I have never had police at my car window

Or: a gloriously overdue August entry to I Never. For the events entailed in this post happened exactly three weeks ago, on the first weekend of August.

Galacon 2014.

Not only did I travel over to Finland to volunteer at Crystal Fair, I also attended Galacon this year. Though I was originally planning to just go as a regular visitor, the Galacon committee was kind enough to offer Hearth’s Warming Con a vendor table. We arranged for some buttons, shirts, posters and bags, as well as some charming traditional milk maid caps.

But sales and promotion were not my only tasks this weekend. I more of less took on the unofficial job of logistics manager for our travel group, which meant arranging people in our five cars in such a way that everyone would make it to their hotel. As such, Stefan, who had arrived the day before at my house, and I arrived at around 9:00 am at Arnhem Central Station, where we had agreed to meet up.

Slowly but steadily, the group of bronies hanging around our cars grew in size, until we counted around 20 people. Unfortunately, one of the cars was delayed, which meant that our travels started later than expected. But in the end, everyone showed up, and after a bit of shuffling people around, we headed out to our first stop: Cologne (or Keulen for our Dutch speakers).

Getting out of Arnhem proved slightly more difficult than anticipated, due to the car in front of me (whose unnamed driver had insisted I drove the wrong way) driving in circles (thanks, unnamed driver). But to be fair, their newer navigation system did allow us to avoid some traffic jams on the highway.

Unfortunately, when approaching Cologne, the same issue from Arnhem re-appeared, and eventually we decided to just follow our own navigation system, which allowed us to correctly reach the McDonalds. We weren’t the only car with problems, it turned out, as another car was even pulled over by the German police.

Anyway, after an hour break (which was actually quite a bit longer than we expected), we set out again towards our second stop: Frankfurt. This trip went a lot smoother, except for our actual arrival at our agreed meetup-point. As it turned out, nobody was able to find it. There were some chaotic texts to and fro, but in the end everyone decided to just continue to our final destinations: our respective hotels in Stuttgart and Ludwigsburg.

Of the three sections in our trip, this one went the worst. We were driving on the A6, about 30-60 minutes away from our destination, when we got stuck in a traffic jam. In hindsight, I’m glad that we were moving so slow, because that’s when there was a loud bang and a rattling sound while moving. That’s not good. There was no emergency lane, so we moved over to the right-most lane and stopped the car.

Time to focus. We called the Dutch road services, who told us to call the German emergency number first (since we were still standing on the actual road). But before they told us they dispatched a car, a police wagon already stopped, presumably informed by one of the many passing vehicles.

The officers were very kind and managed to deduce what was causing the noise by simply looking under the car. It was pretty obvious once I saw it: the front part of the exhaust had fallen off and was scraping the asphalt. Not good indeed.

By now we were still blocking a third of the road and slowing the other two thirds, so we had to move. We were instructed to get back into the car. When we were back inside, one of the officers came up to my window (title drop!). It was such a perfect moment that I really had to restrain myself from jokingly asking “what seems to be the problem, officer?” Despite the meager circumstances, that was definitely one of the highlights of the weekend.

Anyway, we were directed to an emergency place, after which they left us to wait for the German road services. The road service guy put the exhaust back in place, but told us to find a garage at our destination. And finally, two hours after the whole ordeal started, we were back on the road.

Interestingly, we arrived at our hotel a mere fifteen minutes after the rest, who had driven passed the convention venue in a failed attempt to register their tickets early.

The day wasn’t over though, as the public transport we were hoping to use from hotel to convention would take an hour and a half. The new challenge felt reminiscent of those cabbage/goat/fox puzzles where you have to transport all three across a river. Or in our case, how do we get all passengers to the venue with one car down? Of course, just like a proper puzzle, there were added restrictions, such as three of us needing to be at the venue early to set up our vendor booth, and two of them being drivers.

But we found a solution. And after a long day of travelling, adjusting and planning, late at night, we were finally ready for the next day.

Similar to Crystal Fair, I didn’t follow much of the Galacon program. On Saturday morning, after setting up our stand, I took the car to a nearby garage, where I waited for about an hour to be told that they didn’t have the required part in stock. They did, however, know that it would cost about 350,- euros to purchase it. But that would have to wait until I got back home, as it would not arrive before we left.

During the afternoon, I ran a shift at our stand. Sales were ok. The most important thing was that we managed to become more known among the visitors.

The evening was of course the gala, which I enjoyed greatly. It’s good to look your best at an event, even though my best is usually a simple, low-effort shirt. Still, it looks good. Anyway, kudos to the Galacon staff. The gala was a blast! Also, I learned how to line-dance.

Sunday was a short day. During the morning, I was again at our booth. It was pretty quiet, what with the gala and party the night before. In the afternoon, I visited M.A. Larson’s panel and Lena and I ran around to get as much signatures on a Hearth’s Warming Con poster, so we could offer it for auction. Unfortunately, the auction was cut short due to time constraints, but that does give us a pretty cool item for our own auction in February.

We didn’t stay for much longer after the convention. I went with some of the Galacon and Bronydays staff, but due to some unforeseen circumstances, we didn’t have long to talk. I decided to try and get as much sleep as possible, as the next day would once again be exhausting.

I got up early on our final day to visit the nearest Peugeot dealer, hoping they might have the broken part in stock (they didn’t). So, the trip back would have to be with a mostly working car. It wasn’t that bad, though, as I had good company during the trip. A Seattle girl was taking a trip to the Netherlands. We had a very good conversation, and I was very impressed by her travels. It has made me want to attempt a solo travel. Maybe next year.

In conclusion, it was a stressful weekend, with lots of things requiring my attention or simply going wrong. But in the end, I had some great moments and it has been an inspiration for the future.

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