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On this overland, we took it easy. Jameson has a pretty wicked cold so no gym, no exploring. We just waited for the train and enjoyed a movie at a local theater (Miss Peregrine's Home for Extraordinary Children), then got a hotel when by 9pm the train was not in the yard.

The next morning we left early to get back to the train because I had a union meeting...our first negotiations of 2016. As union steward for the band, I was invited to be present for negotations. I ended up participating via Skype. It was very interesting, and our first of many I'm sure. Hopefully the talks will go well!

The meeting took a few hours, and afterward I was busy packing and cleaning my room, making sure everything was in order before I fly to California for Kayle's wedding. So excited!! But I lost track of time and sort of missed lunch. The train is parked behind a large shopping plaza with several food options, but there are two live tracks and a fence between us and all the goodies. In the past, we've always snuck through a hole in the fence (probably made by circus people of days past), but the railroad doesn't like that. This time we were told a path would be made for us, but it was late and dark and I snuck through the hole because it was the only way I knew. Shh, don't tell :P

The next day I got to wake up nice and late and relax. I did a final load of laundry, then set out to print some documents. Roselli (bus driver) kindly gave me a lift to the shopping plaza, but to my disappointment the Staples that had been there in years past was permanently closed. So instead I found lunch and took it back to the train, using the new path. It's a gate behind a Wendy's, marked with greenish spray paint and tons of little red flags. I guess this makes it easier for the train engineers to know where people will be crossing, and keep an eye out. How nice!



A few hours later I made sure everything was packed, and locked the door to my room. My sub was on his way (huge thanks to Doug Elliott for covering for me while I was gone!) Jameson drove me to a train station nearby, where I caught an Amtrak to Newark International, then a shuttle to a hotel. I called my sister Raven and talked for a bit, then my friend Lauren whom I haven't spoken to since Christmas. Then sleep.

The next day was full of travel. A six hour flight to San Francisco, during which I watched Finding Dory and part of Kung Fu Panda 3. My second flight was delayed so I didn't get in to Santa Barbara until late. Beautiful sunset though!


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After the last Sunday show Jameson and I drove out to Burbank and got a hotel near the airport.
The next day, we went to see a Conan O'Brien taping!!!

Jameson had planned the whole thing. He got the tickets online for free, and figured out the travel timing. After reading some reviews on Yelp from people who'd done this kind of thing before, we decided to show up several hours early to reserve a place in line, then go find something to eat.

We drove up to Universal Studios and parked at Gate 8, and quickly found the Conan holding area. Jameson presented his e-tickets and we went through a bag check, then got our hands stamped and were given a wristband. We waited on some benches with a few other people, and after a while a staff member came out and had us line up in the order we'd checked in. We were given numbers to hold our place in line (we got #19) and were told to come back around 3:30pm to walk to the studio.



We left the holding area and went in search of lunch. There was a place called Taste Chicago that had Chicago dogs and personal pan deep-dish pizzas, so we hit it up. Delicious handmade stuff here if you're ever in the area!

After that there was time for a few errands, then we hoofed it back to the parking garage to get in line for the taping! There were a LOT of people waiting in the holding area this time; shows like Conan will often overbook to guarantee that they get a full crowd. We were glad we'd showed up early!! Being in the first 20 groups, we were among the first to line up and start walking the eight blocks to the studio.

On the way we passed lots of studios, each one marked with a plaque that listed notable films that had been shot inside. We even passed the star trailers for The Big Bang Theory! We were moving pretty quickly so I couldn't stop to take pictures, but I did manage to snap a quick one as we reached our destination.



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I am so lucky!

Jameson booked us a very fancy hotel in the heart of San Francisco. He got a coupon from Priceline and wanted to use it to make our stay special. We booked a room at the Intercontinental. The young lady at the front desk noticed that we'd only be staying for one night, so she upgraded us to a room on the 30th floor. What a great view!!



After checking in we went looking for dinner. It was Labor Day and many restaurants were closed, so we ended up walking a bit farther than planned. We found probably the only open seafood restaurant and had a nice meal there. Again, a fantastic view.


We returned to our luxurious room and enjoyed the HDTV :)

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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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Three whole days of awesome nothing.

On day one I had all these grandiose plans, but none of them happened. I did laundry and watched a movie. Train crew came and fixed our broken toilet. Exciting stuff!

Meanwhile the train was getting a bath.


(photo courtesy Nikki R.)

