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Since the overland to DC was so short, Jameson and I made plans to spend Monday at the Natural History Museum. We'd both been before but not recently. There were some new exhibits, including two photography galleries showcasing National Geographic's "20 years of Nature's Best Photography" and specifically the photography of Frans Lanting. The images were displayed without frames, in an intensely high quality. A summary to the side of each photo described the conditions under which the photographer took the photo, equipment used, and their thoughts and feelings as they captured the images.


Because it was spring break, the museum was VERY crowded. We inched our way through a display of skeletons of various animals, saw the bugs (but couldn't get into the butterfly dome because there was a waiting list), and enjoyed the hall of gems and minerals.






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My last week home was a good time. On Monday I took Raven back to New York, to her office at the startup company Alley NYC. She gave me a tour of the building; it's a coworking space for all kinds of companies...and that's about all I understand about it! But the workspace is awesome and I'm awfully proud of Raven for the work she does here.




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Jameson and I drove to Cleveland on Monday. It was six hours from our hotel, so not a bad drive. It's strange (and nice) to be back in the eastern US...there are green plants, real trees, and rolling mountains. I don't think I realized how completely dry California is until I had something to compare it to!

Anyway, when we got to our next hotel we were pleasantly surprised to find that it was right next to a large mall! We decided to go see Crimson Peak. It was a good movie, but we were both disappointed at the lack of actual scary scenes. Still, a fun time :)

The next day we got up late and enjoyed lunch at The Rail, a burger place attached to the mall. They've got really good locally-raised beef, locally-made ice cream, and locally-brewed beer. I treated myself to a root beer float along with my "bootlegger" burger. Yum!



After that we did a little shopping (both of us needed shoes), then got groceries, then found the train, hopped on, and unpacked.

Opening day was good, good rehearsal followed by a good show.
Thursday was similar, with only one night show. During the day I did chores: laundry, cooking, cleaning, taking care of internet business. After the show, it was time for the annual Halloween tradition...Haunted Clown Car!!!



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Monday was a fairly normal day. After the show, Jameson and I drove a few hours to a hotel. Around the time we arrived, the Cubs were finishing up their 9th inning against the St. Louis Cardinals. They won! Jameson and his whole family are avid Cubs fans, so his reaction is hardly surprising! **PROFANITY WARNING**


To celebrate the win (and just to eat because we were starving by that time) we hit the highly-rated Kome Sushi where we shared some specialty rolls and sake :)


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Three days off again! Gosh!

Monday:
Mostly house chores. Cleaned my room top to bottom, changed my sheets (not easy on a bunked bed!), changed my air filter, did laundry. Wrote answers to some lingering circus questions on Quora, one of which required me to watch Water for Elephants. Near the end of the day I got a notification that one of my answers had been published on slate.com.


(link to full article is HERE)

I'm really happy that my lowly perspective is considered good enough to publish! It's very awesome that people are interested in finding out what circus life is like. I wrote the answer to this question more than a year ago, and hadn't really looked it over since. IMO there were a few things that I should have cleaned up before it was published. Still, I think it's a good start! The next ones will (hopefully) be even better!

Tuesday:
Jameson and I went to the grocery in the afternoon. I bought the ingredients for meatloaf and made it for the first time ever, using this recipe and the NuWave infrared oven. The meat shrank an awful lot more than I was expecting, but otherwise I think it turned out very tasty!

Later in the day I borrowed Jameson's car to visit the post office and drop my bike off at nearby Urban Bike Fitters for maintenance. It ticks me off that I haven't ridden my bike at all yet this year, but the brakes aren't working :/ No gouda. The gent who will be repairing my bike, Mr. Pan, seemed really interested in it (it's a vintage Raleigh Folder custom restoration) and asked if he could keep it through Friday. I said sure, why not! May as well spread the love :D


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We spent the night in Tucson, because why not, it's a whole five degrees cooler than Phoenix :P

In the morning we decided to drive the two hours to Phoenix and eat lunch, then check to see if the train was spotted so we could drop off our luggage before heading to the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM). For once our timing was pretty good; the train arrive just as we were finishing lunch at Zookz Sandwiches. They make a unique toasted "pocket"-style sandwich stuffed with all kinds of goodies! Jameson had the No. 45, fresh mozzarella, tomato, mixed greens and a honey Baslamic dressing. I had the No. 30, thin sliced ham with apricot preserves, Brie cheese and almonds. For dessert we split a Coco Loco, a sandwich pocket filled with melted chocolate, coconut, almonds, and rice crispies. If you are ever in Phoenix looking for a quick but healthy and incredibly tasty meal, this is the place!



