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Off the Road

November 10, 2021
Getting on the plane to the village

When I woke up last Friday morning, I heard the wind howling and thought “We’re not getting out of here today.”

Denise, our hostess, checked the weather and told us the wind was only blowing 22 mph. The plane wouldn’t leave if the winds were over 35 mph. The winds were supposed to keep getting stronger and were predicted to be 35 mph at 10 a.m. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 9:30, just before sunrise.

I was out of ramen, my underwear were all used up, and I hadn’t had cell service since we got there. I was ready to go home.

I never thought I would find myself in a native village in rural Alaska, but that’s where I spent the week. Population 900, the town is on the Lower Yukon delta. It takes 3 airplanes to get there – a jet to Anchorage, a smaller jet to Bethel, then an 8-seat air taxi to the village.

Two years ago, I was working for a Fortune 50 company, supporting executives who had 10,000 employees in their departments. Now I was giving a presentation to 5 Yupiq Tribal Council members in a community center with cracked linoleum flooring in the most remote place I had ever been.

The Community Center

I couldn’t have been happier.

The last sheet piles being driven for the dock. There were 1000 total.

My friend and I went there to see the progress on a big project funded with money from a grant she had written. The grant not only paid for construction of a beautiful dock that will make unloading barges much less treacherous and will save the river banks from eroding, but miles of hard-surface roads in a community that had only had muddy, rutted roads before. Everyone kept taking us around to show us the lovely, new roads. Little kids rode 4-wheelers towing their friends on sleds. Dogs ran alongside us, some barking happily, others a little menacingly.

The town is tiny. There is one hotel located upstairs in the Community Center building. It has six rooms and bathrooms down the hall. There is one restaurant, and that is a rather new development. Some homes still don’t have running water or sewer service. People still get their food by hunting, fishing and gathering. Few people have cars, because there isn’t anywhere to drive except around town – there are no roads connecting the town with anywhere else. People ride 4-wheelers or snow machines or walk. The only way to travel there is by a small airplane, or on a barge during the months when the river isn’t frozen.

Denise is part of the construction crew. She is my age, tall, thin and strong. She has been working in rural Alaska her whole adult life. She has a home in Florida but doesn’t mind spending her days in the gravel and mud. “I really care about this,” she says.

Life is so funny. If you told me two years ago I would be doing this, I would never have believed you. Now I wake up every single day thinking about Alaska and how to help the Native people there get what they want.

We got out at 9:40 and flew at about 2700 feet, under the cloud layer. I knew the elevation because I could see the tiny plane’s instrument panels from my seat. Everyone could. The inside of the windows kept icing up. We landed in Bethel and the pilot said “I hope it wasn’t too warm back there for you!” Haha. I was wearing leggings, jeans, snow pants and had a little lap robe, along with my gloves, scarf, hat and neck gaiter, so I stayed warm enough.

Many people in the area have commercial fishing licenses.

There was a guy at Bethel checking his luggage that included a massive moose antler rack. Of course there was.

The flight to Anchorage gave us views of the frozen rivers, Denali and a couple glaciers. I got tears in my eyes seeing them because it was a glorious, beautiful experience I never thought I would have.

We got home late on Saturday. On Sunday I thought “I get to work tomorrow!” In 15 years at my old company, that never happened once.

God is good. Alaska is huge, and I left a piece of my heart there when I climbed on that tiny plane.

The cheesy grin says it all. My first time on a snow machine.

Dateline: Washington

October 3, 2021

I took a 15-minute shower and then used my shower squeegee on the glass doors.

Wow, exciting, Suebob, thrill us with more of your tales!

Well, it IS exciting to me, after three years of taking military showers (water on, water off, soap up, water on to rinse) in the RV. I’m taking longer showers and squeegeeing the shower doors because I bought a mobile home in Washington! And it has a big water heater, a proper shower, and best of all, water pressure!

Look, a bathroom! With a shower! With shower doors!

Here’s how it happened: I left Oregon at the beginning of May, once I was fully vaccinated. I had been thinking about heading back out on the road again, but my sister had a medical issue and I decided to come up here in case she needed me.

I stayed at an RV park and visited my sister a lot. I liked the area. Close to Seattle but not a big city. A charming historic downtown. Diverse. Decent museums and botanic gardens close by. A coffee hut on every corner.

I started noticing my sister’s mobile home park was full of nice people and mobile homes prices were really reasonable. I looked at one, but it wasn’t right for me. I kept an eye out.

