I had an interesting day Ubering on Friday. After a couple short runs in the morning, I ended up at the Madison airport and parked my Prius in the cell phone lot to write a little bit before the next call came in. Soon enough the Uber Partner app on my phone chimed and I drove to the rideshare island across from baggage claim to pick up my passenger (let's call her Claudette).
Claudette wanted to go to a campground in the Wisconsin Dells.
"You know, that's quite a ways from here, right?" I asked her.
"How long will it take?" she asked me right back.
I looked at my GPS, which had synched with the destination she had supplied via her Uber Rider app.
"About an hour," I replied. "56 miles." She was going to a resorty place on the far north side of the Dells. It would not be a cheap Uber ride for her. To be honest, I had never had a fare that long so I had no idea what would happen. The Dells has Uber coverage but it's a completely different area from Madison and the coverage isn't continuous between the two zones. I looked at it as a learning experience.
"How much do you think that will be?" she asked. "My friend called the Uber for me and I would like to pay her back."
"I usually guesstimate a dollar a mile," I replied. "So it could be upwards of 60 bucks."
That didn't seem to bother her and we set off. It was mostly highway miles and in the course of the journey I found out she was retired and that she and her husband had had a consulting business in DC that they'd sold some years ago, presumably for a decent profit if she was willing to throw that much money at an Uber ride.
A friend of hers met us at the Dells resort and threw me a decent tip on top of the considerable Uber fare. But I was now in the Dells, a solid hour from my usual Ubering territory. What to do? I didn't know if I could get Uber calls outside of the greater Madison Metro area, so this was a perfect opportunity for experimentation.
I left my Uber Partner app on and plugged my home address into my GPS. I pretty much had to drive back through all of the heinous, touristy, trafficky Dells to get back to Madison, so I figured there would be ample opportunity to receive Uber calls in the Dells if there were any.
I was moderately surprised when just a couple minutes after dropping off Claudette my phone chimed to alert me that someone in the Dells needed a ride, proof positive that I could get Uber calls anywhere there was Uber coverage. My mind erupted with glorious ideas of road trips to exotic locales, underwritten with Uber fares.
"I guess I'll spend today Ubering in the Dells," I said to myself as my GPS redirected me to the location of my new passenger, a woman from Mexico City who wanted a ride from one Dells resort to another. I was, after all, already there. Might as well make a day of it.
After I dropped off the Mexican woman, the next call I got was from an elderly couple at the Dells Amtrak station. It took me a few minutes to locate them because Uber was telling me they were at a brewpub a couple blocks away from the depot, but I found them in due course.
"Would you like some iced water?" I asked them as I loaded their bags into the back of the Prius. It was a hot day and I had put a cooler with small bottles of cold water in the back of the car that morning to offer to overheated passengers.
"No, we're fine," the woman said for both of them.
I assumed the elderly couple were going to a Dells hotel or resort, but was pleasantly surprised to see they were headed to the Madison airport.
I had mentally prepared to spend the rest of the afternoon suffering Dells traffic shuttling tourists around to restaurants and water parks. But now I was getting my trip back to Madison several hours earlier than anticipated and paid for!
The elderly couple didn't talk much on the trip and didn't take the bait on most of my attempts at small talk, though I did glean they had been traveling in Glacier National Park and were flying back to their home in Atlanta GA that evening from Madison.
After depositing them at the airport (they apparently tipped me via the Uber app, something I did not know could be done), I had a few more fares around Madison before calling it a day. The round trip to the Dells had made it one of the most lucrative days Ubering that I have had in a while, which was good because most of the week had been slower than usual and I wasn't going to be able to Uber over the weekend due to going up north to the cabin with Deborah on Saturday for a long weekend.