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Before heading to Pittsburgh we visited a really awesome museum: The Strong Museum of Play! It's only a few blocks from the Rochester arena! Never knew!

The Strong Museum is primarly a children's museum, featuring a lot of play areas, a small library, and lots of hands-on exhibits. We were there on Halloween day and there was a special trick-or-treat event for toddlers. We saw lots of cute kids in adorable costumes!

But the real reason we were there is because the Strong Museum houses thousands of video games. The entire second floor is like a giant arcade. Some games are free, others require tokens, either way it's a great time. Most of the games are not on display, but are held in the archives and rotated out into the display cases every once in a while. When you've got tens of thousands of items it's hard to show them all at once! Here are some of the vintage gaming systems we got to see.

Game Boy, of course!



An Apple II computer, complete with floppy disk drives. (Yeah that link is for you Millenials who never experienced the "joys" of a piece of wax paper that held 0.5k data and could be erased with a fridge magnet :P)


This is pretty cool, it's a Nintendo cartridge specifically designed for gaming competitions. The parameters of the games can be controlled by the chip in the upper left. Supposedly these are quite rare and go on eBay for thousands. Cool!


This is one of those ET games that was ditched in a landfill after losing tons of money for Atari (it was a news story a few years ago when they dug 'em back up).


This is just a small sampling of what we saw. In addition to video games, there were displays of board games, puzzles, dolls, and other types of toys.


We found a giant Battleship board and played a game. I won!


That's ok, he won at two player Tetris later on :)
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Before heading to Little Rock, we decided to stop overnight in Dallas and catch a baseball game with Tim (sax) and Rob (crew). It was the Mariners vs. the Rangers. Tim is from Seattle so of course he was backing the Mariners, and the rest of us were too if only to be contrary :P

This was my first-ever major league game! The stadium was huge and filled with all kinds of crazy foods.




Jameson and I had been to the gym earlier in the day and had eaten sparingly so that we could enjoy ourselves here. The first unhealthy and delicious thing we discovered: bacon on a stick!! Drizzled in a chipotle maple glaze. Oh my goodness.


Jameson also got a chicken-and-doughnut skewer with honey dip! How amazing is that!!!

(photo courtesy ESPN.com)

We found our seats and chowed down. The guys picked awesome seats a little to the left of home plate!


Unfortunately the Mariners did not have a great game that evening, though they made a solid effort. The Rangers' pitcher Yu was on fire. At some point around the 5th inning Tim came back from the concourse exclaiming that he'd seen former President G.W. Bush! And a few minutes later we saw him too, sitting in front row seats on the other side of home plate! I took a picture but had to zoom like crazy. Trust me, it was definitely "the W" and his wife Laura.


After the game we parted ways with promises to see each other again in Little Rock. Tim was staying in Dallas to catch another game, and Rob was driving through the night. Jameson and I walked back to the hotel and crashed. I had a great time!

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It only takes an hour to drive to Ft Worth, but of course it takes the train much longer! The train was in three cuts and had to be reassembled, plus we probably had to avoid commuter rails. Jameson and I stayed in Dallas overnight. In the morning we went to Seasons 52 for lunch. We both got salmon; he treated himself to a wild salmon filet with snap peas and some delicious-looking corn side/thing, while I had sesame salmon salad. Seasons 52 is basically guaranteed to be good!


After our meal we went to a large Half Price Books to kill time. Jameson found some music books, and I found a 1919 National Geographic! I've got this weird obsession with old magazines...I find it fascinating that things I take for granted, like toothpaste and wall paint, were new and exciting back in the day. This old magazine also had an article on Korea (as in Whole Unified Korea) that included a map...an incredibly empty map that claimed to be  incredibly detailed, haha. In the article, the caucasian writer describes the locals' fascination with his blue eyes to the point where they question his ability to see (he proves that he has good vision by shooting a dog from several yards away, which the locals promptly cook for dinner). Later on the writer is invited on a random tiger hunt that ensues when some farmers spot two tigers on a mountain from a distance. Amazing how much has changed in the last century.


Then it was back to the mall to see Sausage Party! Um...gosh, there's no good way to describe this movie. If you can tolerate dirty humor, I mean REALLY dirty, and a lot of drug references, then you'll like it! There were definitely a lot of funny parts, but I found myself blushing more often than not. Scandalous!