We dropped our things off at the train, the Jameson drove us to the MIM. They've got a vast collection of musical instruments, mostly organized by geographic origin and then subdivided into genres and cultural uses. In addition to viewing the instruments, each guest is given an audio pack and headphones. As you approach the screens mounted behind each display, you are treated to an audio sampling of some of the things you're looking at. It was AWESOME. We were there for about 2.5 hours and STILL didn't see everything! (Which is great, it means I can go back again!!!).

(image stolen from scottsdalerealestates.com)

There were trombones in almost every section (awesome) and most were fairly standard sizes and materials, though they varied in age and condition. In the "France" section I found a dragon trombone!! I've always wanted to see one!! (The real name of this instrument is the Buccin).

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We woke up in time for the complementary breakfast in Hotel 32's lounge. Joel was at the front desk, so we were able to say hello and thank him for generously upgrading our room. He regaled us with stories from when he was in the circus as a clown during the 80s-90s, and showed us one of the Penthouse Suites typically rented out for parties (holy CRAP). We gave him some elephant hairs courtesy Brett :) It was great to meet Joel, and I hope next time we'll have time to actually hang out!!

Now it was time for an adventure! We drove an hour to the Hoover Dam. After parking and signing up for the next available tour, we explored the memorials and viewpoints surrounding this amazing structure. Deco architecture could be seen all over the place. This memorial commemorates the completion of the dam, and features two winged figures seated on a diorite platform above a celestial calendar of the dam's dedication date.




Nearby we found memorials to those who died building the dam (96 workers, of various causes, none of whom are entombed in the dam) and the grave of a dog that workers had adopted as a mascot but who was run over by a truck :/

Photo of the dam from the parking garage:


From the observation deck (bowling, anyone?):



A panorama of the dam, memorial bridge, and visitor's center:


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After the last show on Sunday I drove a few hours to my Aunt Chris's house. It was late at night so I went straight to bed in her guest room, but the next day we shared a cup of coffee and talked for almost two hours, catching up on as much as possible :) A lot has happened this year already, only four months in. It felt great to sit together and talk about everything. I've missed her company.

After a tasty omelette breakfast we went for a walk in a nearby park. We continued to chat while enjoying the lovely weather and natural surroundings. We walked for nearly three miles!! Felt so athletic :P Then she took me to Great Harvest Bread Co. for some amazing bread! Although Great Harvest is a chain, each of their stores mills their own flour from whole wheat berries. They do this because when flour is milled, the nutrients in the wheat begin to deteriorate immediately. Grinding the flour fresh ensures the maximum nutritional content and also gives the bread a flavor and quality not found in other brands. My Aunt treated me to a loaf of honey wheat and a peach oatmeal square. Yum!!

Then we visited LaFarm Bakery, an authentic French bakery run by Master Baker Lionel Vatinet. In addition to the amazing baked goods, the cafe also sells sandwiches that vary depending on what's available locally. We got a poulet tartine to go and shared it back at the house. Chicken, spinach, brie and havarti on LaFarm's sourdough bread smothered in pear slices, petite tomatoes, onions, a bit of salad, and some honey mustard. You can't see the bread and cheese in this photo, but believe me, they were there and delicious!



When she's not working, my Aunt has been participating in many "extracurricular" activities, including painting! After seeing a tutorial about painting a pear in acrylic, she wanted to give it a try. I was reluctant given my last fiasco with the watercolor leaf...but what the heck! We ran to the art store for supplies, then got right to work. We had to stop partway through to prepare dinner (chorizo-infused yellow rice and chicken thighs!) but were able to continue afterward. It seemed to take hours, but we were both pretty satisfied with the results. Here they are, our first acrylic paintings!


