Friday, January 07, 2011

Things: Installment 60

Well, hell's bells. I've spent the better part of two days writing this dang post only to manage to lose more than half of it just b/c Blogger saves changes every 30 seconds on my home computer and I had the unfortunate mishap of accidentally deleting my post right as it was autosaving. And if I could figure out how to change the intervals between autosaves, I would. Grrrrrrr! So let's see if I can recreate this thing. It won't be as witty as the first go-around, but I'm giving it a whirl.

In honor of our cross-country trek to attend the Rose Bowl festivities, you get to enjoy a complete run-down on the trip in this issue of Things. Excited? Well, if you scroll down and realize how loooooooooong this sucker is, you might not be! (And so this lovely post doesn't take up sooooooooooo much room on the homepage of the ol' blog, I'm gonna insert a little "click here" page break right here, which means absolutely zippo to the Google Reader followers out there.)

All Things Rose Bowl
  • Why do you care about TCU? - In the event I haven't talked much about it before, our ties to TCU go back. Way back. Derek's mom grew up in Fort Worth. And when you grow up in Fort Worth there are two things that elicit your undying devotion: the Stock Yards and Texas Christian University! (My ties to TCU are by marriage. Obv.) After a successful year at Navarro, Derek transferred to TCU, where he was enrolled for two years. While his class attendance was sketchy at the very best, his devotion to TCU was not. He has bled purple ever since!
  • How the trip came about - Derek and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary in October, and when I was looking for a gift for him, something having to do with TCU jumped immediately to mind. When you live with a Frog fan, you know more about football records than you'd probably care to. And with TCU's exceptional record the last two seasons, let's just say that the Frogs were the talk at the dinner table this fall. So being the astute wife that I am, I began researching TCU's standings and what the prospects of a repeat bowl appearance might be. Two reputable polls had them going to the Rose Bowl. So I hedged my bets and got tickets to the game through the Team Specific Reservations office. Basically, if your team makes it to the bowl game, you are obligated to purchase a specified number of tickets at face value; if your team doesn't make it, you're only out the cost of the reservation. We anxiously awaited the release of final BCS standings on Dec. 5th where TCU was ranked #3 and thus qualified for the Rose Bowl. I can't tell you how fast we called to book a package on Dec. 6th!
  • The trip that almost wasn't - I left Derek to booking the trip package, which included hotel, parade tickets, and game tickets, while I went on a mad hunt for reasonable airfare. Have you ever priced an itinerary over New Year's? OMG! Crazy! Let's just say I went into an utter state of panic when the cheapest thing I could find was $2500. A PERSON. I frantically called Derek and broke the bad news, but it was too late to back out. He'd already booked the NON-REFUNDABLE tour package. We're locked into going now. So I did what any coordinator of office travel would do: I called my favorite travel agent. Pam has gotten me out of so many jams when my bosses opt to book travel at the last minute. In our case, we were booking three weeks out - hardly what I would qualify as last-minute - but unfortunately for us on one of the busiest travel holidays of the year. But lucky for us, Pam was able to work her magic and get us a reasonable itinerary for $800 person. Painful but certainly better than $2500! Downside: layovers. Upside: oh, the memories!
  • How we got great tickets - If you ever consider going to a bowl game of any kind, I cannot recommend highly enough the use of packaged tours. We booked ours directly through the Tournament of Roses. PrimeSport was the coordinator of all the bookings, and overall we were pretty happy with them. The package we bought gave us hotel, parade tickets, and game tickets - not to mention transportation to & from all events and access to freebies. Since this was Derek's anniversary present, I also opted for the package upgrade which gave us awesome seats at the game. If we ever decided to do this trip again, I would book again in a heartbeat.
  • Travel in general - We were prepared for the worst. Honestly, I expected utter chaos. Do you know how many people travel for the New Year's holiday? A LOT. But we were surprised to check in and breeze through security so quickly at DFW. Probably b/c we were in Terminal E. But even so, I expected much more foot traffic in the airport midmorning. And flying home at LAX was equally as painless. And that left us with lots of sitting around in the airport. Coming home, we left Hollywood 4 hours before our flight, expecting issues with traffic on the way and checking in and clearing security at LAX. To boot, it was raining when we left the hotel, and apparently drivers in LA have the same issues that Dallas drivers do in the rain:  hello, stupidity! But nope, we got to the airport and into the terminal in record time. Now what? We scoped out our gate (utter chaos), checked out restaurants (unimaginable lines), and looked for the AAdmirals Club (across the airport and outside of security). So we did what any season traveler would do, we looked for another airline's club. And whaddya know, US Airways had a club in our terminal. So we marched ourselves right in there ... after they let us in. Tell me: who has a bell to get into a lousy airline club?! And we bought ourselves a day pass for a mere $50 a piece after they told us that they do not honor the One World Alliance for purposes of enjoying the airline club. What a load! But access to a comfy chair, nice restrooms, and free drinks for three hours ... worth the buckeroos.
  • The hotel - We stayed at the Hilton Hollywood City which is in the heart of Universal Studios. It's an older hotel but recently updated and the staff is very attentive. Derek pulled his usual upgrade trick at check-in, justifying it in two ways: 1) this was our anniversary trip and 2) he made quota in 2010 which entitled him not only to his full bonus but also to several 4th quarter incentives. Our GInormous room had spectacular views of the valley, as well as a partial view of Universal.
A view of the valley during the day
A view of the valley at night
