Rose Bowl Trip
We had a year to plan our trip to the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, California. Best of all, we had a year to pay for it. We jumped at the chance when Greg and Val asked if we wanted to go along with their family to watch our youngest granddaughter perform with the Blue Springs [Missouri] High School Golden Regiment Band. It was the trip of a lifetime. Could only have been better if the weather hadn't been freezing that year and if I, who rarely gets sick, did. This is the story of that trip in chronological order.
In late January, Ray and I traveled to Tan-Tar-A Resort at Osage Beach, MO, to see granddaughter Zoe, 16-year-old flutist, perform with the Blue Springs High School Wind Symphony at the Missouri Music Educators Association Conference. Even better, we plan to spend next New Year’s Day in Pasadena watching Zoe and her Blue Springs High School Golden Regiment Marching Band strut their stuff in the Rose Bowl Parade.
Only downside to the upcoming trip: I don’t like flying in winter. Last time we did was the winter of 2002, our first — and so far only — trip to Hawaii. On the last leg of our flight home from Chicago to Kansas City, a fellow passenger asked, "Have you heard about the big ice storm?" When we reached our car at our park and fly hotel, it was covered with about three inches of ice. And where were our coats? In the car, of course. Ray chipped ice for a long time to get a door open so I could start the car, heater and defrosters while he continued chipping on the windshield. I don't want another homecoming like that!
But my glass is always half-full so I’m betting next holiday season will be unseasonably warm and everything will come up roses!
Wouldn't you just know that our trip to California to watch granddaughter Zoe march in the Rose Bowl Parade would be the coldest parade on record? Nonetheless, it was a wonderful experience which I will write about by days, beginning where I should with Day 1. I'll be adding onto the bottom, rather than the top of this post during subsequent postings, because I don't think I could write (or you would want to read) it all in one post. The photos at El Capitan Theatre, Universal Studios and Disneyland are courtesy of Greg. I took my camera only to the parade. That said, here goes.
12/27 - Day 1: We fly out
Sometimes we get it right. Like being smart enough to spend the night at Greg and Val's home in Blue Springs since we had an early morning flight with a portion of the very large group accompanying and comprising the Blue Springs High School Golden Regiment Band. The entire group was distributed over many flights and carriers throughout the day.
Sometimes I get it wrong. Like leaving my sunglasses in the car along with my just-washed and sopping wet Jayhawk visor -- wrapped in a plastic sack — which I planned to air dry at their house. The flights (we changed planes at Dallas/FortWorth) were uneventful and we were picked up by motor coach at LAX and transported to . . . you thought I was going to say hotel, didn't you? . . . Farmers Market. Did I mention it was COLD? And that we weren't dressed for it? Well, it was and we weren't!
I want to go there again some nice warm day. I know it won't be beautifully decorated for Christmas like it was, but I'd gladly forgo that for not being a Popsicle. We chose to have dinner at Monsieur Marcel's (yep, French) restaurant only because everything was open-air and I was allowed to sit under a large propane heater there. I got so warm and fuzzy that I came home with some ginger orange marmalade which I bought at Monsieur Marcel's adjacent gourmet market.
Once checked in at our very nice highrise hotel that night, all I wanted was a nice, long warm soak and bed. Who knew we were in one of the rooms that wasn't blessed with hot water? Ah, well, tomorrow is another day and we are heading to . . .
12/28 - Day 2: Hollywood!
Remember the visor I left soaking wet in our car? This is what I replaced it with for a bargain five bucks. Paid the same for sunglasses at a place in Hollywood having a half price sale of its Everything for $10 items.
This was after our walking tour of Hollywood which was a lot more fun than it sounds. Our guide was a young sometimes actor/sometimes tour guide who studied pre-med in North Carolina. Our guided group consisted of five adults (Ray, Greg, Val, a teacher and me) and about 20 high school band kids. Right off the bat, in front of the Egyptian Theatre, the guide asked how many had heard of Douglas Fairbanks. The kids were as clueless as I would have been if he had asked who the latest rap star was. When five of us raised our hands, the guide said, "There are five old people on the back row who know who he is." Everyone laughed, including us.
