On Saturday, my brother in Baltimore called early and said today would be a good day to get together. He had just driven back from Indiana, and I'm sure he didn't feel like getting in the car and driving more, so I offered to get a Zipcar and come up to see him and my sister.
So I went online and saw there was a Zipcar available in Old Town, for the time I wanted it. I had a few things to take care of before leaving, so I made the start time at 11 a.m. I got my biking things together and the Christmas gifts into my panniers, and biked the 7 miles into Old Town.
The directions told me that the Zipcar was located in a Central Parking Garage located in an alley behind a certain address. The last time I had gotten a Zipcar, it was parked right on the street, so it was easy to find. Finding this garage was a little more of a "treasure hunt", but finally I spied the Central Parking Garage sign on the street leading to the alley. The Zipcar was just inside the entrance of the garage, so that was helpful. :) I unlocked the doors and folded up my Bike Friday to put it in the trunk. The back seats could fold down, so to give me a little more room for the bike, I folded one side down.
The car was nice - it was a Mazda 3. It had 20,000 miles on it. One thing about getting a different kind of Zipcar each time, is that you have to learn where the instruments are every time. You don't just automatically know where certain instruments are - like in your old car where you could do it automatically. You now have to take your eyes off the road and find the button you need (to change the radio station, adjust the heat, etc.). But that's no different from getting a rental car - getting in models you've never been in. This particular Mazda was different in that it had a "triptronic transmission" - you could put it into "Manual" and manually shift the gears without a clutch! Interesting - not that I would, but I guess that would be nice for some.
I got up to my brother's by about 12:30, and we had a nice visit together. I showed him and my sister how the Zipcar worked with the card and getting into it, and where the key and the gas card are located. They thought it was kind of neat.
Near the end of the day, it was time for me to pack up my bike (I had taken my bike out to get my picture taken with the Zipcar). My return time was to be 7 p.m. I knew it would take at least an hour to get back - but I wanted to add a little more time to that, just in case I ran into traffic. But you know how it is, you get to talking and hanging out a little longer than you should.... I should have left about 5:30 - but instead it was about 5:50 when I got on the road. NORMALLY, there isn't a back-up at the Inner Harbor Tunnel. NORMALLY, the traffic zooms along on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway at 70 and faster. Well, of course, since I needed to be back by 7 p.m., there WAS a back-up at the tunnel, and then traffic ONLY moved at 55 on the Parkway. :/ I think there was probably a cop driving on the Parkway, keeping people in check. No way around that, but when I got to the Beltway, I took off. Not that I wanted to really speed, but at the same time, I didn't want to be late returning the Zipcar. Flying along at about 75-80, and praying a cop wouldn't catch me, I made it back to Old Town by 6:58...! I knew that I couldn't get to the garage and get my bike unloaded and lock the car in 2 minutes. So I called the Zipcar 800-number to quickly extend my reservation. Since I haven't called them before, I didn't know what to expect. Evidently, you can ask for a representative (for a small fee) or use the automated prompts. I opted for the automated response. It told me my Zipcard member number and asked me to verify it. I looked at my Zipcard and saw that number on the lower lefthand side. I pushed "1" to verify it. It told me that my reservation was to end at 7 p.m., and if I wanted to extend it by a half hour. I didn't know that you could extend it by a half hour - I thought it had to be another hour, so I was glad to hear it could be shorter, if need be. So I pushed "1" to extend it a half hour. That was all that was needed to be done - so in about 30 seconds or less, I was given more breathing room. Ahh.... Although I wondered how it automatically identified me when I called??
I got to the garage and got my bike and things out of the car. The car had had about a half tank of gas when I started, and now it was at about one-fourth - which is when they would prefer you to put gas in it. I suppose I should have, since I had the extra half hour...but I was kinda tired and not feeling great, and still needed to bike back home a half hour...so I didn't fill it up. Today I read the penalty clauses on the Zipcar website. It says they can charge you $20 if you return the car with LESS than one-fourth tank of gas. Well, I guess I'm slightly okay since it wasn't BELOW one-fourth tank. But still, I should have filled it up, since I had the time.....I'm a bad Zipster.... Well, I'll try to do better next time. Speaking of next time, I'm gonna make sure I leave enough rental time to get back so that I don't have to speed back. That wasn't fun and no one needs that stress. Well, live and learn...and I'm still learning since it's only my second time getting a Zipcar. And I BETTER learn, because I read in the provisions that if they have the right to CANCEL my membership if I violate the membership rules. I definitely DON'T want that to happen!