Katie and I were up and at 'em at 3:30 that morning. Since we would be going straight from Pasadena to LAX, we had to be completely packed when we left our hosts' home at 4:30 a.m.
After loading up our rental car, we drove to Pasadena. Since I was worried about running out of gas while stuck in traffic after the parade, we stopped in Alhambra at a nearly deserted gas station. It was still dark outside and a little spooky in spite of the well-lit station, so I was startled when a man approached me for directions. Turns out the guy was from Fort Worth and just needed directions to the parade!
We arrived in the chilly predawn hours, getting to our parking garage without any trouble. Walking to the parade route, we were cold and sleepy, but that was nothing compared to the thousands of people who had camped along Colorado Avenue for prime parade-viewing spots. These people were serious about their camping. They had patio heaters, hibachi grills, big tables and chairs marking off their group's territory. And in the middle of all that, there were all these lumps. It took a bit to realize that those lumps were people in sleeping bags! Soon after we arrived, a convoy of tow trucks roared down the street, blasting their horns. As we walked, we could see all those lumps start to move, woken up by those truck drivers.
Since we couldn't sit in our reserved grandstand spots until 6, we walked down Colorado, looking for something warm to eat. We ended up at Andy's Coffee Shop, arriving early enough to get a table. We ordered a nice breakfast and even got to use the bathroom there (since we were paying customers and all).
After that, we did some major people-watching as we walked back east on Colorado.
We found our reserved seats and were relieved to see that the trees in front of us would not significantly block our view. Those trees cast some pretty mean shadows, but at least we weren't looking into the sun,
AND we weren't sitting on a roof!
To pass the time, we entertained ourselves by taking self-portraits.
Katie even used her panoramic function to create this:
Since we were pretty far from the parade's starting point, it took the entries about an hour and 15 minutes to reach us. We heard the Stealth bomber fly over at 8 a.m., and then a little later, Facebook friends posted that they had seen the band on TV. It was so exciting to know that our Birdville kids had been on TV and were on their way to us.
Then I got a text message from a friend:
"Is this Ryan?" he asked. I screamed and even cried a little. Our friend Michael had spotted Ryan on TV!
At last the parade made its way to us at 1570 E. Colorado. We oohed and aahed and waved at Grand Marshal Paula Deen, the floats, the equestrian units, even the pooper scoopers. But then, the 15th unit in the parade arrived.
Oh. My. Goodness. It was so incredible to see them! Katie and I yelled, stood and clapped while the people around us cowered. OK, not really. But they were really curious about this ginormous band. After the band had marched out of view, I explained how the group was comprised of three high schools' musicians. Then I posted a status update:
I was beyond proud, and tears still spring to my eyes just thinking about that moment.
Of course, the parade didn't end with our band.
Truly, all of the parade was UNBELIEVABLE. I'm so thankful Katie and I were able to be there to see it all in person.
At one point during the parade, Katie told me, "I could break my arm right now and this would still be a good day." Yep, it was a VERY good day.
From there we waded through tons of traffic to get out of Pasadena and make our way back to the car rental place. We both really needed to use the bathroom, but lines were too long when we left the parade area, and we never found a good place to stop on the road.
Even though they didn't have a public restroom, we still had to stop at one place before dropping off our car:
Donuts in hand, we drove down the street to return our little Versa. We planned to use the restroom at the rental agency, but the shuttle bus arrived as soon as we did. Thankfully, we made it to the airport just in the nick of time. (I'm surprised TSA wasn't alarmed by that crazed look in my eyes, though!)
Aboard the plane, Katie continued to document our trip a little too thoroughly:
But really, aren't airplane toilets fascinating?
We really enjoyed our view of the beautiful sunset.
About four hours later, we were back home in Texas, tired but ever grateful for our California adventure.