taz_39: (footprint)







This week was, like, the opposite of last week. So much happened!

On Monday Jameson and I got up bright and early, got to Union Station, and rode an Amtrak into Penn Station. From there we walked to a hotel that Jameson's Dad graciously reserved for us, right in Times Square!! It's a little fancier than I'm used to.



The view wasn't bad either!


After settling in we found pizza for lunch, then took an hour to chill before the David Gilmour concert. When we got to Madison Square Garden we stumbled upon a floor tile dedicated to Gunther Gebel-Williams:


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taz_39: (footprint)







I won't bore you with the details of my two days off at the train yard in Anacostia. Taxes, chores, a short walk, let's leave it at that. Some of the guys from the band went to a bar in DC to watch baseball on opening day, looks like fun :)

(photo courtesy Chaz)

But overall getting into DC from where we are is pretty obnoxious. I just used the time to have a movie marathon.

Opening day in Fairfax was all right. This arena on George Mason University's campus was where I played my first shows with the circus, four years ago as of Monday. I'll always remember playing the clown walkaround act completely wrong, and panicking because I thought I'd be fired :P

Our rehearsal was a bit long, we had to run the whole first act without elephants again :/ Things became a bit more interesting when a little starling found its way inside and began to march around on the floor during the acts. He didn't seem bothered at all by the loud sounds or the people running around. It was a little distracting, but cute <3


(photo courtesy Rebecca W.)

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After a yummy late breakfast in Charleson, we continued driving to Richmond. On the way we stopped in Midlothian, the town where Jameson grew up. His family traveled quite a bit, but this is where he has memories from Kindergarten up to maybe when he was 10 years old. Since it was late when we arrived, our first stop was a Friendly's--yes, the SAME Friendly's--that Jameson had gone to after ball games for dinner and ice cream. This was a nostalgia moment for me as well, as my mom used to work at Friendly's and I can remember getting the clown sundae once in a while :)

The waitress informed me that this is actually called a "conehead". Now I know what to ask for!
Anyone else remember these?



The next morning we went on a drive through Jameson's old neighborhood. Our first stop was the elementary school. There was sort-of-almost a little foreshadowing sitting right in the front yard! Jameson says it's been there since he went to school there more than 26 years ago.


After that we drove to his old neighborhood and found his house. Unfortunately the homeowner was out mowing the lawn, so he got to see us do about eight awkward drive-bys haha. But Jameson loved seeing his old house. First time in 26 years...it's good to get in touch with your roots once in a while.


The train wasn't quite spotted yet, so we went to a nearby 2nd & Charles, where Jameson found this awesome book of circus songs! It has write-ups on the history of each song, and excerpts too. Great find!


There was still time to kill, so we decided to catch a showing of Zootopia. We found the nearest theater, which turned out to be a seatside-service Carmike. Real food and a great movie? Excellent! The movie was amazingly good. I hadn't expected such depth from a Disney movie (no offense Disney) but Zootopia makes many great moral points and has a great storyline. This is one everyone should go see.

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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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We got off to a late start out of Columbia, but were able to make up some time by flying through the night. We arrived in Norfolk around 6am on Tuesday (I was awake...never sleep well during spotting).

The Norfolk yard is gigantic. Luckily we are parked near an exit road, so it wouldn't be too terrible if we decided to take a walk. This entire yard is used solely for shipping coal, can you believe it??



Once I realized that there was no internet at the yard (again), I caught the bus and hoofed it over to the MacArthur Center to make use of the wifi. Playing Ingress on the way, of course.

After the mall I hit a Harris Teeter, then returned to the train to unpack and relax.

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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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taz_39: (woody2)







The Red Unit was treated to a whole three days off!!
On Sunday night we enjoyed a party thrown by the Felds,
to thank us for our hard work so far :)
There were arcade games, a bounce house, food and drinks. Looks like fun!

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(photo courtesy Gemma)

Many people got out of town during these days off, to see family or just to catch a break from the circus. I stayed at Jameson's parents', and we just relaxed on Monday. I drove an hour to the train to retrieve some tax paperwork...thanks for nothing Utah. While there, I noticed that my perpetually leaky sink has been fixed thanks to Eric (train crew). Thank you Eric!!!
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On Tuesday we enjoyed a "green egg and ham" waffle. It was delicious and I learned how to make a poached egg! Gotta try making one on the train! Then Jameson went to his massage appointment, and I got my hair cut. It was a very rainy day so we spent most of it indoors. The trees in the backyard seem to enjoy the rain.
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taz_39: (woody2)







I was fortunate to be able to spend the two weeks in Fairfax at Jameson's parents' house. The train is parked in Anacostia again, and that's an hour bus ride to and from the arena. But Jameson's parents live only a few minutes from the arena, plus I get to sleep in a real bed and eat Jameson's Mom's fantastic home cooking. Really counting my blessings over here!!