Finally finished, I spent a little time cleaning up and catching up with my Uncle Andy before heading off to bed.


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This is the first long train run we've had in a while. The weather was awesome, starting out cold as we left NJ but gradually getting warmer and warmer as we headed south. I didn't get many pictures on the first day, but on the second I woke early and saw the blue light of dawn outside, and decided to play with the GoPro.


We have passed this peninsula several times in the past three years, and every time I try to get a picture the trees are in the way. Fed up with trying to get a good shot, I kept a blurry picture :P


I didn't get many good shots with the GoPro...still not used to it. After breakfast I came back out armed with my usual phone camera. We went under this thing, whatever it is:


There was lots of construction on the track next to us. The machinery was cool to watch.

We passed some Norfolk Southern camp cars, and this gent was waving enthusiastically from the "kitchen".


The weather was nice for the whole run, and we saw many trainspotters, but these guys were the most handsome. My camera thought so ;)

An unintentionally artsy-fartsy shot of some bridge pillars.


The train taking a mountain curve.


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On Monday we had a short train run to Newark.
It took a while to get moving...there's a lot of traffic on the rails around here as you can imagine! By the time we were on our way, I was in bed. But Eryn was up, and got some awesome photos of our train passing under the East River and through Penn Station!

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The next morning we awoke to find ourselves in Newark. Aah, that fresh NJ air :P
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We're in the same yard--the one next to the prison and the airport--but in a different part, so that we won't have to pass through the guardhouse every time we want to get home. I spent the morning enjoying the internet (haven't had good internet for three weeks!!), repairing my blog, and reading up on the "elephant issue" until I became too aggravated to continue that. Then it was time for a Hangout chat with my tax preparer. Then it was time to do several loads of laundry.
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As the train moved 80 miles to the Orlando yard, Jameson and I enjoyed some R&R at his apartment. He worked on his album, I worked on trombone excerpts. He played Xbox, I watched anime. We watched Bad Grandpa and Gone Girl. Jameson made pizza rolls and homemade marinara sauce to dip them in. Much needed activities. I brought out the GoPro to learn the settings, and Jameson took a video.


On Tuesday afternoon we dropped a few things off at the now-spotted train, then went for burgers at BB Junction. They serve 100% local, farm-raised beef cooked to perfection and topped with a saliva-inducing array of condiments. I got a wild mushroom/gruyere/truffle aioli/watercress-topped burger with a hard root beer to drink. Not sure what burger Jameson got, but he had it with a pecan beer. Beefalicious!

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Well...nothing terribly exciting happened this week!

The Gold Unit loaded out to begin their run of holiday shows.




The building seems very empty without them. Break a leg guys, have a great tour :)

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So, I had to post a little earlier than planned last week thanks to sketchy internet.
The shows on Sunday were fine. Jameson and I got to a neato hotel in Port Chester. It had the CREEPIEST hallways (photo lost, go figure).


The next day we decided to do an NYC day trip!
We caught a train to Grand Central and walked to Sarabeth's for lunch. Jameson got "Goldi Lox" (salmon scrambled eggs with cream cheese, a scone and jam) and I got a potato waffle with ham, two eggs and Mornay sauce. We both got orange/banana/pineapple/pom juice. Everything was delicious!



After the meal it was time to do some serious Ingressing. We've both picked up Mophies to double our playing time (#nerdy), and I brought my pocket router to cut down on data usage. One of the features of Ingress is a "missions" option...a sort of scavenger hunt that takes you down a path of historical or artistic significance. Although this feature has been on Droid phones for quite some time, it's new to iOS.

We decided to try the High Line mission. At first we weren't quite sure how to reach the Waypoints...some of them seemed to be inside buildings! But we finally figured out why we couldn't reach these spots. The High Line is a park built on an abandoned rail line ABOVE the city!



So once we got ABOVE street level, the mission became much easier :) Basically we had to walk the length of the park and stop at certain portals marked with a Waypoint indicator.


