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Monthly Archives: January 2017

Uber convert

You say you want a revolution. Well, there’s an app for that.

Since I’ve talked about AirBnb in my previous post, I should amention that I’ve been a user of another ‘sharing economy’ darling in the past few months : Uber.

I used Uber to drop me home after getting rid of the MB leased car.

I used them to take me to the airport where I was going to Milwaukee for thanksgiving and to avoid the parking nightmare. By co-incidence, the driver was from Wisconsin so I got a few tips from him of what to see etc. As a side note, the officials at Hobby Airport pounced on him for documentation as soon as I got dropped off and even after I’d checked in my luggage about 10 minutes later, I could see out the window he was still being questioned. Not sure what that was about.

I used Uber in Milwaukee to get to / from downtown. The ability to send the driver a text – when the GPS address for your restaurant is nonsense – worked great. On the app map showing the driver, you could see them driving to you, then obviously overshooting and going the other way.

One feature I liked was the quote before hand to do a ‘what if’. I wanted to know the price of an Uber from Milwaukee to Midway airport  – around ~$120. I compared it to AVIS one way where the car rental gave me ( with a very good AWD#) and it was around $55. Obviously with this, I went to AVIS. When I checked the car in, I was dismayed to find out that they’d charged me per mileage charge where bill came to $108. Bloomin’ bunch of Sock cutter$. If I add in tolls, gas and CDW then Uber would have been cheaper.  Even if it had been cost neutral, I would have not had the hassle of driving for 90 minutes and getting to the MKE airport to pick up the car.

As for AVIS and the discrepancy, I later I checked out why I had not flagged this earlier as I darn well knew about the potential for one way add ons. I looked and the AVIS booking site was blank about mileage but when I looked at the confirmation email, it calls it out as $0.40 per mile. Buggers.  Today, I just looked at the same AVIS website today, and it does now call it out (@ $0.28 per mile). So Caveat Emptor (or Emperor..) and all that with my miscalculation on the 1 way rental but it still illustrates why bother with that option : Just get an freakin’ Uber assuming their prices stay where they are. I mention this as they continually monkey with fare structures.

The thought of getting a regular taxi driver when Uber is an option, does not appeal any more. I’ve had my fair share of rides with filthy cars overflowing with cigarette butts going to a destination with no idea what the final charge will be and they’ll only take cash at the end. The days of taxi’s are done in areas legally serviced by Uber, Lyft or their counterparts.

Long like the revolution !

PS: I am not ready to give a full thumbs up to Uber as I don’t trust Mr Kalanick past the future IPO.

First experience of AirBnb: Big thumbs up

“I dream of Weenie” van : 5 points/ East Nashville. Copyright Roads-2-Roam

When we went to Nashville over Christmas, I used AirBnB for the first time. Christmas in Nashville is the calm before the New Year party storm when prices in hotels go nuts around 28th. We were visting the Daughter I and her family with Daughter II plus family coming in for a few days

There was plenty of accommodation in hotels around $100 per night for the dates we wanted 12/22 to 12/28. To do something different, I even thought about checking out Gaylord resort to see what it was all about. After reading some of the devil in the details from some reviews and with it being about $200+ per night plus all the tacked on fees, I decided against it.

As so it was that I seriously looked into AirBnB and saw a nice 12 bed house not too far from where daughter I lives. Price was around $200 which with 12 bed which meant that daughter II and her family could stay with us. However, by the time our wider family got our act together, it was already booked.

Liking the idea of AirBnB, I continued to look with houses around $200 or less. Looking at the maps, I found one 8 bedroom that was for $118. I almost skipped it thinking is must be a hovel but curiosity go the better of me..I looked at other dates outside my desired times and saw that it was normally double this price. I just happened to be looking for my dates and the owner had bombed rates to fill an empty block. It was in East Nashville in the 5 points district and reviews were very positive. Boy, it looks like for once being dysfunctional meant we’d lucked out !

The house turned out to be better than our expectation:  Mrs Caesar, the kids, the grandkids and our dogs (I forgot to mention that I brought the two Roaman hound dogs) all loved the house. A two story with 4 bedrooms with all the mod cons that in some instances were better than our home. The 5 points is a mixed neighborhood that it is being progressively gentrified.  It had a back garden that we took advantage of – the weather was 73F !