One of my criteria for living somewhere is the answer to the question “Would I be happy driving up to this place?” I once lived somewhere that caused my heart to sink and me to yell “Oh crap!” whenever I came home, and I never want that feeling again.

Sometime not too long ago, I thought “If I had a house, I’d want it to be grey and white.”

Cue a small grey and white mobile home coming up for sale. Old. Single-wide. But the owner had done a lot of improvements – painted some of the inevitable faux wood paneling white, installed new fake wood flooring in some rooms, renovated the bathroom.

Grey! White! Tiny! Perfect!

I made an offer on the spot. The seller was motivated to move because she was going to Missouri to live in a tiny home and wanted to get there before winter. So in two weeks, I was handing over my savings and moving in.

The owner agreed to leave the beds and some furniture. That she did. She left 2 beds, a leather couch, three bookcases, 2 dressers, kitchen chairs and stools, a 40″ TV, stereo, washer/dryer, fridge, lamps, bakeware, glasses, cups, lawnmower, weed whacker, patio furniture, 2 portable ACs, gardening tools, potted plants, and curtains. All I really needed to bring was some pots, plates, bowls, bedding and clothing (and she apologized for not leaving bedding).

There is still SOME wood paneling…sigh.

It was so well-furnished that the day I moved in, I had houseguests from Ventura, up here for a memorial service. It was perfect to have people help me break in my new home.

What about Gladis? There is a storage lot right here on site, and I take her out for a weekly jaunt. We’re heading back down to Oregon in 2 weeks to take care of some business. And she and I have more adventures planned.

So now I’m busy making my mobile home a home. My stuff is on my way from Ventura after 3 years in storage. And if I ever I get sad about not being on the road right now, I can go hop in the shower and stand there for a long, long time.

It feels pretty weird to have a TV after all these years (last time I had a TV at home was in 2005) but I could get used to it.

9/11 20 Years Later

September 11, 2021

This was a post I wrote and have since updated as part of a project to honor those who died on 9/11/01 as part of the terror attacks. For the 20th anniversary, here it is again. May Mr. Bauer’s family and friends be surrounded by love today and every day.

The victims. We hear it over and over again about Sept. 11, 2001. The 2,996 victims.

The person that I am writing about, W. David Bauer, Jr., may have been a victim for one short moment of his life. But for the rest of his 45 years, he was clearly a winner. From what I have read about him, he was a player and a competitor, someone who took to the field of life with gusto and determination and who gave it all he had.

In the NY Times tribute article, it mentions that he competed in a triathlon on the weekend of Sept. 8-9, 2001 before coming home to watch his sons play football and then to grill steaks and to drink good red wine with his family and friends.

He also played football in college at Villanova and was inducted into their Hall of Fame. One of his friends from college said “His nickname was “Superman” because he could catch the bullet passes of our starting quarterback, Brian Sikorski, with one hand, either hand!”

He also had a lifelong love of basketball and volleyball. His teammate Tom Dooley said “I knew David as a competitor on the basketball court when we were both well past our prime playing days…[He] was a gentleman of the highest caliber on and off the court.”

Mr. Bauer played professional football as a linebacker before being sidelined by an injury.

In business he competed and thrived. He climbed up through the ranks at Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers and Credit Suisse First Boston before becoming head of global sales for eSpeed, a division of Cantor Fitzgerald located on the 105th floor of the North Tower. He was one of 658 Cantor employees who died in the World Trade Center.

He also contributed to his community. He was a past President and Founding member of the Villanova Financial Club. He served on the Board of Family & Children’s Services and he and his wife were honored with the Helen Hoffman Award for Community Service. He was a member of Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church in Rumson, N.J., where he lived.

Mr. Bauer, who was 45 years old at the time of his death, was married to his wife Virginia “Ginny” and had three children, David, Steven and Jackie, who were 16, 14, and 12 when he died. He and Ginny had met in third grade.

So this is a man who lived, who really lived. He was someone who made good things happen for himself, his family and his friends. The type of hard-working, hard-playing family guy who is the backbone of our country and whom you would probably love as a neighbor.

Since Mr. Bauer’s death, his wife has become a leading advocate for the families of victims of 9/11.  and has since remarried. His children followed in their father’s footsteps, becoming championship athletes in their own right.

My very best wishes to the Bauer family. I am sorry for your loss and I hope this tribute did Mr. Bauer justice.

Here is a link to the 2,996 project.

