01-12-2017 Rain in the desert, and another canyon hike

Current Location: Catalina Spa and RV Resort, Desert Hot Springs, California

Raining.  Yes, at the moment it has been raining for several hours.  I’m not complaining, the desert and the state of California needs rain in general.  I am not complaining, because even with the rain, we have escaped the deep snows and epic cold that have gripped both our home town of Klamath Falls and our new home town to be, Grants Pass. 

I am not complaining, because in the midst of the rain storms and chilly weather, we have had a few nice sun breaks, and temperatures in the high 60’s.  The photos from the last post when we hiked the Indian Canyons proved it.  Yet, somehow, when the rain is coming down, it is easy to forget all that lovely sunshine that lasted for a day here and there. 

A day or so after we arrived, Mo put out the patio rug and the chairs, and on one lovely day actually sat in the chairs and read while I worked on photos and the blog.  Nice day.  The winds started up after that, and the rains once again so the rug got staked down and the chairs folded up and put under the rig to stay dry and not blow away.  Winter in the desert.  Not always, but often enough that if you plan to escape your cold winter climate, you need to be prepared for times like this, when the wind blows, the rains come, and the skies are gray.  It happens.

Yesterday the predictions were for 20 percent chance of rain, holding off till late afternoon.  Taking advantage of that prediction, we headed east on Dillon Road all the way to Indio, and then toward Mecca and east to Box Canyon Road.  Al, of the Bayfield Bunch, has talked of Box Canyon Road many times on his blog, being their route of choice when they travel I-10 west from Quartzite heading for Anza Borrego.  In fact, I am sure that several of the bloggers that I follow have talked about Painted Canyon, with some of you actually squeezing between the slot canyon walls of Ladder Canyon. 

Maybe later I can look up your stories, but in the mean time, if you are reading, and you have hiked Ladder Canyon, pop a comment in here and let me know where to find your post about it?

The skies were gray as we turned onto the graded dirt/gravel road that leads to the entrance of the lovely canyons that are within the wilderness area boundaries.  We knew we could take Mattie on the main canyon, but also knew that she wouldn’t be able to climb the ladders on the side canyon, appropriately called “Ladder Canyon”.   We will save that one for another time, and maybe a time when I am a bit more narrow, so when I turn sideways I can still fit between the walls?

The main trail through Painted Canyon is wide and nearly level.  I found the narrow and steep trail that leads into Ladder Canyon, and was glad that Mattie was along to give me an excuse to not try it on this day.  Lots of rock climbing and scrambling involved in that one, and I needed to be in a different mood with a happier knee to do it.  Next time.

The trail to Ladder Canyon isn’t easily visible unless you are looking for it.

We walked the length of the main canyon, meeting a large hiking group and sharing the space with some young guys who somehow missed the Ladder Canyon trail.  We saw four young lovely girls taking off that direction and when we told the guys how to get there and told them about the cute girls, they burst into a trot to get back to the “right” trail.

At the end of the main canyon, there is a large rock pour-over, graced by a couple of metal ladders leading up to the next level.  Mattie, the rock climber, attempted to leap up those rocks, but couldn’t quite make it to the top.  Instead, I stayed behind with her while Mo explored the ladders, hollering down from the top to me, “It gets level again up here!”. Well, neither of us was about to carry Mattie up those ladders, so again, we will save that one for another time as well.  It is always nice to have something new to try for the next time, minus the dog, who thank goodness is willing to wait at home when we need her to do so.

The colors of Painted Canyon were somewhat muted and subtle, partially because of the muted daylight and cloudy skies, and partly because they are a bit muted and subtle anyway.  This canyon is not like the canyons in southern Utah, without the brilliant red orange sandstones of Navajo and Wingate. The drama comes in the contact zones, where the break between layered sediments and highly cooked metamorphic rock  is incredible. In this photo, that light zone at the top of the cliff is not a light difference, it is the contact between dark metamorphic and light sedimentary rocks.

Here, in the Mecca Hills, the graded dirt road crosses the San Andreas Fault, and the vertical uplift of sediments that were once old lake and sea beds is dramatic, as are the contact zones between all the different kinds of rock, jumbled, cooked, and twisted by the forces of faulting and uplift.  It is a geologist’s dream place to visit. 

Leaving the canyons, we drove back out to Box Canyon Road and turned north toward where it intersects with I-10 at the southern entrance to Joshua Tree National Park.  We boondocked near the entrance a few years ago, read about Box Canyon Road, and it has been on my list of places to explore for some time now. 

