After watching it from my couch on New Year's Day since I was a kid, attending the Tournament of Roses Parade has been on my "bucket trip" list. What's not to love about flower and plant-laden floats, university marching bands, and celebrity grand marshals in historic cars decked out in colorful sprays?
Well, as it turns out, there's a rally for that.
Last week we headed to Pasadena and joined the ranks of 70+ Airstreamers who braved 4 nights and 5 days of chilly temperatures, rainy days, and no hookups to watch the 134th Tournament of Roses Parade on Monday, from the grandstand.
The Rose Parade Rally is an urban rally, held in an elementary school parking lot within a short walk of Colorado Blvd., on the parade route. And if you think dry camping in a dreary, downtown Pasadena parking lot can't be fun, think again. The first-time hosts (and five-time attendees) of this 43rd annual rally–Margaret and Brian Handshoe, and their 13 year-old daughter Ivy–made it an incredible event to remember.
Plus, being in the heart of downtown Pasadena meant we could walk to everything–cafes and antique stores, Trader Joe's and Target, museums, and more. The city's clean streets, beautifully landscaped public spaces, and a wide variety of architecture from the 1920s through the 1970s added even more interest. And although our New Year's Eve party ended at 9:30pm due to a downpour, there were no raindrops on roses the morning of the parade. The weather was crisp and sunny and just like I remember seeing it on TV.
Planning a bucket list trip
I can't imagine a better way to fulfill my childhood dream of watching the Rose Parade, and it got me thinking: what other bucket list trips could we be taking in our Airstream? I'm not talking about the typical Airstream trip. I'm talking about those trips that have a "once in a lifetime" quality to them, or that include an element that tickles an I've always wanted to do that! fancy you've had for years.
If you're like Rich and me, you're probably already planning your 2023 trips. You might even be planning into 2024 at this point. Either way, this year, I suggest thinking beyond the usual destinations and state park camping and consider adding a bucket list trip to the calendar as well.
Here are a few questions to spur your planning.
1. Where have you always wanted to take your Airstream but haven't had the chance yet?
Maybe you've always wanted to visit Monument Valley. Or Yellowstone. Perhaps you want to attend the Balloon Fiesta rally in Albuquerque. Or as someone I talked to at the Rose Parade Rally shared, you are in the early stages of planning a caravan down the Baja Peninsula with a few Airstream friends.
Since I've always talked about a trip up the Oregon Coast, 2023 will include a trip up that route, on the way to Olympic National Park.
A parking lot may seem ho hum for a rally, until you realize it's a less than 10 minute walk to the Rose Parade route, and just blocks away from shopping, food, galleries, and museums.
2. What have you always wanted to DO, that might be made better or easier by taking the Airstream?
I always figured I'd fly to see the Rose Parade. But after hearing about the rally, I had a whole new way to consider attending. So now I'm reflecting on some of the "once in a lifetime" things I've always talked about doing, in terms of whether we could fashion them into a bucket list Airstream trip.
For example, since I like birding I'm thinking about a few rare birds I'd like to see during spring migration, so we can plan a trip around that. I've also always hoped to travel the entire Father Eusebio Kino Mission Trail and visit all of them – from Tumacacori, AZ to San Francisco, CA.
Maybe you've always hoped to do the Kentucky bourbon trail. Or follow in the footsteps of Marty and Alex Lagina and check out the mysteries of Oak Island in Nova Scotia. Perhaps you've always hoped to attend the Indianapolis 500, the Oshkosh Fly-in, or the Kentucky Derby. Great news: the sky is the limit for a bucket list, and you can travel to all of these places in an Airstream.
3. What else is there to do in the area, besides the main event?
Once you've picked the date, place, and/or event and made your reservation, don't stop there. What else could you add to the itinerary? How about a Michelin star restaurant (that may require a reservation months in advance), a famous Frank Lloyd Wright home, or a steam-powered cog railway?
Do some research or read a book about the history, notable figures, or the architecture of the area.
We waited in line for about 40 minutes to see the Float Decorating. So worth it. You can also see the floats up close and personal starting at about 4:00am on parade day, once they are lined up for the route, attend Band Fest to see the marching bands perform, or enjoy watching parade horses perform at Equine Fest.
Watching the Float Decorating was awesome. You can also volunteer for a decorating shift.
4. Do you have the right stuff in your rig?
Depending on what your trip is going to require, you might need to upgrade current equipment, batteries, solar capacity, or other things. Maybe even your tow vehicle, depending on the trip.
For the Rose Parade rally, we knew we'd be boondocking longer than we normally do. But the forecast called for sunshine on most days so we figured having portable solar along would be key to us topping up our battery. Unfortunately, every day was cloudy, save one–and then only for a few hours–so solar wasn't a good option.
Thankfully, Rich had recently upgraded our batteries to lithium, and added a Victron shunt so we can monitor battery charge at all time. Even if we hadn't grabbed 3 hours of solar power one morning, we would have (just) made it the full 4 nights and 5 days on our full lithium charge without rooftop solar or a generator.
Still, we kicked ourselves for not having our CarGenerator on this trip. It would have been perfect for topping up the batteries, and reduced a bit of nail biting. We'll take it next time for sure.
Obviously, the upgrades you need will depend on where you'll be going and how long you might be off shore power, but think things through in advance so you have time to buy what you need.
We had amazing grandstand seats! This was one of our favorite floats.
5. Is there anything you have to personally or physically prepare for?
If you want to climb El Capitan in Yosemite but you're a pretty sedentary person, you'll need to get into hiking shape. If you hope to run the famous Covered Bridges Half Marathon in Vermont, you'll need to schedule your training runs in time for the June race, and register the moment registration opens because the much-loved course takes you through more than a dozen historic bridges, and it sells out quickly.
Will you need to upgrade your bikes? Buy a full set of rain gear? Plan ahead for the things you'll need to make the trip.
6. How could you memorialize the trip?
I enjoy functional things that remind me of great trips and experiences. We'll get good use out of these stadium seat cushions. $40 for the pair, and priceless for the memory.
I've also got a budding collection of pocket watches, and found a gold-plated beauty at a Pasadena antique shop with the inscription, Will to Mamie, Xmas 1905. The watch is in working order and when I use it I'll think of this rally and trip.
Other ways to make the memory last: purchase a small sculpture or print created by a local artist, buy a book that characterizes the area or keep a special journal. You might also consider creating a digital book of your journal entries and photos on Shutterfly or Walgreens.com. Both have loads of templates to help you create a low cost and easy way to peruse the memories of a bucket list adventure.
Have we inspired you to schedule a bucket list trip this year? I hope so. As an Airstreamer said to us last year, all of us only have so much QTR–quality time remaining. Life is short and we plan to pack in as many "once in a lifetime" trips and experiences as possible. With the Rose Parade in the rear view mirror, we're busy planning our next bucket list trip.