December 28 – January 4

December 28

Rose Bowl Rally Arrival

We arrived safely at the Santa Anita Racetrack in the early afternoon and were directed to our parking slot. We went to the Rally Tent and got registered, then relaxed until the welcome dinner at 6:30:

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The food is excellent, catered by a local chef. As usual, we were greeted warmly by a number of couples at a table, and listened to a few speeches by the Rally Organizers. We were happy to return to Lucy for a good night’s sleep.

December 29

Of Roses, Thorns, and a Little Culture; Wined and Dined

After breakfast, we were shuttled to the barn where the “City of Sierra Madre” float was being constructed. A bit of background: this is the 126th Rose Bowl Parade (more accurately, “The Parade of Roses”), and the planning for the next year’s parade begins as soon the previous parade has ended. In January, an overall theme is decided upon, (this year’s is “Inspiring Stories”) and each organization that plans to participate solicits float designs to fit that theme. It is narrowed down to the best 3, then a winning design is chosen. The final design however, combines some elements from each of the other finalists. Work then begins, and is all done by volunteers.

Our bus group was assigned to cutting roses, inserting them into florist’s vials filled with water, then arranging them carefully in trays:

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A Thorn among Roses

A Thorn among Roses

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We were treated to a visit by the Float Princesses:

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After we had finished our 20,000 roses, which will cover the deck of the float we took a tour around the float itself, designed around the Little Engine That Could; “I Think I Can”:

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The one requirement that every float must adhere to is that every surface must be covered in an organic material; flowers, seeds, seaweed etc. the decorating is done from the top down, finishing with the placement of the flowers on the deck. An average float costs about $300,000 and the bigger ones can run to $600,000.The roses come from Ecuador. Doing our part was a very enjoyable experience.

We returned to the Rally Tent for lunch, then boarded buses for the Huntington Library & Outdoor Gardens Tour. Long story short, this is a 170-acre parcel of land in San Marino which originally belonged to Henry Huntington and his wife Arabella, who ran a business empire based on railroads and real estate in the early 1900’s. They were avid collectors of books and art. When he died without any children, the property, according to his wishes, became a private non-profit collections-based research and educational institution. The estate consists of the Library, the Art Gallery and the Botanical Gardens. For more detail, visit huntington.org. Here are a few highlights:

The Art Gallery

The Art Gallery

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Front porch of the Mansion

 

The Mansion, side view

The Mansion, side view

Part of the Chinese Garden

Part of the Chinese Garden

Part of the Japanese Garden

Part of the Japanese Garden

John Devan, step away from the tapestries!

John Devan, step away from the tapestries!

The Drawing Room, don't ya know

The Drawing Room, don’t ya know

Thought Mickie might appreciate the chandelier

Thought Mickie might appreciate the chandelier

Two of the most famous paintings by the English artist Gainsborough:

Blue Boy

Blue Boy

Pinkie

Pinkie

We had only a couple of hours to explore after taking the initial overview tour, so we were able to take in less than half of what we really wanted to see. This place really demands a full day to appreciate the legacy left by Henry and Arabella, and is well worth a visit.

To round out a very full day, we were bussed to the San Antonio winery, which covers 20 acres in downtown Los Angeles. It is the only surviving industrial winery left in the Valley, and has ben in the same family’s hands since 1914. We were taken on a tour by the current owner:

Oak fermenting barrels

Oak fermenting barrels

and then fed a magnificent dinner:

Our table

Our table

Beautifully decorated for Christmas

Beautifully decorated for Christmas

The wine provided for dinner was quite impressive, so we bought a few bottles (at a very reasonable price) before we left. This will become one of the highlights of our journey!

By the time we arrived back home, we were done for the day and went straight to bed.

December 30

Whatever Floats Your Boat; It Never Rains in California….

After breakfast, we boarded buses which took us along the parade route and also gave us a preview of our seats. We ended up at the Rose Bowl Festival Grounds, adjacent to the Rose Bowl Stadium itself. We were able to tour several of the “float barns”, where frantic volunteers, hundreds of them, were busy placing the flowers on the floats. This will give you some idea of the scope of the activity:

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Here is an example of the kinds of totally organic materials use on the floats:

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Flowers waiting to be placed on a float:

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Every flower is painstakingly placed by hand:

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After lunch, we boarded buses once again, this time to attend the “Band-Fest” show at the Pasadena College football stadium, and annual event which features bands that will march in the Rose Parade. Unfortunately, the weather gods frowned on us, and it began to rain, becoming progressively heavier (we felt sorry for the bands valiantly trying to perform in the downpour), until even the most die-hard among us were forced to pack it in and head back to the buses to return to our cosy RV’s! Here are a couple of pictures taken before we left:

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December 31

It’s Good To Win When You Place A Bet And Have Something To Show For It

Exactly $14.50 in net winnings, to be precise, thanks largely to Mark Livingston’s savvy advice. To back up, we were able to get up a little later this morning, and then spent an hour listening to a couple of presentations after breakfast. At 11:30, we were transported to the restaurant overlooking Santa Anita Park for lunch and an afternoon at the races. We had a lot of fun placing small bets and watching the races from our vantage point above the track:

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Our Rally site is in the background

Our Rally site is in the background

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Our first "winner"

Our first “winner”

Lunch at the Club

Lunch at the Club

So this horse goes into a bar...