Beekeeping Made Simple

August 15, 2021

I decided to start beekeeping. I wanted to start small, so I just got one.

Not one hive, one bee. A very good bee, though.

I was in the swimming pool and I saw her and bobbed over to check her out. There are often bees in the pool. Most are dead. She was very much alive and was frantically spinning around on her back.

I fetched a toy that a child had left on the pool deck- one of those weighted things that kids dive down to retrieve from the bottom of the pool. It looked like a tiny orange bucket with blue rubber wings. I scooped up the bee and sat her on the pool deck to dry.

She clung to the tiny bucket. I blew on her wings to dry them. At the end of my workout and shower, she was still just clinging there, looking quite dry. I realized her ordeal in the water may have used up all her energy. By then, it was almost dark and the flowers were closed, so I gently carried the bee back to Gladis and sat her, still on the toy, on the hood.

I went and fetched a little wooden knife and daubed honey on it. I presented it to her and she eagerly stuck her mouth into the honey and drank and drank and drank. I removed my glasses to watch her.

When I went inside, she was still drinking. I thought she might be too damaged to last the night, but I was glad to give her one last fabulous meal.

I looked out in the morning and she was still there. It was very early. But then when I checked in another couple hours, she was gone.

I don’t know why I went to all the trouble and got invested so much in this one tiny bee. The world seems so crazy and out of control that it was good to focus on one small thing.

What is your one small thing this week?

Image by Cocoparisienne at Pixabay.

Keeping It 100!

May 18, 2021
A group  of colorful Chihuly glass pieces from the glass bridge in Tacoma.

Thanks to inspiration from my friends Kizz and Cindy, I decided many years back to set a goal of visiting 100 museums. At the time, I believe I had already visited about 45.

When you live in one suburban spot, visiting 100 museums is difficult because you have to travel every time you want to see a new one. When you travel all the time, it becomes considerably easier. On my trip around the US, I visited museums large and small as often as I could. A lot of this depended on location and parking.

Then I came home and Covid hit. My museum count over the past year: zero. The last museum I visited was the Cesar Chavez National Monument & Museum last March, number 98 on my list. When I visited, I was already worrying about the virus and the lady at the front desk told me she thought they would be closing down any minute.

Fast forward 14 months. Fully vaccinated and feeling fine, my sister agreed to visit the Tacoma Museum of Glass with me last weekend. It’s worth a visit. First, there is the famed Chihuly Glass Bridge (see above), which is thankfully above, not below you (I ain’t walking on any glass bridges). And then the museum is full of glass, both modern and historic. The Rene Lalique exhibit was a treat.

My favorite part, though, was the hallway to the bathroom, which is lined with kid drawings turned into works of glass by the masters in the museum’s hot shop as part of an educational program. Kids have unlimited imaginations and the glass workers did their drawings justice.

A child's drawing turned into a piece of glass art. It is a striped animal with three points on its head, red stripes and a yellow halo.

While on the tram back from the museum, I saw another museum I wanted to check out, Tacoma Art Museum, which I visited this Sunday. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that made 100 museums! TAM also has a big glass collection as well as paintings and sculpture.

The exhibit that caught my fancy was a big gallery filled with works chosen by small groups comprised of museum employees, volunteers and community members, including youth. They got to choose 3 works each from the permanent collection for display. The show was diverse, interesting and bridged styles and time periods. I think more museums should do this.

It took me 60 years to visit 100 museums. My next goal is 200! I wonder when and where that will be.

Highly recommended museums:

Corning Museum of Glass, Corning NY

Taos Museum of Art at Fechin House, Taos, NM

Old Slave Mart Museum, Charleston, SC

Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH

Rosicrucians Egyptian Museum, San Jose, CA

Exploratorium, San Francisco, CA

The whole list of museums I visited is on the “Life Lists” tab – keep scrolling down.

One More Mistake

April 11, 2021

Yesterday I made a mistake. I mentioned to a guy at the gas station “I think I have probably made every mistake with an RV that one can make.”

I ANGERED THE GODS.

My brother-in-law and I call stupid, physical mistakes that result in a mess “Moe Larry Cheese.” I’m not sure why, but it is related to this episode of The Three Stooges.

We say “I Moe Larry Cheesed today,” and the other person settles in for a story.

I Moe Larry Cheesed.

I went out to do errands in Gladis (my RV) and then to do laundry. When I got done, the inside of the RV was full of grocery bags, Amazon boxes, laundry baskets, things placed in the sink so they wouldn’t fly around while I was driving. It was a mess.

