“I got free tickets to the Tournament of Roses Parade! Wanna go?”
When my friend Betsey uttered those words, I could hardly contain my excitement. I’m a veteran of curbside viewing, so being able to sit directly across from the television cameras was an unexpected delight.
A 6:00 a.m. departure would ensure our butts would rest on those cold metal bleachers for the 8:00 a.m. start with time to spare.
The excursion team of Betsey, her brother JD, our friend Kristen, a couple from Utah and me piled inside the minivan like kids going on a field trip. I was so chatty with excitement that I wasn’t paying attention to Betsey’s directions… until the traffic came to a sudden halt. “How are you going?” I screeched in panicked horror.
Betsey calmly replied, “This road runs right into the St. John’s parking lot.”
“NOOOO! It’s below the boulevard. We’re above the boulevard. We’ll never be able to cross over.” I shook my head.
We were wedged in like a can of sardines. The only thing that was moving was the hands of time while we inched closer to the 8:00 a.m. mark.
“You guys have never seen the parade. So get out and you won’t miss the start, while I find the parking lot,” Betsey said after cursing at the traffic.
Clearly, Betsey needed a wingman. “I’ll stay with you,” I said.
With that, the others hopped out and made a mad dash for it.
The minivan made a sharp left and merged into the lane next to us.
“Coming through,” she announced.
Moments later we broke free from the traffic jam.
We circled back around, only to bump into barricades.
“Oh, look, there they are!” There was no time to wave at our friends, now on the hoof. “Turn right here.”
“Look, there they are again.” Our friends were rapidly gaining on our seats while we orbited them.
Pushing the minivan like a racehorse for miles in the opposite direction, we searched for an opening.
“Why is everyone slowing down?” Betsey howled.
The loud rumble of the fighter jets overhead signaled the parade’s start. Cell phones popped out and pointed up from car windows.
“Quick, cross over the boulevard while no one is paying attention.”
Now speeding back toward the parking lot, Betsey rolled down her window and waved her Golden Ticket Parking Pass, “HOW DO I GET TO HERE?”
The officer moved the wood barrier aside and pointed.
“AHHH!” We took a right and slammed on the brakes to avoid running over the bedazzled
Medieval Knight Equestrian Team.
“Sorry. Have a nice parade.” Betsey navigated around them.
“This way.” I pointed.
“It’s one way.”
“It’s parade day. Pull the side mirrors in!”
We held our breath and squeezed through the tiny canal created by the enormous buses on one side and the massive, red trucks used to carry the famous Clydesdale horses on the other.
“KEEP DRIVING!” I said, white-knuckling the dashboard.
Betsey floored it. We popped out of that street like a cork and landed in front of the Penn State Marching Band. The baton twirler will never know how close she came to being a hood ornament on a minivan. We honked, but no one could hear us over the horn section.
Dodging traffic cones, I felt trapped in a video game.
Finally, we turned into the already jammed parking lot.
“Here!” Betsey pulled the minivan right behind another illegally parked car. “Hop out.”
After high fives, we ran toward our bleachers, slowing once at the tempting smell of the bacon-wrapped hot dogs on the cart. “No, you’ll thank me later.”
At 8:30, we plopped down on our seats.
“Oh, look, Bets, there are the Medieval Equestrians and Mickey Mouse,” I waved. “Is there a Mister Toad’s Wild Float this year?”
“You just rode it!”
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