PASADENA, Calif. -- Columbus builder Don Bowles has quite a story to tell about his first visit to the Rose Bowl.
Bowles and his brother Doug were in California Monday for the Florida State-Auburn BCS national championship game.
Ten days ago, they had no idea they would be making the trip. Don won a raffle a friend conducted to raise money for the ill brother of one of Don's friends. Don bought two tickets for $25 each.
"I saw a Facebook post the Friday after Christmas that said I won," Don said, as he and Doug were relaxing just outside the Rose Bowl Monday afternoon.
The tickets in the raffle fell through, but Don was given $3,500. He decided to parlay that into a trip to Pasadena. He called his brother and asked if he was interested in meeting him. Doug, who lives lives in Calgary, said he was.
He bought Doug a plane ticket to Los Angeles and Don had to scramble to find a flight West. He finally found one, for $1,100.
Now, the story gets interesting.
"I didn't have tickets," Don said.
He was looking at online ticket sites, calling friends and doing when he could when went to Craigslist.
"I talked to this guy in Atlanta who had two pavilion seats," Don said. "At first it sounded a little shady."
Don met the guy in a Atlanta Home Depot parking lot just before boarding his flight to Los Angeles on Friday afternoon.
The seller told Don he worked for a non-profit organization and the tickets had been a gift. They did not have a face value on them, but they came with food and drink inside the stadium, Bowles was told.
He gambled, gave the guy $500 each and got on the plane.
He ended up with tickets worth $2,500 each in a newly constructed section of the Rose Bowl.
"He's always been lucky," Doug said.
Don had only one word to describe his seats as kickoff approached, "Unbelievable."
As he was calculating the cost of the trip, Bowles figures it is going to cost him about $3,500.
"This has been a great trip," Bowles said. "A great trip."
As lucky as Bowles has been, Brette Johnson has been that unlucky.
She left Columbus Sunday morning driving to Atlanta after her Delta flight was cancelled because of lack of a crew. She missed her connector in Atlanta. Delta booked her on a flight to Los Angeles through Indianapolis.
She landed, but that was as far as she got before snow shut down the airport.
As the game was getting ready to kick off Monday night, Johnson was in a hotel bar watching ESPN, her tickets up in her room
"There are no words to describe how disappointed I am," she said during a phone interview.
Johnson's brother Neal Johnson and her nephew, Jake, made it to Pasadena.
"I really wanted to see Auburn play in the Rose Bowl," said Brette, a 1992 Auburn graduate who works for J. Smith Lanier.
On the road
The Corleys of Phenix City didn't have to rely on a plane to get to Pasadena.
Phenix City banker Chip Corley, and his wife, Trish, made the massive drive from Alabama to Los Angeles with his parents, Tom and Harriett.
Asked if the journey through Oklahoma City, Las Vegas and California had been what he expected, Chip quickly said, "and more."
His father, a Florida State graduate, and mother decided to stay at the hotel and forego the game.
"Her eyes have been hurting, so dad stayed back with her," Chip said.