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UPDATE: A new tag has been added called "animals". Clicking on this tag will take you to all entries that have photos, information, or facts about the circus animals. Thanks for reading!

Since the train would not be arriving in Huntsville until Monday night, we decided to stay in Nashville for an evening.

On Monday afternoon we hit Whiskey Kitchen for lunch. This is our third time visiting...it's pretty clear that it's our favorite Nashville restaurant! We always get the fried calamari because it's amazing. Someday if I can tear myself away from that tender squid and flavorful seasoning, I'll try the other appetizers! For the meal Jameson tried the fish and chips and said it was delicious. I had the fried green tomato BLT with brie, bacon, spinach, and hot dijon mustard on sourdough. It was delicious!!



We also had drinks because why not. It's 5:00 somewhere, right? I had a "moonshine mule" and Jameson had something called the "farewell Broadway" that had apple brandy, vanilla syrup, bitters, and cream.


After our great meal we bid farewell to Nashville and hit the road. The drive to Huntsville was only a few hours long. We were concerned as the train hadn't left on time and was running several hours behind. We decided to hit a mall and do some Christmas shopping. Jameson got most of his done while I just shopped for ideas. To kill more time we went to see a movie (Office Christmas Party). After that we went for a late sushi dinner and decided to get another hotel. The train was supposed to be in Chattanooga by 1:30pm and it was now 8pm. Sometimes it happens. There have been times when the train was right in front of us and we still ended up in a hotel! Circus life.

The next morning we were surprised to find that the train was still not in the yard, so got a late checkout and went to find food. We then killed time at Walmart until Tim (sax) and Jerome (bass) let us know the train was finally spotted. We got to the yard just as power was hooked up. There are fond memories of this yard and this city. We had one of the best elephant walks I've ever been on here last year. I'm very sad that we can't bring that level of excitement to Huntsville any more. But I'm happy to have experienced such a wonderful moment here.

I spent the rest of the day unpacking, repacking for the trip home, Christmas shopping online, and paying bills.

We opened on Wednesday. Rehearsal went extra-long again as we integrate new people and elements into the show. And although she's been here for a month, it's now official, we are joined by our new Ringmaster, Kristen Michelle Wilson! She is the first female Ringmaster Ringling has ever(?) had, but besides that she's a great vocalist and has a wonderful personality. We're looking forward to working with her! CLICK HERE to see an awesome video of Kristen performing.



The show that evening went well, although this arena is quite cold so the space heaters came out again.

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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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Jameson and I stayed a night at a hotel in Youngstown, and after brunch drove another four hours to Auburn Hills. As it turns out, the hotel Jameson booked is also the company hotel this week! (i.e. advance and overland employees stay here and anyone from Ringling gets a discount at this hotel)

We found dinner at a nearby mall, and Jameson got himself some treats. His birthday is on Friday :)



We then hit the hotel (the train wasn't in yet) and enjoyed some QT. We watched most of Fully Charged and had a nostalgic moment hearing the music again and seeing the acts. And now we're in that same place with Built to Amaze. Wow....

This week went both quickly and slowly. I was excited for the end of the tour and so took care of packing and whatnot during the one-show days, before we even hit the weekend. Got my hair trimmed, got the last of my groceries, made sure I'd have a hotel near the airport, packed a bag. Not having internet sure made me productive this week :P

On Friday those performers and crew who will not be joining us in 2015 were moved to a hotel near the arena.
The train was strangely silent and lonely. Or maybe the weather just made it seem that way.



Andrew (our trumpet player) will be leaving as well. It was great to meet him and play alongside him.
He gave me one of his potted plants.



Next year we will have someone new. It's been interesting and fun meeting so many trumpet players this past year and a half while Slick was out getting treatment. We have had SIXTEEN trumpet subs. That's almost one every month! But to be honest, It'll be great if we can get someone who is able to stay on long-term. That's asking a lot on this gig. We'll see!

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This year I got swept up in the circus, and it was awesome :)
I was blessed and privileged and honored to work with some of the most talented people on the earth.
I have learned so much simply from watching and listening to these people, and working alongside them.
From the train I've seen the remote, hidden, wild and beautiful underbelly of America.
In the cities I've seen the dirty and the immaculate, all different kinds of people,
American capitalism at its best and worst.
It's been a whirlwind, and as far as this blog is concerned, I haven't always been able to keep up.

There are many things that I didn't write about because I forgot to mention them,
or because I was worried about exposing too much 'behind-the-scenes' circus stuff.
But next year, I'm hoping to share more with you.
Now that I've got a handle on this new lifestyle, maybe I can be more organized with my posts :)

I hope to take more pictures and keep more notes about the things that happen everywhere we go!

As for this year, here are a few things that I never quite managed to squeeze into other blog posts.
I took a few pictures of some things that are everyday fixtures to me,
but might seem exotic and interesting to you :)

The cannon when not in use.


