I left my A4 In San Francisco
When mere words like “rental” and “car” are spoken together in a single sentence, a majority of us weary business travelers, vacationers and car lovers cringe; picturing long lines at airport rental desks, hidden fees and less than satisfactory vehicle selections and service. What if I told you there is an option out there with a silver lining set on changing the face of the rental car industry?
Austin, Texas based Silvercar is determined to set new standards in the car rental market, with top notch customer service, a hassle free tech-savvy smart phone enabled rental process (we’ll get into that a bit further on) and the crown jewel (at least to us Audi enthusiasts), keys to a shiny, fully loaded silver Audi A4. That “ah-ha!” moment just hit you? Stay with me here..
When I began planning a Northern California adventure to celebrate my wife graduating with a doctorate of physical therapy the moleskin came out and the checklist began:
- Flights – check
- Airbnb rental – check
- Must see destinations – check
- Rental car – ….
- Nips for said flights – check
With family in the San Francisco area we were centrally located to most everything in the city, but we’d need transportation for our extended adventures within the Bay and beyond; leading us up the twists and turns of the nauseating but breathtakingly beautiful Rout 1 to explore the far reaches of the Northern California coastline.
After what felt like countless hours scouring the internet for a rental car solution that fit our needs or requirements: quality, safety, features, cost, etc.. I remembered years ago a fellow journalist made mention of a Texas based car rental startup focusing on the Audi A4 platform. After a quick google search, not only did I find the aforementioned Silvercar, but also an article announcing rentals now available at SFO (San Francisco International Airport).
I jumped at the opportunity and booked our rental. From the start, the Silvercar experience was attractive, well designed, simple and intuitive. There are no hidden fee’s, no bait and switches or upgrades to speak of. Period.
The process is a simple one; book online or via the Silvercar smart phone app (available for the iPhone/Android platform) and follow instructions sent via SMS. The app guides you through each step with ease; from the initial reservation, to airport directions and pick up instructions to be shuttled to your waiting silver A4.
Viewing the Silvercar app from my cramped cabin seat while taxiing at SFO, I was given walking directions from my arriving gate to the airport shuttle and prompted to send a text message to a Silvercar representative when we were enroute. Within moments I recieved a text back confirming they were ready and waiting.
Stepping off the airport shuttle after pulling into the Silvercar airport pick up area, we were greeted by a cheerful and accommodating Silvercar representative who assisted us with our bags and brought us over to our A4. We were given a brief overview of the business, learned a smidge about the surrounding city and ultimately how we would activate and unlock our rental.
Using my iPhone with the Silvercar app loaded, I was told to scan a QR code located on the bottom drivers side corner of the windshield. After agreeing to our rental agreement and pressing “Start Rental,” on the app, like magic the car unlocked and lets us in. Our Silvercar representative walked us through all the various features of our A4, including how to pair our smart phones to the Audi multimedia system, via bluetooth and the onboard wi-fi network. A few moments later we settled in and set off in our A4 destined for the Bay Area.
Navigating with the A4 is a breeze utilizing Audi’s navigation system. My wife and I were able to plug in points of interest and play tourist without any problems. We made our way to historic Lombard street to have our turn rolling through the streets twists with a breathtaking unobstructed view of San Francisco bay. Halfway down the street my wife pointed out we were in good company; a fellow Silvercar customer was snug right up behind us as we slinked down Lombard. We exchanged a few smiles a wave and parted ways.
With help from the available onboard wi-fi, we spent days within the city exploring the many parks, attractions, wonderful restaurants and smaller establishments, like the duboce cafe (my wife may have formed a smoothie addiction here) and a handful of other attractions. Not to be forgotten, a trip to San Francisco wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Golden Gate Bridge or the infamous island of Alcatraz, both of which were bucket list items we crossed off during our stay.
A short day trip took us and the A4 just north to Napa County. Smooth and comfortable the A4 provided the perfect vehicle to hop from vineyard to winery to eatery, etc.. this is what people do on vacation, right? We certainly were not complaining. While connected to the in car wi-fi my wife was able to find Gott’s roadside; a gem of a burger joint located in downtown Napa. The weather was perfect, the onion rings crispy, shakes smooth and the company, very good indeed.