We walked around Hollywood over the stars' signatures and hand- and footprints. There are stars for five different medias (film, records, stage . . . and I forget the other two). Want to know the only person who has a star representing each media? Gene Autry. Surprised me! At the conclusion of the tour, back at the Egyptian Theatre, Ray gave the guide a nice tip. I gave him one, too, which he'll likely remember, "I want to leave you with this parting thought: Old people tip!" I was laughing when I said it so he knew I wasn't chiding him, but he did ask his boss to unlock the theater so four of us (all adults, kids have bladders like camels) could use the facilities. I'm not sure whether Ray's tip or mine was responsible for that courtesy and I really don't care.
Ray says the highlight of our trip to Hollywood was a visit to an upstairs Marshall's where Val and I bought long underwear, Under Armor for her, fleece Cuddle Duds for me. It was a shock to be asked if we wanted to pay for a sack to put our new undies in, but we both assented because we were headed to Dave & Buster's, an arcade and restaurant where we ate sliders, chicken fingers and pigs in blankets. Ray gave the game tickets he won to Val, who combined them with hers and chose Post-it notes and coasters (opting against stuffed animals).
That evening we went across the street to El Capitan Theatre, said to host all the Disney movie premieres. I was having a great time sitting in the beautiful and blissfully warm theater, eating popcorn, M&Ms and drinking pop while waiting for "Into the Woods" to start, when a magnificent organ and an even more magnificent organist, dressed in a red velvet tailcoat, raised out of the stage floor. For an hour, he played Disney soundtracks and, I assume because it was the Christmas season, "Hallelujah!" He was fantastic! After a bow, he and the organ descended back into the floor and the movie began. At its conclusion, we walked a block to the bus and headed back to the hotel. A great day AND I scored some Cuddle Duds! Tomorrow we go to . . .
12/29 - Day 3: Universal Studios
Did I mention that it was cold at 10 a.m.when we boardedour Bus 6 and headed to Universal Studios? And that my fleece Cuddle Duds were drip-drying in the hotel bathtub? Somehow I thought a cami, long-sleeved T-shirt, flannel shirt and the thick fleece jacket I bought in Juneau would be enough to keep me warm. WRONG!
Our first stop at Universal was where Val and grand-daughter Sammi posed for pictures with the Grinch and his dog Max. Val loves Max! The line for a picture was long but we think it was worth it.
The second stop was so Ray, Greg and Val could ride The Mummy Returns: Chamber of Doom. Don't let the name fool you. It's a roller-coaster. I don't do roller-coasters, especially ones that make you stow your stuff in a locker so it doesn't fly off and injure someone. Ray once sweet-talked me into riding the Scream-roller at World's of Fun. That thing went upside-down twice. It started to sprinkle just as the ride ended and the guy operating it said, "Since there's no one in line, you can stay on and ride again. Just raise your hand if you want to get off." I really tried to raise my hand, but I couldn't get it to loosen its grip on the safety bar. Ray says I was still mumbling, "Want off! Want off! Want off!" as the ride began again.
While they waited in line at The Mummy for over an hour for a ride that was over in 90 seconds, I found a sunny bench to sit on and had fun watching passers-by. Two guys in camouflage uniforms walked by and I was just about to thank them for their service to our country when I noticed TRANSFORMERS stenciled on the backs of their shirts.
Ray and I chose to have lunch at Mel's Diner (a take-off of the diner on the Happy Days sitcom starring Henry Winkler who is now pushing reverse mortgages on TV). We had once eaten at Mel's Diner in San Francisco and knew it was a fun place with good food. Greg, Val and kids ate at a place with healthier and pricier food than cheeseburgers and onion rings.
By late afternoon, it began to get chilly (not that it was ever really warm) and Sammi bought a heavy sweatshirt to wear over the one she was already wearing. By 5:30, I was freezing and we still had three hours to go before we could board the bus for the hotel. We progressed with exceeding slowness through a twisty maze of a line to take a tour of the studio backlot. The last time Ray and I visited Universal Studios, E.T. was a ride — my kind of ride where we appeared to be seated on bicycles with a blanket-covered E.T. in the basket in front of us as we soared over terra-firma. That ride was long gone, but the shark from Jaws still came out of the water to scare us and we still encountered an earthquake. What I didn't remember the first time we took this tour was the tour guide saying, "You will get wet." Wouldn't you think they'd turn off the water when we were already cold?
After the tour, we found a stand selling hot chocolate. Grandson Gabe joined us and ate a humongous turkey leg (more about that later). We walked around the park — it is warmer if you keep moving — and counted down the time until we could load the bus. I don't know the significance to Universal of the sign above us, but Greg got down on his knees to get it in the photo.
