Sunday, January 27, 2013

Guest post and giveaway!

My little sister is one of the funniest and most creative people I know. Today, she's hijacking my blog with a post of her own. And to sweeten the deal, she's offering a free, handmade bow tie to one lucky winner. Enjoy her story, and check out the note at the bottom to see how to enter!

I walked down the aisle searching the plane for a window seat. I spied a middle seat in the emergency row between two older gentlemen that would do instead. Extra legroom, I probably wouldn’t have to talk to anyone… I’ll take it! I asked if the seat was available and the man in the aisle seat sprang out to let me in.

“I saved it just for you,” he said.

“Haha oh, thanks,” I said, while wrestling the book that I was eager to read out of my backpack.

 “Austin or Orlando,” he stated. I was confused. It wasn’t a question and I wasn’t sure if he was directing it at me.

“What was that?” I asked.

“Austin or Orlando,” he said again, this time with a slight edge in his voice.

It still was not a question, but I obliged him with an answer anyway. “Austin. Time to go back to school! You?”

“Disney,” he said with a smirk and a twinkle in his eye.

“Fun!” I said while flipping to the first page of my book.

The plane taxied into position for takeoff.

“Time to practice my flying,” the man stated. He rolled his magazine up and held it like a joystick in his right hand. “I won’t pull back until we reach 120 miles per hour.”

The plane gained speed. The man pulled up on his imaginary steering wheel at the same time that the plane pulled up.

“Landing gear up!” he announced at the same time that the landing gear rumbled below us.

I ignored the urge to run and instead looked back at my book.

“What are you studying?” he asked.

I held back an exasperated sigh and said, “Business and Political Science.”

“Want to be a politician?” he questioned.

“After I make my millions. What do you do?” I didn’t want to extend this conversation, but I also didn’t want to be rude. He had been waiting for this question since I sat down.

“I’m an inventor,” he said with another smirk and a side glance. “Yeah, it’s a portable alarm something something something. Want to see it?”

I nodded along at his description, pretending that I understood. I nodded emphatically that I would, in fact, like to see it, when really I would not. He took out his iPhone and flashed the locked screen with a background picture of a key.

“That’s it,” he said proudly. “You just unlock it and enter your phone number for your alarm system information. You should really get it. A pretty young thing like you. It’s only $499.”

I tried not to blink too much at the price or the fact that he referred to me as a pretty young thing. Even though I didn’t understand his invention, I inquired no more about it. It was time to read.

“Yeah, I’m working with William Shatner right now,” he casually dropped.

“Oh?” I said.

“Yeah, he is going to do a commercial about our product. He’s totally behind it,” he said, his eyes twinkling more than ever.

“Cool!” I said, trying to end the conversation.

“Ever sold anything?” he asked.

After I explained that I had indeed sold stuff, he said, “You’re tough. And you have a lot to say.”

I blushed, smiled politely, and glanced away. I looked at the ceiling, out the window, at my book, then, mistakenly, back at the man.

“I also read faces,” he said with a shrug.

“Oh?” I asked, expecting him to guess how creeped out I was.

“Yeah, I’ve just told you some stuff about you. You are a good girl.”

I blushed more. My face felt hot. I looked away again.

“Know how I know?” he questioned. “Your ears. Your ears told me.”

I laughed nervously.

“Yeah,” he continued, ”You’re not going to be a CEO, you’re going to get married and have a bunch of kids.”

My face was about to burst into flames.

“You’re going to be a great mom,” he stated.

Thankfully he announced that he was done reading me and I finally got to settle in to read my book. 30 minutes later, I was 60 pages into my book and the man decided that it was time to comment again.

“Have you already read that much?” he asked incredulously.

I thought about answering sarcastically that no, I hadn’t read that much, I was just flipping ahead to see what was going to happen, but I decided to bite my tongue. I simply nodded and continued to read. After a while he left to go to the restroom. I used this precious time to dig out my lunchable. I had been too afraid that he would start another conversation if I had got it out while he was next to me. He returned while I was building my last cracker sandwich.

“I made them turn the air off,” he boasted proudly. “The surest way to get everyone on this plane sick is to blast cold air on them, getting them chilled, and blowing germs around.”