The canyon is interesting, winding and full of eroded sediments and soft rock that make for complexity and lots of sandy washes.  There are boondocking sites all along the canyon, and interesting side 4 wheel drive trails to explore.  However the canyon walls enclose the views, and when in the desert, we prefer those long vistas that are such a part of boondocking in the desert.  We might not choose to camp here, although we did see several folks settled in to nice spots.

01-11-2017 Treasure in the Desert

Current Location: Catalina Spa and RV Resort, Desert Hot Springs, California

At the moment, we are under a wind advisory, nothing too serious, and nothing unusual for Desert Hot Springs at this time of year.  The skies are wild and gorgeous, with huge puffy white clouds rolling over the mountains and making shadows on the desert floor.  We are in shorts, with sun pouring in the windows of the rig, although it is hard to guess what the actual outside temperature might be if the wind weren’t blowing.

Currently I have my favorite  George Yates rib recipe on the Weber Q, packets of yams/apples/and onions ready for cooking when the ribs are done, and some cole slaw in the fridge.  We are having company for supper, just a way to say thank you for lunch yesterday, which Claudia so delightfully offered after our hike in the desert.

In all the years we have traveled to Desert Hot Springs, we haven’t managed to hike the Indian Canyons.  There is a fee to enter and there are no dogs allowed.  With so many places to hike, even some dog friendly ones, it didn’t’ seem necessary.  Yesterday we decided it was time to make the effort, and oh what a place it is!

But first I have to share the other desert treasure we visited.  Thousand Palms Oasis in the Coachella Valley Preserve lies several miles east of the RV park.  I first hiked here on Christmas Eve in 2010, where Laurie and Odel met me and shared the hike they loved.  We had a great day, and I was thrilled by the beautiful palms.  Mo and I have returned several times to hike here, sometimes simply walking around the groves, and other times wandering off into the desert, lost even with a GPS (and no phone signal).  That was 2 years ago, and we did manage to find our way back to the visitor center without mishap.

This year we decided on the shorter hike from the Visitor Center to Simone Pond, just a little over a mile, and an easy walk through the desert wash landscape.  The ponds are home to an amazing array of wildlife, including the desert pupfish, birds, frogs, snakes, rabbits, and other critters.  The docent at the Visitor Center reminded us that this area has been preserved in perpetuity for the sake of protecting the habitats, and if people abuse the area it is a simple matter to close the trails.  The Oasis is not for people, but for habitat management, so protecting that habitat is the priority.

The true treasure of Thousand Palms, however, are the palms.  California fan palms, majestic in their size and unique nature, are the only native palm in California.  They occur in a few oases throughout this part of California, and while there are actually maybe a few hundred rather than a thousand in  this particular oasis, the trails that meander through the wetlands are a wonderful way to experience the rich shadows and glorious light that fills the palm forest.

We took our time, enjoying the trails and delighting in the brilliant, warm desert afternoon light.  Being Sunday, there were quite a few people on the trail and the parking lot was nearly full.  But no matter.  Everyone was respectful, families were pleasant, with lots of laughter and welcome greetings along the trail.  It was a lovely day.

The predicted rains and winds showed up on Monday, and Mo and I decided to track down a  couple of my favorite quilt shops before finding the Mary Pickford Theater in the heart of Cathedral City.  Our destination was an afternoon matinee showing of “Manchester by the Sea”.  It was a bit surprising to find fairly long lines at 2 in the afternoon, but the Palm Spring International Film Festival is happening this week as well.  The ticket seller warned us that the only seats left in our chosen theater were the first two rows.

Ok then.  When we walked into the theater, those first two rows looked like something out of a United Emirates Airline commercial. There were huge recliners, with cupholders and lots of space between pairs of seats.  The movie was well done, definitely worth seeing, but the chairs very nearly overshadowed the movie experience with such comfort.  Haven’t seen that before in our small town movie theaters.

The next day, Tuesday, again had high wind predictions for Desert Hot Springs, with winds ranging from 25 to 35 mph with gusts to 55.  As is often the case, however, the winds across the valley in Palm Springs were less than 5 to 10 mph, and the day was nice enough to go hiking without jackets.  We debated shorts, but settled for long pants instead. Claudia isn’t familiar with the area, and when she found out we were going hiking, asked if she could tag along.

The Indian Canyons of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians are an incredible desert treasure.  Cahuilla Indians have lived in these canyons for at least three thousand years, where they established villages, and tended the palms to increase fruit production.  The canyons are an invaluable resource, providing year round fresh running water, palm fronds for building homes, fruits and seeds from palms, mesquite, and other plants to provide ample food, and protection from the harshness of the summer and winter climates. 

