Here’s the basic scenario: I’m in Avon, NC at 6 PM. I need to be in Albany, NY at 8 AM the next morning. I’ve done this drive a hundred times, it takes 12 hours with light traffic, and costs ~$26 in tolls (going North, coming South is $4 more). So, I figure I’m good to go- I’ve got 2 hours to spare on the timeline. My wallet is a bit light, but that’s what ATM and credit cards are for.
The start of the drive is great, heading up through Pea Island and over the Bonner Bridge. Anytime I make it over that bridge, I breathe a sigh of relief… (read why here
). No problem going through Nag’s Head, and I decide to stop and hit up a drive thru ATM for toll cash. Business as usual. Until no money comes out, and the machine flashes a message saying “card retained.” 2 seconds later, the welcome screen comes back on, like nothing ever happened.
Bank’s closed for the evening. A quick check of my wallet reveals substantially less cash than is necessary to make it to Albany. Ahhhh- my credit card has a cash advance program! then a sinking feeling as I remember conscientiously not memorizing the pin number, and ripping up the associated papers due to the 24.998756 percent interest on such transactions…
Due to my limited time budget, I start driving again, rationalizing a course of action while underway. A lot of the toll roads are easy to circumnavigate, but I’m not familiar with the other roads, and how much time it’ll add to my trip. I test the waters on 158 in Currituck, ducking off the highway right before the toll booths. It takes what I assume to be about 7 extra minutes to take the business route for a few miles before hopping onto 64 in Norfolk. Not bad, and I saved $2! I’m well on my way!
Anne’s got my back, I call her for computer support, and she advises me of alternate routes, and the time and dough involved. None of them pass the requirements. Then she alerts me to the fact that the Bay Bridge Tunnel accepts credit cards for toll payment! Again, I test out the theory, and find that it’s true, but that it took an extra 15 minutes… At this point I’ve got about an hour and a half of my original 2 spare hours left. And there are an awful lot of toll booths left in front of me!
So I plod on, theorizing different solutions. About 1 am, while talking to Ace, and reluctantly handing over one of my last dollars to a Toll Booth Attendant, Ace says “Oh, dude! Buy an EZ Pass!”
Ding ding ding ding ding! Ace, you’re the MAN!
Filling out the paperwork and getting the EZ Pass
activated by the sleepy and uninterested toll booth office guy
-30 Minutes. 1 hour of spare time left.
One time activation fee
-$25, on the credit card.
Blowing by the next toll booth without stopping and opening my empty wallet