Thursday, November 22, 2018

3 Reasons Why I'd Go to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Again

At approximately 5:00 a.m., I found myself standing on the cold, city sidewalk in the pre-dawn darkness.  I wore multiple layers, a parka, gloves, and two pairs of socks, but still felt the cold seeping up through the soles of my shoes.  Sunrise was still hours away and I had at least 6 hours of standing ahead of me.  My feet were beginning to feel numb.  That's when it occurred to me that I should've brought a stadium cushion so I could at least sit down.  Lessons learned, I thought, lessons learned.  Unwilling to sit down on the freezing concrete, I stood and waited.

Typically, I'd be asleep at that hour, blissfully enjoying the warmth of my bed and the fact that I had the day off from work.  I'd get up leisurely after the sun had risen, enjoy a  breakfast of eggs and bacon in lieu of the on-the-go breakfast I usually ate while en route to work, and around 9 a.m. I'd turn on the TV and participate in my longstanding tradition, one that dates back to may early childhood in the late 1970s - watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

But, on that particular fourth Thursday in November, I broke from tradition and that's how I found myself, along with my mother and my aunt, standing on the corner of 7th Avenue and 53rd Street* in New York City at five in the morning, claiming our spot to watch the 84th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. 

The experience had long been a bucket list item for me.  As a kid, long before I had any notion as to what a bucket list was, I always said I wanted to see the parade in person one day.  A year before our Thanksgiving trip to the Big Apple, I sat in my mother's kitchen as she prepared dishes for our Thanksgiving meal.  As usual, we watched the parade and both voiced how we wanted to see it in person one day.  One of us then commented that we had been talking about going to the parade for nearly 20 years and that we needed to finally just do it instead of talking about it.  So, we got my aunt on board, made our plans, and the next year we went.

In my life, I've been quite lucky for I've been able to cross off several Bucket List items.  I've dipped my feet in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  I've snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef.  I've driven the Overseas Highway from Key Largo to Key West.  But, there has only been one Bucket List item that while I was doing it, evoked such overwhelming feelings of pure awe and joy that I actually teared up and it was seeing the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.  

And, truth be told, if given the opportunity to go see it again, I would.  Despite the cost, despite the unpredictable weather, despite the mass of humanity one has to deal while in NYC over the Thanksgiving holiday, I would happily go again and here's why:

I Got an Up Close and Personal View of the Balloons
Before I saw the giant balloons in person, I had seen them dozens of times on TV and I knew that they were massive.  I mean, how could they not be given how many balloon handlers it takes to keep the inflatables from floating away?  But, until I stood on the sidewalk and craned my head back to watch them float over me, I had absolutely no idea of how massive they were.  Sadly, my pictures do not do them justice.

The Full Experience
Allow me to use a little analogy.  Bon Jovi is my favorite band and "Livin' on a Prayer" is my favorite song. Throughout my life, I've enjoyed watching the music video of "Livin' on a Prayer."  But, watching that video pales in comparison to the times when I've seen Bon Jovi perform that song in concert.  Why?  Because the live performance stimulated all of my senses and enveloped me in the experience.  It's the same thing with the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Whenever I watch the parade on TV, I see the floats and  balloons and I hear the marching bands.  But, that's it.  Whenever I saw it in person, all my senses were stimulated. Not only did I see and hear the marching bands as they marched by me, but I also felt the thump of the drums.  Not only did I see the balloon handlers fight the wind, but I felt the wind on my face.  Not only did I see the celebrity guests and performers, but I saw them interact with real people in the crowd.  It was a more enhanced experience in my opinion.

Being a Part of Such a Uniquely American Tradition
This year, marks the 92nd time that the iconic parade has taken place since it debuted in 1924. The parade wasn't held for several years during WWII due to rubber and helium shortages, so that's why the math doesn't add up.  For me, watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade was a big part of my childhood.  I have many fond memories of watching it while camped out in front of the TV.  I continued to watch it throughout my teens, through my college years, and into adulthood.  Watching it is still part of my Thanksgiving tradition.  Being among the 3+ million spectators who lined the streets of Manhattan to see the parade allowed me to be a part of it.  Being a part of something that's been around since before my grandparents were born and, more importantly, something that played a big role in childhood was, at the risk of sounding melodramatic, surreal. 

