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Published: January 7th 2010
Jack Hanna on Rainbird Float
One of the early parade entries -- spectacular!
Dec 29, 2009 - Tuesday
Plane left Asheville on time-- security not too bad - just taking care of all the little things -- Taking off shoes, getting out one qt baggie and mini-laptop (not sure I needed to do that - the man behind me left his in its bag and she said that was okay). Would have been a lot to deal with if I also had a carry-on suitcase. It was a good thing I checked my bag anyway, because we sat on the tarmac for an hour after landing in ATL - then I had to dash a long way to the train to get from D concourse to A, which would have been really hard pulling an extra bag (esp. since I don't dash very well anymore). Fortunately we had landed early so I made it with time to use restroom, and get some pretzels and juice, but not lunch, so I bought an $8.00 sandwich on the plane (it was pretty good, and about the same price as the ones in the airport).
This plane has wireless, with a “free” trial, but it was taking forever to load; I tried again and was not
Simon Rodia's yard in Watts, now a State Park
Flight to LA went okay; again some wait on the ground for a gate. Took a long time to get baggage. Got car and had no trouble driving straight to where my Grandmother and Uncle used to live. Their apts. were an awful bilge light green, and neighborhood has gone downhill a little, but not really badly.
Then I drove to the Watts Towers - which were further away than I thought they were, and not really easy to find. They weren't open on Tuesday to walk among, but you can see them from outside the fence just fine. They are quite eccentric - decorated with broken bottles, china, tiles, etc. Fun to see, altho I think I found the Coral Castle in Homestead to be more impressive. Trip off to a good start.
Day one of tour - very early start, went to one float building barn, saw construction of several floats from catwalk above - tons of boxes of flowers. Started raining after I got back to the bus, and drizzled all day. Next stop was the morning show of the Bandfest - stayed in bus for most of it - did go check it
out and find a restroom midway through. Then lunch stop in downtown Pasadena - had a really good chicken Pomodoro at an Italian place. Then it took us two hours of bumper to bumper traffic to get from Pasadena to Garden Grove for the Crystal Cathedral Christmas show.
Day two (on my own) -- I took the local free Passport shuttle bus to the Catalina Landing for the big “cat” over to Catalina ($60.00 senior). Saw a large whale on the way over. Lovely day, did the local bus tour over there (about $17.00). The local sand is brown, not very appealing in the beach sense. The cat ride is pleasant, about an hour; it was crowded going over, and almost empty on the way back (people were going over for New Year's weekend). I guess it's a nice change from the hustle of the metro area, but didn't seem to be much there, except the standard tourist shops and restaurants and small and large expensive houses. It's very rugged terrain; it's the top of a mountain rising quickly from the ocean. It was fun to see it, and I'm glad I went.
In the evening, the tour
The large commuter "cat" with casino (ballroom, not gambling) in background
company had a New Year's Eve party at the hotel. Dinner was the worst meal included with the tour (cold mashed potatoes, barely blanched veggies, some “prime rib" and an inedible dessert) - the other meals were pretty much okay. It was a fun party, for those with dancing partners and the energy to participate. A live band, hats, noise-makers, one glass of champagne (at 9 p.m.; we celebrated at east coast time, because we had a really early morning the next day), lots of balloons, etc. There were close to 350 people on the tour, 7 busloads of us, which was fewer than they usually have (“recession”).
Day three (Friday, Jan 1, 2010) - up before the crack of dawn to be on bus by 5:45 to head to Pasadena. Our bleacher section was past halfway (between Catalina and Wilson streets), so most units moved fairly quickly by us, but I was in the second row so had a good view (in spite of a couple of posts and a sign in the way). Good viewing, but not so good for picture taking (posts, crowds, and buildings in the pics make it hard to see the float
details). We were on the side where the celebs sit, and with the sun behind us so that was also good. It's a wonderful parade - great to see it in person.
There were groups in front of our bleachers that had camped overnight, including with fire pits and BBQ grills. It was a wait in line just to get seated, and a really long wait to use the port-a-potty. (I tried that during a pause in the parade when there had been a breakdown, so I missed about 3 floats; they do a pretty good job on upkeep on the potties).