I nodded as though I agreed with him, then I looked back to my book. 10 minutes later he declared that he was hot and turned his air nozzle on full blast. I gritted my teeth and kept reading. The man looked at my lunchables trash.

“Packed yourself a lunchable, huh?”

“Yeah,” I answered. “Sometimes you just have to act like a kid.”

“Wow. I can’t believe you said that, because I carry around this picture of myself at 10 years old to remind myself of that every day.” Sure enough he whipped the picture out of his wallet.

I nodded earnestly and went back to my reading.

Finally we began our descent. The man went through the motions of landing while I thanked God that he was remaining on the plane to go to Orlando and I wouldn’t have to talk to him anymore. As I crawled over him to exit, I wished him luck on his invention. He told me how nice it was to meet me and winked. I ran for the exit.

To enter the bow tie giveaway, leave a comment below to tell us of your strangest travel story. One entry per person, please. Winner will be announced Saturday evening, and will get to choose a custom bow tie from Meagan's vast, original collection!

Photo and bow ties by Meagan Rowell
[edit: Thanks to Danny, Mitch, Karen, and Hannah! You made us laugh so hard that Meagan wants to give you each a bow tie. She'll get in touch with you so you can pick it out. In the meantime, be sure to like Funky Fauna on Facebook!]


  1. Love it, Meagan. I was glad I was at home by myself when I read it, because snorts of laughter kept sneaking out of me.

  2. 6:20am rolled around, and with my bag on my back, I departed from the dorms. Maastricht is not a small city, and since the buses were not operating that early, I had to brave the biting Netherlands chill while walking the 20 minutes to the train station. I made it in plenty of time to catch the 6:50am train.

    I had planned my route thoroughly. The first few trains out of the Netherlands would be short, about 25 minutes each. After that, it would be smooth sailing on two separate 4 hour train rides through the beautiful German and Austrian country side. With an arrival at 2pm in Innsbruck, I would have time to explore, eat dinner and relax. My ultimate goal was to see the Alps, and just have fun. It was my birthday weekend, and while I wasn’t traveling with anybody, I was excited about going off on an adventure by myself.

    As the train departed and the coach started its gentle purr, I became increasingly comfortable. (German and Dutch trains are so very nice and inviting. Greek trains, on the other hand, are to be avoided) I had planned for this inevitability, so I nestled my bag close to my chest and prepared to doze off.

    Before placing my head down on the softer section of my bag, I turned on my phone alarm clock for 7:28, two minutes before my 7:30 exchange, and slipped it into my glove. This would allow me to wake up gently its vibrations without incurring the hateful glares of my passengers. Dutch people (or really, most people in general) do not like to be bothered by the obnoxious ringtones from cheap phones.

    Before I knew it, my phone was buzzing in my hand announcing my imminent departure. In just a few minutes, I would be making my first train exchange. I moved the sack from my lap and pulled out the phone to stop its alarm.

    And then, I despaired.


    I missed my stop.

    Crap. Crap. Crap. Crap.

    Slightly panicked, I extracted the train schedule from the seat before me and compared it to the scrolling marquee sign announcing the destination. Sure enough, I was lost. The next stop, in some obscure Dutch province, appeared to be a large enough hub for hopping trains, so I exited the train and began wandering the station for rail map. Having not found the map, I reluctantly approached the information desk. The elderly lady seemed to have no patience for my lost self and only grunted at me. Through my gesturing and muttering of cities and her grunting, we eventually communicated which train could transport me to Munich, the largest hub city and one my layover stations en route to Austria.

    It took a while, and I dared not fall asleep again, but I eventually made it all the way to Innsbruck. Far later than my original 2pm estimation, but 8pm wasn’t too terribly late. As it was, I had already planned on spending the next whole day in Innsbruck.

  3. Upon my arrival, I texted some guy named Simon that I had arrived, and that he should pick me up.

    I say "some guy", because you see, I had never met Simon. I found him on the website, which is a vast resource of people offering up spare beds and couches, for free, for travelers. I suppose it could be sketchy, but I really wasn’t worried about it. Simon and I had emailed a few times back and forth, and he seemed nice enough. On the plus side, I didn’t have to pay for my accommodations for the night.