Later in the evening I tried the melon soda that came with my Japan Crate.
It was really good, like fizzy sweet cantaloupe.



Since everyone keeps commenting on the cup in the photo: yes, I'm an 80s kid and remember using these Welch's jelly jars as cups when I was little :) It's a great piece of nostalgia to have and use on occasion. I found it in an antique store. AN ANTIQUE STORE. How's that for making you feel old...

Tuesday, much the same. Jameson and I went to the grocery. As much as I would have liked to go do some exploring in this part of CA, I also have done a LOT of adventuring this year and my bank account has been crying for a break. So I went for a walk in the yard. There is a large cactus at one end of the yard, and it's bursting with ripe prickly pears.




Yes, I picked one. And ate it. It was pretty good, though a little overripe in the middle. Otherwise it tasted just like a store-bought one.

In this yard we are surrounded by white Union Pacific train cars, and every one is covered in graffiti. Neat.



Other folks seemed to be having fun with their mini vacation too. Since the train isn't moving for three weeks, train crew has set up a chill tent between the cuts.

(photo courtesy Nikki R.)

Circus Vargas is pretty close, so on their day off from the circus...some people went to the circus :D

(adorable photo courtesy Kathryn N.)

Others spent time in nearby San Francisco, or traveled as far away as Oregon...even Hawaii!
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On Monday in Oakland I woke up because the train was moving.

Or that's what it felt like at first. Shaken out of a solid sleep a little before 7am, I felt anger and a twinge of panic as I wondered why we were moving and whether I should try to wake Jameson up (if the train left the yard his car would be left behind). But as my half-asleep brain tried to puzzle out whether the motion meant real movement or just an engine being attached, I realized that it was neither of those things. It felt WRONG. There were no sounds of brakes releasing or engines depressurizing. In fact once the motion stopped, there were no sounds at all. Also, we had been moving up and down.

I grabbed my phone, got on Twitter, and searched for "Oakland earthquake". Sure enough,



A magnitude 4.0 earthquake with a depth of around 3 miles, and we were probably only a few miles from the epicenter. Most people on the train slept right through it, being used to a few jolts in the night ;) Those of us who woke up for it thought the train was moving or being reassembled for travel. To quote my boss, Brett Barlow: "My first thought was 'Idiots...we're not putting the train in one line until tomorrow...thanks Union Pacific!"

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It was an eight hour drive from San Diego to Oakland. We drove about halfway and got a hotel, then drove the rest of the way the next day. We didn't do anything special, partly because I still wasn't feeling great and partly because we had a lot of ground to cover.

Meanwhile the train was taking one of the most scenic routes we encounter on our travels, right along the Pacific Ocean. Nikki (train crew) took this epic video so you can experience some of the perks of riding the circus train :)



Once in Oakland we got word that the train would be late, so we decided to run some errands while we waited. Got Jameson's car cleaned up, mailed a few things, and found dinner at a cool place called The Original Red Onion. Great food, everything was made fresh. I had an avocado melt: avocado, swiss cheese, tomato, and egg (I also added bacon) on grilled Texas toast. It was delicious!


Our server gave us an extra-special treat: dessert on the house! A rich chocolate truffle mini-cake. Yum!

We got some groceries at Target and around that time found out that the train was spotted. We found the yard, unpacked, and called it a day.

The next day was a dark day. I did absolutely nothing but rest and eat the other half of my Red Onion sandwich, trying to recover from my tummy issue. But! It was Slick's birthday! And we were in Oakland, Home of Chicken and Waffles!

Two years ago we went there with Slick. It was maybe his second week back from cancer treatment, and we were all thrilled to spend time with him (pictured all the way on the right).


(photo courtesy Melissa A.)

This would have been Slick's 49th birthday, and we celebrated the best way we knew how: martinis, the best chicken and waffles in Oakland, and a big pile of friends sharing memories and having a great time :)




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Because of the six pack, load out was longer and later than usual. Thank you to everyone who busted tail so that we could leave Anaheim. I hope everyone got a chance to rest.

Jameson and I drove to San Diego, to a hotel near the San Diego Zoo. We arrived late and immediately fell asleep. The next morning we decided to grab a late breakfast and head over to the zoo. There was a place called Original Pancake House right down the street, and it had stellar reviews. At the top of the menu were three specialties, an apple pancake, a German pancake, and a "Dutch baby". The Dutch baby was described as a "smaller German pancake", so I settled on that. It came with a side of fresh lemons to squeeze over it, whipped butter, and powdered sugar. The consistency was very much like a large crepe with crisp edges. It was delicious!


