we pulled in our driveway - the car and its 'new' engine had made it home in one piece. Click here for the story of our epic drive south. The weather was good and the traffic was tolerable given that it was a holiday weekend and there was no real rush hour. Our dreaded drive through Atlanta occurred at about 9am on Saturday morning and there weren't a lot of people on the road. Nevertheless, I used the HOV lane and whistled through that town in about a half hour. Wheeee!!! Skip had a more exciting time driving through Cincinnati but my shifts through Toledo and Detroit weren't too bad.
Here was our route.
Having done long car trips several times. We have learned a few things.
1. CAA Plus (Canadian version of AAA) with 200km towing saved our bacon when our engine blew up and stranded us at the side of I-75 in south Georgia on our way down this year. I have been a CAA member since 1982 and have paid several thousand dollars in membership fees. Being able to be towed to the car dealership of our choice at no extra cost was well worth it.
2. When prepaying with a credit card at a gas pump, often a zip code is required. It scans the numbers in the billing address of the card holder. Canadians have an alpha-numeric postal code which doesn't work and random zip codes (90201 for instance) don't work unless that's where your bill is sent. We had success with the following tip at all major stations except BP : enter the numbers from your alpha-numeric Canadian postal code followed by 2 zeros (e.g. if your postal code is N3T 7A1, enter 37100).
3. Fast food joints usually have better washrooms than gas stations but tourist information centre washrooms are usually the best. Use the paper towel or your sleeve to open the door after you've washed your hands. You don't even want to think about how many germy hands have touched those places before you or since they were last cleaned (if ever). I'm not really a germiphobe but I do take reasonable precautions to avoid coming in contact with someone else's e.coli germs or worse. (see #6 below)
4. Use the hotel coupons from the booklets that you can pick up at the tourist information centres to save a few bucks.
5. Get loyalty cards for the major hotel chains. Those points add up! Unfortunately, if you are using a coupon, you don't get points for that visit.
6. Keep antiseptic wipes in the outer pocket of a suitcase. I took mine out of the round plastic container and keep them in a seal-able plastic bag in the suitcase. When I check into the hotel I wipe down the door handles, light switches, TV remote control, night table and desk surfaces, toilet flusher handle and bathroom counter. Only use glasses that are wrapped in plastic. Do not trust that everything is germ free, especially the coffee maker in the room. Use the plastic bag provided for the ice bucket.
One of the germiest things in a hotel room (other than the bedspread) is the TV remote. A few years back I bought a cheap universal remote control ($5 at WalMart) and keep it with the manual and TV code sheet in my suitcase (in the same pocket as the antiseptic wipes). It only takes a few seconds to program the remote for the hotel TV. If you misplace the code sheet, just 'Google' the remote's code sheet and you can use the .pdf online.
7. When renting a car, many credit cards have adequate car rental insurance along with the insurance you carry for your own vehicle. There is no need to buy extra rental insurance if that is your case. It's OK to decline the extra insurance. I keep a printout of the pertinent clauses from my credit card agreement in my travel folio (where I also keep my passport).
Also, if you're in a jam and need a rental car pronto (like we did on a Thursday afternoon at 5) and you're in a rural area or a small town, most airports have car rental kiosks where you can pick up a rental car. Call ahead to reserve one.
8. If you're driving to Florida down I-75, Dave Hunter has written a comprehensive guide of the route from Detroit to the Florida state line. It is in its 17th edition and gives you lots of stuff to inform/entertain/annoy the other occupants of the car during the 2500+km (1500+ mile) trip. He also has published a guide covering the expressways in Florida.
9. Cell phone roaming fees are expensive if you are in a different country. Check with your cell phone carrier before you leave to see if there is a reasonably priced plan you can use while out of the country. 'Pay as you go' phones (or what I call 'disposable' phones - Net10 or TracPhone for example) are an inexpensive alternative for purchase and use in the US.
10. The exits on the US interstates are numbered by mileage from south to north (odd numbered expressways) and from west to east (even numbered expressways). There are also mile markers every mile or more so it is easy to determine how far to the desired exit as you hurtle down the highway. In Ontario, Highway 401exits are numbered by kilometres ascending from Windsor to the Quebec border.
11. If the Wifi in the hotel is unsecured (no access code needed) DO NOT use that network to access your bank or credit card accounts. Anyone else on the network could have access to your information. If you're using a public computer (i.e. in the hotel business centre), remember to log out of your email or social network and delete the history before leaving the computer.
12. It is a good idea to inform your credit and debit card carriers before you leave that you will be travelling and that you plan to use the cards out of province/state/country. Purchases could fail to be authorized if the bank suspects fraudulent activity. Also, while you are away, check your bank and credit card statements (in a secured network) to make sure unauthorized purchases haven't been made with your card. Don't panic. If it is discovered your card has been compromised, the bank will courier a replacement card to you - wherever you are staying - within 2 or 3 days. It pays to carry more than one valid credit card in the event one of them gets lost/compromised/deactivated. It's no fun to not have access to funds while on a holiday.
13. Drury Inns are great! They may be a bit pricier than the real budget hotels BUT they have free snacks (hot and cold) between 5:30pm and 7pm and 3 free beverages per guest (including some cocktails, beer and wine) and free hot breakfasts. Add up the costs of the meals to what you would have paid at a lesser hotel and it'll probably be more than you'll pay at a Drury Inn. Also they have special rates for AAA/CAA members and guests over 50.
14. Bank machine charges are expensive! If you are comfortable with it, travel with cash for your non-credit card spending. If you do have to use a bank machine, take as large a sum as you can out to spread the fee over a larger amount of money. (i.e. a $5 ATM fee on $100 cash is an additional 5% of cost but over a $400 withdrawal, it's only an additional 1.25%. Avoid bank machines altogether and get cash back at grocery stores or WalMart if your debit card works at stores in the US (mine doesn't). Also, know that your bank charges 2.5% on any out-of-country transaction over and above any exchange rate.
No, I am not a worry-wart or fuss-budget. But I have done a LOT of travelling and have learned a lot of these things the hard way. I hope I can save you some travelling stress.
Back to knitting...
I did finish the first sock of the second Intertwined pair and got the second sock cast on. I'll have pictures in another post. Maureen Foulds is working on a 6th sock design which is still in the testing phase but will be coming out soon. Have a look at her other cool designs. I got a preview copy of the new pattern and look forward to trying it out as soon as I finish this pair I'm working on.
After spinning tonight, there was a wisp of snow on my car. OK. It's April now. Bring on the warmer weather, for Pete's sake!