By that time, I had a sore throat which reminded me that Ray said on the flight out, "If we don't catch something on this plane, it will be a miracle!" Whether I got my sore throat from someone or gave it to someone else, I do not know. But I do know that 10 hours is way too long to stay at Universal Studios when the temperature is in the 30s.
By the time we arrived at the hotel, I told the kids that, as much as I hated to miss tomorrow's Float Decorating tour and Golden Regiment playing in Band Fest, I was going to have to take the next day off. Ray opted to stay with me so we . . .
12/30 - Day 4: Napped and
Everyone knows I cannot nap in the daytime . . . unless I am ill. We slept in, woke up, ate granola bars and took a nap. About noon we awakened and decided to take the hotel shuttle to Wal-Mart to buy Cold-Eze, Mucinex, chair cushions and a blanket for the parade and an Under Armor top for me. But first the shuttle driver dropped off at their cruise ship two couples sharing our shuttle. I said, "I hope you are going someplace warm!" I almost meant it.
Downtown Long Beach is interesting and I could have done some serious shopping there had I not been sick. The sun was shining after we finished our Wal-Mart shopping so we sat on a bench outside and waited for the shuttle driver to arrive and transport us back to the hotel.
Although we didn't know it, Gabe was having troubles of his own. He and Sammi had been picked up that morning by their friend Jake who wanted to show them around his California home. Gabe, who swears he hadn't hurled since he was a young child, yelled at Jake to stop the car and made it into the bathroom of a veterinarian's clinic in the nick of time. Remember that turkey leg? We're blaming the turkey leg!
Back at the hotel, Ray and I took another nap and when we awakened it was so dark we thought it was evening. Nope, it was just raining so hard the Golden Regiment didn't participate in Band Fest because they couldn't risk getting their uniforms wet. We didn't miss their performance after all because there was no performance. We did miss seeing the floats being decorated, but Greg and Val felt so sorry for us they brought me a lovely, warm Tournament of Roses scarf and pins for each of us. Ray fastened his pin to his cap.
We felt well enough to go with our group to Gladstone's, a very nice restaurant on the water. Sadly, the rain was still falling and the best tables were all wet and getting wetter. And it was cold so we found a place inside, ate well, but were glad to depart for the hotel at 9:30.
We turned in early. Why? Because tomorrow we are going to the happiest place on earth . . .
12/31 - Day 5: Disneyland!
Do we look happy? Well, yes, I guess we do. As I wrote earlier, put a camera in front of us and we will grin like we had good sense.
Luis, our driver of Bus 6, dropped us off near the entrance to Disneyland way too early for me. But, good sports that we are, we entered the gates with the kids, promptly abandoned them and headed for the robotic President Lincoln theater which had plush seats and was nice and toasty. From there, we haunted warm indoor souvenir shops until we decided to have lunch. Food was good, but we had to eat it at tables outdoors which chilled my hot soup before I could scarf it down.
Sometime that afternoon, we took a train ride and listened to the Florida State Band play. Their baton twirlers showed a lot of skin as if they were still in balmy Florida. (I blame the frigid temperature for causing one to drop her baton.) However, as good as that band was, directed by a guy dressed as a Seminole standing on a ladder, we weren't there to hear them; we were eagerly awaiting Zoe's Golden Regiment Band that was scheduled to march between Toontown and Town Square at 4:40 p.m.
Before the GR's performance, we had time to take another train ride with Greg, Val and Sam (Gabe missed Disneyland because he was still recuperating from his bad turkey leg, or as he now thinks, the bad ham wraps he had before he ate the turkey leg. "I don't think that food place had good refrigeration," he explained. And I replied, "All they needed to do was store the food outside.") We really regretted Gabe's absence when we saw the Jack Skelington ride because he loves everything about "The Nightmare before Christmas."
But I digress. I forgot the chill in the air when Zoe and her band proudly marched by us. Then, in Town Square, they played their signature "Soak up the Sun" song. Ahhh, if only we could. After their performance, our family group proceeded to the other park, Disneyland California Adventure where Val wanted to ride the Tower of Terror. Been there, done that at Disney World. Not going to do it again. My idea of fun is not — repeat NOT — getting on a crowded elevator in a ramshackle hotel that gives way and drops you several stories . . . and more than once. Like a trooper, Ray stayed with me. Sad, because he likes those rides, too. If I had a dollar for every time I stood on solid ground and watched him ride some roller coaster, including the now gone big monster that went out over the ocean at the old Pike at Long Beach, I would have a fist full.
