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Tournament of Roses Parade

Volume 29: Fri Mar 7, 2003

Giant dragons got lose in Pasadena

It's been awhile since I last wrote—but I've been keeping so busy I've had little time to actually write up my adventures! But to quickly get you up to date:

The beginning of the year you could find me cheering in 2003 in Pasadena, California. This particular adventure was instigated by no other than my mom when she innocently suggested us going to see the Rose Parade since I had never watched it live before. Sure, why not?! Amanda got sucked into it when we learned she'd be having a layover in Los Angeles, flying in New Years Eve and flying out two days later on January 2nd.

So my mom and I went down, picked up Amanda, and drove off to Pasadena to check out some of the New Year festivities and spend the night "on the streets." We walked down to where all the floats were, some with people frantically running around putting last-minute decorations on before the big show. The parade wasn't until the next morning, but the sidewalks were already packed with pedestrians and campers parting like it was the end of 1999. Didn't have the heart to tell them it wasn't. =)

All the good spots on the sidewalk had already been claimed long before we arrived, so we spent the night in my mom's car where at least the parting didn't keep us up ALL night. The next morning we woke up bright and early to discover the line for the porta potties outside was about a hundred people long. When you gotta go, you gotta go, and some of us—not naming names here—but some of us found a private spot in the parking garage to do our thing. Shhhh....

Anyway, the parade itself was practically boring compared to the people watching. Amanda was looking forward to seeing the Grand Marshals of the parade saying there would be famous people on it, although none of us knew who the Grand Marshals would be.

The Grand Marshals were Bill Cosby, Art Linkletter, and Mr. Rogers

As it turned out, one of them is the now very dead Mr. Rogers. Amanda actually got to talk with him for a little bit because he was on the flight she was working that left LA the next day! It seems Mr. R lives in Philly, and Amanda was working the LA to Philly flight he took back home. She says in real life he was just like he was on his show (kind of a scary thought, actually), but for some bizarre reason she didn't get any autographs to sell on eBay.

Speaking of famous flying celebrities, Amanda has also had Pat Boone and Richard Simmons on flights so far this year. Which, according to her, Richard Simmons has a problem sitting still. (Who'd have thunk?)

I've always been a big fan of the Yellow Submarine!

But I digress.... After the parade we went to Medieval Times where we got to eat with our fingers (silverware is strictly forbidden!) while watching knights jousting and showing off their skill on the horses. If you've never heard of Medieval Times, there's a scene in The Cable Guy that was filmed there. Yeah, I know, the movie sucks—saw it on a late-night cable channel back in the good old days when I had a job and nothing better to do. But the place is a blast. There are six knights and everyone there is assigned "their" knight to root for and to boo everyone else's knight, or yelling stuff like "Off with his head!" when the other knights insult your knight. It might sound corny, but it really is a blast. Better than Disneyland, if you want my opinion! =)

And that's the story of my New Years Day.

And isn't everyone a fan of Gumby?!

Then there are the daily adventures that one just stumbles upon by accident. One day I followed some billowing smoke streaking the sky to watch a house burn down which was kind of fun. Don't get me wrong—this was a controlled burn that the firefighters set to practice putting it out. I'd never think a REAL house fire would be fun! There was a large perimeter around the burning houses (they burned down five or six of them that day!) and some friendly firefighters were answering questions from us gawkers. It was rather interesting.

Amanda does her best secret service impression while trying to stay warm

For instance, when asked about where the houses came from, they said the houses were donated. Usually it's because someone buys a new piece of property with a structure on it that they don't want. Maybe they want to build an even bigger house on the site. Or turn it into an apartment complex. Or whatever. In any case, they don't want the structures on the property anymore, so they call up the fire department and ask for them to burn them down. They could have rented bulldozers and other heavy equipment to tear the place down for an expensive price, or the fire department will burn it down for free. Keep this in mind if you ever want to get rid of a structure on one of your properties.

The houses get used for more than just fire fighters to light and put out multiple times, though. Arson investigators (or wanna-bes) actually light a lot of the fires using various types of fuel so they can see first-hand how to identify signs of arson. Some college students were able to use the site for other educational activities. But all-in-all, it was a lot fun to watch. =)

The most patriotic float in the parade

I've also made another trip to Las Vegas and—at long last—I got to see the pirate show in front of Treasure Island! Which, let me point out, is NOT an island. *rolling eyes* It was kind of hokey, but it was fun to watch anyhow.

