The trip from east coast to west coast is almost always exhausting and vice versa. Heading to the West Coast doesn’t seem troublesome at first because you can leave at 10am and arrive at 1pm… EST and PST respectfully. I enjoy this because it gives me time to do the work thing of checking out the site and meeting with the team before we actually hit the grind. But also, because I also get time to sort of explore a few of the local happenings and possibly even catch a unique experience on day one. However, the downside… this traveler is exhausted and when it is 6pm PST, I am sort of still on EST. So you would think this means I sleep well… haha… nope… I usually have to have some chamomile tea to relax while listening to meditation jams.
SFO is was a cool airport. Once the plane landed and I hit the ground walking, the signage to get to baggage claim (and beyond) were abundant. You walk just like any other airport to the center area and down stairs and are directed by your app, large television screens, or PA systems which baggage claim has your luggage. Off to the car rental facility!
At SFO, I ended up going up an escalator and then an elevator to make it to an Air Train. We have these at ATL, but I am not sure we have multiple lines. At SFO, you have a blue-line and a red-line. The red-line is almost rectangular, and wraps around the the terminals and hotels, while the blue-line is L-shaped in the sense that it has two rectangular shapes placed together in a track that portrays the “L” shape. The vertical portion of the “L” shape is much wider than the horizontal portion.
So once I boarded from the air train platform onto a train “car”, I immediately noticed all the informational signs with maps of the track for each train on both sides above the doors along the length of the car! I was extremely impressed by this because you don’t have to strain yourself from either end of the train car to see the maps! Another cool tidbit is that the windows and seats were averagely cleaned, but the track promoted gorgeous views of the distant mountains and rolling clouds! So the air train was a great experience, I was able to review and decipher the map quickly to count how many stops before I needed to exit. Not to mention, the PA system spoke clearly before each stop…amazing!
So a pleasant plane ride (with a couple hours asleep and a couple hours work) to a cool air train ride to the car rental facility. Like many airports, the facility is a large parking garage with well equipped signage notifying travelers of which floor the rental car counters were on and where you could pickup your rental car. The place I was renting from this time was Budget. It seemed there were a lot of people also renting from budget.
The Man and His Luggage
While I waited in line an older gentleman had one of those luggage carts filled with luggage for he and his wife. It was a cute encounter because they were engaging in a conversation in their own language of Spanish influence. The wife was encouraging the husband to leave the luggage with her while he stood in line, but he didn’t want to burden his wife, so he took it with him. The line included one 180° turn to control the space taken up by customers. It was around that turn where the luggage took a fall… all over the floor. The gentleman was directly in front of me and some of his bags fell to my feet and the woman’s behind me. Without pause, we both assisted in recovering his luggage. He thanked us but you could see slight embarrassment in his pigments on his cheeks. Hooray for humanity! Humans helping humans… it is refreshing!
I finally got to the counter, and this lovely agent was helping me. Now, I use my company’s tools that use our company’s travel agent that essential books our flights, reserves car rentals, and reserves our hotels. It seems roundabout, but the system is somewhat user friendly, but sometimes details of the experience do get left off… like our company’s code that includes details on the rental contract. sigh… thankfully, the customer service rep at the counter notified me and started telling me I needed to know the code to apply the contract and essentially I needed to cancel the booking and restart it again.
After some exchange back and forth: both of us trying to resolve the issue without having me cancel the reservation and start over and wait in line, she was able to locate my company code, but wasn’t sure she could simply add it to the reservation. She asked me to wait for a moment, went behind this somewhat hidden door behind her that was flush with the wall. After a few minutes, she came back and with a relieved smile told me she could just add it to the reservation. She even set me up with the frequent traveler program for Budget so in the future I could just bypass the counter altogether!
The way we found out I didn’t have the company code in my reservation was that there was a section on the program she was using to process my rental that only shows if there is no prearranged contract with a company. You know, the one about all the insurances and coverages? Yes that one… My company has its own policy that extends beyond all the coverages, and we are told to simply decline any coverage due to their own policies. That can be scary to new work-related travelers. Imagine the rental car agent saying “…and if you don’t have this coverage you are responsible for total damages and any litigation…” I even get anxious hearing that knowing I am covered and I’ve been traveling for work for several years!
After she gave me my paperwork and released me to the garage I felt a bit peckish and decided to grab a quick snack at this tiny shop called Maria’s that was opposite the Budget counter. It was a quick and simple and allowed me to process the experience.
Route to Tracy, CA
So now I am in the rental car and have the hotel address in my GPS. What is the ETA to the hotel…one hour forty-seven minutes…written in all RED! I’d like to say there were 8 lanes of traffic the entire drive! Seventy-six miles separated the airport to the hotel, while twelve miles separated my hotel from the job site. This isn’t uncommon for the type of facilities I work in.
The trip was an experience to say the least. It starts off with the road windings from the airport to the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge. The signage on the roads seemed readable and easy to navigate, at least I didn’t have any complaints I can remember! The bridge was cool, it spanned several miles and split the southern part of the San Francisco Bay. Once you leave the bridge and get on 580, time and traffic seem to stop! For miles through Castro Valley, Livermore, and to where you hop off 580 to 205 are gorgeous hills. The hills are not necessarily lush green due to the season, but the light browns and mix of faded green along with a gorgeous cloudy day make for a sweet drive.
Once you get on 205, the surroundings are more or less flat. The background to the daily commute is nice because you see the mountains and rolling clouds so well, but otherwise… flat.
I hadn’t been to Tracy, CA since the beginning of my career. It was really nice to see how that area has flourished so quickly. My overall travel experience was above satisfactory. I will be returning to CA in the coming weeks, but different airports and different car rental agencies!