This is adorable little Mo standing next to a spruce that the Boyces planted in their yard this week. :)
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On our days off, I mostly just relaxed. We did a little shopping here and there, watched Chopped and a Brian May/Kerry Ellis concert blu ray, and went to a little league ball game to watch Jameson's cousin play (he hit a grand slam!). We ate out for lunch one day at Le Pain Quotidien. They serve simple but delicious food. I had an arugula and smoked salmon salad with grilled beets and a peppery dressing. Their bread is house made and has a wonderful freshness and texture.

(photo courtesy yelp)

The arena this week is the Patriot Center on the George Mason University campus. I remember it well because there's a grocery right across the street and of course being on a college campus, there are a lot of food options. It's all about food with me :P It's very convenient to be able to hop over to the student union building for a meal between shows.

This was where I got to play my first shows with the circus. I was scared! But Brett was very patient with me, and made it clear that I wasn't expected to play perfectly by the end of the first week. That was good to know as I bombed pretty hard the first several days :P


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taz_39: (woody2)







After Sunday's shows, Jameson and I drove to a hotel as usual.

The next day we crossed PA to reach my parents' house. The drive was long and boring; nothing but farmland for five hours :p My parents gave us a nice warm welcome :) After meeting Jameson, they took us to dinner at Rose Marie's, a nice Italian restaurant in downtown Bloomsburg.

We also drove around a bit, showing Jameson some of the more "interesting" sights to be found in our little town such as the Civil War memorial, Bloomsburg University, and the Fairgrounds. It was too dark to see much of the Fairgrounds unfortunately, but we described to him how the Bloomsburg Fair has been operating for over 150 years, with the only exception being 2011 when a terrible flood prevented this annual event from happening.


How the fairgrounds normally looks:

After the 2011 flood:
Mar19-2014-1

Bloomsburg is at the bottom of a series of floodgates, and also positioned between Fishing Creek and the Susquehanna River. Flooding occurs about every five years, but lately the water level has been higher and higher, and has become a serious problem.

Anyway, we had a nice visit. Originally I had wanted to stay all day Tuesday, but a buyout show was scheduled for Wednesday evening so we had to hit the road first thing Tuesday morning. Well, almost first thing :) We visited my sister's house for breakfast. She made an awesome breakfast casserole! My siblings Raven and Jonah were also home from spring break, and I was really happy to see them and introduce them to Jameson. Although it was a brief visit home, it was wonderful to see everyone :)

Saying goodbye to my car was a little rough :P I wish I could bring it with me always, but it's expensive to have to get hotels every week, and extra hotels when the train is late, plus gas, tolls, parking, etc...at some point it's just no longer worth it. But it was convenient and fun to be able to get groceries whenever I wanted, offer rides to people, and visit friends in other cities. I'll probably do it again next year.

On the way to Jameson's parents' house we stopped in Centralia, PA to have a look at the cemetery and what remains of the abandoned coal town.
If you're a gamer, you might recognize this town as the setting for Silent Hill.

As a local, I'd driven through Centralia many times but had never bothered to stop. We visited the cemetery first. There were many interesting graves.
A LOT of people died before the age of 50 here, and most were Irish immigrants.

Mar19-2015-2

We also took a look at the closed portion of Route 61, where burning coal seams have torn the road apart, releasing toxic fumes and making the road impassable. Pedestrians can access the area, but at their own risk.
Here you can see that many college students have defaced the condemned area.

Mar19-2015-3

The road is cracking from the heat of the fire underground. Sometimes steam and toxic fumes rise from the cracks. And sometimes it's hot enough that you can stick a piece of wood in there and it'll burn.
Mar19-2014-4

Jameson checking out the cracked road.


There was no fire or steam while we were there, but the ground was certainly warmer to the touch than it should have been on a 30 degree partially cloudy day.
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taz_39: (woody2)







After the Raleigh shows I got to a hotel and slept for like 10 hours. I needed that.
The next day I continued driving to Vienna, VA where Jameson's parents live.
The house is new and beautiful, with a big fenced-in yard for the dogs. Deer and fox come right up to the fence!

Jameson's Mom made us "McRibs" using a recipe from a website. I don't eat McRibs often enough to know how they compared to the real thing, but it was certainly delicious!



