Gary Loncar and Patricia Wade won the trip of a lifetime.
They could each invite a guest for an 86-day, around-the-world journey valued at $42,000, with a head-spinning itinerary that included stops in 20 cities in Europe, Asia, the Pacific and the United States.
But both Loncar, a Grand Island resident, and Wade, who lives in the Albany area, turned it down.
They passed on the adventure and instead accepted $10,000 from Fuccillo Automotive Group, the sponsor of the contest.
Loncar, 68, explained it was too much time to be away from home and his wife has health issues that made extensive travel impossible. Wade said she and her husband already have plans for the January-to-March travel window set by Fuccillo, and the prospect of paying taxes on the value of the trip was financially daunting.
But turning down the international excursion was painful, she said.
"It was so, so tempting," Wade, 76, said in an interview. "It actually is the trip of a lifetime."
Loncar and Wade won the trips they'll never take as part of this spring's Huge-A-Thon contest, held online and at Fuccillo's 23 dealerships in upstate New York. One winner was chosen from each entry method.
The winners, who received a trip for two, would have left in January from New York City. Stops included London; Rome; Bangkok, Thailand; and Sydney. They would return to New York in March.
Loncar, a retired electronics technician with American Brass, entered the contest while making an online appointment for a 30,000-mile checkup for his Toyota Prius Hybrid at Fuccillo Toyota on Grand Island. He and his wife, Ruth, had lived in The Villages, a retirement community in Florida, for about 16 years, until moving back last July to be closer to their grandchildren.
Loncar said he didn't believe it when he found out he'd won. He said he's never won anything before.
"Nothing," he said. "We've bought hundreds and hundreds of tickets for the Lotto and the power lotto. Most we've won is one or two free tickets."
Loncar said he never seriously considered keeping the trip because none of the destinations really appealed to him, except for Australia. He said he was stationed in Germany with the Air Force and traveled throughout Europe.
His primary concerns, however, were a reluctance to leave for three months and his wife's need for follow-up care for her transplanted kidney.
"Taking into consideration leaving your home, and everything, upkeep of your home, you've got to worry about your medical on the road, it's a lot to take," Loncar said.
Loncar said, if the couple had won the trip when he first retired, at 53, they may have opted to take it. At their age, it's tough to travel for that length of time, leaving from one city to the next every four days or so. Packing is a challenge, too.
"I don't have 86 pairs of underwear," he quipped.
Instead, he took the $10,000 buyout, which, after taxes, may leave him with half that total. Loncar said he received the check last week.
For the trip, Fuccillo covered the cost of air fare, and hotel accommodations, but it looks like the winners were on their own for meals, Loncar and Wade said, so that also played into their decision-making.
But Wade said taxes, the fast pace of the trip and the plans she and her husband, Donovan, already have made for winter travel kept her from setting off on their around-the-world getaway.
It was a difficult decision.
The resident of Ballston Lake said she is an artist and she would have loved to take pictures at each of the sites along the way.
"I would be in my glory," Wade said.
She said she was thrilled just to win the contest, and friends and family members have lived the excitement of the victory vicariously through her and her husband.
The couple has purchased two vehicles through Fuccillo, most recently a 2014 Hyundai Sonata. They were having it serviced at a dealership in the Albany area when she saw something about a contest. She told her husband to fill out the form, and he put her name on it.
Wade said she later saw the ad for the Huge-A-Thon on TV, and said to her husband, "Wouldn't it be amazing if they won the trip?" And they did.
"The first thing my daughter said is, 'Is it transferrable?'" Wade said.
But the terms of the contest don't allow the winner to pass the trip along to someone else. She ended up taking the cash payout, too, and she's come to terms with missing out on her chance to live out an adventure straight from a Jules Vernes novel.
"I had my 15 minutes of fame," she said near the end of this interview.
The trip they turned down:
Start: New York City, January 2018
London, England; Lisbon, Portugal; Rome, Florence and Venice, Italy; Munich, Germany; Salzburg and Vienna, Austria; Budapest, Hungary; Bangkok, Thailand; Singapore; Sydney, Australia; Auckland and Queenstown, New Zealand; Honolulu, Maui and Kauai, Hawaii; San Francisco, California; and Houston, Texas
End: New York City, March 2018