We first hiked up Andreas Canyon, enthralled by the light and shadow, and the sound of running water over huge granite boulders.  There are mortars worn into the bedrock, formed from the grinding of palm and mesquite fruits, some of them as much as ten inches deep.

After completing the Andreas Canyon loop, we continued south on the main road toward the visitor center and the trailhead for Palm Canyon.  Hidden away in the wild badlands of this dry part of California are more than a hundred wild palm groves, and this is the largest, with a recent count of more than 2500 palms thriving along the canyon ravine.  The stream is live with fresh water, the sounds of water and birds are the background to the rustling of palm fronds in the winds above us. 

The floor of the canyon narrows and widens at intervals, and the trail is mostly level, wide, and soft.  The fragrance of moist sand, decaying vegetation, and organic matter is pungent.  The ravine is 12 miles long, and separates the Santa Rosa from the San Jacinto mountains.  The trail climbs above the canyon in places and then meanders along old beaches and around huge boulders.

It was one of the loveliest hikes we have ever experienced in all our years visiting this area, and there are so many trails to explore, you can be sure we will return again and again. A nice benefit, the cost for seniors to enter the canyons is a mere $7.00, and with her military ID, Mo got in free.  Wonderful.

We only hiked a little over three miles, saving the six mile round trip hike to the Stone Pools for our next visit.  It was nice spending hiking time with Claudia as well, and she wanted to treat us to lunch to thank us for showing her around the area.  Of course, there is no better nor iconic Palm Springs lunch spot than Sherman’s Delicatessen.  With a nice outside table, warmed by the propane heaters placed strategically about, we had classic Ruebens and a magnificent burger for Mo.  Dessert is crazy at this place, not only famous for its Ruebens, but for its bakery. 

We left the restaurant with half our lunch in boxes, and more than half our desserts in other boxes.  What a great day.  Returning home to the rig found a happy little dog, who seemed to have spent the entire afternoon quietly chewing on her knuckle bone and waiting patiently.  Lucky us!

01-06-2017 Pasadena Delights and Sierra Madre Memories

Current Location: Catalina Spa and RV Resort, Desert Hot Springs California

First, a little bit about Catalina Spa.  Fellow bloggers who travel to this part of the desert sometimes enjoy time here.  I am thinking of Betty Graffis, who we met here a couple of years ago, also of George and Suzie, who have enjoyed this park as well.  Imagine my surprise when we drove in the familiar entrance, only to find the sweet little gate house empty, and the friendly guys who always welcomed us “home” nowhere in sight.

Always fun to be in the desert and see the bad weather stacked up on the western horizon

We checked in on the 4th, after leaving the busy days of the rally behind.  Friend Laura once again drove to the fairgrounds before we left and we had a great lunch at Walter’s in LaVerne.  It is nice to actually see her in person, for Mo to meet her, and for Mattie to get more pets from the person who went to great effort to make sure she was well cared for while we were gallivanting around during the Rally.  It was nice to thank Laura in person.

As we approached Catalina, I was having visions of warming up my chilly body in my favorite whirlpool tub in the world.  Uh Oh.  It was a bit of a shock to continue down the main entrance road to find this. The gate is still there, but the new management doesn’t feel the need to have anyone guarding it. Better be sure you remember your gate code, as it is closed all the time now.

Catalina Spa was sold to a new owner and he has big plans for turning it into a 5 star resort, beginning with gutting the old game room, store, showers, and spa area.  There are a lot of 5 star resorts around, they are a dime a dozen, and I find them quite boring.  Catalina is a bit funky, or at least it was.  The now gated pool was open all night, and was an adults only pool.  The spa was just steps away from where we like to camp in the 30 amp area, and my favorite thing was to walk there in the dark and slip into the pool at 4am, swimming and soaking while watching the stars and waiting for the sunrise.

It is a good indicator of my age that I discovered I am NOT very flexible.  I was furious, and frustrated, and especially angry that no one had mentioned a word of this when we made our reservation last fall.  The office building is gutted as well, and rumor has it that what we call “the lower park”, with 30 amp service, sites that are much less than level, and old trees to provide desert shade, will become an area of park model rentals and permanent homes.

Yeah, sure, the big pool in the upper park is still open, with its spa and game room available.  I would avoid that pool, and think in all the years we came here, only swam there a time or too.  You know…stuff like teenagers courting by jumping on each other and splashing isn’t really conducive to a relaxing swim.  It isn’t quite the same to walk the distance in the dark, or jumping into the car to go swimming.

