After 6 weeks in Oregon, yesterday we got on the plane and headed to Tampa Florida. We had a great time in Oregon. Cody & Scott could not have been better hosts. In spite of 6 weeks of close contact, I don’t think anyone ever got the “I sure wish this would hurry up and be over” feeling or vibe, and that’s saying a LOT! The only drawback to Oregon was that my feet were cold from about 5 PM to maybe 10 AM every day. Maybe I should have brought socks (perish the thought). Lulu’s feet were cold all the time and she did wear socks. And shoes! Nevertheless, we had a fine time but, eventually it was time to go.
Yesterday’s flight was uneventful, thank goodness. Two legs of about 3.5 hours each with a 1-hour layover in between. Not bad at all. We got to Tampa and took the shuttle to the off-site car rental agency we had reservations with. When we arrived at the office of Advantage Car Rentals, we were surprised to see a lineup of people with luggage standing outside the office. The office was a cramped little place with room for 2 agents and maybe 4 customers at a time, and that was pushing it. There was a lot of grumbling out in the queue but Lulu and remained philosophical about it. After all, everyone in that line was there because Advantage’s rates were the cheapest on the internet. Gotta make up that cost somewhere. But, really, I don’t think buying a couple of benches so we could have sat down would have broken the bank. When we finally got inside we were in for our next little surprise: there weren’t any economy cars ready. Oh, they graciously offered to upgrade us to a van or SUV for only $10 more per day but, since we planned to have the car for 8 days and intended to do some traveling, we didn’t need the extra expense of the rental or, more importantly, the gas. We opted to wait until they got a car cleaned up. “Shouldn’t be more than 20-30, maybe 45 minutes.” Through it all, we remained cheerful and polite. You learn these things dealing with bureaucracies in Mexico. Maybe 20 minutes later they called our name and we got our car. Don’t know if being polite helped but the couple in front of us, who were doing a lot of complaining, drove off in an up-priced van and the very unhappy lady who was ahead of us in line for an economy car, in spite of getting her car before us, was still sitting there when we drove off. Not sure what happened there but she was really looking unhappy by then.
We found our fleabag Howard Johnson Express (once again opting for lowest price) and, after getting settled in, headed out to dinner. Not sure what we wanted to eat, we just drove along the boulevard checking things out. We finally narrowed it down to two places right across the parking lot from each other. One was a Chinese place and the other was Tex-Mex. We should have chosen the Chinese place, or, better yet, the Vietnamese place we passed 1/4 mile back. But no, we chose the Tex-Mex place. The menu leaned way more heavily toward the strictly Mex end of things rather than the Texas take on Mexican food. The only thing that definitely had a Texas component was the “Lone Star Burger”. We finally decided to get a couple of appetizer plates. One was the “Botanas Plate” which had a couple of quesadillas, some flautas, something on a tortillas chip, guacamole, salsa, and (true Tex-Mex) cheese sauce. We also ordered the plate that had chicken “tenders” dressed up like buffalo wings. Now, before I go off, let me just say that the service was excellent. Our waitress was quick and pleasant and kept our beers flowing and water glasses full. That said, the food was incredibly mediocre. Well, except for the buffalo tenders which were just plain bad. The sauce they used just did not work with those hunks of white meat. Not sure what it was but no amount of what was supposed to be bleu cheese dressing could cover up the unpleasant taste. The botanas plate, while not bad, could stand to pick up some flavor tips from oh, I don’t know, maybe Taco Bell? Like I said, we should have gone to the Chinese place.
Back in our room with a half-rack of beer, we got ready to watch some TV. Except there was no remote. You could turn the TV on or off without it but that was all. No channel-changing, no volume adjustment. I went down to the front desk and the manager said he’d be right up with a remote. He and a night clerk trainee arrived a few minutes later and, after much messing around, had the remote programmed. It seemed to work OK, so they left. I turned the volume down a bit, changed channels and then looked on in amazement as the remote refused to do anything else. Wouldn’t change channels, wouldn’t adjust the volume, wouldn’t turn the TV off, wouldn’t do anything! The battery seemed to be OK as the little red light that tells you you’ve actually pushed a button kept coming on. I called the front desk again. Again the intrepid duo returned. They brought another remote, programmed it, tested it and turned it over to me. I ran it through its paces and discovered that everything seemed to work except the “channel down” button. With over 50 channels available, it could be a long trip from channel 22 back to channel 21. Well, I guess I could just press the 2 and 1 button but still. After a bit more fiddling by the manager, all the buttons were finally working. By now it was almost 11:00 PM. But, to our west coast selves, it was only 8:00. We proceeded to have a few beers while watching stuff we never get to see except in motels. Things like “Mountain Men” and something about catching and tagging great white sharks in south Africa, and “One Car Too Far”. It was finally lights-out at 2:00 AM ( a tame 11:00 PM to us).
Today we’ll drive over to my cousin Willie’s where we’ll stay tonight and get to visit with him and my aunt Nancy. Tomorrow it’s down to DMV to get our Florida driver’s licenses. Then it’s a road trip to Key West and back. Hopefully Key West won’t turn out to be Florida’s version of Cabo San Lucas.
By the way, I’ve heard through the grapevine that a few readers are concerned about how LE the three-legged cat fared. I’m happy to say that she’s all better and doing fine. She’s back to spending her days outside with her brother and sister and, other than looking a bit awkward at times, doesn’t seem overly hampered by the loss of a limb.
Here she is, chowing down with her brother, Paul.