    Simon showed up, and took me back to his house via the bus. He was 24 and had recently gotten back from studying abroad in the US. As such, he was staying at his parent’s house. As we entered in, his mother poured me a bowl of vegetable soup (it was unimpressive), and his father offered me a beer. After chatting for a few minutes, and once I had finished my dinner, Simon informed me that he was going out to a friend’s birthday party. I was invited.

    Not wanting to be left alone, I decided to join and went with him. Besides, this was my birthday weekend too!

    Since Innsbruck is home to a large international business university, everybody at the party could speak English. I chatted with a large group of people, demonstrated my expert Texas accent many times (to which there was much approval), and generally had a good time.

    As midnight rolled around, everybody wished me a happy birthday. A few girls gave me those European side cheek kiss things (you know, where they mostly rub cheeks with you), which I found exceedingly awkward. I really had no idea what I was supposed to do at that point.

    Thankfully, the party grew to a close shortly after, and so Simon and I took the bus back to his parent's house.

    The next day, it snowed so hard that I couldn't even see the Alps, which were apparently very visible on a clear day.

  4. All in all, while I didn’t get to see the Alps, the weekend was a success. CouchSurfing was not in any way awkward and I had a birthday party thrown by random strangers.

  5. Great job, younger Rowell! Most of my travel experiences have been relatively unremarkable...except there was this one time, and I would love another tie...

    I was 19 years old and flying solo on a road trip from Colorado to Virginia after a long summer vacation away from school. Considering my age and maturity at the time, I wanted to make the most out of every last moment I was in Colorado. So I decided to go out with some friends and party, the night before I embarked on the 26-hour trip back to the Commonwealth. In all honestly, it never occurred to me that there was anything wrong with this plan, until the next day rolled around and it was 10:00 am and I was still more than a half hour from being able to hit the road. This was going to mean that even if I was able to complete the most efficient trip possible I would be rolling into Virginia in the middle of the night/morning. I shrugged it off and started packing my truck.

    Finally I was ready to go, I Kissed my mom, hugged my dad, petted the dogs, grabbed a Big Gulp with a can of Copenhagen and hit the road. Day one seemed to have gone smoothly enough, I passed the time by calling my buddies, listening to "The Best of Michael Savage," and yelling at the odd sports talk anchors I would randomly pick up on the AM dial as I traveled across the Midwest. Yet, as I piloted that 1999 Dodge Dakota across the country pulling a small Uhaul filled with various pieces of furniture, I couldn't get over the irritation of my late start. I knew at this point, thanks to Mapquest, that most likely I wouldn't be arriving at my final destination until the wee hours of the morning. This was unacceptable (for some reason). So what did I do? I came up with a plan – simple addition and subtraction. I would subtract sleep form the trip and add time on the road during day 1. During my third stop of Day 1, I fueled the truck, washed the windshield, and most importantly grabbed a 5 Hour Energy AND a Venti Dark Roast at Starbucks (otherwise known as heaven on earth). Fully armed with the necessary amount of caffeine and nicotine I was able to travel well into the night without even the slightest sensation that I might fall a sleep at the wheel - and for this I was proud. I wheeled the truck and Uhaul into a somewhat dingy establishment known as, "MOTEL 6 - Mount Vernon, IL.” I thought to myself, “you are only going to be spending four to five hours in this place, so save some money and let the rich people stay at the Super 8. Super 8 is for sissies anyway…” I parked the truck, grabbed my backpack, and headed into the “lobby” where I was met by a person who looked like she had just been startled by my late arrival causing her to get off her comfy cot to check me in, and I must say that she was non-to pleased about it. Luckily for me, though, they still had room available (shocker), and though it was after two o’clock in the morning she checked me in anyway (it’s all about the customer at MOTEL 6). I made my way out to my room, locked the deadbolt, set the alarm, turned on ESPN, and eventually dozed off to sleep.