After the movie it was finally time for the snack we'd been looking forward to all week...Howdy Homemade ice cream!! This is a unique store in Dallas that serves ice cream made right there in the shop. Howdy Homemade employs adults with special needs, and they run the whole operation from churning each flavor to serving guests and running the register. Andy was at the counter that day, and along with a barrage of amazing ice cream samples (that I could have just stood there eating all day haha) he made us laugh with some one-liners. I hope he's a comedian on the side because his jokes and the speed at which he dealt them out was amazing! :D



There were SO many fantastic flavors to choose from! "Classic" flavors like strawberry and chocolate, more unique flavors like mango and cookie monster, and some downright bizarre flavors like hot tomale and avocado! Andy let us try many different kinds. The avocado was strange, but surprisingly good! The cheesecake was AMAZING. If I ever get to come here again I'll be getting that flavor! This time we settled on Howdy Homemade's most popular creation: chocolate chip Dr. Pepper ice cream. It was fantastic!!!


If I weren't lactose intolerant I'd have eaten a gallon. Jameson got his in a Dr. Pepper float (because if you're gonna do it, do it all the way) and I got a second scoop of carrot cake ice cream, which tasted exactly like carrot cake complete with chunks of carrot, and reminded me of autumn. Maybe the best part about this whole experience was eating our treats with golden spoons :) Thank you Howdy Homemade...we'll be back!!!


After our treat we fought rush hour traffic to reach Ft Worth. Since the train wasn't quite spotted we decided to put in our time at the gym, and wouldn't you know it, right when we finished the train was ready for us! We grabbed some groceries and went home.
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Monday was a day of rest. For dinner Jameson and I got dolled up and went out for sushi at Azuma in downtown Houston! We first decided to start dating over a sushi lunch three years ago, so figured this was an appropriate way to celebrate! We both managed to order the same rolls...you know, the lovebird connection and all :P Here we have the "Peppercorn Kings" (peppered salmon and tuna, cucumber, Old Bay) and the "Sunshine" (salmon, avocado, asparagus, mango, and marbled kombu paper):


After our meal we went to see Lights Out. Jameson is a big fan of scary movies! I'm ambivalent toward them :P This one was enjoyable, several cool moments, but not enough to give me nightmares! We had a lot of fun and enjoyed each other's company, and that's what it's all about :)

On Tuesday we went to the gym, then relaxed back at the train. Partway through the day train crew made an announcement that the water would be shut off momentarily. I thought nothing of it until about an hour later, when I saw Josh (trainmaster) and Nikki's (train crew) photos. Our water had been knocked loose by a large tree branch floating down the rain-swollen stream next to our train. Train crew dove right in!!

(photo courtesy Nikki R.)

(photo courtesy Josh R.)


(photos courtesy Nikki R.)

Soon enough the water was restored. Thank you train crew!!

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It was nice to have some days off without travel involved! Strangely homey :D

On Monday Jameson and I went to check out a Planet Fitness in Houston. Jameson has a medical condition that makes high-impact exercise difficult. Although he has tried to exercise on his own, our lifestyle of constant travel and living in small rooms has been something of a road block. The most obvious thing to do was to find a chain gym with locations in every city we'll visit, and open a membership. Planet Fitness fit the bill.


(photo courtesy PF Spring Branch)

We were given a tour of the facilities by a young lady with blue and purple hair (she had the most complex name so I'm not even going to try). As we walked around the gym and listened to her explaining the equipment, gym policies, etc., I was struck by the variety of people exercising. I saw men, women, teenagers, seniors, some who were full-figured and some who were athletic-looking. I've never in my life had a gym membership, mainly because the few times I've been to a gym (in college and while living in VA) there have been jerks in there hogging equipment or judging others or screwing around. Exercising in public is already anxiety-inducing enough without such people making it worse. But here, there seemed to be none of that. Just regular folks squeezing some exercise in between work and feeding the kids.

So we decided to sign up. Jameson made the account, and I'm his "guest", meaning that I've got to go with Jameson to have access to the gym. That's fine as he's got the car :P I can get my own membership later if I like...and in the meantime, we'll be saving some money and splitting the cost of one membership. Sweet!