So this horse goes into a bar…

We watched 7 of the 8 races, then returned to Lucy for a bit of down time before the New Year’s Eve celebration, which was outstanding, with good food, an open bar, a great Dixieland band and good company.

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We set the clock to New York time and watched the ball drop in Times Square at 9:00 our time. “Auld Lang Syne”, “America the Beautiful” (followed by we four Canadians singing O Canada by ourselves (which brought a rousing round of applause), hugs and “Happy New Year”s, after which everyone headed to bed. This was our first full-on New Year’s party, and it was great!

January 1

I Love A Parade…

Five-thirty came dark, cold and early this morning as we boarded the buses once again to head to the Parade of Roses. The Arctic air is still with us (the second-coldest Rose Parade in history), so everyone wore at least 4 layers of clothing. We had to walk a couple of blocks from the bus park to our bleacher seats, which were awesome; very near the beginning of the 5-mile route and 6 rows from the street. Everyone became friends rather quickly; in fact, the man behind us had his hands under Jeannine’s arms and I was between his wife’s knees (get your minds out of the gutter, it was all strictly platonic!)

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Watching the 2 1/2 hour long parade on TV is one thing; being that close to the colours and the noise is something else. We took loads of pictures of course, but I’ll just share a few here;

6:30 A.M. Are we having fun yet?

6:30 A.M. Are we having fun yet?

 

The Budweiser Clydesdales

The Budweiser Clydesdales

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"Our" float

“Our” float

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The full set of all the pictures we have taken will be available on my “Fotki” site in the next couple of weeks, and I will post a link to it.

After the parade, we slowly wended our way back to the buses, along with the thousands of other spectators. We finally arrived back at about 11:30 and had a soup and sandwich lunch. Jeannine went for a nap, and then we watched the game on the big TV’s in the Rally tent. We spent a very pleasant couple of hours in Lucy with a nice Canadian couple we have met here. This has been a great experience, and we are sorry that this part of the journey is over.

As always seems to happen, there is already a slight change of plans. Three days after we arrive back from the Baja, we will be attending a 5-day reunion rally being put on by our tour company near Palm Springs. It is a customer appreciation event, and is being put on at cost, which means we got a pretty good deal. Therefore we will be returning home about a week later than originally planned, but it’s all good.

Off tomorrow for Desert Hot Springs for a week.

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January 2

Turn Out the Lights, The Rose Bowl’s Over

After a quick goodbye to our Canadian friends from Alliston, we grabbed a coffee and pastry, then headed for palm Springs. After a couple of stops, we arrived at the RV parks by early afternoon. It’s a very nice place, with two pools and clubhouses. Needless to say, there are many Canadians here, and once again we are the smallest rig and the youngest couple by at least 20 years. Warmer weather has finally arrived, as evidenced by the appearance of the park’s 75 year old “Pool Boy”.

January 3

McDonald’s and A Movie

After a relaxed morning, we decided to go into Ranch Mirage to see a movie at a 16-screen theatre. We stopped at a McDonald’s for luch and to try to use their Wi-Fi to post to the blog, but the Wi-Fi was terrible, so we gave up on it. We went to see “The Imitation Game; great movie, with an outstanding performance by Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing.

We returned to the park around 5:00, made dinner, watched a DVD and went to bed.

January 4

Sun, Swim, Sunday Service and Sirloin

Woke up to sunshine and the warmest temperature we have seen thus far. We decided to attend the “Ecumenical Service”” at the clubhouse this morning. “How was it?” you ask. Imagine a somewhat Pentecostal combination of “Brother Love’s Travellin’ Salvation Show” and “O Brother Where Art Thou?” (think The Pappy O’ Dan’l Flour Hour and The Little Warbee Girls, now in their 70’s and reborn as “The Sunshine Trio”).

As we keep reminding ourselves, it’s all experience, and this was definitely one of the more interesting ones! We went for a swim, then came back to change for the “Ice Cream Social”, followed by what was billed as the weekly “Jam Session”, but actually turned out to be (for those of you old enough to remember) a kind of Ted Mack Christian Amateur Hour, heavy on Tennessee Ernie Ford. This was followed by the “Sirloin Burger Night”; the social whirl here never ends!

 

One thought on “December 28 – January 4

  1. Hey Chris and Jeannine. What a great time you’re having! And fancy being the youngest in the park! Seeing the pics reminds us that we do live in just one little part of the world. This is our first full day without Molly, so we went to Cumberland and hung out at the museum, joining a school tour hosted by Anna. Holly, Celie, and Marshall brought flowers this morning, means so much. OK, no more of that! We’re off for a walk with Liz. Happy trails!

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