I came back to the RV park and plugged in all the things – turned on the propane, the electric, hooked up the water and turned it on, then last, the sewer pipe (which we RV people charmingly call “the stinky slinky”).

I was outside talking to Nice Neighbor Peggy about her lilacs, which are setting buds quite nicely.

I walked around the RV to the side with the door and saw water leaking out from near the rear wheels.

Huh? Water? I started running like a cartoon character, my feet spinning in circles.

MOE FREAKING LARRY CHEESE.

One of the items in the sink had pushed on the kitchen sink handle, turning the water on. The handle being on wasn’t an issue when I was driving, because the water pump wasn’t on, but when I connected the water hose to the RV park water, the open faucet started flowing.

A plastic box in the sink was sitting at an angle, directing a waterfall directly into…the stove. Onto the floor. Down through the stove vent into the pots & pans cabinet.

Lots and lots and lots of water.

I mopped and cleaned and soaked up water with towels for about an hour.

As we say in this situation “Well, the floor needed to be mopped anyway.”

What can we learn from this story?

NEVER SAY YOU HAVE MADE ALL THE MISTAKES, BECAUSE THE GODS ALWAYS HAVE ONE MORE MISTAKE.

I have plenty of mistakes left to make, you hear me?

Zipline Marriage

March 26, 2021
A flat boat on a river in Costa Rica in early morning. There are about 10 people on the boat.

I told my friend Lauren that I would find the blog post from 2011 I had written about ziplining in Costa Rica. That led me to realize I had never written about ziplining in Costa Rica. So here we are.

My friend and I were spending 3 days in Tortuguero on the east coast of the tiny bi-coastal country. I had insisted we go to the Caribbean side because I was under the mistaken belief that the whole Caribbean would look like Bermuda, with crystal blue waters and tropical drinks under umbrellas. I didn’t realize that this ocean is rougher than the Pacific, and that almost no one goes here outside of turtle-hatching season.

We had a lot of time on our hands and not a lot to do, so we started snooping around for excursions. We soon found a ziplining company and made arrangements. I pictured a bustling facility with happy, yelping zipliners whizzing through the trees.

Two young men, one tall, lean and silent and one tiny, lean and silent, arrived to fetch us in a small boat with an outboard motor. We crossed the canal to a small island and found that we were the only customers. The men fitted us with helmets that smelled like they had been worn by 1000 people and marinated in jungle funk.

We climbed stout wooden ladders 150 feet straight up to the zipline platforms. We were both chunky and out of shape at the time, so just getting to the top was a victory. Standing on the platform, we discovered a design flaw – the rig to hook our safety lines on was too short to reach, so we had to stand on a telephone-book sized block of wood and kind of hop up in the air to get hooked in.

I had the tall, silent guy assisting me and the tiny man was helping my friend. I went first, and it took quite a few hops to get hooked up, all while teetering on a small platform in the treetops. I got hooked up and sailed from the first platform to the second, where we had to repeat the whole hopping sequence.

The zipline itself was…ok. The forest was second-growth, having been logged 40 or 50 years before, so it was a little sparse and not very diverse. It was mildly diverting to sail ungainly through the trees like a Thanksgiving turkey carcass swinging from a rope.

When we got to the exit, I waited for my friend to land and realized she wasn’t having a good time. She was MAD.

“What?” I asked.

“Oh my god,” she said. “I ended up having to wrap my legs around him and he would jump up and hook me in. He is so short it was really hard and…”

She paused.

“I think what we did makes us married in some countries.”

So that, my friends, is the story of how my friend, and a very small quiet Costs Rican guy, accidentally got molested by zipline.

A diversity of plants grow on a fallen log in a Costa Rican rainforest.

There are no photos of this actual incident. Thank God.

Be Yourself

February 25, 2021
A small motorboat nears shore with a spectacular sunset behind it. The sky is orange, red and blue.
One of my favorite places to walk – Ventura Harbor

After the incident with the Unpleasant Pheasant, I didn’t do much walking for several weeks. Then when I started walking again, my balance and gait were off. I hit a patch of slick mud and went down, hurting myself in the same way I had during the pheasant incident. I hobbled home, scared and disappointed – I didn’t want to be afraid of going for a walk.

