One of my favorite places on this earth is Mount Rainier, otherwise known as Tahoma, “mother of waters.” It is majestic and beautiful and timeless and humbling and peaceful and powerful and one of the reasons I have chosen to live a public-transit-based life. Every year around the 4th of July, Bus Nerd and I head to the mountain for an overnight camping/hiking adventure. Yes, folks, bus chicks can survive in the wild.
Unfortunately, the bus doesn’t go to Mount Rainier (believe me, I checked–even looked into hitching a ride on a tour bus), so we usually rent a car for a few days. This year, we tried Flexcar’s new(ish) weekend special option. You can reserve one of the eligible vehicles from Friday at 5:00 PM until Monday at 8:00 AM for a flat rate of $100 (obviously much cheaper than 63 hours at the usual rate).
By the time I got around to making the reservation, almost all of the cars available for the special were taken, so I had to reserve one that’s parked in Bellevue, at City Hall. I took the 550 (where I met July’s Golden Transfer winner–more on him in a couple of weeks) to pick it up and then swung by the ‘Soft to scoop up Bus Nerd. We stopped to visit some friends in Kirkland (since we had the car and were on the Eastside and all) and then headed to REI for freeze-dried foodstuffs.
The trip to the mountain was wonderful, as always, though the hikes weren’t as spectacular or strenuous as we’re used to. After we returned to Seattle on Sunday evening, I headed to Madison Market to stock up on cleaning supplies, wine, and other heavy stuff I hate carrying on the bus. We also rewarded ourselves (for two whole days of “roughing it”) with a visit to Kingfish. I ordered a Louisville Lemonade and was halfway through it before I remembered I was driving. I stopped drinking immediately because I’m a bit of a lightweight and didn’t want to impair my (admittedly degraded) driving skills. This caused the bartender to stop by our table (twice) to make sure I liked my drink. The things you drivers have to deal with!
Monday morning, we returned the car to Bellevue. Adam took the 565 to Redmond, and I took the 550 back to Seattle.
I have been waiting for a long time for Flexcar to offer an option like this, and all in all, it worked very well. It was far easier (and somewhat cheaper) than renting a car. Assuming you’re already a member of Flexcar (which you have to be to do this), you don’t have to fill out any paperwork, pick up the car during business hours, or remember how much gas was in it when you got it. (If you have to get gas while you’re out, Flexcar provides a gas card.) All you have to do is reserve the car (on the Web or by phone) and pick it up and return it within your reservation times. Beautiful!
Some issues I encountered:
• It was difficult to determine the availability of the cars that were part of the special. The process would work better if the list of eligible cars linked directly to the pages to reserve them.
• Not all gas stations accept Flexcar’s fuel-only card. I struck out twice in Enumclaw (at an AM/PM and a Safeway) before I found one (a 76) that let me pay with it.
• After hiking miles uphill with a heavy pack, exposing myself to wild animals and creatures, and sleeping on the ground, my only injuries came from…driving. Seriously. I think I pulled a muscle between my right ankle and shin (haven’t worked that pedal foot in a while), I have a blister on my left hand from gripping the steering wheel, and my tailbone is completely destroyed.
• Jokes aside, I don’t drive as well as I used to. I simply don’t do it enough. I still consider myself very safe, though, honestly, I am now (even more) annoyingly cautious and slow.