October is an awesome month to go down to Florida, and with the hurricane season travel deals it is probably the cheapest way to go. So I booked three trips to Florida in three consecutive weeks. The first trip required a little bit of driving, which I love… so I’ll share the Road Trip details in this post… perhaps they’ll save someone the trouble of considering such a thing in the future or maybe encourage others to take the trip themselves. My experience of course could be completely different from others…
A few weeks ago JetBlue announced a flash sale… fares as low as $19 bux they advertised, typically from New York to Boston or Long Beach to San Francisco in California. The ones that caught my eye were the ones I have taken advantage of many times before, NY to South Florida, my favorite destination in the world! NYC to Miami area – Ft. Lauderdale specifically were only $39 bux each way. I booked two round trips, and with the recent JetBlue flight to California I figured if I book one more leg I’ll qualify for their 5,000 mile bonus that is awarded after 3 round trip flights flown in a year. So I was on the lookout for one more leg, and I sure found it. The flight from Daytona Beach to JFK in NY was only $29 bux…. sweet! But how do I get down there? … I remembered seeing a Hertz promo for one way rentals from certain airports down to Florida for only $9.99 per day. I checked the rate from Newark to Daytona Beach and the 3 day rental came out to some $62 bux with tax included. I thought that was a steal! I quickly booked it… but continued checking other permutations and before long ended up booking another much more favorable rate from LaGuardia airport to Daytona Beach airport for only $36 bux all inclusive, and this rental was for four days! Wow!
The Hertz LaGuardia experience was pretty shitty, I started writing details about it but figured it’s not worth the time… long story short I got a bad car. The black VW Bettle I picked up had a massive mechanical rattle coming out from the rear bumper and an even stronger hum which I suspect was a broken wheel bearing. I didn’t feel safe or sane enough to put up with it for 1,000+ miles, so I went to another Hertz in New Jersey to exchange it… three times! The fuckers at Paramus HLE refused to change cars for me saying they had nothing available, which was odd. The other fuckers at Hackensack HLE where I was sent to try my luck next explained to me that they were not going to make any money on me so they were not willing to just swap the cars out but were willing to give me another car if I paid more money to them. They suggested I try Newark Airport Hertz which I did, and where the manager reluctantly switched cars for me, and even more reluctantly put me in a similar upgrade that I started out with, which was a white VW Beetle… it didn’t have the noisy rattles or hum’s, but the wheel balance was off so the steering felt like a jack hammer especially at highway speeds. But whatever, they did what they could. I wasted some toll money and more importantly several hours of my time, and was now going to hit rush hour evening traffic at every major city along the Northeast corridor.
Luckily I took the longer way around to avoid all the Mid-Atlantic tolls, and Interstate 81 was good to me. No traffic, smooth sailing and I made it to my Shenandoah Motel around 9pm so I could start out bright and early the next morning. The first day was meant to be an easy drive of 400 miles. The next day it was about 700 more to my destination in Jacksonville. I timed the trip so that I didn’t spend any more money out of pocket for food. My plan was to hit a few TGI Friday restaurants along the way, order take-out and eat while i drive since I bought a deeply discounted TGI Fridays gift card on eBay. Similarly my fuel stops had to be at ExxonMobil, Sunoco or Speedway because I purchased discounted gift cards with those brands. And everything worked out super smoothly. Along the way I even managed to stop by Statesville, North Carolina to visit Long Road Racing again to check out the 2017 MX-5 Cup cars being built.
In Jacksonville I was to meet up with a fellow MX-5 owner from Miata.net someone who I’ve chatted with several times before and who has an identical car to mine: a 2007 Copper Red GT PRHT but apparently equipped with a TrunkMonkey which mine didn’t come with 😉 It was a pretty awesome meet-up, we sampled some delicious seafood together right near my shady motel… interestingly enough when I arrived to check in there were several cop cars there and a crime scene unit investigating a Jaguar XJ with a shot out rear window. While checking in I overheard the Sheriff telling the motel manager not to call 911 when he has issues instead he gave him a list of non-emergency phone numbers… “if you have someone selling drugs out of the rooms, call these detectives” and “if you have prostitution going on, call this vice unit…” Hmmm!