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Since we were coming from Manchester, the train had a short way to go to reach Worcester. Jameson and I traveled overland, stopping at a Holiday Inn in a small town outside Salem. The next morning/afternoon our day trip adventure began!

Trip to Salem )
The Lion King in Boston )

The next day was a dark day. I used mine to catch up on computer stuff...writing this post, researching flights to/from home, early Christmas shopping and such. Likewise Jameson relaxed and ran errands like tending to his car and going to see a movie.

Friday...was very much the same :P Not much to report! I know the clowns and Emelins had rehearsals for next year. I went to the building early to practice. Thrilling.

The weekend was uneventful too, but it's worth mentioning that we had not one, not two, but THREE "band holidays" in this one weekend: A Deuce Saturday (two shows), A Slick Sunday (train doesn't move + someone brings doughnuts) and a McDonough Monday, a relatively new "holiday" in which we all wear our McDonough shirts :D


(photo courtesy Rebecca)

We had only one show on Monday afternoon, then Jameson and I went to a hotel.
Next week is Boston. Looking forward to it!!!


Other stuff:

The elephants hangin' out during Animal Open House. Mabel is hiding! Siam is saying "aaaaah"!


(photo courtesy Ryan)

Logo for the new 2015 show. You know it's REALLY extreme because of the X in X-treme.
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Jameson and I traveled overland from Ohio. After the last show on Sunday we got to a hotel in West Virginia and enjoyed it very much :) The next day we continued our trip to Virginia, where we visited Jameson's parents and the puppies. Everyone is doing well, especially Addison, who is GIGANTIC. I remember when she was just a cute little fluff-puff that you could hold in your arms. And now she could put her paws on my shoulders!!


And let's not forget little Moe!


Shortly after arriving we took the dogs for a walk. There are some pretty intense Halloween decorations in this neighborhood! The undead pig is the creepiest :D

(photo courtesy Jameson)

During our visit we enjoyed Mrs. Boyce's fantastic home cooking, including squash/sweet potato lasagna and juicy homemade beef burgers. While out running errands, we also got to enjoy lunch at True Food Kitchen. This is a chain that specializes in following Dr. Andrew Weil's "anti-inflammatory diet" centered around local ingredients. Having recently opened, the restaurant features a lovely modern interior. It was packed while we were there.


I got the seared spicy tuna wrap with avocado, mint, snow peas, radish, cashews, sesame, and wasabi aioli. The sides were roasted kale and sweet potato hash. It was VERY good!


We had a really nice visit. On Wednesday Jameson's Mom had to go back to work and we had to drive about eight hours through eight states to reach Manchester! It was a long day involving a lot of traffic, but we listened to good music and talked and enjoyed each other's company :) We arrived at the train a little after 9pm. There's internet here! I'm very surprised.

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The train run was standard :) It was a bit rainy and dreary on Monday so I mostly stayed inside, cooking and watching Game of Thrones. Finally finished the last Harry Potter movie and was completely fascinated with Snape's story, and disappointed that it only got five minutes of attention. Maybe the books are different but guess I'll never know :P

Tuesday was a little sunnier. I went outside to get some fresh air and ran into the camera crew. They say they're getting decent footage, "slowly but surely". Awesome :)
I got some pretty nice photos that day too.





On this train run, I'm reminded of how the best moments can't be shared with photos. My camera is not quick enough to capture the fox I saw dashing across a field this morning in pursuit of some small rodent. The train moves too fast for me to catch all the beautiful wildflowers we see along the tracks...Queen Anne's Lace, cornflowers, thistles, touch-me-nots. Peering through the trees I sometimes see deer picking their way through the foliage. The sun shines on leaves, and on the water, in a way that can't be captured in a photograph. What I'm saying is, I feel fortunate to enjoy this :)

We arrived pretty much on time. After finishing some chores, I took a bus to the arena and from there walked to a bunch of antique shops that I'd visited last time. On the way I noticed some street art, as well as an early contender for ArtPrize 2014 (scheduled for next week, darn).