There were some great bars and restaurants that within 5 minutes walking distances: Thumbs up to 5 point pizza (we went there twice) and Drifter’s Tennesse BBQ. I got a kick out of seeing “I dream of weennie” –  a hot dog van that has some great ratings – but it’s opening times and our schedule didn’t work out this time.

The owner of the house was very customer orientated. I think the only thing we wanted for is milk for the coffee.

Overall, my first experience with booking with AirBnB was very positive. It was a very cost effective for groups if you stay for a few days. The cost threshold will be the one off cleaning fee which in our case was $140. I especially liked it that it was a far more personable that a hotel.

Our verdict on Airbnb: Thumbs up.

I will do AirBnB again but only the ‘complete house’ option. Can’t see I want to do the rent a room or even a couch.


 

Postscript 28th Jan 17: Maybe it is a sign of their perceived success or economic arrogance, but the same house is now asking for $292 per night on AirBnB. I think that is a a bit extreme for what we got.

Crash test dummy

“mmm, mmm. mmm. mmm.” wikipedia Creative commons 3.0

After over 30 years on the road, I blew my clean driving record by running into the back of someone in my car.

I was taking off from red light and looked down to put my hot drink in it’s holder and when I looked up, the traffic had stopped. I slammed on the brakes but knew that it was not enough distance to stop.

Wham . Thankfully no airbag.

Behind me I heard screeching of brakes and I braced for impact. The skidding sound continued and a white car mounted the median and its front appeared right next my door.

I wait a few seconds to make sure nothing else is happening then look all around and with it being silent I get out.

I first walk around to check on the driver in front of me is who was driving an old black Honda. After confirming he is unhurt and like me, pretty shaken up, I apologized and shook his hand. He was a 20 something hipster with two massive ear plug piercings.

I tell him, I’ll get my insurance details. Meanwhile I walk back to my car and see the female driver behind me inspecting it so obviously, she must have hit mine. I’ll come back to her I thought.

I gave the hipster my drivers licence and insurance card. He takes photos on his phone and since it was obviously his first accident, he didn’t know what to do next. He started routing around the car for his insurance details and said something about it being his wife’s car and didn’t know where his documents were. I told him that since I’d run into him under Texas law, there is no need for that as I didn’t need them.

We went out to inspect his car. It was surprisingly undamaged. He pointed out a few things on the back bumper and admitted that they were already there. We looked at mine and it was similarly undamaged.

Meanwhile, I looked at the driver behind me. She’d left the scene.  So much for getting her details then.

The hipster didn’t seem to want to call the cops and since I was at fault, I wasn’t going to suggest it either.

He took one final picture of my number plated for his records and I sent him a text with my phone number on it. I said that if he was to go want to claim for repairs, then contact me before hand as if it was a relatively low dollar amount, I would want to settle with him in cash rather than go through the insurance. He said he’d do that.

It’s been over a week now and I have not heard any more so I presume he isn’t going to take this further.

This bring back a memory where a few years ago, I had a young latina run into the back of me at a road junction in the same car. I suspected she was texting (or was a bit stoned since she was rather not with it). I exchanged details and photo’s of the small amount of damage with her and since I was not hurt, I did not call the PoPo.

Later in the day, her father called me to apologize and asked me if I could get it repaired ‘by knocking the dent out’. He said he would pay for that and since his daughter was new to driving, he didn’t want her driving record to get an insurance hit so early on. I agreed to look at it since it was not much damage.

I took it to some places and it became clear that to get this small amount of damage in-situ repaired was not possible: The only option was a replacement of the plastic housing and quote given was north of $1000 with labor etc. Suspecting a repair rip off, I took it to a different place came in at the same ball park amount.

After thinking about it, I decided to cut the young texter a break. I already had some damage on the front from hitting a deer, then a few days later, a wild pig. So why was I then bothered about a relatively small dent in the back. I had daughters in the same age group so forget it: I was not going to push further on the claim as > $1000 was clearly a ridiculous amount.

So perhaps this is my crash karma and I am benefiting from my no-claim it backward.  Hipster, you are next.

NYE: You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off

The mini-firework display at Sugar Land’s kids’ celebration. More mini than fireworks.

Maybe it is because they are saving their denarii for the upcoming Superbowl but Houston did not put on any official celebration activities to see in the new year.

