Planes, Trains and Automobiles

So, at some point, I’m going to have to make it back to Salem to pick up my truck. The original plan was for my wife to drive me there in her car and then both of us drive back independently. It’s about a 4 hour drive.

But, now that gas prices are going up, I decided to take a look at other ways to get there.

First I checked for flights. Salem is a suburb of Roanoke which has a regional airport that I know the major airlines serve, so I took a look. First, there are no direct flights from Norfolk to Roanoke. Every one would have to go through a hub, and would take a minimum of 8 hours (not counting checking in, getting through security etc). So then I checked from the Newport News airport which is about 45 minutes from here. They do have direct flights, but the costs are in the $350 range. Incidentally the only way to get a flight from Norfolk, even with a transfer, for less than about $300 is to book it at least 3 weeks in advance.

So that’s out.

Next I checked Amtrac. There’s a train station in downtown Norfolk, so maybe I can take the train. That’s what I’d do in Europe if I needed to get somewhere that far away. Heck, on a trip to Germany several years ago, my wife and I took a high speed train from Karlsruhe (where my company’s headquarters is) to Paris and got there in 3 hours for roughly $250 for both of us (round trip). That would have been about a 5 or 6 hour drive each way.

But, alas, the only Amtrac service would go through Hampton, and then to Northern Virginia, and then back south to Roanoke, would cost $133 and would take between 13 and 14 hours.

So I tried bus service. Greyhound would be only $77, but departs at 3:40am and would take almost 9 hours. That’s actually a viable option if I had no other alternatives, but it’s hardly the most efficient or convenient from my point of view.

Finally, I checked how much it would cost for a rental car. One way from here to Roanoke at National (that’s what my company uses so I’ve got a membership there) would be $69.72 total with fees and taxes and everything. Now, granted, I’d have to pay for the gas to get there which at current prices would cost somewhere around $50 so the total would be closer to $120, but I can be there in around 4 hours. My time is valuable to me. 4 hours of my life is well worth the extra $65.

If I rent a car, I can depart on my schedule, be there in 4 hours, drop the car off, uber to the mechanic for about $12, pick up my truck and be home in time for dinner.

If my wife takes me, we have to pay for gas for her car in both directions, so we’d only be saving a total of maybe $35, but she loses 8 hours of her life as well.

And they wonder why Americans don’t take public transportation like Europeans do.

By the way, because of my membership and the fact that I rent cars for work a lot, I actually have some bonus points I can use that gets the car rental down to about $45, which ends up making that option virtually the same cost as my wife driving me, so that’s definitely the way I’ll do it. Most people wouldn’t have that option so I didn’t mention it before because even without it, the rental car and driving it is still likely the best bet for most people.


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