Yesterday was the first day of our third bitcoin-only cross country tour. This time, instead of traveling in our family minivan, we flew to the North East in order to pick up a converted school bus (basically, a bus turned into an RV for full time living and travel). John is getting ready for his speech on Freedom Cells at the Free Your Mind Conference, and our kiddos are sleeping in from the long night.
Below you can read my travel journal depicting our first day on the road (or should I say, "in the air") and the issues we faced:
Saturday April 11
Just when I thought bitcoin-only travel had become easy (for us), today happened. Today is day one of our Bitcoin Bus Tour. We flew out to Philadelphia for the Free Your Mind Conference so John could give a talk on Freedom Cells (an innovative way to use blockchain technology to organize society from the bottom up). Here we are at 1 AM with no hotel, although we have paid for two. The situation is unraveling as I type this, so let me tell you about the start to our trip.
The first issue I had paying with BTC on this tour was during the planning phase. I went to Target to get some luggage for myself and the kids (in our previous tours we used big tubs to organize our gear in the back of our van). The first issue was my mistake, I put in the USD amount of $100 into my Airbitz wallet instead of copying the BTC amount requested by Gyft. Whoops. Even though I figured out the problem and sent more BTC, the Target gift card never showed up. Then, at the register I bought another gift card, which usually shows up instantly, but it had a ten minute delay.
I contacted gyft and they said they had made some changes that will temporarily delay btc processing for about 10 minutes. So John and I used that knowledge while planning our departure, and decided to not buy cards at the register during this trip, as we had on previous bitcoin-only trips. The last second purchases worked great in 2014, but we this time around we don't want to risk holding up a line waiting for a gift card to land. We'll go back to our on-the-fly shopping when gyft has switched back to the instant process times. I feel very blessed to have built a relationship with the company, giving us easy access to this sort of information, and allowing us to plan ahead.
The lessons of that situation? Use the BTC address given to pay, and buy your cards earlier than you think you'll need them!
So we get our plane tickets via CheapAir, we take off from Austin, we land in Chicago for a 2 hour layover, and we decide to grab a bite to eat at an airport Chiles. We buy our gift card from gyft when we order so we know it will land in our gyft card wallet before its time to pay. How organized and on the ball we felt. Then we got our food. Yuck. Browning guacamole, wilted lettuce, oil pico de gallo. John sent his salad back and I started to feel the pressure of time. We finally eat and get our tab. We handed our waitress John's phone with the gyft card for Chiles pulled up, and then we wait... and wait.... finally a manager comes back and says the card isn't processing and that the problem is on Chiles' end.
After much conversation, they told us the meal was on them and to catch our flight we were now urgently late for. We pulled out a paper wallet, paid the waitress $10 in bitcoin as a tip, then ran to our plane to find that everyone had already been boarded. Thankfully we made our flight. I felt like that was enough bitcoin payment drama for one day, and was excited to land and head to our hotel.
When we landed we messaged the friend who said he might be able to pick us up, but it was so late we decided to get a ride on lyft by purchasing a gift card on gyft. John opens his phone to discover that gyft no longer offers gift cards for lyft! That's right, the ride share program we had planned to use for all of our airport shuffling is not longer listed as a gift card option on gyft. We then had no way to travel via car on bitcoin.
At this point we figure we are royally screwed. We search for bitcoin cab companies, we check egifter for other ride options, nothing. Then John has a brilliant idea - what if we rent our car a few days early? What if we find a car company that will let us use a debit card as a deposit, then allow us to pay the final bill with a bitcoin backed debit card that we will receive from WageCan later this week.
After calling 3 places, Enterprise says that will work for them. So we wait for 20 to 30 min for an Enterprise shuttle on the side of the airport sidewalk, we ride 10 minutes to the Enterprise office, and they say the debit cards won't work since we want to return it out of state. Thankfully I wasn't there to hear the news, I may have cried at that point! Natalie, the awesome woman helping us, made some calls and got us all set up with a car. Victory! Crisis avoided, although we had to use a non-btc debit card to make the hold (I think this could have been avoided if we already had our BTC backed debit card).
As we drove we book our hotel via CheapAir, we record our day 1 podcast, we were feeling good.... then we arrive at our hotel to find they did not get a reservation for us! Gah! Again! Our luggage, our meal, our rental car and now our hotel?
This starts an hour and a half process of figuring out where to stay. Thankfully, CheapAir has email support overnight and they will call you if you email your phone number. We tried booking a second hotel, expecting a refund on the first, but we booked after midnight east coast time and apparently that caused an error. So here I sit in the parking lot while John figures out where we will finally rest our head (literally when I typed that, John knocked on the window to let me know we are staying at the first hotel we tried!).
Day one complete. Hopefully day two is a bit more smooth!
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