Perhaps this is why so many people headed to Sugar Land city center for their “New Year’s eve on the square”. Friends of the Caesar’s suggested we go out to dinner then take the kids down to see the Children’s celebration which would end with a kid’s firework display at 9 am.

We ate Mediterranean food which everybody liked including the fussy kids, parked near Macy’s mall* and walked about 10 minutes which got there around 8:30. The street entertainment was something different and we liked it.

9 o’clock came and the fireworks started and they were impressive. Then it all stopped after what felt like about 1 minute. No build up. No finale. It just stopped.

Huh? While it was billed as a ‘mini’ firework display where the main one (the ‘adult’ one) to begin at midnight, it was an anti-climax.


It reminded me of the San Diego July 4th 2012 firework display where someone buggered up the wiring so where the entire 18 minute display went up simultaneously so it lasted all of 15 seconds ! See the LA  Times:

The Big Bay Boom is advertised as one of the largest fireworks shows in the nation, and boasts about attracting half a million spectators. The pyrotechnics are launched from five barges in the San Diego Bay, and this year’s show – the 12th annual spectacle – was advertised by the port as being “bigger and more intense than in past years,” and organizers set up free buses and shuttles to handle the crowds of spectators. About a dozen bayside hotels offer special Fourth of July rates just so customers can watch the show from the comfort of their rooms.

The explosion was so bright and loud that some viewers initially thought the barges containing the fireworks had caught on fire. “Oh my God. Look at that. Is that supposed to happen?” said one person, whose comments were captured on a YouTube video. “I think a yacht blew up,” @BENBALLER tweeted, along with a photo that appeared to show a breathtaking number of fireworks simultaneously exploding.

“I waited 3hrs in the cold and payd $12 for parking & got one little explosion?” tweeted @aj521z.“Best part about #bigbayboom fail is that EVERYONE has always wondered what would happen if all fireworks went off at once,” tweeted @richandcreamy.

In a statement issued before midnight, the port said that just before the fireworks all exploded, technicians sent a signal “to the barges that would set the timing for the rest of the show after the introduction.”

Garden State Fireworks, the firm producing the show, “will be working throughout the night to determine what technical problem caused the entire show to be launched in about 15 seconds. We apologize for the brevity of the show and the technical difficulties,” according to a statement posted on www.bigbayboom.com.


Still, this is not the only time for some mal-event for happen on NYE ‘celebration’. In no particular order:

  • A trip to Edinburgh where we gathered at Tron Kirk to bring in New Year only to find out the clock bells didn’t work where all the crowds were left waiting arm in arm to sign “auld lang syne”.
  • A trip to New York where we could not get a taxi for love or money, and walked for hours back to our hotel leaving us cold and exhausted.
  • Broadstairs, Kent where my entourage did a pub crawl. Many in the town dressed in costume where I was Dracula. It was such a success that one lady insisted on kissing me passionately not too long after midnight. Except her boyfriend didn’t like this too much and mid-kiss, sucker punched me straight in my face splitting my nose open. Not exactly the firework display I wanted.

Now that I think about it the older I get, the more I want to stay home on the circus known as NYE but that has it’s own complications. Good luck finding a good countdown or celebration on a Texas TV channel. Many don’t even bother or get too lazy and just show New York’s celebration which sounds great except for that time zone problem.

However, this year I was disappointed to not have caught Mariah Carey doing her own San Diego 2012 firework blow up. I would have loved to have seen her lip sync dissaster as it happened. It would have been a great way to see out 2016.

We should have got an inkling of how bad this was going to be when the Diva was reported as asking beforehand ” What time does the ball drop?” and based on this,they had set up special arrangements to make sure she got to Time Square on time. [Daily Mail] Based on her performance or lack of, they shouldn’t have bothered !


Still it is what it is. As Rabbie Burns said ‘We’ve wandered mony a weary foot, Sin’ auld ang syne.’

Happy New Year.

Augustus.

PS: back to the Sugar Land event and parking. I’m glad we didn’t listen to officials saying to park in Football stadium and get a free bus ride to the event. The lines to catch that same bus back were monstrous. Something I’ve learned over the years is to plan your exit. Park just a bit further away to avoid traffic jams getting out. For big sporting events, parking away will be much cheaper.