Of all the days I’ve been in Florida, so far, today I woke up the earliest. Why? Because I had a three hour drive and had to get my rental car back by 11. After packing up, checking out, and having my last hotel breakfast, I hightailed it to Orlando.
When I was younger, I used to drive relatively fast, but as I’ve matured, I do try to hover the posted limits…this isn’t because I have an inherent problem driving fast, but instead because the time savings doesn’t generally offset the cost of gas…but between “a little extra gas” and “a late fee with a rental car company”, I knew which one I’d prefer. So, I won’t state what speed I was going for most of this trip, but I will state that fuel efficiency was…a secondary concern.
I called my dad on the way; we discussed stocks and tech companies, mostly. I flipped the dial to Z88.3, a Christian radio station I discovered when I came to Florida in 2000 with CAP. I figured that there was a good chance they became another K-Love station by now, but while they clearly had the same copy/pasted playlist, they did seem to remain independent, and I’m glad they’ve avoided cashing out to Christian Clearchannel.
My goal was to get gas within 20 miles of the rental car lot; nobody needs the drama of having less gas in the tank than when you started. With the clock ticking, however, making two stops seemed to be unwise, and while I’d have an illuminated gas gauge before I got to the lot, the estimator indicated that I’d probably get to the car lot with about 25 miles to spare.
Now, let’s put all this together…the estimator assumed I’d be burning gas at the rate I did yesterday, which, as we’ve established, I didn’t. Now, this wouldn’t be much of a problem…except that the last major stretch of highway was about 40 miles long, with no gas stations, exits, rest areas. or signage indicating any of these things beforehand. So, I was playing chicken with the gas gauge, and was trying to figure out what my next move was.
Thought number one: call my friend in the area! The person I called….doesn’t live in “the area”. As a New Yorker who knows that most of the world knows New York as the place with the pizza and the Statue of Liberty (and is reasonably confident that 99% of non-natives wouldn’t pick “Schenectady” as a place that is also, in fact, in New York), I really should know enough to know that being “In Florida” isn’t enough.
Thought number two: The American Automotive Association! I haven’t called them in quite some time…which is a fantastic thing, but this is why we have the cards! So, I called the number on the card, and I learned something. AAA is sucking more than they used to. Now, I’m okay with auto-attendants, but my rule of thumb is this: phone menus should have no more than 5 options, and no more than two menus before being sent to a representative, and maybe an account number. That’s 25 total menu options; I’ll even add in a third one for language selection at the beginning. If there are more than 25 options, you can get a new phone number. AAA’s phone system was five menus deep, spent a bunch of time trying to pitch me on getting the app, and then disconnected the call while I had perfect cell service. So, that was out.
Thought number three: Drive like a grandma and hope for the best. Yes kids, this is what I have become. I was “that guy” doing 50 in a 75. I hit up Google Maps, and with 17 miles left in the tank, it wanted to send me somewhere 28 miles away. That wasn’t happening. A bit more driving and praying and panicking and driving and panicking and praying, and I took another look at the map…our Do No Evil overlords decided that they weren’t going to send me to the nearest gas station, but the preferred one! So, with 9 miles in the tank, it sent me to a gas station ten miles away. Ohh boy, was that a nail biter. There was background music playing in my head…I’ve never been in such a nail biter of a situation, genuinely unsure if I’d run out of gas. With one mile left on the gauge, I rolled up to a gas pump. Fifty bucks of gas later, and I had the full tank I needed, four miles away from the car lot.
Returning the rental car was super uneventful otherwise. Turns out I drove 784 miles over the course of this trip. Is it weird that it didn’t feel like it? Long drives just don’t bother me, I guess.
An Uber later, and I was at yet another hotel. I’m amassing quite the collection of room keys. When I was very young, there was a one of these near where my dad worked. I wasn’t sure why, but I knew I wanted to go there. Now, going to a hotel within commuting distance makes absolutely no sense…but when you’re four, most fixations don’t. Either way, my four year old self’s irrational fixation was finally realized. I was pleasantly surprised that they let me check in as early as they did; I wasn’t looking forward to carrying my luggage around as I tried to kill time for five hours. The room was almost as nice as the last one. The bathroom isn’t as modern in its design, but the room was still super clean, there’s a table and a couch and two TVs and two beds, good wifi, and plenty of outlets. Everything I need.
Now, I’m sure that sitting in a hotel with nothing to do isn’t anyone else’s idea of a good time…but there were no shortage of things I could get done! My MSI laptop has had its secondary drive not showing up for a while; I thought I’d pull it apart and see what I could do. Turns out it just came loose, so I could play Mass Effect again! …except, I didn’t do that, because it has an odd habit of completely locking up that bothers me, so I wiped and reloaded it. Being as the only programs I have on there are my DJ software, Steam, Origin, and my VPN client, wiping and reloading that machine was super easy, barely an inconvenience!
Then, it was lunch time. A local barbecue place had a midwest vibe that would have made my coworker David proud. There were four different BBQ sauce varieties at the table, and yes, one had to try them all. It was one of the classic situations where the waitress asked what I wanted and I told her, “see, that’s kinda a problem, because I want literally all of the things!”. So, there was a sampler that had me trying a little bit of everything – some brisket, some pulled pork, some ribs, some chicken…and yes, all of it was fantastic. It wasn’t quite as good as the recently-shuttered restaurant in Maryland that was a highlight of the drives to Virginia, but a solid second place? Absolutely. It was during lunch that I got two of my blog posts written out.
I also decided to do some upkeep on my blog itself: did you notice the shiny new SSL certificate? Of course you didn’t! Did you notice it running a bit quicker? No, you didn’t recognize that, either. But while I love Bitnami’s ease of setup and everything-in-a-box compilation of Linux server software, major upgrades to underlying software tends to become a problem. While WordPress auto updates, the web server and database server that powers it…don’t. Doing it by hand is the sort of thing where it’s far more effective to just migrate over to a more traditional install, which is what I did. Yay Nginx instead of Apache and MariaDB instead of MySQL and a shiny new SSL Cert and a Debian base instead of Ubuntu! Now, if I was really hardcore, I would have tried using Amazon Lightsail, which is how Amazon wrote its own WordPress-on-AWS tutorial…but I’m getting there. Overall, nothing super pressing, but I’m glad to have done a few of these things without feeling pressured in the process.
A few more texts and phone calls exchanged, and I ended up at Denny’s. Now, as we all know, one doesn’t “go to Denny’s”, one “ends up at Denny’s”. It reminds me of the 24-hour restaurant on the cruise ship where I met Jen and Wendy. I like having a number of restaurants in walking distance, and it was this or Hooters, and well, tonight isn’t the night for Hooters.
Mass Effect. Bed. I get extra sleep tonight, and so do you.