Now that we had our membership it was time to make sure we had the proper equipment! We hit a nearby mall for some things...a gym bag, shoes and socks for Jameson, and sweatpants and sports bras for me. There was a Target attached to the mall so we got some groceries too. While walking around we couldn't help but notice how many, MANY people were there to play Pokemon GO. I couldn't help but smile when I saw a dad and his daughters playing, or a group of teens standing in a huddle and enjoying some gameplay. Texas was where I first started playing Ingress, a similar augmented reality game made by the same developers that is pretty much the predecessor to Pokemon GO. So I'm looking at these GO players and feeling those feels :D

Anyway, we got back to the train and spent the rest of the evening relaxing. At some point the band guys got together for some Topgolf. What a lovely day to play!


(photo courtesy Jameson B.)

The next day we decided to try out the gym!
I put on my new workout clothes (including a complementary PF shirt) and spent about 15 minutes stretching, then did two 20-minutes sessions on the treadmill. Once I got started, it actually wasn't that bad.

I am fortunate. I do not have significant weight to lose, or health problems to combat. So I will be exercising to gain flexibility and stamina, "because it's good for me", and to make progress with my sweetheart, whose health is paramount to me. Thank you for the motivation my love! Let's do our best!


(yeah, I know I look dubious. I'm sure eventually that will be a smile :))

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Before leaving Louisiana Jameson and I got to eat lunch at a Blue Dog Cafe! We both had shrimp, his was fried and mine was grilled. Absolutely delicious. We are both wondering what that white sauce was for the shrimp. It tasted like nothing else I've ever had and was very good!



The train was supposed to arrive around 3am so we got another hotel in Houston. After a nice dinner we went to see Secret Life of Pets. It's a very cute movie! Definitely for a younger crowd, but there are some moments in there for the adults too. And the evil villain is a cute bunny rabbit whose viewpoint parallels that of another real-life evil bunny :P Funny stuff!

The next day we got groceries and got to the train. Jameson is still reeling from the bad news he got last week and was looking forward to having some alone time, however his car needs servicing and the best times to take care of that are on these days off. While he was taking care of that, I got to relax at the train for the rest of the day.

Strangely we both had trouble remembering this train yard until we were in it...but once we were here, we both remembered the weird entrance and the bumpy road, under an overpass and across from a church :)


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**BLOG UPDATE: From now on, you can reach my blog by visiting or sharing the address trombonemegan.com. My name's Megan and I play the trombone. Easy to remember, right? I figure it's easier to remember than taz-39.livejournal.com.**

The drive to Phoenix didn't take too long, although it was very hot with temperatures reaching up to 120F in some areas. We took it slow so the car wouldn't overheat (we saw many unfortunate folks broken down along the way).

We arrived in Phoenix a day before the train, plus the train was late, so we had time to kill. For breakfast Jameson took me to Lolo's Chicken and Waffles. I love chicken and waffles!! And now that we've been to several such places across the country, I get to compare! Unlike Roscoe's or Home of Chicken and Waffles, Lolo's chicken is very lightly battered resulting in a nice crispy skin. It's also more salty and heavier on the seasoning, which makes a nice contrast with the sweet waffle. I couldn't say that any of these restaurants have a "better" chicken and waffles. They're all delicious! And Lolo's hit the spot this morning!



After our meal we killed time at a local mall. We visited the Microsoft store to check out the Surface Pro and Surface Book, both of which Jameson might be interested for programming work. We were surprised to find a virtual reality setup near the store entrance. Jameson decided to check it out!


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The drive from CO Springs to Vegas would be long, so we hit the road Sunday night to get to Grand Junction (a popular halfway point). The next morning we had breakfast at a nearby Denny's, and made sure to pay for someone's breakfast in memory of the person who did this for us last year. It's always good to pay such things forward :)

We drove the remaining seven hours to Vegas and landed at the Rio hotel, exhausted. While checking in, the front desk gave us an upgrade. Still, we were surprised to see our room! It was gigantic!!!



Living room. There's a dining room behind it, and a bathroom off to the right.


The bathroom hallway. Standing shower and whirlpool tub!


With the windows open.


The view.