My friend advised me to get some walking poles. She thought it would give me security as I started walking again. I resisted at first. I wasn’t trekking – I was just walking around the neighborhood, which is a 55-and-older RV park. I would look stupid. And indeed, when I finally broke down and got some, my neighbors, most of whom I did not know, proceeded to give me crap about walking with poles. Pretty much every day, some old guy – it was always an old guy – would yell something at me about “You’re not in the Himalayas!” or “The snow is over that way, in the mountains!” One guy said disgustedly to his wife “I don’t know what she’s trying to prove with those.”

But I kept walking. I hated people yelling at me, but I hated the thought of being sedentary even more.

And then something happened. I started noticing other people in the park, people I had never seen out walking before, walking with poles. A few stopped to ask me about mine. Curt, my neighbor with a Border Collie, compared his new carbon-fiber poles to mine, which are aluminum.

Me choosing to walk with poles apparently inspired several other people to walk with poles. It was suddenly ok. This was not my intended outcome, but it pleased me immensely.

Just by being myself and doing my thing, I gave my neighbors permission to act similarly. As A Course in Miracles says in my favorite quote “Everyone teaches, and teaches all the time.”

What are we going to teach this week?

Good Ideas Gone Bad

January 17, 2021

When I was a kid, there wasn’t much emphasis on physical fitness. It was a good thing, too, because my library card was my best friend and I could rip through 10 books per week, stopping only to eat, sleep and go to school.

Back then, people thought that children would exercise themselves sufficiently if given access to the outdoors. Our physical education classes consisted of playing dodge ball and red rover, with the occasional foray into a few jumping jacks and toe-touches.

There wasn’t the sports-industrial complex there is now. There were no expensive lessons or “travel teams,” at least not among people we knew. Rather than team sports, we played games we learned or made up, games where we spent almost as much time negotiating the rules as we did actually competing.

Our favorite made-up game was “Best Fall,” where one person would pretend to be a Wild West gunman and everyone else would run toward them. They would shoot each person with their finger-guns and we competed to see who could do the most dramatic fall to our death, complete with gruesome dying sounds and flopping about. It was good practice for growing up to be drama nerds.

So is it any wonder that the Presidential Physical Fitness Test came as a bit of a shock? Out of nowhere, our teachers would take us out to the play field and do timed exercises for several hours – as many pull-ups as you could do in a minute (zero, as always), as many sit-ups (the old-fashioned kind with someone holding down your feet) as you could do in five minutes, how far you could run in…I dunno, it seemed like forever.

Suddenly my body, well-adapted to reading books, was being forced to do things it did not normally do, and it did not appreciate it. I remember hanging helplessly on the pull-up bar. I remember running until the back of my throat was hot and weirdly minty, my breath sounding like a pack-a-day smoker. And most of all, I remember my shredded stomach muscles being so sore from sit-ups that I could barely stand or move. My mom took pity on me and gave me a hot water bottle to go to sleep with.

If you did well in the tests, you got an award. Billy Matthews always got the award. Some of us never got the award.

I assume the adults who designed this program thought “These kids are going to want to get in shape after this!”

Ha. I got a different message. My take-away was: exercise is torture – avoid it at all costs. That’s what I did for the next few decades. I took the easiest PE classes I could, sat on the sidelines, used my menstrual period excuse as often as I could get away with.

I wonder how different my life would have been if I didn’t believe exercise was torture.

I’m not sure what the moral of this story is. Don’t spring things on children that they aren’t ready for? If you’re going to make children exercise, have a plan instead of just throwing them into torment? Or maybe don’t let your kid read 10 books per week. Make them go ride their bike or something.

UPDATE: I found this great podcast about how pointless this test was. It is a fun listen and chock full of information – like the fact that no one ever collected this data or used it in any meaningful way.

Story Time: Tournament of Roses

January 2, 2021

I missed the Tournament of Roses parade yesterday. I have loved it forever. The insane spectacle of it all – the fluffy floats, the giant bands, the specificity of the announcers (“The float features 17,500 magenta roses and 83 pounds of poppyseed”).

I loved it so much I built 2 floats. What? Yes, the Cal Poly State Universities in San Luis Obispo (my alma mater) and Pomona each build half of a Rose Float, join them together over Thanksgiving weekend, and spend the whole winter break finishing construction and decorating. 

My floats were in 1983-84 “A Knight to Remember” and in 84-85, “Only in America.” I went to Cal Poly knowing I wanted to build a float more than any other extracurricular activity. 

How does a float get built? Well, let me tell you. 

