I made a crazy 550 mile drive from Orlando to Pensacola two weeks ago after a red-eye flight from LAX on American Airlines. The trip started rough when I had to wait 80 minutes for my checked bag to be offloaded from the plane and then a ‘slap my face’ in disbelief when I arrived at the car rental counter to realize that I found a $31 all-in 2-day drive out of Florida special rental car rate back in April for my road trip to New Orleans, but I had never actually reserved a car at that rate, even though I had made a notation in my travel plans that I completed a car rental reservation. My $31 one way car rental cost me $180 for two days and a New Orleans rental car drop-off.
The good news is I made up that $150 loss with my hotel stays on this trip including earning over 8,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points in New Orleans, a $100 Best Western travel card for a successful $92 best rate guarantee claim hotel night at Dallas DFW and I racked up one stay in Best Western and Choice Hotels with the option to earn $50 and 8,000 points in these programs with one more hotel stay this summer in each chain.
Holiday Inn Express Pensacola West – Navy Base
Holiday Inn Express Pensacola West-Navy Base was on the IHG Rewards Club PointsBreak list when it was released in late April. I booked the hotel the first day and it was gone off PointBreaks by the second day the list was out for hotel stays at 5,000 IHG points (equivalent to $30 hotel rate to buy 5,000 points).
Loyalty Traveler – IHG Rewards Club PointBreaks list April 26 – July 31, 2016.
The way my day started out in Florida had me worried that I would arrive to find this HIX hotel is actually on a Navy Base and I would not be able to access it as a civilian. IHG has a military contract and manages hotels on several miliatry bases in the USA. That is the case for a Holiday Inn Express in my home town of Monterey, California which is on a restricted base in the center of downtown Monterey. Since 9/11 the Presidio of Monterey is only open to military members.
HIX Pensacola West-Navy Base is located on a city street and not on a military base.
View of HIX Pensacola West street location from 3rd floor hallway.
The hotel had an attractive lobby with a sort of Asian Indian décor. There is a small lobby with chairs, couch, TV and coffee. A small mini-market is beside the lobby with microwave meals and other items.
I arrived around 8pm to learn that the Florida Panhandle is actually Central Time Zone and it had now been 37 hours since I had gotten out of bed in California. I was ready for some horizontal time.
“Blinded by sleep and in need of a bed, I came in from the east with the sun in my eyes.” – Bob Dylan
I memorized the words to Dylan’s Isis on a road trip through Death Valley National Park a few years back and it usually comes to mind as a strategy for staying awake when I am driving by myself on a long road trip, like 15 hours across Florida. My voice is not suitable for an audience and my wife cranks up the radio to drown me out in noise whenever I start singing in the car with her.
Breakfast was the standard HIX fare with biscuits, gravy, scrambled eggs, sausage, oatmeal, juices, yogurt and breads.
Wifi worked well early in the morning, but I switched to my iPhone hotspot after breakfast when it the hotel wifi slowed down.
My only complaint about the hotel is the elevator was very slow for the 4-floor building. My room was on Floor 3 across from the stairs and I ended up using the stairs as the quicker way up and down the floors until I checked out with my luggage. There is a guest laundry room on Floor 3 next to the elevators.
Pool and Fitness Center
Every morning in the Gulf states when I walked outside on this trip my camera lens instantly condensated from the high humidity. The fitness center is in a small building separate from the hotel behind the outdoor pool.
I worked out in the fitness room before hitting the road again for the 250 mile drive to New Orleans.
My arm was sore after a 30 minute workout on an elliptical, which seemed curiously odd.
Heading out of the hotel, I asked if gas was more or less or about the same in Alabama? The front desk staffer said her sister lives in Alabama and told her gas cost less there. And it was about 20 cents per gallon lower in Alabama when I stopped outside Mobile a couple hours later and paid about $2.00/gal.
By the time I reached Mobile, my body was weak, my ears ached, my throat was sore and I knew I had contracted the cold/flu my wife had been suffering from for the previous week. I stopped at a Winn-Dixie and loaded up with five quarts of sports drink fluids to combat my sore throat in the 95 degree afternoon heat.
After my luggage fiasco at Orlando MCO and the blown car rental deal, I expected the Holiday Inn Express Pensacola to be the third rail derailing my 12 day trip to the South. Holiday Inn Express Pensacola West-Navy Base was fine as a hotel, and a particularly good deal as a PointBreaks reward stay for 5,000 points.
The third rail derailing my trip was a serious illness that kept me weak and tired for most of the next week while I camped out in my room at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans and missed most of the U.S. Travel Association IPW conference, which was the primary reason for my trip.
I had stayed in a Holiday Inn Express last night before arriving in New Orleans.
How could this be happening?
On the Road to IPW – Orlando to New Orleans
Loyalty Traveler – CostcoTravel.com $11 rental car drive out of Florida road trip (April 10, 2015) – these are the kinds of car rental deals I booked in 2014 and 2015 to drive out of Florida on low one-way rates by picking up a rental car at a Florida airport and dropping it off somewhere outside Florida. In the spring months it is possible to rent a car for about $10 to $15 per day and drive it most anyplace in the USA, even California. In 2014 I drove Jacksonville to Norfolk along the Outer Banks of North Carolina and in 2015 I drove to Nashville on a road trip visiting Congaree National Park South Carolina, waterfall country in western North Carolina and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Loyalty Traveler – Rough Start for Drive Out of Florida road trip to New Orleans (June 16).
Loyalty Traveler – Orlando to Pensacola road trip notes and photos (June 17).
Loyalty Traveler – Beautiful Sweet Home Alabama driving U.S. 98 and U.S. 90 (June 20).
Loyalty Traveler –Dispatch from New Orleans-Huge Ass Beers, NOLA Gay Pride, June Mardi Gras (June 22).