Amanda and I also went up in the Stratosphere where we got to ride the world's highest roller coaster (over 1,000 feet above ground level!) and the "Big Shot" where you're propelled another hundred feet (or more? I don't really know how much it propels you) into the air before free-falling back. Be careful of that ride—it's really a blast, but it can make your stomach churn as you watch helicopters pass below you!

We did some shopping expeditions (more on that later) and watched people stuffing tubes up their nose at the oxygen bar. For those of you who've never heard of an oxygen bar, it's a place where you can go to sniff oxygen (even scented with your choice of scents, as I've heard) if you get tired of the smoked-filled casinos. You've got to wonder about people that feel the need to get high at an oxygen bar when they can go outside for free.

Amanda and I took another road trip through the southwest hitting the states of Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona, but I'll save the details of that story for another day—there should be plenty of fodder there to justify its own Great Adventure.

Amanda admires the view from the top of the Stratosphere in Las Vegas

However, there is one event that happened during that trip I should mention now. While camped out at Zion National Park, Amanda and I were reading Bill Bryson's A Walk In the Woods, where Bryson writes about his adventure along the Appalachian Trail with his out-of-shape buddy, Katz. Bryson's books are hilarious, and this one is no exception. At some parts I'd be laughing so hard I could hardly breath anymore—it's that funny! Definitely highly recommended, but then something happened while reading that book to change the course of my life. I began to think—what if *I* hike the Appalachian Trail? What an adventure THAT would be! Put the Great back into my Great Adventures!

For those of you not familiar with the Appalachian Trail (or AT for short), it's a 2,172.6 mile trail from Georgia to Maine—the grand daddy of long-distance hiking trails. It traverses through 14 different states and over 250 hills and mountains along the way. The total elevation gain along the length of the trail is just short of 500,000 feet. That's equivalent of climbing from sea level to the top of Mount Everest [*dramatic pause*] sixteen times! Or climbing a single mountain that's over 80 miles tall! Over 80% of the thru-hikers that start on Springer Mountain, Georgia, never make it to the end. Just the kind of adventure and challenge that might keep me out of trouble!

I twirled the idea around my head for a week or two after that, liking it more and more. I started reading up on the trail and previous people who've hiked it—or tried to but failed. I started learning more about gear and equipment. How to dehydrate your own food and have food maildrops sent to post offices on route. How to wrestle alligators and charm poisonous sakes. Okay, maybe not the alligator part, but I did happen to see that in one of those "Worst-case Scenario Survival Handbooks" that you see everywhere. ;o)

And I totally want to do this hike now. The typical person that starts hiking the AT has been planning their adventure for ten YEARS before they start the hike. This idea hit me at the beginning of February, giving me about two months before weather conditions are optimal for beginning the hike. I had a lot of catching up to do!

Those "shopping expeditions" in Las Vegas were mostly for gear that I might need on this adventure and much of my time now is spent preparing for the trip and learning everything I can about the trail and how to hike it from end to end. From how to cook delicious pizzas on the trail to sewing my own clothes and everything in between.

I expect to start the hike sometime the first couple of weeks of April at which point my Internet access will become MUCH more spotty. At least in Central America there were Internet cafes on every other corner. On the Appalachian Trail they won't be quite so prevalent (or cheap)!

And for anyone residing near or on the AT, or knows a friend residing near or on the AT, or a friend of a cousin 2nd removed, or anything like that that's willing to take me in for a day or two and show me the local sights or just let me clean up and eat non-trail food, let me know! =) I'll probably be starved for company, would LOVE to see sights OFF the trail, and I might even be persuaded to make some of my world-famous snickerdoodle cookies. =) (Or two batches, since I'd be likely to eat one of them before they were done cooking!) Chris and Drew—I expect to see you two in Boston when I reach your state! ;o) I'll probably go out of my way to see Washington, DC, and New York along the way as well, but I'm open for other interesting sights. It's not everyday I get a chance to see the sights back east! =)

That's about it for me—for now. My next volume will have the highlights from the road trip Amanda and I took through the southwest US.


— Ryan

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