Stranded rental car costing man $30 a day

Stranded rental car costing man $30 a day
PORT ANGELES -- Claude Hite is ready to take on a rental car company.

The Chrysler PT Cruiser he rented for a camping and hiking tour of the Olympic Peninsula is still in the Hoh Rain Forest, stranded indefinitely -- and it's racking up charges of more than $30 per day.

Hite, 58, an epidemiologist from Tampa Bay, Fla., and a friend were stranded in the Hoh Campground on Nov. 6 after a furious storm made Swiss cheese of the road to and from the site.

The two were escorted out of the forest after a couple of days of eating venison in a cabin at the campground.

Olympic National Park rangers came for them, built a crossing over the washouts and the two walked out.

However, the car Hite rented from Thrifty Car Rental at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport was left behind.

Hite, who was in Port Angeles on Saturday, was told he would owe daily charges on the car until it is returned.

But he plans to talk again with Thrifty officials on Monday.

He doesn't want to give up.

If it takes a year to get the car out, which is Hite's fear, one estimate puts the total cost to him at more than $3,000.

"I have no problem with making a profit," Hite said.

"This is a little different."

Park tried to help

Hite said park officials tried to intervene on his behalf, but Thrifty turned them down.

Thrifty officials have considered giving Hite a lesser rate of about $20. He's now paying more than $30 a day.

"I though I was going to have to buy a PT Cruiser," he said.

"I don't want to buy it."

One option Hite has batted around is the possibility of telling his story in a Thrifty commercial, but Hite doesn't know if that is a possibility.
"I don't know if Thrifty or anybody else has the remotest interest," he said.

If Thrifty presses the issue and demands full payment, Hite said he may attempt to force the park to pay the bill, because he said he was told to evacuate after a 75-foot by 25-foot washout made the road out of the forest impassable.

"I don't really want to do that," he said.

The story has been featured on newspapers, radio and television stations thanks to Hite's wife, Pat, who began calling reporters to get attention for the situation, and the potentially staggering rental bill.

She said the media attention may have helped them.

"It's been overwhelming," she said.

The couple plans to build a retirement home near Lake Cushman in Mason County.

Claude, an avid outdoorsman, was on a tour of the Peninsula when the storm hit, Pat said.

Hite, who has been in Washington since he escaped the Hoh, was planning to spend the night in Port Angeles before flying to Seattle today and taking a flight back to Florida.

He hoped that his flight wouldn't be delayed or canceled by a storm meteorologists said was due today. "I'm hoping the storm holds off," he said.

"I'm keeping my fingers crossed."

Other cars stranded at the campground belong to park employees, said Park spokeswoman Barb Maynes.

Maynes said she doesn't know how many cars are there.

She said park officials don't know when the cars may be removed, but that various options are being considered.