    The next morning I was awakened not by the beeping of an alarm clock, but rather by the glaring sun penetrating through the curtains in my “suite.” I panicked and grabbed the alarm. It said: 10:30 am. “Damnit, Mitch, you idiot!” I say to myself. I figured at this point that I didn’t have a chance of getting back to Virginia at a decent

  6. hour so I quickly ran through a cost benefit analysis of showering and taking my time versus rushing right out the door. I decided to shower, and justified that there was really no difference between say 2:00 am and 2:30 am, late is late. Finally around 11:15 I was back on the road. I had coffee and Copenhagen, but unfortunately I just barely missed McDonalds breakfast. Day 2 wasn’t all that bad in the beginning, I traveled through the rest of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and on into West Virginia – the land of no return (for reference watch Deliverance). If you have never driven through West Virginia consider yourself lucky. With the passing of each 1990’s pickup truck accented by a Dale Earnhardt #3 window sticker fully loaded with bearded men, dressed head to toe in camo (this was NOT hunting season – it was August), I became more skeptical of my surroundings.

    I am a little foggy on the exact time that I was passing through West Virginia, but it was late – call it midnight, when suddenly, BOOM a loud crash from the back of my truck! “Someone just ran into me!” I think to myself. I slow down and again and, BANG! I started to loose control of the truck and I could feel the trailer swaying back and forth forcing the truck all over the West Virginia Turnpike. I soon realized that the trailer was now completely unhitched from the truck and each time I hit the brakes the truck slowed but the trailer did not, causing it to crash into the back of the truck. I was finally able to get stopped on the side of the road, to survey the damage. I am sure as hell no mechanic, but I realized that the “safety pin” which holds the trailer hitch to the ball was nowhere to be found. I was relatively relieved when I realize that, in fact, nobody was running into me but rather the trailer just came off the ball causing it to break loose. I knew that I would not be able to continue until I got another safety pin, so I called AAA to tell them the problem. A nice Pakistani call center employee answered my call, only to inform me that I was in a region where 24 hour roadside assistance was not available, however most roadside assistance companies are a part of an affiliate program with AAA, and they should be able to bill AAA directly…along with some reassuring statistic that these regions constitute less than 1% of the USA and that they are very sorry etc. I relented and hung up the phone, and decided to call the cops (which turned out to be “Turnpike Patrol” whatever the hell that is, I halfway expected Paul Blart the Mall Cop to be my last chance at survival). About 45 minutes passed, and my phone battery was dwindling down. While I was waiting for Turnpike Patrol I placed a call to my dad to tell him the situation in case he never heard back from me, he jumped out of bed to try and locate me on Google Maps and concluded that I was, indeed, in one of the most rural areas of West Virginia and that I should be very careful. Insightful. I told him that my phone was dying and that I would call him back in the morning. I was sitting on the tailgate of my truck looking up at the dark tree covered mountains wondering how many eyes were on me when the trooper pulled up to the scene. He got out of his car and began towards me. He concluded in a matter of about one minute that he did not have the part I needed to re-hitch the trailer and assured me that he would get a tow truck to the scene who would likely have the correct part. My phone had died at this point so the trooper made the call for me from his cruiser, and then assured me the tow truck guy was on his way. I still remember watching that patrol car drive off into the night thinking to myself, “It

  7. cannot end like this,” as I was having flashbacks to every scary movie I had ever seen. Another 45 minutes came and went before the tow truck arrived. I jumped off my tailgate excitedly and walked over to meet the man who was going to be able to end this nightmare. I quickly ran through the problem with the driver and asked him if he was apart of the AAA affiliate program, to which he responded that he was. He also told me that he might have the part. I waited anxiously by my truck as he was digging around in his toolbox. Finally he resurfaced with a pin that looked to be the correct pin! He walked over to my truck and began to fiddle with the hitch, only to come to the realization that it is the wrong size! I repressed my urge to start yelling at the guy for being, of all things, and incompetent tow truck driver and asked him if he could call a buddy of his with the right part. I sort of just assumed that a tow truck driver in West Virginia would probably have a buddy with a shit ton of random parts in a garage somewhere nearby with nothing better to do at 2 am. Was I right? Yes. From his wrecker he called another guy claiming to have the right part, and drove off into the night. I was near my wits end, and contemplating irrational behavior when the tow truck drivers friend, who also happened to be a tow truck driver arrived on scene with his son who looked to be about 6 years old. I ran through the same information with this guy: the trailer fell off, I need this pin, bla bla bla. Remarkably tow truck driver #2 tells me that he thinks he has the correct part. He looks a the hitch, retrieves a pin from his tow truck, and in fact puts the trailer back on the hitch and I am ready to roll! I pulled out my AAA Member card with the intent of giving my information to this guy so that he could bill AAA. Looking back on the circumstances I have no idea why I thought this was plausible. “$150” he stated. Startled by this statement, I asked him if he was a part of the AAA affiliate program. He looked at me as if I was speaking Spanish and replied, “$150.” I pulled out my wallet and realized that I only had $198 left – of cash. So I look at the guy and said, “Sir, I am a student and I only have $98 dollars left.” The man rolled his eyes and said to me, “Ya know, I am not going to make any money on this deal, but I will help you out.” I carefully removed $98, ensuring that the $100 bill would not stick to one of the other bills, and handed it to the man.