Feeling lucky, we went down to the casino to try our luck. Or rather to try Jameson's luck, as I don't find gambling fun :P Unfortunately we weren't as lucky as last year, but still had fun. We also enjoyed a delicious dinner at Guy Fieri's new restaurant, El Burro Borracho. The tacos were small, but that was a good thing...they were each a perfect bite. Mine had pork shoulder, grilled pineapple, avocado, pickled onions, and grilled tortillas. Yummy!


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First I'd like to apologize for an error I've been making in some of my posts and photos. At some point I started saying, with assertiveness and great conviction, that Ringling's animals/facilities are inspected by the FDA. That's wrong! It's the USDA that examines the animals and inspects their living and traveling conditions. I can't believe that no one's corrected me up until now.

Friends, if I ever write something that you think might be incorrect, please correct me! I won't get mad, I promise! I want to be sharing good *correct* information, that is far more important to me than having my pride injured. Sorry for the mistakes...and thank you!

Jameson and I drove overland and stopped partway to CO Springs. The next day we decided to take a little detour to Denver for one of our favorite restaurants...Buckhorn Exchange! (EST 1893!)



We both got the special, which was the bison prime rib with herb butter, house-made chips, and the restaurant's homemade baked beans. SO delicious.


After that we got to the train and settled in.
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I decided to take the 3.5 day train run out to Lincoln, NE. We left pretty much on time and made good progress throughout the day as far as I could tell. Since there are no animals on this long run, we will not be stopping to refill the water tanks (because screw you humans!). This will save us travel time and probably some $$ too. Partway through the afternoon an announcement was made that we were approaching the Altoona Horseshoe Curve, a rare stretch of rail that allows one to see the entire circus train! There were many people taking footage of us so I hope those railfans will share it soon! Here is the video I took, and you can also CLICK HERE to watch Rob's (GM) as his is from a really good angle.


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It was a short drive to reach Hershey from Trenton, but the train was a bit late so we needed to kill time. We visited a 2nd & Charles at the Harrisburg Mall, got Jameson some new pillows, then went to Troegs Brewery for some really fantastic beer and eats! I'm not a beer fan but once in a while an IPA is all right...especially when it's Troeg's Perpetual IPA being brewed right there! For food I went with the beet-cured salmon with (house-made?) bagel chips, smoked cream cheese, shaved asparagus, and a pickled egg topped in black caviar. It was absolutely amazing both in taste and presentation!


After that rockin' meal we decided to go see the new Avengers movie. It was really good, but neither of us had seen The Winter Soldier or other related movies such as Ant Man, so I think we were slightly out of the loop on some things. Still, a fun way to kill time!

Literally as soon as the credits started rolling, Jerome (bass) sent us a message that the train was spotted. Perfect! We hit a grocery store, then got to the train yard.

This train yard is new for us...usually we're parked pretty far away on the other side of Harrisburg. This time we're only about 10-15 minutes from the park, which is awfully nice! There's also a shopping plaza with several groceries nearby, not the most easily walkable but still convenient. I borrowed Jameson's car and took some clothes to the dry cleaners, then spent the rest of the day preparing ticket requests, cooking, and doing laundry. Partway through the day I got word that my sister was hospitalized with abdominal pain and would require surgery. She's doing ok, but I'm still worried.

Our week got off to a rough start when we woke to an unexpected power failure. Two hours later it was clear that the power would not be coming back on, so I ate some cereal and gathered stuff to do my hair to bring to the arena. I saw many others doing the same. It happens sometimes and it's inconvenient for everyone, but that's life on a moving vehicle.

It turns out that train crew was already swamped with having some wheels replaced in addition to the unexpected outage.



Train crew currently consists of about ten people, who have to cover repairs, maintenance, and cleaning for all 200-some passengers on the mile-long train. That is a LOT of work for ten people. Yes, we were all annoyed that we couldn't brew coffee that morning and were all worried about our food in the fridge. But we are also very grateful when train crew works so hard to fix these problems when they come up. By the end of the night we had a rental generator. Train crew continued to work on the generator for most of the week so that we could have power, climate control and water. Thank you.

(photo of Tim and Susan, courtesy Cindy)

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After all the excitement of the week, I thought it'd be best to just ride the train while Jameson traveled overland. It would give me time to process everything.

