Every rose has its thorn

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Valley News - Opinion

When the Brown family rode in the Tournament of Roses Parade with the Spirit of the West Riders, the Village News had press credentials to the Rose Parade. On many occasions I traveled with Nathalie and Barbara Taylor early in the morning to arrive in Pasadena, but for the 2007 parade different arrangements were necessary.

I had been given a behind-the-scenes opportunity to ride up to Pasadena with the Browns and spend the night with the Spirit of the West Riders. I accepted that offer and coordinated logistics with the Browns and Nathalie Taylor. I would go to Pasadena in the Browns’ motorhome the night before, spend the night in the equestrian staging area and pick up our press credentials. Nathalie and Barbara Taylor would drive up the following morning, I would meet them and give them their media badges and grandstand tickets, and I would return to Fallbrook with them since the motor home would be parked at the end of the parade route rather than at the staging area after the parade started.

The Spirit of the West Riders met at a parking lot in Rosemead and caravanned to Pasadena. We arrived shortly before midnight, and after a group meeting, some of us caught a few hours of sleep while others, including myself, chatted or walked down Orange Grove Avenue looking at Rose Parade floats at two in the morning, an experience worth not sleeping during the night.

The Tournament House annex where press credentials were issued was closed between midnight and 5 a.m., so I enjoyed the experience of seeing the riders awake and begin to prepare before I left for the annex about 6 p.m. I picked up the credentials about 6:30 and tried to place a call to Nathalie Taylor.

My cellphone gave me the “searching for network” message. I walked toward the photo scaffold and still had no luck. I borrowed another cellphone and contacted Nathalie. They had been delayed by fog and were at the Fair Oaks off-ramp en route to the Parsons parking garage. I told Nathalie Taylor I’d head toward the Parsons garage and wait for her.

I gave her a call from the Parsons garage, and she was still on the off-ramp. My cellphone gave me the “battery low” message. I knew I had limited time, but she told me that she was behind a tour bus and how many cars were between her and the Fair Oaks traffic light.

I called her once more as the time approached 7:30 a.m. and she told me to go ahead without them if she wasn’t there yet. That was one option, although without the media badges they wouldn’t be allowed into the grandstand area. Another option was to wait for them to reach the garage and be late for the start of the parade.

A third option was to find her Grand Am in traffic, drop off the media badges and grandstand tickets for Nathalie and Barbara Taylor and walk back to the photo scaffold. Since the distance from the north side of the Parsons garage to the freeway off-ramp is about three blocks, I chose that option. I located the Grand Am, handed Barbara Taylor the badges and tickets as well as the blanket they had loaned me for the night and told them I’d meet them at the grandstand, which is across from the photo scaffold, after the parade.

By this time I knew I might not return to the photo scaffold by the 8 a.m. start, but I could catch the first few entries from the street. I knew that I could walk north of Colorado Boulevard and avoid both crowds and any parade units which may have left before I returned to the photo area. That gave me limited pedestrian traffic until I had to turn south at St. John. The parade hadn’t started, and there was limited pedestrian traffic by the time I crossed Colorado Boulevard, and my own media badge let me into the grandstand area. I was within a block of the scaffold when the first band passed, giving me a view from the street and I was in my assigned spot shortly after the start of the parade.

Eventually Nathalie and Barbara Taylor reached the grandstand. Once I saw them, I utilized a couple of breaks between parade groups to cross the street and grab a replacement roll of film for the camera. After the parade, we waited out traffic, took the surface streets of Pasadena and southern areas to avoid Interstate 210 and made an eastward portion of our return on Interstate 10.

Somewhere along the interstate Nathalie Taylor’s car had run over a plastic garbage bag which had become welded to the muffler. Eventually we heard a noise which we thought might have been brake-related due to spending an hour and a half in traffic. We pulled into a Carl’s Jr. in Ontario and Nathalie and I removed parts of the garbage bag, including a metal spoon which had attached itself to the bag and was causing the noise as it was dragging on the freeway. The car sounded better after that, and the rest of the trip went smoothly.

I had two additional opportunities to spend the night with the Spirit of the West Riders and spent two other nights in the equestrian staging area, and in other years I would travel from Fallbrook to Pasadena with Nathalie and Barbara Taylor. Nathalie and Barbara Taylor decided to leave Fallbrook an hour earlier in subsequent years.

Joe Naiman can be reached by email at jnaiman@reedermedia.com.