    It might have been about 4:00 in the morning at this time, and I was only about 4 hours from school. I was tired and mentally drained from the events of the last four or so hours, but I settle back in to the drive when I realized I was nearly on empty so I decided to pull off the road to get some gas. As I came to the top of the exit ramp I saw tow truck #1 and tow truck #2 sitting side by side on the over pass. “Collusion!” I immediately realized. I was upset, but there was nothing I could do about it, so I turn down a little road that I thought, in my delirious state, would lead me to the gas station. About 200 yards down this road I realized that it is not going to the gas station as I could now see the gas station across the field. I was very low on gas and remembered that AAA considered me to be out of range, so I better not continue down the road. I was not very experienced driving with a trailer at this time, but I had to try to manage backing it up – straight – for 200 yards down this little road. I nearly jackknifed the trailer multiple times, but slowly I managed to get back out on the main road that took me to the gas station. I filled up with SUNOCO and drove straight through to Lynchburg, where I drove to my buddy’s house and fell asleep. I

  8. was so tired that I did not even bother plugging in my phone. When I got up that afternoon, I plugged my phone in and listened to my voicemail. I had several voicemails from my dad and sister – needless to say they were worried because they hadn’t heard back from me. I called them back and they all got a kick out of my experience, and were thankful that I was ok. I however was still upset that I was out $98, so I wrote a letter, not dissimilar to this one, and mailed it to AAA. A month later, I received a check for $98 in the mail.

  9. (can I just submit my entire series of tweets from #BusRide2012? I am kind of serious about that. It was the best time I've ever had while travelling. So if you think that is better, I'll switch out my entry.)

    If that doesn't work, try this:
    I was 15 (almost 16 I would have quickly added, had you asked at the time) and riding the amtrak to central Missouri to visit my big sister in college for a weekend. On this train was a 19 year old boy, also going to visit this college for the weekend to see his friends.

    We started chatting. (Mistake #1, naive young Karen. Never talk to boys.)

    By the end of the 3 hour train ride, Matt had gotten my phone number. NOT ONLY THAT but he had made up some baloney about his phone being broken so he had to grab my phone and call himself. (Later, of course, I realized that this was so I couldn't give him a fake number. What a creeper!)
    Some sample topics of conversation: his fledgling Mixed Martial Arts career which he was pursuing instead of colllege (NO JOKE.), Hilary Clinton (this was fall of 2008, so she was a hot topic. As she will always be, of course.), God (I was a naive 15 year old Christian. I figured that as long as you talked about God it counted as "witnessing" and then it was fine to talk to 19 year old boys, in the eyes of my parents and God. I was wrong.), and my inexperience in traveling alone and many other things. (Tip for you, current 15 year old girls: NEVER admit inexperience to boys. they suddenly become EXPERTS on whatever you're inexperienced in so that you feel in awe of them. never admit weakness!)

    Let's be clear: he KNEW i was 15 (almost 16, let's be clear!) and he was 19. And yet this was something he was okay with?

    Anyway, that weekend he texted and asked if I wanted to come over to watch a movie with him and his friend Patrick. I may have been dumb, but I wasn't THAT dumb, so that was a definite pass. And I avoided him the next day, too.

    We rode the train back to St. Louis together. I invited him to church (again, to fulfill the requirements to make it "witnessing" and not "icky train interaction with cute but inappropriate boy"), and got off the train and that was that.