The train run was uneventful as far as I could tell. The weather was cold and rainy so I did not take pictures. We arrived in Manchester on time but took quite a while to be spotted. I always remember this yard because of the huge snow plow engines here. And I take a picture every year :)



Opening day was strange. We rehearsed the "new" stuff...basically it's all the same acts only the Cannon act has been moved to the part of the show where the elephants used to perform. Then we did the show. It was strange. I felt vaguely surprised when I found myself playing the end of the first act after only 45 minutes. The show overall is not much shorter, but to me it just flew by super quick. And yeah, I felt sad. I guess I never knew how much I looked forward to seeing how Asia would eat her bread this time; watching Luna curl her trunk into a spiral during the headstand; or wondering whether Mable would choose to play her tambourine with the band or to her own beat. You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.


...or as my boss who's been here for 22 years put it, "It'll take me another 22 years to get used to this."

But moping acomplishes nothing. We all did the show as though nothing had changed.


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Before heading out to Raleigh we stopped at another 2nd and Charles in Charlotte. I found an original GameBoy!!! You can buy these on Ebay for fairly cheap, or of course you could use emulators instead. But...the nostalgia got me. I bought it and ordered some games for it. They should be here in a week or two. In the meantime I had to make sure it worked.

Yep!

When we got to Raleigh the train was close but not in the yard. We decided to get dinner at a place Jameson found, called The Cowfish. It seemed like a really weird concept. Sushi and burgers?? But we were surprised...it was FANTASTIC food! We both ordered the "burgushi". From The Cowfish website: "Burgushi items include sushi rolls created using burger components, and pick-up style sandwiches created using sushi components." The buns were probably the most amazing part, they were basically rice paper burritos filled with white rice and imitation crab, then smashed flat to resemble flatbread.

Here's my sandwich, the 4-S: Koji-marinated yellowtail, cucumbers, red peppers, sprouts and slaw, sandwiched between rice paper "buns" filled with rice and kani, and a side of sweet potato fries. It was incredibly good.



I have to mention that before getting our entrees, we lucked into a free appetizer! Someone made an extra blackened tuna nachos, and a server seeing our table empty decided to gift it to us! Wonton chips with crab rangoon dip, seared tuna, guac and sprouts...I definitely could have eaten these as an entree!


On top of everything, the service was amazing. The place was packed and there were birthdays being celebrated all around us, but somehow the staff managed to make us feel like we were the only people in the place. We're actually planning to go back on Monday. The Cowfish currently only has restaurants in Charlotte, Raleigh, and Orlando. If you are ever in these cities, I really can't recommend this place enough. Delicious food, great service, and a really cool vibe. GO there!

(photo courtesy nctriangledining.com)

After that we got groceries and went to the train "yard" (it's really just a very muddy strip next to the main road) where we saw the coaches pulling in. We felt optimistic at first, but then remembered Rule No.3 when overlanding: just because you can see the train, doesn't mean you're home :P We got a hotel and it was the right choice, because several hours later the train was still not spotted. We're learning :)

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Like many people on Monday, I woke to the sad news of David Bowie's death. On top of that, Another announcement was made by Feld Entertainment that the preparations for the touring elephants down at the CEC were now complete, so they'll be taken off the road 1.5 years ahead of schedule...this May.


For the detailed Associated Press article, CLICK HERE

Of course, since last February, we knew this was coming. But that doesn't make it any less sad.

I think the people who regularly read this blog know that it's not a soapbox. And I am not one who likes to push my views on others. But this time there are a few things that I'd like to say. If you don't care to read my thoughts on this subject just scroll on past, no harm done :)


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Visiting with Jeremy and Charlie was nice. We didn't do a whole lot because I was just passing through, they had work, and it was freezing out. So we just ate out and chilled out!

It's been about two years since I was last at their house. They've been flipping it, and much amazing progress has been made. Here are some before & after photos, with the "before" on the left or top and the "after" on the right or bottom.





I also got to see another house they've bought a few blocks away that's being totally gutted and remodeled. Don't know how these guys do it, but the results are always fabulous :)

I decided to begin driving that evening to make some headway, rather than drive for 9-10 hours straight the next day. I stayed at a little highway hotel, then continued on my journey the next day. I reached Orlando late afternoon and returned my rental car. Little did I know that I didn't have unlimited miles on this trip. What an unpleasant surprise...ouch.