We are here.  We are enjoying our site adjacent to the dog park, as is Mattie.  We have been swimming, so far just in the evening, with the aforementioned teenagers, and all the busy-ness that is part of the upper clubhouse, aka people.  The hot tub is a lot smaller, and more full, at least when it is usable.  So far that has been only once, when the rest of the time the temperature is hot enough to actually scald a tentative foot used to test the waters.  Ah well.  Only thing in life that is sure is change, but I sure don’t like it.  I guess other people have a bit of the same idea, at least the ones who are not here.  The park is about half empty.

Without knowing about the changes, we recommended Catalina highly to our new friend Claudia, co-owner of Adventure Caravans, and she is staying here as well.  With a big rig parked right next to the upper clubhouse and a great view over the desert, I think she is enjoying herself. With a personality as big as Texas, Claudia loves people, and can talk to anyone.  Our first night here she invited us to join her at the clubhouse for one of the dinners.  It was interesting, and we had a great time with Claudia, but we probably don’t have to try the clubhouse dinner again. 

Even though we are 90 minutes farther east than we were at the fairgrounds, Mo and I decided long ago that on this trip we would travel back to Pasadena for something special to us.  Friday morning, with the predicted rains expected to hit on Saturday, we drove back west.  We were blessed with gorgeous skies, views of the mountains to the north and light traffic on the 210 for the entire distance. Our destination was the Pasadena Museum of History.

As most family and friends are aware, we are building a house at the cottage property this year, and while it won’t be a completely traditional Craftsman house, we hope to incorporate some of the elements of style that make Craftsman homes so welcoming.  The history of the Arts and Crafts movement in America is fascinating, with several names that stand out.  William Morris, creator of designs that were rich with floral motifs, Greene and Green, architects famous for their Craftsman style homes, and another name not quite as familiar to many, Batchelder.

Ernest A Batchelder was a tilemaker who settled in the Pasadena area in the early part of the 20th century.  His style is unique, and his fireplace and fountain installations are well known throughout the Los Angeles area especially, but occur all over the United States.  We were thrilled to discover that the Pasadena Museum of History has a special exhibit scheduled while we are in Southern California, and we weren’t about to miss it.

We do have an extra special interest in the exhibit and Batchelder installations because Mo has been hauling around crates of antique un-set Batchelder tiles for a couple of decades.  She installed a few of them in her house and in the cabin in Rocky Point.  (The new owners had no idea what they had there, so we left a bit of literature for them).  Our plan is to use the tiles in the new house, including the fireplace. 

As we entered the exhibit, both of us were tickled pink and very excited to be there, and to see our tile guy so honored.  The show was small but beautifully done.  One of the largest installations of Batchelder tile is the  now closed Dutch Chocolate Shop in downtown Los Angeles.  It is inaccessible to the public, except for special tours, and we have never managed to get here at the right time to participate. An especially delightful exhibit at the show was a simple chair in a small alcove and a virtual reality headset.  Mo and I put on that headset and walked all around the interior of the chocolate shop.  There was also a visit to the interior of Batchelder’s home and gardens, now owned by Robert Winter who donated tiles and curated the exhibit. 

We loved seeing several of our tiles on display, especially the “City of Hearthside Dreams”, a 12×12 tile which will be the center feature of our fireplace.

I have always wanted to visit the Gamble House, another Pasadena Arts and Crafts site, and had no idea that the location was just a couple of blocks away from where we were at the Museum of History.  Our timing was perfect, and we snagged tickets for the last docent led tour of the day through the house.

The architects Greene and Greene were highlighted in a special exhibit that we saw last week at the Huntington, and it was exciting to enter the house for which they are most famous.  The artistry of this home is magnificent, with the connection to natural materials, and the simple ethic of the Arts and Crafts movement so well used.  Arts and Crafts style was a move away from the doo dad complexity of the Victorian style that was so popular during the late 19th century.

The tour was fascinating, and as is often the case, we were not allowed to take photos of the interior. I am sure they want to sell the expensive books that are in the lovely bookstore!  Here is a link to a ton of images from the web of the exterior and interior of the house.What we discovered was that no matter how impressive and wonderful the Arts and Crafts style can be, it is often quite dark.  The interior of the house was incredibly dark, and reminded us why we are going to go much lighter in the house that we build.  Light!!  Need Light!!

