Today is a travel day. I know this because my TrainingPeaks calendar tells me so. I also know it because I’m traveling.
“What is TrainingPeaks?”, you ask. It is a service that schedules workouts and records progress toward big athletic goals such as marathons, triathlons and travel days. Like everything else in the 21st century, it is on line. It is an “app”.
An App For Everything
Since when did our lives get reduced to an app?
Life, version 1.01.
Renting a car? Use an app. Need directions to the car rental place? Use an app. Hungry? Use an app. Lonely? There’s an app for that too so I am told.
Today’s travel takes me though Phoenix’s Sky Harbour Airport with a four hour layover. And four hours in Phoenix Arizona is a mini adventure just waiting to happen.
The key to a layover adventure (layoventure?), is transportation. Public transportation in some cities is very good. Unfortunately, Phoenix is not one of those cities, so the only option is to rent a car or know someone. Knowing someone, or several someones in my case, is not a problem here, but last minute announcements of, “Hey, I’m in the airport. Pick me up. I’ll buy lunch,” just doesn’t feel right. Thus my reliance on apps. Sometimes I feel like apps take away our humanity, buy I have nothing against apps and smartphones, because today’s layoventure was powered by a car reservation app, a GPS navigation app, and a scooter rental app.
I almost forgot to mention… the selfie camera app.
A Little Adventure
Do you have any idea what happened to rental car prices? That’s not a rhetorical quesiton. I’m really asking, because last year I could rent a car for $29.90/day without a discount. Today’s rental (for two hours) cost $54 after discounts and before taxes.
Between landing in Phoenix and arriveing at the gate at 7:20AM, I was able to reserve the car using an app.
By 7:50AM I was driving down the 202 expressway toward the Henhouse Cafe guided by a trusty GPS app. I hadn’t been to the Dobson Road location of the Henhouse before, so I needed the guidance.
After arriving at the Henhouse, however, I was app free. No app was needed to order a pancake and two eggs over easy. Actually, I take that back. I did use the messaging app to let Lori know that I was about to eat the biggest pancake ever. To finish just one Henhouse Cafe pancake requires more than an appetite. It requires the gastric storage space of the three Johns combined (John Candy, John Belushi and John Pinette).
For me, the Henhouse Cafe itself is not an adventure like The Real Milk and Honey was in College Park, Georgia. Instead it’s a great place get a reliably good local meal and soak up a bit of the environment I used to enjoy with my wife’s family when they lived here. And although my visits to this restaurant are bordering on predictable, even today’s visit had something new. I met one of the owners, Cole, and had a short, but pleasant conversation about the origins of the restaurant.
Back on the road in the overpriced rental car, the adventure was just beginning. Destination: Tempe Beach Park. For a couple of months I have been intrigued by the concept of electric scooters that can be rented ad hoc. The concept is simple. A company places scooters around a metropolitan area in strategic locations. Pedestrians with the appropriate app can ride the scooters within an invisible boundary. Once they ride outside the boundary, the scooter shuts off. When said pedestrians have tired of riding said scooters, they can dismount and leave the scooters profectus in loco. The app I downloaded for this adventure is called BIRD. Or maybe that’s the name of the company that makes the scooters. Not sure, but I did know where to find some BIRD scooters.
The old mill in Tempe is quite a landmark: a dilapidated icon of Tempe’s agricultural roots among shiny new corporate buildings and a trendy university environment. Maybe the city forgot to demolish it. Or maybe a wealthy patron is waiting for the right time to turn it into the latest attraction to bring tourists to this hip Arizona city. Whatever it’s fate, it has hardly changed in the last 35 or more years while the steakhouse that used to be across the street is just a memory. Or maybe my memory is faulty and the steakhouse was somewhere else.
Overpriced rental car (ORC) and I parked in front of the spot where I thought the steak house existed. We parked in that spot not for sentimental reasons, but because that’s where I saw the scooter. No app needed to identify the rays of heavenly light emanating from that two wheeled little object of my desire illegally parked on the sidewalk. At that point in time, however, I did not know it was illegally parked. But there I was, face to face with my latest adventure and an economic decision.
A Lesson In Economics
Renting a rectangle of pavement along Old Mill Avenue in Tempe costs $1.50 for 45 minutes. Renting a scooter costs $0.39 for one minute. By that math, the parking spot is a better deal. But the rules of math and Return on Investment fall apart when adventure is at stake. Economics is not about money. It’s about why we do what we do. Download the apps, pay the money and enjoy life for a few moments. Net worth on the balance sheet might drop and the P&L might bleed red, but the heart will beat a happier tune and as long as the memory lasts, you will have that: a mental video to relive the excitement.
Car parked and meter fed, I was free to explore this new (to me) technology/concept of the ad hoc scooter system. Phone in hand. App loaded.
How the hell do I make this magic carpet on wheels work? Ah! QR code on the handles. Scan it with the phone. Done.
Pressing the throttle does nothing. Try pushing off with one foot. You know… get it going and then press the throttle. Nothing.
The app on the phone is quietly yelling at me: a warning. The scooter is out of bounds.
That’s when I realized it was illegally parked on the sidewalk. Walking it across the street produced the same results: nothing. Maybe that one was defective.
All this time, the meters were ticking: the parking meter AND the scooter meter. I was being charged for pushing a scooter across the street. The parking spot was looking like a much much better deal, but I persisted.
In times like this I ask myself, “What would Casey Neistat do?”
Success Is Sweet
Tempe Beach Park is a short, two block stroll from the mill and the ghost steakhouse where Overpriced Rental Car was safely parked. Surely there would be a working scooter in the park. Sure enough, at the entrance to the park, the law of averages was on my side. There was an entire herd of BIRD scooters parked there and with so many to choose from, I could logically expect one to work. Then, as Marty Robins so famously sang,
“I picked a good one, it looked like it could run.”
After 57 years doing stupid things, I am pretty good at feeling stupid. Some college graduate sitting in a cubicle in Silicon Valley is probably getting paid big bucks to write the instructions for riding BIRD scooters. So hey! If she’s putting in all that effort to write the instructions, the least I can do is read them.
I read the instructions. I followed the instructions. And Viola! I felt stupid again for the umteenth time.
If feeling stupid was required to achieve success, then so be it. Feeling stupid was nothing compared to the joy of cruising down a section of the IRONMAN Arizona run course at 10 miles per hour on two wheels of magic. That’s when the selfie app came in. But let me warn you. If you rent one of these steeds, keep both hands on the reins. I’m pretty good at the “Look, Ma. No hands” trick yet we got a bit wobbly when I just used one hand.
Now I’m wondering how long BIRD scooters can be ridden before the battery dies. At $0.39 per minute I probably won’t find out.
And thank God I didn’t have to walk much, because my legs were shot from yesterday’s bike workout. That workout, by the way, was facilitated by an app (appropriately named Sufferfest) and recorded in the TrainingPeaks app.
Without all these apps, my layoventure would have just been a four hour layover in the Phoenix Sky Harbour airport. Gosh! That sounds exciting, right?
Until next time…
Stay to the right, pass on the left and keep on smiling