We did find a place we both liked: Starbucks where we sat on stools facing the window and watched people walk by wearing plastic top hats (remember, it was New Year's Eve) while we guzzled hot chocolate. Between multiple hot chocolates we went across the street and bought grandson B.J., back in Lawrence, a Mickey Mouse ball cap. The nice clerk who sold it to us offered to embroider B.J.'s name on the back. He doesn't have it yet but he's going to love it!
Throughout the day and evening, we felt sorry that Gabe was missing out on the happiest place on earth. Val mentioned that Gabe's main worry had been what he would eat and she replied that the hotel had restaurants and he had money. Sure, he was recovering from food poisoning, but he is a young man who just graduated from K.U. and we all know that boys and young men have hollow legs. Besides, it was New Year's Eve, so our normally frugal grandson headed to the hotel's Ascari Ristorante (that just sounds expensive, doesn't it?). He ordered a four-course meal which he described thusly: "I had lobster bisque for an appetizer, a raspberry tart for the intermezzo [look that word up; I did], grilled salmon for the main course, then chocolate with fruit for dessert." The tab? $42 plus tip (Gabe is a generous tipper so we'll call it $52.)
We celebrated New York's ball drop turning 2014 to 2015 at 9:00 p.m. Pacific Time with fireworks at Disneyland (file photo, but I promise it looked just like that). Luis drove our bus back to our hotel where we set our alarm at 4:00 a.m. to wake-up and get dressed in multiple layers for the reason we traveled to California . . .
1/1 - Day 6: New Year's Day
Always cheerful Luis welcomed us on the bus around 5 a.m. and we headed to Pasadena. Once there, we walked many, many blocks, much of it uphill, to our seats in the grandstand at the parade's beginning. Plus, we were loaded down with cushions, blankets and multiple layers of clothing (I personally had Under Armor, fleece underwear, long-sleeve T-shirt, flannel shirt, Cabela's fleece-lined, rain-proof windbreaker and a heavy fleece hoodie . . . and that was just the top level of me; lower level had fleece underwear, jeans, slacks, two pair of wool socks). Ray didn't have on as many layers, but, even so, it was lucky either or us could walk at all . . . much less uphill. Oh, and I was carrying a camera.
Once seated, we had only a couple hours waiting for the parade to start. We positioned our metallic NASA blanket under our seat cushions, allowed it to drape behind our legs and held it in place with our feet. We covered the top with the blanket we bought at Wal-Mart (most of those seated near us brought blankets from the hotel but I was too chicken to do that). When I say near us, I mean we were crammed on the metal bleachers like sardines, but we didn't care because body heat was a big plus at that point.
Our entire group lasted almost an hour when everyone simultaneously decided to visit the porta-potties under the grandstand. Leaving our warm (relatively speaking) nest was hard. Finding a free porta-potty was harder, but we were back in our seats before the parade began with police on motorcycles and a trio of horses, one of whom delayed the parade by answering a call of nature sans porta-potty, giving the people with shovels something to do.
The crowd was excited when the stealth bomber flew over. Stealths are based at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri and we have seen them fly over our country home from time to time. Spying them is iffy; you must be looking up at the right time because they make no noise to signal their presence. In a crowd, however, only one person has to spot the plane and his/her excitement alerts everyone else. Still, I was fortunate to capture the picture because they fly fast.
One of the first bands — and my favorite except for Zoe's band which was the second to last entry in the parade — was the Koriyama Honor Green Band from Japan. You can watch them on YouTube by clicking HERE. It is amazing they could do those movements while playing. We were seated at the very beginning of the parade and the route was 5.5 miles long so I'm guessing they couldn't have done that routine the entire route.
We missed their performance at Band Fest because we took that rainy day off and mostly slept. So if, like I, you can't get enough of these great kids, you can watch their Band Fest performance in a driving rain wearing clear rain ponchos over their uniforms (some were even protecting their instruments with plastic wrap). The video is 16+ minutes and you'll want to watch it all — from a stirring Amazing Grace performance to a fun rendition of I Will Survive with guys dressed up as women. Click HERE to watch.