Southern California is a haven for old Arts and Crafts homes, from simple bungalows to huge mansions like the Gamble House.  We once again drove the streets of Pasadena’s Bungalow Heaven, only this time we had a different thought in mind.  Instead of simply looking for cute houses, we wanted to check out the stone veneers that grace so many of these homes.  Our new home will have stone veneer, but we want it to look like this, not like the brightly colored big fake stones that we see around Grants Pass.  Who knows if there is anything like the real thing around our part of the world that isn’t cost prohibitive.

I was born in Sierra Madre, where my grandmother bought a piece of property in the upper reaches of Sierra Madre Canyon.  It is an eclectic place, and has been so ever since 1929 when she bought the property.  She left in the mid 70’s, and her own home high on the hill burned in 1980, but she owned the lots and the second house that was lower on the hill until close to her death in 1993.  I lived in this little house in 1962 and 63 and my husband and I brought our first born daughter Deborah up these steps in January of 1963.

I have returned here with my girls, to show them where they came from, but never had been here with Mo.  Trying to explain how my grandmother spent decades climbing more than 100 steps to carry her groceries to the tiny 1 bedroom house high on the hill wasn’t easy.  Mo kept saying, “Where?  How did she get up there?”

The steps are almost gone now, and I had to hunt to find them.

One year Mo took me to visit her roots at the family home in North Dakota, and again in Columbia City, Oregon, where she grew up. Both homes were traditional bungalows, lovely and solid, much like Mo.  It was interesting to compare our roots, to think about how the people who were influential in our lives affected how we turned out. 

Here is a photo of my grandmother in 1955 at the lower end of her steps.

I keep saying I have a reason for my somewhat off the wall history, I can blame it on my eccentric grandmother who lived this canyon, drove this road in her 1937 black Buick, and climbed the stairs to her tiny house, so small the fridge had to be kept on the porch, for almost 5 decades.

This is the tiny house that was at the top of the hill, bought in 1929 and where my mother grew up

Mo and I drove around Sierra Madre, enjoying the old rock walls and home facades that are such a part of this town.  I realized that the reason I am so attached to the idea of rock facing and bungalow style might have to do with my roots so long ago in Sierra Madre. 

The city square in the hill town of Sierra Madre, California

Our return trip was later than we expected, with the extra time we took to tour the Gamble House, and traffic was as it often is on the freeway.  We ambled along Huntington Drive instead, with evening approaching and traffic so heavy, decided it was time to find food.  A quick check of “Chinese Food Nearby” on google maps yielded a restaurant just minutes from where we were.

We settled in for a great meal at Youngs, with orange chicken done right with lots of real orange and red peppers, crispy and perfect, and Mandarin beef, spicy enough and tender.  Daughter Melody always said never eat Chinese food in a town of less than 50,000.  I think Duarte has fewer people than that in the actual city limits, but as LA people know, all these cities run together and the Chinese restaurants are great.  Anything from current Asian fusion, to the more traditional “Chinese” that is like comfort food is available, and the traditional big aquarium was the perfect finishing touch.

Back on the 10, the traffic was pretty slow all the way east until we were almost to Palm Springs, but we didn’t mind.  The day was so fulfilling the drive didn’t matter in the least.

01-01-2017 The 128th Tournament of Roses

Current Location: Catalina Spa and RV Resort, Desert Hot Springs, California

Amazing.  Before I say anything else, I have to say that the Tournament of Roses Parade is the grandaddy of them all, America’s New Year’s Celebration.  This was the 128th Rose Parade, celebrated every single year except 1942, immediately after Pearl Harbor.  In all that time, it has only rained ten times, and we were a bit nervous about the predictions for rain.  Those rains never materialized, and once again, the weather gods shined down on the celebration.

I have agonized a bit over writing this post.  Attending the parade was the main focus of this trip, the reason we signed up for our first group “Rally”.  I have been excited about doing this for a year now, ever since we signed up on January 1, 2016. 

Was it all that I expected?  In some ways, more, in some ways less, and yet the overall experience was definitely all that I wanted and more.  The parade itself?  Maybe I was still caught up in my childhood memories of spending the night on Colorado Boulevard with a campfire on the sidewalk.  I have agonized over this post because part of me wants to make it easy and write about the parade, talk about the facts, the floats, how we got there and what we did.  That is easy. 

I have an incredible number of photos, processed and ready for uploading, but that will have to wait until I return home to free bandwidth.  In the mean time, I have had the daunting task of picking favorites.

We were on the bus in the dark at 5 AM ready for the 5:15 departure.  Everyone was excited and as we rode the fast commuter lane from Pomona to Pasadena, the anticipation was palpable.  We were early enough that the bus parked along the sidewalk and there was plenty of room for our table loaded down with hot drinks, pastries, and fruit.  Just across the street was a bank of porta potties, one of several groups of such necessities, and the lines weren’t terrible and the potties were pristine. 