    Except for telling my parents. Which I did as soon as I got off the train. Somehow they managed NOT to instantly grab my phone from me, snap it in two, and forbid me from ever leaving the house again. They probably should have. They did require me to not text him again, which was soooo totally unfair ugh eyeroll teenager stupidity.

    And that's why you don't leave silly 15 year old girls (almost 16!) on trains by themselves. Or let 19 year old boys grow up to be the kind of guy who gets 15 year olds' phone numbers. Eesh.

    The train ride itself was nice, though.

  10. (Disclaimer: I want Karen to win this contest, but I had to share.)

    When I was young (circa 12) my family took a trip to Scotland.

    At one point, my sisters and I split off from our parents to frolic in a field (as you do.)

    This incident occurred after my dad had tricked me into eating Shetland pony, which was traumatic but paled in comparison to what follows:

    While frolicking, my sisters and I happened upon a man in a kilt who had passed out (presumably from drunkenness) on a low stone wall.

    His kilt was over his head and he had a massive erection.

    THE END.

  11. I think Meagan knows my story of the flight from DFW to COS after I had dropped Blake off at college his freshmen year. I don't want a bow tie, but I know I'd win.

  12. I know the contest is over, but I'm still going to post this story, because it is the best thing that has ever happened to me and deserves to be included in this list of ridiculous stories. I took a greyhound from Corvallis, Oregon to Portland, Oregon. It was the best bus ride of my life.

    *ahem* I present to you:
    #BUSRIDE2012, a Series of Tweets

    -Instant seat-choice regret: sitting behind 2 flirting teenagers, one of whom just said the phrase 'hella tight' and nervously laughs a lot.
    -Boy is travelling with his acoustic guitar out beside him on the seat. Also, he just confirmed Girl's name. A little late for that maybe?
    -YESSSSSSSS! He just started playing his guitar in the bus. Playing A SONG HE WROTE about the girl on the bus. This is perfect.
    -I want WITH ALL MY HEART to see the lyric sheet he just passed up to Girl. It's the next great love song, I just know it!!
    -Boy subtly approaches the topic of age by asking "what grade were you in" and "how long ago was that" abt a story Girl is telling. Smooth...
    -Highlights from Boy: "I've always been good at athletic sports" (vs nonathletic sports?) "and that's when I discovered I could go blonde"
    -Flashbacks to a certain train trip I took at 15...and ended up giving a 19 y.o. guy my number. WHAT WAS I THINKING?Wait for a song at least! {NOTE: the story told in a comment above.}
    -Uh oh. Girl admitted it's her first bus trip. DON'T ADMIT WEAKNESS/INEXPERIENCE! Boy is suddenly SOOOO experienced on bus trips.
    -Girl:"my parents were sooo paranoid about me going by myself on the bus." *eye roll* MAYBE BC SONG-WRITING BOYS MIGHT FLIRT WITH YOU!!
    -Oh shoot! She's on the phone to parents, mentioned she was TALKING TO A BOY ON THE BUS. I can faintly hear the freakout in the background.
    -My favorite part is the things they come up with to restart the convo after pauses. The straws, they are being grasped.
    -They bonded over the fact that Girl didn't know that Salem was the state capitol and Boy hadn't learned that 'til last week. #ugh #teenagers
    -It's that time, i see: exchanging name in order to friend on fb. #sigh #ohShirley
    -Girl on fighting:"I'm like 's#!~ no! I don't need any reputations!'...but if i wanted to, i could put them in the hospital" Woah, Shirley!
    -Boy's playing what can only be a goodbye song, given the timing. It'll play over the credits when this is a chick flick. #bustrip2012
    -They're wrapping thing up: "glad I met a friend on the bus"but Girl hedges her bets: "maybe I'll meet another friend next time." Sorry, Boy.
    -#Greyhound Review: bathrooms: C. Timeliness: A-. Entertainment options: A+++.

    And THAT'S why you should always have a fully-charged phone on trips, kids: so you can live-tweet the ridiculousness going on around you. I wouldn't be such a creeper if the people around me weren't so ridiculous. It's their fault, not mine.