Brian (the human cannon) can climb inside to tinker with the hydraulics and such.

The low wire. This is what the high wire acrobats practice on.
They balance on the wire and hold a huge cloth fan to help keep steady.

(it's the oval thing in the corner by the red box)


This is the generator car on the circus train. The floor is textured and red, unlike any other car.
The car houses two CAT generators that are constantly running, and generate 600 kW each, enough power for all 300-some people on the train 24/7.
There's a low hum that you feel in your bones as you walk through the car.



This is a sign that's placed at the end of our cars when they're spotted in a yard.
According to my friend Ronnie, the sign signals Blue Flag Protection.
This is a very important warning to rail workers that the cars cannot be coupled or moved in any way.



Cool, huh?

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This post comes a little late, as I had no internet in either the yard or at the arena this city.

We arrived in Auburn Hills EARLY...can you believe it??
On Tuesday I walked to the nearest grocery (a Meijer about 2 miles away) and picked up a few things for the week, and a few things that will come in handy for winter quarters.
It was a little difficult to guess how much food I'd need for the week, since I'm trying not to leave anything in the fridge while I'm gone. Anyway I think I did ok.

On Wednesday we had our last Fully Charged rehearsal, and the people who are leaving the circus prepared to move into hotels for the week. There are so many people leaving...the Chinese acrobats, the Big Bike acrobats, at least four clowns, half of the Brazilian dancers, the four performers mentioned in my last post, and more. The porters will be super busy cleaning rooms on the train run down to Florida; I hear they're offering $50 per room to anyone willing to help clean.
I wonder if there will be any left for me to clean by December!

On Thursday we only had one nighttime show. There's little to do around the venue or the yard.
I ran some errands with Brett (bandmaster), then went for a walk on the 'closed' side of the train.



When the train crew only opens one set of vestibule doors, it usually means
a) there's a live track on one side of us, or
b) they are opening the doors only on the side where cars park and the bus comes through.
I hadn't heard any trains go by during the day or night, so I crossed to the other side and went exploring.

After a short walk, I found a path!
Couldn't resist! Had to follow it!

The path was made up of large white rocks that were really difficult to walk over. Eventually it merged with a smaller path that was very obviously a walking/bike trail as there were lots of footprints and tracks on it. This path took me to a major road, which I crossed, finding a community park on the other side. I walked through the park and was surprised to find a group of castle-like buildings in the classic German architectural style.



This was Canterbury Village. I'd been seeing signs for it on the highway near our yard.
Canterbury Village is a 'Christmas Town'. Since it's not Christmas yet, the place was pretty abandoned-looking. A stereo system blasted Christmas tunes that echoed down empty streets. Automaton elves and snowmen that would no doubt be moving later in the year stared, motionless and glassy, from storefront windows. Creepy much?




Despite the impression of emptiness, almost all the shops were open.
I hadn't brought much cash with me as I hadn't been expecting to shop,
but I did have a few dollars and one stand had hot cider.
I bought a cup and enjoyed it very much, along with an Ice Cube (have you ever had these? They're amazing!)
I wandered around a bit more, but the sun was going down so didn't linger for too long.
It was a nice walk.

Friday was a 'split' day...that's an early show and a late show...so during the break I did some laundry and packed some stuff to take home.

Saturday was nothing special...just your typical 3-show day.
Because we were all looking forward to Sunday, the day might have seemed longer than usual.
People are putting programs, t-shirts, flags, and other items in the hallway to be signed.
I signed a few things but not everything (I'm only in the band after all!).
Everywhere you look there are cameras. Once during High Wire I saw something move in my peripheral vision, and turned to see someone snapping from between the band curtains.
It's the end of the tour all right!

After returning to the train after the shows,
I took my fish to Cindy (teacher) who is fishsitting for me while I'm away.
We chatted for a bit, then I returned to my room, repacked for the umpteenth time, and slept.

I'm typing this now from a hotel near the Detroit airport.
We had our last two shows today. It was bittersweet and exciting. As you'd expect with any closing production, there were a few shenanigans, the most notable being one of the acrobats basically cosplaying as another acrobat, and even participating in the guy's act. That was pretty funny. Otherwise the last show was pretty straightforward. At intermission we had a little 'mimosa' toast in the band's dressing room with some of the people who are leaving the circus:



After the show, Brian Crawford Scott (ringmaster) announced that this was the last performance of Fully Charged, recognized the staff, crew, and supporting members (thanks for the band shout-out, Brian!), and gave our stats:

783 shows.
90 cities.
2 countries.
4 MILLION PEOPLE.

That's right, we performed in front of a total of four million people this year. That's incredible!!!!!
I feel so fortunate to be a part of this.
The circus is awesome!!!

I have more to post about, but have to get to sleep. Early flight tomorrow.
These last few days have flown by. I can't wait to get started on next year's production!!

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