Tips: bring a stadium cushion (or two) (a good one there will cost 15.00 - I lucked out and found a couple at Wal-Mart on close-out for $3.00 each), and water and snacks, but do pack light; you will have a very small spot to call your own - major sardine time. People are packed in tight, for 3-4 hours, and it's hard to get in and out if you have a bleacher seat (but better than camping all night, unless you have relatives in the area who do that every year - it's a family
We were “on our own” for the afternoon after getting back to the hotel after the parade. I woke up feeling like I had the beginning of a cold; I was hoping it was just the dry air in the hotel, but it continued so I just had lunch at the Rock Bottom brewery (their Saint Nick's fix ale was quite interesting, and good), and then went to Wal-mart in search of cold meds. They didn't have what I was looking for, and I found a CVS across the street and got their brand of Airborne and Zicam and started dosing with those - I kept that up for a few days and it really seemed to work (kept it to minor symptoms for at least through Wednesday).
We had a group dinner again in the evening, that was just fine (good food), and then some live entertainment, which I skipped - too tired after a long day. It was “imitators/impersonators” (Liza, Ray Charles, etc.).
Saturday was my first Disneyland day. Great holiday decorations, especially the “overlays” inside and outside the Haunted Mansion and It's a Small World. It was very crowded, elbow to elbow, but
Tourist checking out a float seen partly done in the float barn. The figures fold down.
had a good time - got to several attractions: Main Street horse-drawn “bus,” Indiana Jones Adventure (it's similar to Dinosaur), the Railroad, Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin (disappointing), Haunted Mansion (the Nightmare before Christmas overlay is wonderful), Pirates of the Caribbean, Casey Jr Circus Train, It's a Small World, Sleeping Beauty Castle (the new walk-through dioramas are fun to see - I still have the booklet about the original ones). Had the “holiday” tamale dinner at Rancho del Zocalo - it was rather awful; the tamales were like bisquik with a little corn meal added - I knew it was a risk to try them, but it was even worse than I had imagined (about $10.00); there was a little sour cream, guacamole, and lettuce and tomato, with the beans, it was sort of a sustaining meal.
Sunday, Jan 3, 2010 Drove up to Pasadena, halfway on freeway I-5, half on a surface street, Rosemead Hwy 19, to go to the post-parade float viewing. This may be the main highlight of the trip - it was great to see them up close, at my own speed (super-slow). I only saw about 2/3's of the them - ran out
The post-parade is worth seeing -- you can get pretty close to them.
of steam, but saw the main ones. The detail and imagination are just wonderful. I spent nearly 3 hours walking around and taking lots of pictures, and there was a lot more to see. Lots of expensive junk food ((I bought a Haagen-dasz ice cream bar for $5.00) and souvenirs available. It cost $10.00 to do the park and ride and viewing (well worth it). It really completes the experience - to see some in process, then in the parade, and then to get to see them up close (even tho some of the flowers were wilting, they still were colorful, and most were still just fine).
Afterwards I drove back down to Colorado Blvd and took photos of my bleacher seat location, then I stopped at a Mexican restaurant for lunch (not great, but better than Disney's version of Mexican food), Freeway was clogged on drive back, so I bailed out and used surface streets - most of the area is on a grid system, so altho it's stop and go with the lights, sometimes it's easier than getting claustrophobic on the freeway.
The parks were open late, so I went to check out Calif. Adventure and
watch the Electric Parade (always a fun one to see). Rode Soarin' with the Single Rider line (got the “worst” seat - row 3 from gate C (at the bottom end), but it's still fun. Caught the fireworks at Disneyland Main street, then fought my way up toward the castle, for a couple more photos of it decorated for Christmas (pretty, but not as spectacular as WDW). The Magic Kingdom at WDW is roughly equivalent to Disneyland, but overall, I like Disneyland better. But the total of WDW is so much more than what is here at the Disneyland/California Adventure (CA) complex, so it's not really fair to make a comparison. CA has thrill rides that I can't/won't do/enjoy, so it doesn't have much that I like (except Soarin', and a couple of other things -- opinion on that changed later in the visit).
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