The decision whether or not to see the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is unique to each individual; one must take several factors into consideration such as cost, tolerance for the elements, and tolerance for humanity (crowds).  It's definitely not something I would recommend for everyone.  Whether or not someone should return to NYC for a repeat parade viewing is also unique to each individual based on the previously named factors and based on the person's previous parade experience.  I, for one, would go back in a heartbeat.  

Have you ever seen the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in person?  What was your experience like?

Have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

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*The parade route no longer goes down 7th Avenue as it did in 2010 when I attended the parade. 

Friday, November 16, 2018

Floating Through Glen Canyon: A Photo Essay

As I disembarked the bus after reaching the foot of Glen Canyon Dam, I was given a lovely, blue hardhat. Annoyed, I plopped it on my head.  When my feet hit the pavement, I glanced up at the bridge that spanned the canyon over my head.  

That's when I recalled the sign I saw the previous day while walking on the bridge that read,

Do Not Throw Objects From Bridge
Thrown Objects Can Kill

My annoyance quickly gave way to thankfulness as I quietly contemplated all the ridiculous items that have probably been tossed from that bridge over the years.  As I walked the 20 or 30 yards from the bus to the boat dock, I sent up a prayer of thanks to the heavens above for that lovely, blue hardhat.

The bridge from which pedestrians are urged not to throw objects is the Glen Canyon Bridge, the 1,271-feet long steel arch bridge that spans Glen Canyon near Page, AZ.  Glen Canyon is natural canyon in the Vermillion Cliffs area of southeastern and south-central Utah and north-central Arizona.  Like the Grand Canyon downstream, Glen Canyon was carved by the Colorado River and its tributaries.  It is a part of the 1.25-million acre Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

Glen Canyon Dam, the 710-foot concrete arch gravity dam which holds back the Colorado River, was built by the U. S. Bureau of Reclamation in 1963 as a means of controlling the unpredictable flow of the river, storing water in order to meet the ever increasing water demands of the American southwest, and as a means of producing and supplying hydroelectric power.  

The damming of the Colorado River in Glen Canyon created Lake Powell, the second largest man-made reservoir (by maximum water capacity) in the United States.  Only Lake Meade, the reservoir created by the Hoover Dam on the western end of the Grand Canyon, is larger.

After my traveling companions and I selected our seats and listened to our guide's watercraft safety instructions,  our half-day Glen Canyon float trip was underway.  For the next 15 miles, our guide shared stories and history about the canyon as we took in the sights and sounds of the canyon.

A blue heron

We took a break at spot called Petroglyph Beach, which allowed us a chance to use restrooms provided by the National Park Service and/or take a short hike to view some petroglyphs.  

Some members of our tour group decided to take a dip in the frigid 47℉ water, but this is about as far as my aunt, uncle, my uncle's brother, and I cared to venture in.  When I say it was frigid, I mean it was FRIGID!

We also floated through the famous Horseshoe Bend, which is one of the most photographed features of the American southwest.


The interesting thing about that experience is that unless the guide had mentioned that we were in the iconic landmark, I would've been none the wiser.  When you are that deep down in the canyon, all you see are the sheer cliffs on both sides and your sense of scale and direction is seriously altered.

As we neared the end of our 15 mile float trip at Lee's Ferry, the red Navajo sandstone transitioned to Kaibab limestone, if I'm remembering correctly.  

We also viewed an Arizona shipwreck - the Charles H. Spencer.  (If you look very closely below, you will see its outline in the water.)  This was another instance that had the guide not pointed it out, I wouldn't have noticed the ship's remains and would've just thought that I was looking at rocks.

After exiting the boat, we boarded the waiting buses that took us on a 45 minute ride back to Page.

We opted for the half day float trip because we drove to our next destination that afternoon.  Wilderness River Adventures, the only tour operator allowed to offer float trips through Glenn Canyon, also offers a full day float trip which they describe as more leisurely.  The full day trip makes more stops and utilizes the current of the river to float more than the half day trip does.  There were several times in which our guide had to use the motor to speed us up a bit so that we'd make it to Lees Ferry on time.  But, in retrospect, I don't feel as if my experience was compromised any by this.  

Traveling can be exhausting, especially if you are on the move trying to squeeze in as much as you can in a given area in a certain amount of time.  What I liked best about the Glen Canyon float trip was the relative stillness of it.  Yes, we used the motor to help us get down the river faster, but it was still very serene and calming.  It was a welcomed break to the walking and the go-go.

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