(my hand is just there for scale)

I had gotten a side of eggs for protein, not realizing how eggy the pancake would be. It was an egg-filled morning :) Jameson thought he was hungry and got a German pancake. When it arrived, he looked at it in horror and said, "I didn't think I'd be getting a spare tire for breakfast!!"


A while later we stumbled out of there full of delicious food, and drove out to the zoo. This zoo is pretty famous as one of the top zoos in America, and neither of us had ever been there before, so we were pretty excited. And we weren't disappointed. It's a lot of walking and a lot of ground to cover if you want to see everything, but the paths take you in a big circular route so you won't find yourself lost or doubling back over things you've already seen.

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For our second week in Anaheim, of course the train didn't move.
We are in a yard that is fairly safe, but covered in graffiti.



There was a punch party on Sunday night. We enjoyed the infamous bucket-o-punch mixed by the infamous Brett Barlow, and added some graffiti of our own.



(photos courtesy Claudia)

This graffiti is in memory of our trumpet player, Slick. It's supposed to say, "Keep it Funky, Keep it Sexy, Keep it Classy", but a light rain washed some of the words away.


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We finished up the week in Ontario with a night show on Monday and a split on Tuesday.
Monday was uneventful. I spent the day doing chores and chilling out. The show went well...an audience that enjoyed clapping haha. On Tuesday my friend Denis came to the show along with his family and some friends. Denis is a local trombone player, we met this past week after a concert at the Hollywood Bowl. I took them on a brief backstage tour before the show. I think they had fun :) Both shows of the day went well.


(photo courtesy Denis)

After the last show Jameson and I drove to a hotel near Anaheim.
The next day we woke early to go to Disneyland!!!
We were celebrating our two year dating anniversary one day early :)

We decided to visit California Adventure first.
As soon as we were past the gates, we were serenaded by Five & Dime!



We went straight to Cars Land hoping to ride the new Radiator Springs Racers ride, but the wait was two hours! So we decided to hit a few others first and come back later. We enjoyed Ariel's Undersea Adventure, and had fun shooting at 3D targets at the Toy Story Midway Mania ride. For that one you wear 3D glasses and shoot an endless number of digital darts at moving Toy Story themed targets. At the end your score is tallied against the person next to you. Jameson won! But only by a little bit :P

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On Tuesday in LA we had two more shows. Nothing special :P
During the split Jameson and I went to a nearby sushi place. I got the sashimi special. Yum!



After the last show load out took place as usual. Except this time, Lina Angelina (aerial artist) decided to take some photos! She's given us a great look at how the circus packs up and gets outta town :)
Here are some crew members dismantling the portal.



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After the Monday split I went to a hotel near the Fresno airport.

The next day, solo adventure! Jameson had gone overland to a Rob Thomas concert, so I decided to drive to the Hollywood Bowl to catch the LA Phil. My first stop was Kawaba Rice Ball to pick up dinner to bring to the concert. I'd never had rice balls and wanted to give them a try. I got curried chicken, spicy tuna mayo, and "bomb" (plain rice ball with a sweet soy pickled egg inside).



After checking into a hotel, I drove to the Park & Ride location for the Hollywood Bowl shuttle. It was 5:30pm and unfortunately we had an inexperienced driver, so we didn't arrive until after 7pm :/ But it was enough time to get comfortable and eat my meal before the concert started. I had a box seat a little to the left of the stage, putting me in the line of fire for the low brass. Just how I like it :D


Each box has four seats. There was a family of three sharing my box, and next to us a couple with a season subscription to the Bowl. We had a great conversation over our food. The rice balls were delicious! I liked the tuna and the bomb the best. Coupled with some Rabbit Ridge wine, it was the perfect prelude to the show!

I was especially looking forward to this concert because my grad school trombone teacher plays with the LA Phil. I hadn't seen him since 2010, and have never heard him play live in a professional setting.

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We finished our week with an early show on Monday. Jameson and I drove 5.5 hours to a hotel in Long Beach, CA. The next morning we paid a visit to the Queen Mary!


The Queen Mary was a luxurious ocean liner in the 1930s. The popular style at that time was Deco, and so we saw quite a lot of brass decor and lovely Deco lettering and artwork.