This float is called “Echoes of Love”, sponsored by of all things, a TV show, “The Bachelor”.  It was on my top favorite list, but even more so after seeing it up close the next day at the post parade show.

Our group had three rows of seats, just back and up a bit from the sidewalk.  We were warned to do the necessaries before we attempted to sit in the stands, for good reason.  Once in the stands, it is not only difficult to get out, but difficult to even move around.  After 2 hours of friendly knees in our backs and rubbing shoulders tightly with our neighbors, we were ready to stand up.

This float is called “Teammates in Life” made professionally by Paradiso.  The images are portraits of organ donors, done in many different shades of seeds and grains.  Up close it was breathtaking.

I spent so many years seeing the parade close up, and fighting the crowds, often standing the entire time, that I was tickled to finally have a chance to view it from the grandstand seats, something I had once coveted.  I discovered that grandstand seats are nice, but somehow you are a bit insulated from the thrill of the floats up close.  Everything seemed to pass by so quickly, and with no HGTV announcers to tell us what we were seeing, we had to refer to the parade program to figure it out, during which time the float was already gone. 

Our friend Laura did the parade a bit differently this year.  She rented a space for their RV in a lot facing the street and set chairs up right on the parade route along the pavement.  I think she saw things up close in a way we didn’t, but we got to see things from above in a way that she didn’t.  A bit of a quandary.  One that was completely solved by the next day’s event, the Post Parade Float viewing along Sierra Madre Boulevard. 

Buhos Marching Band from Mexico

The parade lasted almost exactly 2 hours, with 42 floats, 21 marching bands, and 20 equestrian units.  Most of the bands performed as they passed our grandstand, located right at the beginning of the parade route at the base of the Orange Grove Boulevard hill.  Of course I had a few favorite floats, but as I reviewed my photos, I could see that the gray skies and viewing location didn’t really give me that old feeling I was searching for.

This float is called “Spirit of Hawaii” made by Dole to remind us of the rich history between Hawaii and Dole.  As you can see, the amazing detail wasn’t easily seen as the float passed by, but the after parade show revealed all.

That old feeling came back full force the next day, as we entered the Post Parade show.  Finally the fragrance of the flowers and the amazing complexity and magical colors of the floats were right there in front of me.  I was so happy I was beside myself, and that tiny disappointment that I felt from the day before completely evaporated.

“The Monkey King” by BDK, weathers countless trials on his journey to success.  Celebrating the ending of the year of the monkey.  This float epitomized what the commercial floats can do with unlimited funds and resources.

We spent four full hours walking the length of the show along the closed boulevard, enjoyed the most expensive big pretzel we ever ate for five bucks, and I took so many photos I wore out two batteries for the camera. 

However the very best part of the day could have been the worst.  Stopping to buy a street taco for lunch, I put my wallet in my Adventure Caravans burgundy jacket to walk over to the kiosk.  Back to the bench for lunch, and then Mo and I wandered off to leave the show, with the jacket still on the bench.  I realized at the last minute before we reached the exit gate that it was gone and ran back to find it was no longer there.  No problem, I thought, I can replace the jacket, entirely forgetting that I had put my wallet in the pocket instead of back in the bag we were carrying.

A long walk and then a shuttle ride to the waiting bus, and as we were getting ready to pull away from the curb, Mo thought to check the purse. No wallet.  You know that sinking feeling?  Yeah, that one.  I jumped off the bus, in a panic, asking Claudia if anyone knew of a lost and found number. 

“Doing Good in the World” by the Rotary Rose Parade Float Committee. Not a professional float builder.

Here is where the story gets really good.  Hex, our wagonmaster/rally leader jumped in, took my arm, and said, “I’ll walk back with you.”  He got us back into the show without tickets, talked to the white coat guys, found the lost and found where the first person had no clue how to use the radio, talked to more people, found a person with a radio, and lo and behold, some really kind family had turned in my jacket with the wallet still in the pocket.  Hex called the bus driver, who had to negotiate some crazy traffic barriers to get back to us, and we walked as fast as we could almost all the way to the freeway to meet up with the bus.

The Norco Cowgirls Rodeo Drill Team from Norco, California

I have to say thank you to Hex, for jumping in so quickly to help me, and to all the folks on the bus who waited so patiently for the two of us to get back on the bus.  Finally, still a bit shaky over the whole thing, I settled in with Mo for the long ride back to Pomona and our final afternoon at the fairgrounds. 