For a few days we bounced around the Bay Area with family visiting sights like the San Francisco Science Museum, which come to find out, has thoroughly enjoyable adult only evenings. Staring down a giant Monkfish or gazing at the stars via a rooftop observatory all while sipping on manhattans? Sign me up.
San Francisco alone could have kept us busy for the entirety of our trip, but It was time to leave the Bay Area and head North to explore the California coast. We packed up the A4, plotted our route via the coastal highway 1 using the included Audi nav to our final destination of Trinidad Head, around eight hours North, surrounded by the great redwoods national forest.
Saying that US route 1 is beautiful would be doing it an injustice; coastline covered with wild flowers, rocky pillars climbing out of the ocean as far as the eye can see, the fresh pacific salty and sweet air rushing into our wide open cabin windows… I will confess the windows were down to help reduce my wifes nausea caused by the hairpin twists, turns, switchbacks and elevation changes… I’m rocketing up the coastal highway in an Audi A4, there are only so many apologies I can make.
With a 2.0l, 16 valve, turbocharged inline 4, creating 220hp @ 4450 rpm, the A4 exceeded my expectations in terms of overall performance and agility while providing exceptional fuel economy and comfort. It was normal to end a day trip with an average of 30 mpg in mixed highway and city driving conditions. On this day, I can’t say that statement stayed true. When on route 1?
We stopped a handful of times along the route using our audi navigation to plot the most scenic areas before we dashed off the coast into the great redwoods to continue our journey on the historic 101, aptly titled the “Avenue of the Giants.” Historic 101 is lined with majestic, massive, out of this world sized red woods dating back some 700 years. We also found ourselves driving through the “chandelier tree” a giant sequoia, 2000 years of age.
After arriving to our Trinidad rental and settling in for the night we decided to pack up the next morning for a long day hike through the footpaths of the redwoods national forest, located a mere 15 miles away. Entering the park we were delighted to find wild elk grazing in a nearby field. We sat back in our Silvercar, engine off and enjoy a few peaceful moments with them. What a treat. We set out on our day hike, walking miles of fern covered ground, trying to hug massive trees and not find ourselves helplessly lost.
I found my wife back on the iPad, using the A4 as mobile command center to plan our next move. We discovered that “Fern Canyon,” used as a backdrop for the 1997 film Jurassic Park 2, was just a short drive from the Redwoods Park. It was a long, deep, dark drive through the redwoods towards the coast. We crossed a few small streams and navigated through less than ideal road conditions, but the A4 performed confidently with its Quattro all wheel drive system.
Reaching the entry point to Fern Canyon, we set off on foot leaving our Silvercar behind for our return. What we found next was just astonishing; straight vertical stone walls covered in lush ferns, lined the canyon floor with an endless stream of fresh water flowing out from the redwoods destined for the Pacific. The air was thick, sweet and super refreshing. I actually stuffed my face into some ferns along the canyon walls for a deep breath to really take it in. This is truly a remarkable place. What an experience to share together with my wife.
We may have slipped a few times and gotten a bit wet, but pretending to run from dinosaurs through the canyon made us feel like kids again. OK, I may have taken some creative rights on the image below, but I couldn’t resist.
Sadly it was time to make the long drive back to San Francisco and return our A4 before setting off for home back here in Vermont. The return was as easy as the pick up. A Silvercar employee greeted us at the airport drop off lot, took a walk around the vehicle and scheduled a shuttle ride back to our departing terminal at SFO.
Looking back on our adventure, Silvercar provided more than just a quality automobile; they provided peace of mind in terms of overall safety, accessibility, dependability and the assurance we would be taken care of every step of the way. More than a rental car, our beloved silver A4 became an integral part of this journey and the long lasting memories we’ll cherish forever.
To book your next adventure with Silvercar visit: www.silvercar.com