Morning in Catalina State Park
A few old favorites and new finds this trip. Catalina State Park did not disappoint. I never feel like I am really in Tucson without walking the Canyon Loop Trail, which this time had no water anywhere. Word has it, no rain since September. We had good street tacos at Seis Kitchen on River Road (al pastor and avocado good in particular).
I met my friend Mary across the street from the U of Arizona (Professor Mary) at The Dutch, where we ate salads and caught up at a pleasant outdoor table.
near the U of Arizona
Along S. Stone
I dropped by two places I wanted to try last trip— Bon Boutique, (beautiful, pricey French housewares) and 5 Points Market and Restaurant, which had a funky coffee house vibe and what looked like excellent sandwiches and pastries. Next time (if there is one). I drove down nearby Convent Street to see some lovely revived, brightly painted adobe houses.
This was my first time renting from Advantage, which cost as much as the Arizona Shuttle round trip to Tucson. (And gas was cheap – $3.17 compared to $3.6 3 here.) I ordered a compact car and ended up with a minivan. Not the newest or cleanest but it drove fine. Now trying Frontier Airlines direct Phoenix to Des Moines. So far so good (which is more than I can say for the last flight I tried to take on Frontier). I bought water and a sandwich before boarding since there is no free anything on board. The seats are hard and thin with a tiny tray but not too cramped. I had to pay for my seat ($9, i.e. way in the rear) and carry-on bag ($35) but c’est la vie. I flew out on Southwest (which I prefer for many reasons to Frontier) — one of the first new direct Des Moines to Phoenix flights, on what seemed like a brand new plane!
Little did I know when I booked cheap plane tickets to fly to Phoenix (rather than to Tucson, our ultimate destination) that we’d have to spend an arm and a leg on a car rental but it’s starting to look that way. In Nashville, we rented a car for $22 a day – our bill for three days came to just under $70. In Phoenix, the mainstay companies like Thrifty were charging $290 for a week (we need the car for only 5 days) which wasn’t great but that turned out to be the “base rate” – with various fees the total comes to a whooping $430. (Which we didn’t find out until we actually reserved the car.) So we are looking at smaller rental companies like Fox, Payless and Sixt. I reserved a car from Fox and was assured that the final rate is $262. Of course I’m a little suspicious – since I’ve never heard of this company. I’ve looked them up on various travel websites and they get mixed reviews but generally okay ones in Phoenix. The other issue is our flight gets in very late – close to midnight so some companies aren’t open at that hour (sadly that includes Enterprise, which gave us the good deal in Nashville.) We also get in too late (11:51 p.m.) to probably make the last shuttle van to Tucson at 12:15 a.m. NEWS FLASH: just heard from my dad and his wife – they’ve decided to pick us up at the airport, which is very kind, especially given the late hour. So no car rental!
All this reminds me of a trip many years ago – 25 or so – when we rented a car from “Sisters Rental Car” in Morocco. It turned out okay although we were a bit nervous, especially driving the car – which was a flimsy number that looked like an over-sized sardine can with a wire coat hanger in the dashboard, that served as the gear shift – way up into the Atlas Mountains south of Fez.
Toubkal Mountain in Toubkal National Park in the High Atlas
So I’m renting a car for a three-day visit to Nashville because the guidebooks recommend it – and we follow guidebooks these days on this kind of stuff – so I’m once again trying to decide if any of the many coupons I have for rental car discounts make sense to use. And I’m trying to discern the REAL cost of a rental (once the various local taxes and surcharges are added on.) So far, I’ve decided to use Enterprise primarily because it came up cheapest in a Kayak search (even if the Enterprise coupon I have saves me only a whopping $6.) But I’m wondering why it’s so much cheaper than the nearest competitor (about $65 vs. $110) and what the ultimate add-on charges will be. Still, we have had good experiences renting from Enterprise in the past, most recently in New Orleans, so why switch?
A reader let me know today that the car rental in Panama will probably be closer to $140 for three days once you factor in mandatory insurance. She tells me we can email or call the car rental place for details. And that when in Panama, she rents a four-wheel drive car like a Subaru or Diahatsu so she can better explore off-the-beaten track roads. Good to know!
I just rented a car in David, Panama for three days in February- the price: $70. Thinking that couldn’t possibly be right, I looked at another car rental agency and found the same car for: $80. I’m still trying to figure out if we can drop the car in Almirante (en route to Bocas del Toro) or if we need to return it to David and take a shuttle or bus to Almirante. Can’t seem to figure this out online. Also need to look a more closely at whether we need insurance (we don’t usually buy from car rental agency since our insurance covers…)