To be continued after a brief intermission. The parade has just started so please come back for more, including photos of some of my favorite floats (and the cutest little horse).
Oh, good, you came back. Here's the little horse I promised to show you. There were many horses in the parade, including the big Budweiser horses. Ray, who grew up riding bareback on his horse named Chief, loves horses. I do, too . . . from a distance. When we were dating, Ray persuaded me to get up on Chief sans saddle. What was I thinking? I didn't fall off when Chief began to move, but it wasn't comfortable. And I was smart enough never to do it again.
You know how Rose parade announcers on TV always say how fragrant the floats are? Perhaps it was because of the frigid temperatures, but I didn't small a single flower. Still, the floats were beautiful and I took pictures of some of my favorites, like this funny pink hippopotamus who kept burping balloons.
I admire the creative minds that come up with ideas for floats. Although I wouldn't trade actually being at the parade for watching it on television, without the announcer saying what flowers decorate the float, I am clueless about what those pink flowers are.
One of the bands I thought was interesting was the Salvation Army band. They do such good work and it is a charity to which we regularly contribute. When I served on our local United Way Board, Salvation Army was one of the agencies we funded. During allocations hearings, they always gave us lunch while they made their presentation. It was the same hot meal they served to the homeless . . . and it was good. Plus, I like to listen to some of the singing bell ringers who stand by the red kettles at Christmastime.
As the band marched by our grandstand, they were playing "Stand up, stand up for Jesus, ye soldiers of the cross." Yes, you read that correctly . . . soldiers . . . they call themselves Army for a reason. I don't know if they played that song throughout the entire parade route, but it is considered the Salvation Army anthem, so perhaps they did. If you'd like to watch and hear them, click HERE.
Pictures of floats that struck my fancy follow (click on photos to enlarge images).
As cold as it was, as sick as we were, the very second Zoe's big band (260 members) came around the corner and began their 5.5 mile march down Colorado Boulevard, it was all worth it!
For Zoe, it is a memory she will never forget. And she especially liked marching through a tunnel near the end of the parade. "We were playing," she says, "and the reverberation of the sound was amazing." If you'd like to watch them, please click HERE. When you see them reform, they are getting ready to perform "Soak up the Sun" for the TV cameras. Unfortunately, the videographer didn't record that, only the end of it before they reformed and resumed their march.
I tried to get a picture of all the flute players and hoped I'd get Zoe in the shot. She is in the first row of flute players, third player over. Val, who also plays the flute, says she would recognizes Zoe's "taking-a-breath" moment anywhere.
Zoe heads off for college this August and I don't know how she will survive without band. It has been a part of her life for so long. As a sophomore, her band was the only mainland band in the Hawaii Holiday Parade on Oahu. I even found their entire performance on YouTube where they played, among other songs, "God Bless the USA," "For those in Peril on the Sea" and "Taps." If you want to see and hear that 13 minute performance, click HERE.They also had the opportunity to play at the USS Missouri at Pearl Harbor. We didn't accompany her on that trip, but Greg and Val did. Now I'm wondering, since it was warm there, why didn't we?
Zoe's band was the second to last entry in the Rose Bowl Parade and, because we were seated at the parade's beginning, we were able to leave as soon as the protesters (yes, you read that right) following the last entry marched by (I'm wondering if their passion lasted the entire route.) It is estimated that one million spectators watched along the route (and many more millions on TV). Fortunately all one million weren't where we were, but there were a bunch. Many of those along the street had been camping out there since the previous day. Problem was, we knew the bus was quite a distance, but weren't sure how to get there. We finally spotted a very tall guy with a Blue Springs jacket. Ray said, "Don't loose sight of him." We didn't and made it back to the bus, where we sat for a long time until an ambulance delivered one of our bus mates who couldn't make the walk back to the bus. She was profusely apologetic, but we were just glad she was OK.
Luis, our bus driver, took us to an In and Out Burger restaurant with indoor (but not enough) seating. In and Out Burger has an unofficial contest with Five Guys to see who has the best food. I was one who actually liked In and Out's burgers better . . . and for the same reason that almost all of our bus preferred Five Guys: the hamburger patty was thin and well cooked. I was with the overwhelming majority, however, in saying that Five Guys' fries are superior. Back at the hotel, we rested until . . .
We celebrate at the