Life in the cheap lane

I’m writing from the Knight’s Inn motel in Hardeeville, South Carolina. (No, we haven’t seen the boat yet.) Yesterday, we were traveling from 6:45 am, Seattle time, to 11 pm, Eastern time. We took scenic tours of airports in Seattle, Portland, Chicago, and Savannah, and in between, we hurtled through the skies in pressurized metal tubes with wings. It only cost $20, plus 50,000 miles of what Barry calls “monopoly money.”

It’s nice to be safely on the ground now, with all of our luggage intact.

Given the fact that it took three flights to cross the country, the latter is especially amazing. I had envisioned the TSA opening our big suitcase, the one I had to sit on to get it closed, and having the contents come flying out. It’s not a bomb, but the contents were under pressure. The sleeping bags, in particular, were likely to go SPROING!

Even with a couple of pieces checked, we still looked like bag ladies, shlepping our carry-ons through the airports. We’re too macho for wheeled bags, but at the end of the day, the backpack straps had left angry red marks on all four shoulders.

One reason the bags were so heavy was that we were carrying food for the entire day, including some tuna salad that made the TSA v-e-r-y suspicious. At the security checkpoint, three of them clustered around and studied the container carefully. Maybe it was the fact that, as a confirmed re-user, the pinkish tuna salad was in a container marked “salsa.” Maybe they didn’t believe it was tuna salad, because it didn’t have any celery in it. When I told them I had crackers to go with it, they looked relieved and let me through.

The reason for the tuna salad, and the rest of the food, was twofold: Cleaning out the fridge and trying to avoid buying overpriced junk food while flying. United doesn’t provide meals, but they offer $5 “snack boxes” on long flights. Out of curiosity, I looked at the snack box descriptions in the in-flight magazine — each one contained about a dozen items, and every single item was branded, from the processed cheese to the processed sausage to the processed applesauce. Not a single “apple” or “orange,” because a) those things don’t have a 3-year shelf life and b) nobody’s going to make a marketing deal with those un-branded things. Ugh.

Maybe if they provided something fresh, people would actually give them $5 for it, and it wouldn’t sit on the shelf for three years!

Since we didn’t actually eat of the the overpriced, over-processed food, my rant is philosophical.

And our trip was great. In O’Hare, we enjoyed the neon art installation between terminals C and B. I was tempted to go back through a couple times, as I used to do when I first discovered it 10 years ago. When we came out of the tunnel, we were delighted to find something new: A full-sized replica of a dinosaur, and dang, that thing was BIG. We got up close and stood under it, then tried to get far enough away in the crowded terminal to see the whole thing. When I listened carefully, I thought I heard him say, “Psssst! Peak oil is coming! Air travel is going to go the way of the dinosaur!”

We finally made it to Savannah around 10 pm last night, and dragged our baggage over to Alamo to pick up the car we’d reserved. Barry was disgusted at the thought of paying $10 a day, or $280 additional, just so we could both drive the rental car. Some rental car companies, such as Dollar, Thrifty, and Enterprise, allow spouses to both drive at no additional charge, so we popped over for another bid from Thrifty. But it was late, and all she could offer was an SUV or a luxury car for $499 a week, instead of $433 a month. We dragged our stuff back to Alamo, and I guess I’ll be driving this month. That’s life in the cheap lane.

Where we are now, in Hardeeville, is about as different from Hilton Head as pork jowls from filet mignon. This place is solid motels and gas stations, and at breakfast, we discovered why. It’s a stopping-off point on the snowbird highway. Elderly travelers who started in places like Michigan, Toronto, or upstate New York are stopping for the night before heading to their winter homes in Florida. They wearily tell us they’re headed for towns with picturesque names like Port Orange or Venice. It brings to mind our experience at South of the Border, that crazy but seedy compound on the North-South Carolina border that’s been catering to such travelers for about 50 years. (if you never read my description of South of the Border in 2004, it’s a hoot…check it out)

It’s time to leave the pork jowls and head for the filet. I’ll check back in again soon, with news of THE BOAT!

2 thoughts on “Life in the cheap lane

  1. i have been in most of the places you talking aboutbut it was in the 50,60 70 and 80 , my job took us all over the world
    ,like being on vacation all the time
    you guys sure have a great life
    take care and have fun

  2. Back in April, I drove to Charleston, for the BookCrossing convention, with a fair dinkum Aussie riding next to me. There was no way I was going to be able to NOT stop at South of the Border under those circumstances! I’m not really sure what he thought of the whole thing, though he finally learned what a Chili Dog looks like! South of the Border is so tacky that its hard not to love the place in spite of itself…

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