But I was happy to see Jameson finally after a month apart!!! He took me to his apartment to drop off my stuff, then we went out for sushi!



Then we went home, relaxed, played Guitar Hero, and caught up on all our doings over the holiday break. Gosh I've missed my sweetie!!!

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We had Monday off thankfully.
Jameson's parents took us to a place called Eataly. It's like an entirely Italian grocery, featuring handmade breads, pastas and desserts, imported candies and sauces, and deli sections selling rare cheeses and cured meats. It was pretty amazing!

On the second level was a restaurant section. We enjoyed a delicious Italian lunch. I had the squid ink pasta with mussels and it was fantastic.



After that we ran a few errands, then took the dogs to a nearby dog park. Mo had to go in the small dog section (he gets defensive with big dogs) and Addison in the main park was distracted by his whining and barking. Still, she seemed to enjoy herself :)

The next day we had two shows. Jameson's parents took us to Little Goat, one of our favorite Chicago restaurants, for brunch. I decided to be adventurous and try the This Little Piggy Went to China: a cheddar sesame biscuit with Szechuan sausage, two eggs, gooseberries, and a zesty chili sauce. It was delicious and the sauce made my tongue tingle!



The shows went well, although attendance was lighter.

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After Sunday's last show we drove the four hours to Chicago, parked at the airport, and hopped the train to Jameson's parent's condo. It never fails, I always feel like a princess when we walk in the door and are greeted by this view. Girlfriend priveleges indeed.


The next morning...well, I warned you there'd be food pictures. Brace yourself.

Breakfast was Chicago Waffles (formerly Waffle Cafe). Jameson knew right away that they were under new ownership after looking at the menu, but I had no clue. Anyway, we both decided on the waffle flight to get a sample of the new mini waffles! The flavors were chocolate with strawberries, Liege, banana Nutella, and...red velvet? Strawberry? I couldn't tell.



As you can see it's still a fantastic place to eat!

We played Ingress on the streets of Chicago for a while after that. Jameson leveled up! Congratulations!!
When our phones died we returned to the condo for some recharging and relaxation. Then, you know, dinner time. At Giordano's. I don't think I have to tell you that this tasted awesome.



Back at the condo we relaxed and watched Chopped. Because, you know, food :)

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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 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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As you can imagine, the train run from Newark to Secaucus was short.
We arrived on Monday morning.

We had an elephant walk scheduled for around 3pm. For those new to this blog, an elephant walk or animal walk is the process of getting the animals (elephants and horses) from their train cars to the arena. The animal cars are separated from the rest of the train and are brought to the closest possible location. Most of the animal crew members are already with the animals, but some are bused/driven to the walk location along with animal walk volunteers like myself. Walk volunteers can include anyone from the circus: dancers, acrobats, production folks, musicians. All you need to participate is a TB shot, some training, and the ability to pay attention. Oh and a pair of khakis :)


(photo courtesy Brett)

Once the animals have disembarked and are ready to go, we follow a predetermined route to the arena. Local police are usually on hand to help clear the roads and escort the animals and circus workers. Pedestrians will often line up on the sidewalk to view the animals on their way to the arena. The animal walkers' job is to make sure those people stay on the sidewalk, for their own safety and for the comfort and safety of the animals. To do this, 8 to 12 walkers position themselves on either side of the animals, between them and the sidewalk. They hold a yellow nylon rope between them to discourage anyone from running into the street.

I have done the walk to the Izod Center before. This time, I got to carry the rope coil and walk at the back of the procession (a first for me, yay).



Chantal (Production) and Brett (my boss) waiting for the walk to start.


The weather was nice and it was a short, pleasant stroll to the arena. I don't remember anyone coming out to see the walk the last time we were here. This time there were quite a few people standing to the side taking photos. I guess it's not surprising, as for all we know this could be one of the last elephant walks, period. And it's definitely the last one to ever take place at the Izod Center.
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(photo courtesy Ryan H.)

See the fourth elephant in line? That's Assan, our oldest elephant. She's holding her handler's hand <3
I always enjoy the chance to participate in an elephant walk. Walking beside these beautiful animals is a privelege. Seeing the astonishment and excitement on peoples' faces as the elephants pass by is a joy. However many/few of these moments are left, I'm going to savor them.


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