Read more... )

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We got off to a super-late start...supposed to leave at 9am, didn't move until nightfall.
But still, we arrived before midnight.

Stockton is an unfortunate city at the moment. The violent crime rate is very high, and the city declared bankruptcy this year. We had a dark day, so I was interested in seeing the Miracle Mile or at least a little of the downtown area. So I read up on safety and gave it a go.

The arena is near the Waterfront area. It's very nice, with a park and a baseball field.


(photo courtesy wikipedia)

The best way to get to Miracle Mile is via Center St.
Although taking Madison is shorter, that will lead you through about five blocks of rough neighborhood.
Of course that's the way I went. Although nobody bothered me and although it was quickest, I can't recommend that route for circus moms, kids or people who like to 'dress up' to go out.

Anyway, the 'revitalized' Miracle Mile was nice. There were some thrift stores and antique shops, and a large used bookstore that also had lots of DVDs for $3. I got two documentaries, looked through all the antique stores, and popped into a corner store for a bottle of water and a snack before heading back to the arena. People were friendly, the day was nice. All in all a good afternoon walk.


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As you could tell from my last post, there were several dark days between San Fran and Sacramento.
Many people took advantage of the time by going on trips.
Several friends went to Lake Tahoe.

Many people also went to see Illusion Fusion,
a magic show starring Alex Ramon, the former ringmaster of Zing Zang Zoom.


Read more... )
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Appologies for posting this so late.
I took a mini vacation this week, and was unable to post on the usual day.
Thanks for reading!

Though the run to Bakersfield was short, it was nice to be moving again :)

On Wednesday many people explored the downtown area.
We're only about a mile from the arena, so I get to use my bike all week. Yay!

On 19th Street there are many antique malls, including a Five and Dime inside an old Woolworth's building.

After you're done looking at antiques, you can get an old fashioned burger and shake in the Diner.

For Thursday's rehearsal my boss let me sit out for the end of the 2nd half while he played trombone.
That was fun! I haven't heard the music in the house since winter quarters!



Our Animal Open House was in the Convention Center next door. A strange setup!

(photo courtesy Ryan)

Nothing much else happened in Bakersfield...another laid-back city :)

Next we go to Sacramento, where I'm told there's nothing to do around the train.
So expect a short post :P

San Francisco )

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Tuesday:
The week got off to a relaxing start with no train run :)
The train will stay in San Jose, and we will commute via charter bus to the Cow Palace in San Francisco.
The band will be using the tech van, hooray!
Because of the long commute, it is likely that some people will sleep overnight at the arena.

Today I got to do a volunteer PR at Family House SF.
While the clowns entertained the kids, we volunteers reorganized donation containers for Family House.



Although the turnout was a little lower than expected, the kids seemed to have a good time :)



(all photos courtesy Family House SF)

The Stroopie Gourmet was there to 'cater' the event.
Have you ever had a super thin waffle, sliced in half, layered with caramel and jam?
Made right in front of you and served piping hot?
If not, add these guys to your foodie list! NOM NOM NOM!



After a very long ride back to the train, I walked to a nearby Chinese grocery.
I didn't need anything but had to check it out, and am sorry I did because now I'll be tempted to buy
lots of new exciting foods :P
I exercised some restraint and only got white pepper, durian jam, almond jello, and some fruit.


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The train yard here in in San Jose is nice!
It's right next to a large mall, and an easy bike ride from grocery stores, restaurants, etc.
There's also a good wifi signal, always a plus!
Since we're parked here next week too, I'm glad it's a good place :)


Load in was super fast this week...trainside and showside crews had to work extra hard to finish by showtime on Wednesday. Great job everybody!!!
The rest of the week was light, or at least the shows were spaced out so that we have only one show per day through Friday, three Saturday, two Sunday, and one Monday. Nothing of fantastic interest happened.
I enjoyed relaxing, strolling around downtown, and chilling in the train yard :) All the makings of a short blog post :P

We had our 300th show this week! That's almost halfway through the season!

Sunday was a Slick Sunday. Both Jerome and Slick brought doughnuts, and I made Oreo truffles!
Thank you Kriste M. for the recipe!



It occurs to me that I've been slacking on that whole 'local bread' thing I was doing :P
Since we've been in Cali, I've had bread from LaBrea Bakery, which is very similar to Nature Valley only with no preservatives. Also two kinds of Trader Joe's bread, their Chia and Flaxseed which tasted great but was...I don't know...floppy? Undercooked? Something like that. And Sprouted Rye bread, which had a really earthy taste that was hard to get used to. And finally a loaf of San Francisco Sourdough from Ralph's. That was really tasty!