In January, the float is driven at night from Pasadena back to Cal Poly Pomona, which can be quite a process – a huge, mouldering ungainly vehicle too large for many underpasses and roads. This drive is coordinated with the California Highway Patrol and local police. 

One year the float, a large pink hippo, ran into a freeway abutment, causing an infamous call to report the accident. 

“Type of vehicle?”

“Um, a 32-foot pink hippo.”

“Registered owner?”

“Uh, I guess the state of California.”

The float is then deconstructed and half taken back to San Luis Obispo. 

Students building the float in Pomona

In February or March of each year, the student leadership of the Cal Poly Rose Float organization holds a design contest and selects a float from the proposed sketches. These do not include plans – they are just pictures of what the float will look like.

In the “Only in America” year, my design with a friend was a merry-go-round, which I still maintain would have made a great float, but it wasn’t chosen. We instead tried to represent the whole United States in 30 feet, which made a cute but somewhat confusing float. 

Once a design is selected, students draw plans for the design, the mechanical underpinnings, the electrical system, etc. Both campuses have float barns (which were also built by students) that hold everything you need to build a float – welders, tools, hydraulic hose, electrical wire, chicken wire, etc. The students spend a lot of the year fundraising to provide for float expenses.

Making cotton candy as a fundraiser…with a malfunctioning machine

Students are entirely responsible for building the float from the ground up. Cal Poly Universities have electrical and mechanical engineering programs, as well as computer science and horticulture, all of which come in handy. While students who are majoring in these programs usually take the lead on the related parts of the float, almost everyone does everything. Everyone learns to weld, for instance. 

I learned to weld, not very well, and probably created more havoc than actual finished metal. I remember getting a piece of hot slag in my bra and ruining a weld. Ow!

Students grow the flowers for the float on the campuses. They traipse around fields gathering other plant materials (the weed “Rumex” produces a nice medium brown seed). They also barter for some materials and purchase others. Every inch of the float has to be covered in natural plant material – roots, leaves, seeds, flowers, twigs. The toughest colors are blue – often provided by bachelor buttons or irises, and black, which might be gotten by water hyacinth root or onion seed.

Over Thanksgiving, the float halves are joined together and the decorating structures are built. This involves building shapes out of bent and welded metal rods which are then covered with chicken wire and screen and “cocooned” with a spray-on material. Some structures are carved from foam. Once the structures are complete, the whole float is painted in the colors that represent the plant materials that will go in each place. This makes decorating easier and also hides any gaps that flowers don’t quite cover.

The float, looking pretty much like a float by now, is driven from Pomona to Pasadena for decorating. This used to take place in a nice float barn, but I have heard that in recent years, it has had to happen under a freeway overpass. It’s not freezing cold in Pasadena, but it gets cool at night and float decorating takes place at all hours until it is done. 

Dozens if not hundreds of volunteers use gallons of glue to stick flowers, leaves and even individual petals to the float. It’s messy, sticky and dangerous work.. The glues can leave your head spinning, and you’re often on scaffolds. 

My friend Stacy became a lead decorator by picking up a clipboard and looking smart. People started asking her what to do and she pointed them where to go. This was a wise move, because she didn’t have to climb any scaffolds herself. 

As parade day approaches, you’re either ahead or behind. If you’re behind, as we were on A Knight to Remember, you end up stapling evergreens to the float at 3 am in the parade lineup on Orange Grove Boulevard. 

If you’re ahead, you can go volunteer to help other organizations finish their floats with your hard-won expertise. In 84-85, we helped finish at least 5 other floats. Some floats are built by professionals, others by civic organizations. All are decorated by volunteers, because no one can afford that kind of intensive labor. 

On New Year’s Eve, the floats are driven through the closed streets of Pasadena to line up in formation for the parade. Everyone in Pasadena is out partying on the streets, so it’s a great time. 

After a freezing night spent outdoors on the sidewalk, punctuated by horrifying trips to portapotties and trying to remove 7 layers of clothing while not touching any disgusting surface, parade day arrives.

At precisely 8 am, the parade kicks off with a flyover by some stealth bombers, and then it is just hours and hours of floats, bands and horses. Quite frankly, it’s better at home where you are comfy and can see multiple camera angles while drinking coffee and eating cinnamon buns.

That’s it. A year of work. Good times. I learned more building the floats than I did in any of my classes at Cal Poly. Cooperation, working as a team, taking on new skills, asking for things, planning. 

I hope the parade comes back next year and I hope we will all be here to see it. Stay safe, folks. 

Some of my Rose Float people. Still friends.

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