Adventure Caravans treated us to a catered dinner for the last night of the Rally, with folks gathering around the big tables, sharing stories of where they were going next, and praising the rally crew for the great job they did.

Here is a shot of Hex at the grandstands, still trying to herd cats, aka rally folks

Finally, would we do another rally or caravan with Adventure Caravans?  Possibly not.  Not because they didn’t do a great job, they most certainly did.  However the busy schedule and the focus on social activity is a bit much for our independent style of travel.  Most of the attendees were great people, with just a single exception, but that exception could make traveling in a group not much fun, and of course, there always seems to be “that one”.

Both of us were extremely glad we chose to do this rally, however, saying over and over again how grateful we were to not have to deal with all the logistics of attending the Rose Parade.  We loved having the extra venues, the extra shows, and loved not having to drive much in that traffic or try to find parking, or pay for parking, which often cost as much as the event itself.  We saw and experienced things we probably wouldn’t have managed on our own.  In that respect, it was a truly great trip and an excellent choice for what we wanted to see and do.

Another favorite from the post parade show, by Ragu Pasta Sauce, called “Simmering in Tradition”.  I barely saw this one as it passed by in the parade.  What a difference up close.

I fulfilled my dream of once again attending the Rose Parade, and now I will be perfectly happy to watch it full screen on the big TV with the HGTV announcers telling me all about the floats, the bands, and the horses.  When I close my eyes and remember, what I remember most isn’t the parade, but that amazing BandFest performance, waiting in the dark for the parade to start, and staring in awe at the incredible floral work on the floats up close.

Just one example of the incredible floral artistry that covers every square inch of the floats.

Remember this CalPoly float from the pre-parade show?  It was incredible.

I had to chose, and it was incredibly difficult.  There were several floats that I really loved that didn’t make the cut for the actual parade, but are in my gallery of post parade floats.  If you want to get a taste of the up close flowers, the incredible artistry, the creativity and imagination that goes into this, check out the gallery here.

12-31-2016 An End and a Beginning

Current Location: Catalina Spa and RV Resort, Desert Hot Springs, California

We have settled into a familiar space here in the desert on Eleventh Street in the older 30 amp area of Catalina Spa and RV.  Mt. San Jacinto is shrouded in heavy dark clouds and the wind is blowing, but here we are bathed in sunshine.  A far cry from the heavy snows that are pummeling southern Oregon at the moment.  Daughter Melody keeps sending pictures and updates, and it does the trick.  I don’t complain a bit about the drippy days or the cool weather here in Southern California.

At last I have a day with no busses to catch, no events to go to, no shared gatherings to attend, except for the dog park perhaps.  Nothing on a schedule at least, and I do hope to get completely caught up on the last few days since the New Year began.

I do love a marching band.  All parades should have marching bands in my opinion, and sometimes small town parades can’t manage to include local bands, and without them a parade is much too quiet.  I knew that one of the highlights of this rally would be visiting BandFest, a three day event that included many of the prize winning marching bands from around the world that would be marching in the Rose Parade 2017.

Even the cloudy morning and threat of rain wouldn’t have kept me from joining our group at the grandstands of Pasadena City College to see the performance.  To say it was breathtaking would be an understatement.  Each performance was better than the last, with the final show by the Pride of Broken Arrow band from Oklahoma so far over the top that we watched in utter disbelief at what we were seeing.  Marching bands are NOT what they used to be.  I marched in the Azusa High School Band as a member of the drill team, competed at state wide events, but never saw anything like this.

The beginning of the show seemed almost normal, but as each band appeared, with more and more instruments, and more and more choreography, it was obvious we were seeing performances that would never make it to the street for the official Rose Parade.  I took a lot of videos with my phone, a Samsung Note 5, which replaced the old iPhone last summer.  Little did I know that every single one of those videos would be recorded vertically and require video software and lots of time to convert to a horizontal view.  Very frustrating.  I also did do a couple of facebook Live videos, which were great, but with gazillions of people attempting to access the internet at the same time, by the time Broken Arrow took  the field, the internet was completely unavailable.

All I can say is that if you like marching bands, check out this video of the Broken Arrow High School Marching Band to get a taste of what I am trying valiantly to describe that is really beyond words. Just watching the long line of marimbas, xylophones, pianos and other instruments rolling onto the fields was a bit of a surprise.  I have never seen a marimba in a marching band.  Of course, the marimbas were not part of the official parade, since they probably wouldn’t roll down the pavement very easily.