  • Around Town - Honestly, we didn't get out all that much while we were in town. We went into Burbank to Best Buy b/c we'd forgotten the photo upload adapter for our iPads, and we also realized that the camera we bought for the trip did NOT come with a memory card. Tell me: what camera doesn't come with a memory card?! Ridiculous. Anyway, while we were there, we ended up buying an HD video camera. We've been talking about it off and on for a while, but we decided to go with it b/c we wanted high-quality video of portions of our trip. Just what we need - more tech gadgets! But I'm glad we did b/c the quality really IS fantastic. We went to Universal Studios and paid the ridiculous $79/person to go to the park. On New Year's Eve. Stupid? Why, yes, yes it was. You could not stir people with a stick. Imagine Six Flags on its busiest day and then imagine Six Flags' busiest day on a serious dose of steroids. Average wait time for rides was 2 hours. And the line for the studio tour was estimated to be 3 hours. So we came, we saw, and we were conquered by the masses. Maybe next time. New Year's Eve was spent at a late dinner reservation with Derek's friend from TCU, Sandy, and her husband Rob at Morton's in Burbank, where we ultimately rang in the new year.
Just outside the entrance to Universal Studios
Inside Universal Studios
You should have seen how ridiculous this hat actually looked on his mountainous head! (LOL)
Sandy & Rob
Happy 2011, everybody!
  • Do not call a taxi on New Year's Eve  - Not if you intend to actually GO anywhere. We attempted to catch a cab from Morton's back to our hotel. After waiting for 45 min. with narry a single taxi appearing to pick anyone up, the general manager offered to take us back to our hotel. It wasn't that far out of his way to drop us off on his way home. What we had not accounted for was the traffic around Universal Studios. Hello, genius! They had a HUGE NYE bash at Universal Studios. Of course the streets were blocked off and traffic was awful and access to the hotel would be limited. Duh! Oh, and on our little detour, we got forced into a sobriety checkpoint. All was well, of course. But cops aren't very friendly in Hollywood on NYE. Just sayin'. We finally made it back to the hotel about 1 a.m. and got to bed at 1:30 a.m., which wouldn't be so bad if we didn't have to be up again at 5 a.m.
  • The Rose Parade - The 5 a.m. alarm went off mighty. early. We had to meet the tour group in the lobby at 5:30 a.m. to get our boxed breakfast and get on the buses for a 5:45 a.m. departure. This all went very smoothly and we got on our way pretty close to schedule. Traffic is a nightmare on parade/game day, so if you ever consider going to the parade and/or game, getting in on a tour is the way to go! The tour shuttled us to/from all locations. Perfect! Our seats for the parade were in the VIP grandstands on Olive Street right underneath the HGTV booth and just before the big turn at the corner. We were also sitting directly behind the float judges and the President of the Tournament of Roses' family, along with many other dignataries. Pretty cool. We heard we were on tv on ABC. Though we weren't smart enough to set the DVR to record the parade or the game. Doh! Our seats were amazing, and our VIP tickets gave us access to a free breakfast (muffins, bagels, coffee, hot chocolate) and nice(r) portapotties (and LOTS of them). I watch the Rose Parade every year. It's my favorite thing to do on New Year's Day while making breakfast/brunch. In person, it's even more spectacular, but I did miss having the commentary from the on-air hosts.
I look amazingly chipper for 4 hours of sleep. Glad there's some evidence!
On the bus waiting to leave for the parade
Did you know they shut down the freeway to stage the parade?
Can you imagine shutting down I-35 for a parade??
Yes, we really are this close to the floats!
I'm still in awe with what they can do with all-natural materials!
Go Frogs!
Several floats had running water.
Love this float - the famous Clydesdales pulling our veterans
"Proud to serve those who serve!"
  • The Rose Bowl - Wow. What an amazing experience! And for TCU to win? Gravy, my friends, gravy. After the parade, we loaded back up on the buses and headed to the stadium. We even got a police escort so getting into the close-up designated parking area was easy breezy. Our tour package gave us access to the VIP hospitality village, which meant more free food and drinks. (Of course, someone so kindly pointed out that it wasn't actually "free." Okay, okay, you betcha we paid for it but "free" has a much better ring to it!) My one complaint with the entire tour was the lack of instruction for getting to said area full of freebies. And despite the tour guide's best efforts to get in touch with someone to help us, we ultimately found it on our own after wandering the grounds for about 30-45 min. The stadium opens at 12:15 p.m., but once you enter, you are not allowed to leave the stadium unless you are leaving for good, i.e. there's no hand-stamping re-entry like the amusement parks. After enjoying the hospitality village and buying some souveniers, we headed to the stadium to get settled in before pregame began at 1:30. Our seats were spectacular - right on the 40 yard line and about halfway up. We had a perfect view of the entire field. I have to say that it's a lot more fun to be AT a game than to watch one on tv. There are lots of things that tv watchers don't have the benefit of enjoying - pregame being one of them. Navy Seals flew in the game flags, an Air Force squadron performed the flyover during the National Anthem, and there was an introduction of Marcus Luttrell and his Lone Survivor Foundation, just to name a few. There really is nothing like being at the game. And TCU's win made it all the sweeter! 
In the VIP Hospitality Tent
Inside the Rose Bowl grounds
Look, I was here, too!
The view from our seats
Navy Seals bringing in the game flags
Marcus Luttrell
Paula Dean tosses the game coin
Getting ready for kick-off
Thanks, Wisconsin fan, for taking our photo!
Dalton had a great final game as a Frog!
TCU Wins! Go Horn Frogs!
Coach gives his thoughts on the game
The two game MVPs
So congrats to us on ten years of marriage and congrats to Derek on making quota! The wonderful memories of this trip were worth every penny. Thanks, Frogs! Bring on that victory parade!

1 comment:

Aggie99 said...

Great post! Looks like you had a wonderful time! :)