Finally, after an early wake up I was on my way to the ultimate destination in Daytona Beach (well technically to Port Orange where my fellow marshal friends that were hosting me for the night had moved to). I was in no particular rush and debated whether to continue along I95 for about an hour and a half or take the more scenic route along the Atlantic Coast and A1A… which is what I ended up doing. I picked up Florida A1A in St. Augustine and went as far as I could before a few detours around the Hurricane Matthew damage from two weeks ago. That was crazy. Never seen so much garbage on the side of the roads and standing water from water damage that the hurricane caused. In Flagler Beach the whole road got washed out. It was pretty insane, considering the area didn’t even experience the full brunt of the storm. They were very lucky though that the damage was what it was.
Once in Daytona I made the obligatory stop at the Speedway for a selfie and then we went out to a nice restaurant near the beach for dinner. It was such a wonderful time. Before you know it, it was time to fly home. I dropped off my Beetle at the Hertz in Daytona Beach International Airport and was on my short two hour flight home. Ironically JetBlue calls the DAB – NYC flight #500 I guess it has something to do with the Speedway which I could clearly see out the airport window, along with several cars driving around the oval while waiting for my delayed plane.
Awesome trip, I am especially looking forward to two more trips down to Miami Beach area… I really want to go for a swim at South Beach, which I love! The seas were way too rough in the Daytona!
Some pix from the trip:
I started out with this “upgrade” a 36k mile VW Bug with Cali plates and a real bad rattle coming out from the rear bumper area, along with a strong wheel bearing hum which provided an interesting sound track of base and drums for the 70 miles I had this car for.
I have to say it did look great, had very comfortable leather seats that wrapped around you and plenty of room for storage.
But I couldn’t wait to swap it out for something else, and after two failed attempts at HLE’s in Bergen County, New Jersey I ended up with a white VW Bug from Hertz at Newark Liberty Airport.
It was much… sooo much, better even though it had vices of it’s own, like the badly balanced tires which made the steering wheel feel like a jack-hammer at highway speeds.
After wasting a good three hours trying to swap cars I hit the road.
To make up time I only ordered stuff to-go and to save money I went with Friday’s since I bought their discounted gift card on ebay.
I have to give props to the social media team at Long Road Racing in Statesville, NC I checked in on facebook saying “drive-by wave to the best MX-5 shop on the east coast” and they invited me to stop-by.
Got a nice t-shirt just for visiting… how nice?!
I <3 Florida!
The white bug got incredible gas mileage, at one point showing 36.7 mpg which is even better than my Miata on the trip I took in March.
Someone suggested I must stop at the Florida Visitor Center to sample the free orange juice… I did!
and tried the grapefruit juice too…
Crime scene at my Motel in Jacksonville, Florida… looked like someone either shot at them or was hooting out of the car… hmm!
Dinner in Jacksonville, just down the road from the Motel and while checking out a Copper Red MX-5 GT PRHT from a local club there.
Bright and early the next morning I headed further south, this time along the Atlantic Coast and Florida’s A1A
Hurricane Matthew damage along the coast from St. Augustine all the way down to Ormond Beach, Florida
Notice those big mounds of sand from the beach, on the other side of the road… further down tractors were moving the sand back.
Some areas looked like they got hit while others looked untouched.
The damage wasn’t just along the beach but further inland too.
Finally arrived at my destination and took some obligatory selfies.
It was too cold and too rough to go in the water, but we went to the beach nonetheless… to survey more damage in Flagler Beach.
And of course ran across a familiar car what is my Miata doing there?
Dinner at Charlie Horse in Ormond Beach was delicious.
And the next morning I was back at the airport for the flight home. Interesting that only JetBlue has a true flight out of the south providing an A320 jet service to New York, while the competition from Delta and American fly smaller MD-80’s and CRJ’s to points closer to the South and especially those with NASCAR interests 🙂
I do love how you can see the Speedway so close… especially on take off. There were some cars on the oval doing laps, clearly visible.
I <3 Florida! I can’t wait to move and live there.