Monday, May 23, 2011

Last week, in preparation for our drive up the East Coast, I visited the AAA office. It was partly out of necessity (I wanted to get physical maps in the off chance that my GPS both on my phone and in my car crapped out during the trip) and curiosity. I remember my grandparents talking about the AAA offices when I was growing up and I have to admit, with all the travel tools available online, I was sort of surprised to find that AAA still had local offices and that the advent of the Internet hadn't deemed them obsolete.

I had predicted that I would be the youngest person in the office. This prediction was only partially correct. There was a gentleman that walked in with his college-age daughter while I was waiting for my "road travel counselor". (The office was surprisingly huge with small little areas marked with signs that indicated the various aspects of traveling that the office handles...Travel, Road Travel, Insurance,

Anyhow, the man made a grand entrance, barging through the double glass doors, arms spread wide, cheerful voice booming in a British accent: "Hello! Cheerio!! We would like some assistance please!!"

The receptionist returned the greeting in a British accent (she had JUST checked me in and definitely did NOT have a British accent when speaking to me). "Ooooooh!!! Helloooooo!!!! Are you going to Lun-dun!?"

Man: "Oh, indeed! We AAARRRREEEE going to Lun-dun!"

Receptionist: "Will you be visiting the Queeeeeen!?"

At this point, am beginning to wonder if I have stumbled onto the set of a Monty Python movie.

Man's daughter: "Dad, could you turn off the British accent, please?"

(The Monty Python man's daughter turned out to be one of two people that were younger than me in the office that day. The other was the travel counselor that helped me...I presume they hired him because of his technology skills.)

After they were checked in, they sat down in the waiting area where they proceeded to have a heated debate about the number of pieces of luggage they could bring on their upcoming trip to London.

Man: "I think one carry on will be plenty."

Girl: "Dad! I cannot bring two weeks' worth of clothes in ONE carry on."

Man: "All we'll be wearing are shorts and t-shirts. One carry on is definitely enough."

Girl: "What if we go somewhere fancy!? What if we go to Harrod's!?"

Did you know you can also buy luggage at the AAA office?

(This picture is blurry because I was trying to take it without anyone seeing that I was taking it...)

When it was my turn, I explained where I was driving to (New Hampshire) and what I wanted to do along the way (avoid Washington D.C. and NYC and also stop at Sesame Place). Antiquated or not, I have to hand it to AAA, they were really helpful. I was given two regional maps (Southeast states and Northeast states) with my route (avoiding D.C. and NYC and stopping at Sesame Place) highlighted and even stamped in the exact location where I am to put down one map and pick up the next map, several tour books with restaurants, hotels and points of interest (not as useful since I can do all of that online and from my iPhone, but still nice to have) and also the highly anticipated TripTik, as discussed in this post.

The TripTik, a small, bound notebook, has turn-by-turn instructions, each on a new page, so you can easily flip through the book while on your route and know exactly where you are without having to fold and unfold maps or squint to find your location. I know I have technology at my finger tips on this trip, but I worry that I could lose the charger for my phone or that the built-in GPS on my car will take me right through Manhattan during rush hour or that Eli will be playing Barbie Fashionistas on my phone during a point where I was supposed to make a crucial turn and we'll wind up in North Dakota instead of New Hampshire (as long I'm going north, I must be going the right way...?). I want to relax on this drive, not white-knuckle the steering wheel full of anxiety.

I think we're ready. (In terms of directions anyway.)

Now, if only AAA could help me with the packing...

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