We watched Chopped together and played with Moe (a small mixed breed dog) and Addison, the new Bernese Mountain Dog puppy. She is ADORABLE, is she not??
Feb2014-1

The next day we had beef stew for lunch, then said our goodbyes and headed back to the train.
For the first time, we are in a train yard that I've been to before!
That's right, we were already in Richmond back in 2013!
The yard was much muddier then, as you can see from the first pic in that post. Since then, they've put gravel in. Super thankful for that!!

I opened the door to my room to discover that one of my houseplants had broken on the floor. Apparently it was a rough run!

Feb2014-2

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On the way to the Hampton yard, the train passed Busch Gardens!

I was sitting in my room watching the scenery pass, when I recognized an intersection that I used to drive by on the way to work. I jumped up and managed to snap this one picture before the park disappeared behind some trees.


The train yard we are staying in is only five miles from where I used to live. It was only a little over a year ago, so I remember those times very well. Sleeping in an empty 10 x 10 room on an air mattress. Listening to the neighbors fighting in the parking lot. Working four jobs and keeping a color-coded calendar to keep track of it all. Driving past the Coliseum in December, when the lights outside were a festive red and green, and never thinking for a moment that I'd ever get to see the inside. And this week it's my second home!



This arena is right on the lake!


Circus folk enjoying the sun before rehearsal:


It's so strange to return to a place like this where I spent so much time working other jobs. It's like getting glimpses of a past life, seeing the streets I used to drive down, the places I used to go for walks.

The area around the arena has been developed a great deal since I was here last. There are lots of shops, including Walmart, Target, and a big outdoor mall. I strolled around on Tuesday and enjoyed the sun, window shopping, and frozen yogurt :)



That night there was a BBQ at the train. The weather was perfect and it was the first 'real' circus BBQ of the year :)

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We had a lovely train run from Ohio to Virginia.

The weather was finally warm enough to spend time on the vestibules.
Passing through the mountains, I saw many interesting houses half-buried in the woods.
Leaves are just starting to appear on some of the trees, and the grass is new.
The fresh mountain air was wonderful. For a while our train followed a stream where
locals were fishing or sunbathing. I saw donkeys, llamas, horses, goats, turkeys, chickens,
and cows. What a beautiful change from the city!!

Train going around a bend:



Snuggling up to a mountain:


Interesting houses:




White cliffs on the river:


These guys stopped working on the bridge to take pics of us :D


All week we had wonderful weather. Pity we can't do shows outside :P
Scope Arena (interesting building, huh!):


Throughout the week I spent as much time as possible outside.
On Friday we had split shows, so after the first show I went to a nearby
pawn shop with several of the band guys, then Brett and Catfish (latest trumpet sub) and I got
some really good sushi. After that they went to see a movie at the mall, and I
took two-mile trek to a farmers market!

On the way it started to rain, and I dove into a nearby shop for cover.


The owner was super nice! He roasts his own coffee right there in the store.
He gave me a bag for free! I was supposed to share it, but the production office
uses a Keurig and the wardrobe dept. had enough coffee for the week.
So I kept half for myself and gave the other half to Ashley (preshow host/equestrian).
It's very good! The flavor is rich and delicious.
Thank you, Chris, for your generosity!

At the farmers market I picked up some produce, and of course a loaf of bread.

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It's from Sugar Plum Inc., an organization dedicated to teaching baking skills to people with disabilities.
As you can see from the website, these guys make all kinds of tasty treats!
The farmers market only carried their bread, so I got a 6-grain with molasses.
It's a small oval loaf, smaller than it looks in the picture, and it's kind of chewy. The molasses gives
it a really nice strong flavor. And it's the perfect size for poached eggs too :)

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This week we went a little further south to Richmond!
We were parked on a stretch of rail on the James River Park System.
There's an awesome-looking walking trail right next to the tracks,
but on the day I'd planned to walk it it was raining pretty hard so I didn't go :P



Once again those boots came in handy.

The arena here is kinda old, and the only way in or out for performers
is a strange ramp. Many of the trailers and company vehicles were parked
indoors, and the elephants and horses were housed in the arena as well.

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Because the animals were inside with us, and maybe because of the weather,
many people had colds or sinus issues this week.

Although there were a lot of shows here, there was a little time to wander around downtown.
I got my hair cut, then poked around VCU for a bit and explored Broad and Main streets.
It's a nice town...wish we'd had a bit more time here!


I got to see the Main Street Station from street level for the first time.
I've driven past it many times when traveling between PA and NC.

You can see how close it is to the highway.

(photo courtesy rainbowdangerclub.com)

Under the overpass is a huge sculpture by John Newman...I walked right under it without noticing at first!


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