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We actually left on time for this Kansas City run. On Monday morning many people (self included) were astonished to find that we had already made it past Cincinnati. Wow!

I spent the day like I do most train runs: taking advantage of whatever internet is available, and napping and eating. The weather was wonderful...although it was still warm out, there was a nip to the air that says, "Fall is coming!". Didn't get many interesting pics this time, but did snap this one of a Norfolk Southern trailer train. I've heard that these are used by employees working on-site. I want to see what they're like inside!



My train run dinner, boiled eggs and cherry tomatoes on wheat. Lots of pepper and a little salt :)


For maybe the second or third time this whole two year tour, WE ARRIVED EARLY/ON TIME.
Although as usual this doesn't effect me so much, it makes a big difference to all of our crew members who have to load our show into the new arena. Now they will not have to rush. Now maybe they'll have time to get some groceries, do some laundry, or explore downtown. Awesome!!!



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Before getting started this week, a note:

I've added tags "CLOWNS", "ELEPHANTS" and "TIGERS" to the tags list.
These tags are for any posts that contain photos of one or more of those three things :)

Also, please note that for many of my posts I "borrow" photos from friends, colleagues, and the company.
If those folks decide to delete or move those photos, I may not be able to re-include them in this blog.
So Enjoy them while they last :)

*end of note*

The train run was so short it's hardly worth mentioning, other than to say that for once we arrived on time!!!



On Tuesday I took a stroll downtown to run some errands. Not downtown proper, but closer to the University. There are lots of cool little shops nearby. Austin has a rep for great food and interesting street art.


The train yard is near a strange little side street. It took me a bit to remember what was around, but soon I recalled a really great Goodwill a few blocks away and took a walk over.
On the way there was this truck with a pig...randomly sitting on top....okkkkk.....?



I found two nice shirts at the Goodwill. This was not one of them. Keep Austin Weird, indeed.


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The run was short, but I did get a nice pic of the Margaret Hunt Bridge leaving Dallas.


We rolled into the yard on Monday night.
Tuesday was load in, meaning it was a free day for me.
I took my bike out for a little bit. The roads are wide and traffic is light near the yard, and there's a little residential area, so I pedaled around there for a while until I got tired. This yard stands out in my memory because we're parked next to a large grain elevator.



This was the yard where I first started buying air filters because the pigeons were pooping/dropping feathers into our ventilation. And this was where I bought my Brita water filter, because of the open vat of raw sewage right next to our hydrant and because the tap water came out orange the first time I turned it on.


Aaah, the memories!
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Monday was a bust for me.

I got up early, excited because the circus bus was supposedly going to Northpark Mall. It's a big mall with a movie theater and three levels of shops, and a Whole Foods next door (you KNOW this is what I was REALLY excited about). I got dressed and packed a lunch and hopped on the bus. Twenty minutes later we pulled up to a small mall on the east side of town. Apparently it had been decided that Northpark was too far away.
Gosh, that would have been nice to know.

I got back to the train by noon and ate lunch, then got back on the bus for a Wal-Mart run. It was very crowded, with people standing in the aisles. All of us were wondering how on earth we were going to fit ourselves AND our groceries on the bus for the return trip. Fortunately Daniel (bus driver) sent for a second bus, as there definitely wouldn't have been enough room for all of us on just one bus.

That was Monday. Tuesday we only had one show at night, so it was almost like another day off. It was very hot out and I had nowhere to be, so used the time to relax and catch up on chores. The evening show went well. We found out that our new show is to be called "Circus Extreme". Oh excuse me, that's XTREME.

On Wednesday auditions for new clowns were held. Not sure when we'll hear results of that, but I hope everyone did their best and had a great time! For me it was another day of not much, enjoying a late morning and messing around, practicing the big trombone at the arena and playing Ingress with Jameson.

On Thursday I got up early to take myself to the Northpark Mall since I'd missed the trip on Monday.
I was surprised to see a large group waiting for the 9am bus...apparently there was CPR training at the building that morning!


(photo courtesy Claudia)

But first we had to get to the building. The bus was 1/2 hour late.
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