Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Catch a BREEZY ride!

As you well know, life on the road offers an interesting array of opportunities and dilemmas, sometimes in the most unsuspecting places and ways. For instance, sometimes when we're thinking "And away we go!" we instead find a gate change downshifting us to "And away we go . . . to over there." Or worse yet, "Away we don't go--again," when we see the dreaded CANCELED gut punch flash before our eyes.

Other times, however, we enter an Unknown Transportation Zone and find we need to double-clutch just to keep up with the surprising swiftness and ease of the ride since due to our well seasoned seat-sitting traveling buns, we are prepared for the worst. Such was the case when, for the first time, I recently dared to approach the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) in Hotlanta Georgia.

Although I booked my airline reservations plenty early, I waited until the day before to figure my ride from the airport to the Hampton Inn near one of the dozens of Peach or Peachtree somethingorothers downtown. When I am travel weary--especially when I'm bone tired and bordering on YELLING--I book a private car since limo drivers often deliver a less herky-jerky ride than other alternatives, and my sanity and safety mean everything. But $77 one way when I'm on my own dollar? I'm feeling just a little cranky, not yet that desperate.

Next I move on to the share rides that make oh-so-many stops between the airport and wherever. While in the midst of that search I stumble upon a link for Ms. Marta. Hm. What's this?

A BUCK SEVENTY-FIVE? How good can THAT be? But it says it runs right out of the airport terminal, and the hotel tells me the peach-a-ma-hoosy station near them is just a block or two away. Well, I will have time to correct a mistake, so I think I'll give it a try. One thing I know for sure: it can't be less reliable than the airlines and it says it runs every 10-20 minutes, depending upon the time of day.

We'll see.
* * *

ALERT! ALERT! I am a woman traveling alone! Is it safe? What do I know about rails? And I've heard more than a few warnings about downtown Atlanta. Another call to the Hampton Inn helps assure me I'll have no problems. Plus, I'll be arriving with plenty of daylight to spare. Get over yourself, Charlene! Buck up and give it a whirl.

I have to admit that the MARTA website is slick, slick, slick. Maps, locators, instructions . . . . And who wouldn't want a "Breeze Card." Sounds almost as good as a beachy vacation, ey? "Over 590,000 MARTA Customers Have Caught the Breeze," it says on their opening page. "Fast & Easy." "Interactive." "Includes Bus and Rail." They even have a "New Rider Guide" and on the route map you can click on any station and it gives you all the information surrounding it, including PARKING availability or not!

I'm thinking they could have saved a lot of verbiage by saying, WE'VE GOT EVERYTHING! They even have a "See How to Use the Breeze Card" video, which I watch. Wowie. Just tap and go. By the time I leave for the airport, I feel fully armed to tackle Something New. And away I go!

Of course my plane is late departing O'Hare. Of course.

When I finally arrive at ATL, I follow the signs (with only one brief question to a passer-by) to MARTA and buy my round-tripper Breeze Card. Yup, just like that, I catch the breeze! Although I have a tad of trouble with the "just tap it" part, that's only because I'm trying to tap the green light rather than the tap pad. My dumb bad. But someone is there to help me out by pointing to the obvious. ("Poor thing," I hear her say in her head.)

I board the last car (the woman at the Hampton told me to) which is as clean as a whistle. Easy map on the wall so I can follow the stops. Nice. It's a smooth 19-minute ride, which beats all other modes of transportation by less than HALF!

[INTERJECTION: Do not file your Breeze Card too far away after you enter the gates; you'll need to tap it again to GET OUT of the gates at your arrival. Ask me how I learned this. No, don't.]

I ride the longest, steepest escalator (two of them, I think--or was it three?) I've ever been on, but I pop right out where I was told I'd be. A short walk, and Hampton Inn, here I am!

$1.75 and 19 minutes. Easy. Breezy. CLEAN. Smooth. Everything they said it would be, and more. I saved $75.25 by not taking that limo ride. Fabulous dinner or two, here I come!

Airlines, if I can catch that breeze all the way from ORD to ATL--or anywhere else I travel--I'll do it.

Readers, if you'd like to make any other comments about Atlanta's MARTA, jump right in. I admit I'm only a one-time rider thus far, but that ride was awfully dern good.


Anonymous said...

If you're ever in San Francisco, the BART interface to the airport is stunningly efficient as well.

Anonymous said...

MARTA helped make a 4 1/2 hour layover in Atlanta a "breeze" for me. I took it to downtown Atlanta to the CNN building and took a tour, then had lunch nearby. Best layover I ever had!

Susan said...

Okay your comment on my blog made me laugh out loud and go straight to my word processor. Thank you!