Anyway, next week we're in San Fran. Can't wait to see the bridge, the fog, Cow Palace, etc.!

Pics from this week:

Ahh, life in a train yard. These signs surround our train here in San Jose.



The horses got a My Little Pony makeover on Saturday!

(photo courtesy Jessi, vet tech)

This week the clowns negotiate their new contracts...who's staying, leaving, switching...?
And next week we're holding new clown auditions. Good luck everyone!


In other news, Kenneth Feld announces the beginning of the Marvel international tour!

Audition information is available HERE!
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Monday:
This train run was a little longer. We ran right alongside the Pacific!






Tuesday:
Once we arrived, I was quickly kidnapped for chicken and waffles
with Slick, Brett, Jameson, Jerome, and Tom :)



I've never had REAL chicken and waffles...in middle school I remember having some soggy slop called "chicken and waffles", but of course that doesn't even compare. This was REAL soul food. IT. WAS. DELICIOUS.


Just in case that wasn't enough awesome for one night,
we then crossed the street to Heinold's First and Last Chance Saloon (since 1880!)
,
also called Jack London's Rendezvous because Jack used to hang out there regularly.



Many features of the bar are original, including the bar itself, gas lamps, wood stove, and tables and chairs. This is especially impressive considering that during the devastating 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the bar was irreparably damaged.
The supports under the floor collapsed, causing the entire bar to tilt at a pretty sharp angle.



As you can see there's also a lot of neat stuff stuck to the wall and ceiling.
Business cards cover the walls, along with newspaper clippings, medals, and other artifacts.
Hats, life preservers and evil rubber bats controlled by the bartender coat the ceiling :)

It was a cool place. I'm sure lots of us will be stopping by as it's very close to the train!


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After another super short train run, we arrived in San Diego around midnight.

Tuesday was load in.
I enjoyed sleeping in and later doing some work that I'd been putting off.
In the afternoon Jameson and I walked to a nearby grocery to stock up for the week.
We are parked near the historic Gaslamp Quarter. There's a lot to see!

Our train near the PETCO Ballpark. Great skyline SD!



Entrance to the Gaslamp Quarter!

(photo courtesy Coastline Travel)

Later that night we enjoyed Taco Tuesday at Fred's Mexican Cafe.
Calamari tacos and strawberry margaritas, can't beat that!
For dessert, the Ghirardelli Ice Cream Shop was the obvious choice :D


I got fancy lemon sorbet!


Jameson got a Sea Salt Caramel Banana Shake!


After that we walked around the harbor area. Got to see the luxury yacht Lady Christine up close:

(photo courtesy charterworld.com)

I had a wonderful time. Thank you Jameson :)

Wednesday was a Dark Day. I went over to Robert Cromeans Hair Salon,
The salon is very innovative-looking;
hair dryers hang from the ceiling so they can be used at any angle without tangling.
My stylist was named Josh, and he was FABULOUS.

Best haircut I've ever gotten for the price!
After that I wandered around the Quarter, just enjoying the weather and window shopping.

Over the weekend there was a big swap meet in the parking lot of the arena we're playing;
on Friday I went over to check it out!


(photo from the website)

Unfortunately they closed at 3pm every day, so a lot of vendors were packing up by the time I got over there. But still, it was fun to look around. I should have gone again on Saturday or Sunday, but honestly couldn't think of anything I needed at the moment :)

On Sunday one of Jameson's friends came to a show, and taped the end of Band Gag!
Thanks Kristin!


Right across the street there's a Target and a Ralph's,
so today during load out I picked up some groceries for the train run.
It was a nice laid back week. San Diego is a chill town.

I'm looking forward to this train run.
Supposedly we run right along the shore, so I'm hoping for some great pics!

Oakland's up next!



Photos from this week:

Some people have asked me what a 'coffin' room (5' x 7') looks like.
Juliana (dancer)'s room is a good example!

(photo missing. courtesy Juliana)

The Kids Got Talent Talent Show was this weekend! SO CUTE <3 <3
Circus kids are amazing!

(photo missing. courtesy Eryn)

Our ringmaster Andre McClain celebrated his birthday on Saturday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY ANDRE!!
(photo missing. courtesy Ryan)

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