Get Out of Town! - Considering a Rose Parade Overnighter?
January, 2007 - Issue #27
Generally, it is the travel writer's job to tell you to where to go. There are times, however, when duty compels him to do otherwise, and he steers you away from certain destinations. This is one of those times.

Looming just beyond Christmas is one of the greatest potential travel debacles of modern times. Not the Wal-Mart return line on December 26; the Rose Parade.

It's an annual tradition in which Southern Californians typically engage. They awaken New Year's Day, stumble into the living room, plop down on the couch, turn on the TV and watch the floats and Midwestern marching bands creep down Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena. Women marvel at the floral splendor and men titter at the sight of baton-twirlers high-stepping through horse droppings.

It all looks so spectacular on television. That sense of awe and wonder inspires in many a desire to see the Rose Parade in person. So they head for Pasadena and take part in the full experience, which includes spending the night along the parade route to secure a front-row seat for the following morning's extravaganza.

Doing so the first time falls under the "it seemed like a good idea at the moment" category. But by the next morning, it has quickly been reclassified under "I will never do this again." And there are so many reasons why.

Ever seen a happy homeless person? Of course not. They often have to sleep on sidewalks, which aren't meant for sleeping. So why would anyone with a home think that bedding down on the concrete on a cold winter night with thousands of drunk strangers would constitute a good time? If you're 17 and all your friends are going, then it's sure to be fun!

That was the rationale that led me to my first Rose Parade. And we did have a good time cruising the parade route, watching people in other cars throw marshmallows at those sitting on the sidewalk. And it was equally entertaining to see the overnighters fling tortillas back in retaliation. The fun stopped sometime after midnight.

"Moral of the story: Free food and girls still aren't reason enough to SLEEP ON THE SIDEWALK."
That's when we decided to get some sleep. Problem was, we didn't bring enough warm clothes. So we opted to crash in our cars. I folded down the back seat of my Ford Escort wagon and my buddy and I crawled into our sleeping bags to spend the next few hours tossing and turning - but not sleeping.

Somehow that miserable experience faded with time, and the following year I said yes when someone - a girl - asked if I wanted to join some friends spending the night at the Rose Parade. Somebody's cousin from some high school in the Midwest was marching in the parade. The whole family had flown out for the blessed event and they wanted to see the performance in person. But they didn't bother buying grandstand tickets, and were somehow smart enough to know they didn't want to spend the night on the streets of Pasadena. Instead, the girls invited a couple of us guys to go and camp out to save seats for everyone. And the Mom sweetened the deal with munchies for the evening and breakfast in the morning. Moral of the story: free food and girls still aren't reason enough to sleep on the sidewalk.

I managed to stay away five years or so until I started dating my wife. When a big group of friends decided to do the unthinkable, April insisted we join them. "I've never been," she said. "It looks so fun."

"I have and it's not," I responded in vain. So, off we went for what would be my third night of self-inflicted homelessness. I shivered through another New Year's Eve, woke up grumpy and waited for two hours to see the first sign of the parade. We were camped at the end of the route, which meant a high percentage of the floats were inoperable by the time they reached us. There's a reason the TV cameras are posted at the beginning of the route. Afterwards April said, "Once was enough. We don't have to do that again."

Another New Year is almost upon us. It will find me in my living room, watching the parade as it is meant to be viewed: on television.

But don't let me stand in the way of your good time. Feel free to go watch the Rose Parade in person. Nothing can match the joy of seeing a tuba player step in a fresh horse pile while sharing the moment with 100,000 other cold, tired and hung-over spectators. Happy 2007!


Eric Harnish is a Newhall resident.
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