These guys not only played perfectly, they did it while marching backwards, doing crazy gymnastic moves, and balancing on low rider bikes while playing.  It was just beyond crazy, and incredible to watch.  No video or description can even come close to what it was like to experience in person.  I would say that if you plan to go to the Rose Parade, make sure you spend the time and $15.00 to attend at least one of the performances, each of which highlights different bands.

The predicted rain never appeared, although by the time our bus returned to the fairgrounds I did have a fairly deep bone chill going on.  Time to get back in jammies for a bit while waiting for the afternoon snacks that would hold us until our evening festivities.

It was a bit of a distance to Fontana, and the Center Stage Theater, where we were treated to dinner and a live show.  The theater is a wonderful historic venue, first built in 1937 as a one screen movie theater, closed down after many years, limping along as the location of various organizations, including the Elks, before reopening in 2008 in its current form.  Since then, Center Stage has produced over 20 Broadway musicals, and 16 original productions.

(Just for fun, I didn’t try to get the red out of the photo.  We had red lights, red tables, lots of red and everything looked red.  Thought you might get a kick out of it.)

It was a dinner show, and as we were seated at the big round tables, we didn’t really know what to expect.  Our waitress came by asking for drink requests, informing us that she would be serving us throughout the evening, in between singing in the performance.  What? 

As the evening progressed, with excellent food, and the great company of our friends Nickie and Jimmy at our table, in addition to another couple, we laughed and regaled each other with stories.  Sitting next to Mo was Dot Bolton and her husband Mel, who were from Pacifica, California.  We had not met them previously during the tour. In the course of the conversation it came up that Mo taught PE, Science, and Health at Terra Nova High School for almost 30 years.  Dot Bolton’s kids and grandkids were students of Mo’s and remembered her well.  What a crazy small world we share.

I didn’t take a lot of pictures inside the theater or of the show.  Somehow my training with kids in theater had me thinking it wasn’t ok to do that, even though no one actually said photos were not allowed.  Thanks goodness Nickie was there with her trusty camera clicking away.  Once again I will have to send you over to Nickie’s blog to get all the inside scoop about this great dinner and show. 

Afterward, I shook hands with the actors, telling them that I had kids in theater and knew what it took to do a performance like the one we had just experienced.  It was amazing to have 8 people who never had a mis step or a  missed note, made us laugh and had truly fabulous voices, in addition to serving our dinner and laughing with us at the table.  So much fun.  We celebrated the New Year at 9pm, right along with the big ball in New York, much like we do at home. 

Back at the MoHo, we heard a few fireworks go off during the night, both before and after midnight, but no guns, and we wished each other a happy new year to come.

The next morning dawned gorgeous and sunny, and with predictions for no rain, it seemed like a great day to skip the long bus ride to LA, Hollywood, and all that tourist stuff, and go for a nice hike instead.  Jimmy and Nickie thought that was a great idea as well, and we jumped into our tow cars (2 cars required since theirs is a 2 seater and ours was full of stuff).

I knew of several different trails into the nearby San Gabriel mountains, not really thinking that the sunny New Years Day would make almost every trail completely inaccessible.  As a Girl Scout I hiked Monrovia Canyon to the waterfall over and over, and loved the idea of returning. What I didn’t expect was cars lined up miles before the locked gate into the trail head, and literally hundreds of people coming and going.

Thinking that maybe the Chantry Flats trails would be a bit less popular, we traveled farther west, up Santa Anita Boulevard to the winding road that leads to Chantry, another childhood favorite where I rode horses, and later took my kids for day picnics with friend Maryruth when we were young mom’s living in Arcadia.  Once again, cars were parked a mile or more from the main parking area, and we simply gave up on what seemed like a good idea at the time. 

The drive into the canyon was curvy and dramatic, with spectacular views across the San Gabriel basin and toward downtown Los Angeles.  It was worth it to see the views and then amble back to Pomona on the old Huntington Drive Historic Route 66.  I lived just a couple of blocks from Santa Anita Boulevard as a very young kid, and then later just two blocks from Huntington Drive, although in the 50’s it was not “historic” but simply route 66. 

We shared an early evening meal of chicken enchiladas with Jimmy and Nickie in their rig and spent the rest of the afternoon resting and trying to catch up a bit on all the activities.  It was a sweet end to the first day of the New Year to come.

The next morning we would get up at 3 to have a couple of hours to walk Mattie, eat a little breakfast, and be ready to board the bus by 5am for the big event of the rally, the Tournament of Roses Parade, 2017.