Roads Traveled With Linda L. Osmundson
The snow predicted for last week’s Tuesday afternoon arrived early in the morning. Our drive to DIA on mostly wet, slick roads from Fort Collins took longer than expected. Once there, our noon flight was delayed because heavily overcast skies and runway conditions caused diversion of our incoming plane to Colorado Springs. We were in no hurry. Even with a delay, our 6:30 dinner reservations in Santa Rosa, California, seemed makeable. We finally left Denver about an hour and a half late. No problem – yet.
San Francisco’s airport requires a rather lengthy train ride to the car rentals, but we still had plenty of time. I struggled to understand the representative’s accent, fast speaking pace, and low tone. I only heard “midsize Ford” and agreed to rent it. He explained where to find the vehicle and that the keys were already in the car.
Our two 2002 vintage automobiles have a remote to open the doors and a key to start the engine. The mileage reads clearly on the simple dashboard. A few bells and whistles add to the driving experience, like beeping for unfastened seat belts, when the gas tank is low, or when anything else needs attention. When the cars start, I hear the hum of the engines.
Not the same with our rental. We loaded our luggage in the brand new vehicle. I slid behind the wheel and stole a few minutes to acquaint myself with the car’s workings before taking to the road. I adjusted the seat, checked the mirrors, and found the “keys.”
The key ring had no key – just two inseparable remotes and a plastic replica of a car, which bore instructions that said to put the “fob” in whatever they called it – a slot, I believe. There was no fob and no slot. However, I found a button labeled “Start” and pushed it. Nothing. I pushed it again and still nothing. We looked in the glove compartment for the manual – nothing.
A service van parked behind me so I solicited the driver to show me how the Ford started. He fumbled around, looked for a slot, and finally stepped on the brake and pressed “Start.” Nothing. He repeated the process, put the car in reverse and said, “It’s working.” No engine hum, no grinding of a starter, however, the dashboard lit up like that of an airplane. “It’s a hybrid,” he stated. Okay, I thought.
To save $13 a day, I brought my own GPS, plugged it in, set the destination, and placed it on the dashboard. The radio blasted. I backed out and began our drive while my husband searched for the volume control. He accidentally hit the hazard lights. People behind me honked. At last we figured out the radio and relaxed.
Fairly well acquainted with San Francisco, I still depended on the GPS rather than trying to remember routes from the airport, through the city, and north on Hwy 101. Now just after 4 o’clock, traffic slowed. My GPS took me through unfamiliar territory – mostly in the heart of San Francisco. We crested hills (with no view of the pavement beyond). I prayed the car would not die. We finally reached the Golden Gate Bridge and freeway with no other mishaps except the hazard lights every time he changed the radio station.
Thank goodness for HOV lanes, or we’d still be sitting on the highway to Santa Rosa, having missed the Dixieland jazz festival in Monterey (our second destination), and our flight home. The best part of our over 400 miles in the rental was a refueling of only three quarters of a tank of gas. Oh, the joys of traveling in a rental car.