Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Not In The Cards

Last weekend, I rented a Zipcar to drive with a friend to see the pretty azaelas at Brighton Dam. Afterwards we headed to Westminster for some ice cream and enjoy the drive in the countryside. When we were about to head back, the fuel gauge was low, so I stopped to get gas. I flipped the visor down to get the gas card...and was a bit surprised to see that it WASN'T there! I checked in various sections of the car to see if it had been placed elsewhere, but didn't find it. Perhaps someone who previously re-fueled the Zipcar, absent-mindedly pocketed the gas card, I don't know. So I called Zipcar to check with them on the process to pay for the gas and reimbursement...this is the first time in 4 years that the gas card wasn't there (not that I've had to fill the car many times). They said after I got gas, to get a receipt, and then I could either fax or email it to the local Zipcar office, and my credit card would be reimbursed. So that was good news. :)

A couple of other notes about the Zipcar I got, was that it smelled slightly of smoke. Zipcar has a rule that no smoking is allowed in the car (there's a $50 fine). Also, when I picked up my friend, she was going to plug in her iPod so that we could have some good music for the drive. But turns out the Zipcar's auxiliary cord didn't work due to a cut in the cord...so she got her cord from her car and we used that. I made a call to Zipcar to report the smokey smell of the car, and the defective cord. They credited me a half-hour driving time for these items, which was nice of them.

It's good that Zipcar makes these compensations. As the saying goes, "It's the little things that matter." :)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Where's the Key??

The other weekend, I decided to get a Mini Cooper Zipcar to go for a drive in the countryside with a friend. The model was a Clubman, which is their version of a station wagon. Since the Mini Cooper is a small car, I rode my Brompton to get to the car, so that it could fold up nice and small inside the car. I drove a Mini Cooper Zipcar years ago for my sister's birthday, so I remember the car's racecar interior (large displays on the dash). On the Clubman model, instead of a hatchback, there are cute small doors that open outward. It's kind of like opening a small cabinet. :) Each rear window has a little wiper blade. My folded Brompton fit in the back area along with the front bike bag.

I got into the driver's seat, and reached for the key which is on a zipline cord. But when I got to the end of the cord, where there normally is a key, there was just a circle key fob! No key! I was in a time crunch to pick up my friend, as we were making an additional stop on the way. How would I get there if I don't have the key to the car? I looked at the instructions for my car reservation, and I see in the Notes section that in order to start the car, you insert the key fob into a slot on the dash.

(You can see this slot in the above picture - just to the right of the steering wheel). You push the Start button and step on the brake, and the car will start. I thought that was an odd way to have a car start - why not just use a key? But I guess the Mini Cooper wants to be different. :) It took me a couple of times, but I managed to get it started. I think a Prius has a similar push-button start.

We had a nice drive out to Shepherdstown, West Virginia - I hadn't been there before. It's a nice quiet small town in the countryside. It wouldn't be a bad place to live and/or retire...it has its positive aspects. But then I think about the things that are helpful in order to live car-free. I think living in the city or nearby suburbs makes it A LOT easier. I have buses and the subway available. Stores are within a short walking or biking distance. There are bike trails and paths to safely get around. So, living in the city/local suburb has its positive aspects too.

My friend asked if I enjoyed the speediness of the car, as I drove along. I hadn't thought about it, nor had I really missed zipping along in a car. Zipping along on your bike is a lot of fun - - you can feel like you're in a bike race. :) You get an adrenaline rush when you're flying along (especially down a hill). :)

True, you can't bike as far in a day as you could drive a car in a day. But, you don't get any exercise when driving a car either. :)

There are pros and cons for everything! :)

Next month, I will be on a bike tour from DC to Pittsburgh. When I get to Pittsburgh, I'll fold my Brompton and put it on a Megabus. I've already gotten my bus ticket - - for $1.50. :) Try doing that with a car!! :)