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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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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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I rode the train again because the boys went to a baseball game. It was a short run, made longer than usual by some engine problems. But near the end of the day the weather was nice and we were moving at a good clip, so I took some video.

The Hartford yard is within walking distance of the arena. It's also extremely dusty. I'm talking DUNES of dust. One of these days when it's windy I'll take a picture.

On the day off I didn't do much, and in the evening Jameson and I went to one of our favorite spots, Agave Grill. Probably one of the best places to eat in the city and its right next to the arena, so there are always a few circus peeps in there :) This time I got the street tacos served in blue corn tortillas, and we both had fresh guac made right at the table. So good.

The next day, opening day, we had a short meeting and rehearsal. The show was well attended, a nice surprise since we just played here last year. And we got a visit from the famous Tom McDonough!! It was a good day!

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On these particular days off, Jameson and I went our separate ways.
He drove overland to get to Denver in time for a special showing of a Pink Floyd film.
I rode the train because there was supposed to be an animal walk early on Wednesday!

The run out of Salt Lake isn't as pretty as the run going in, but I still got some very nice photos.

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This short run from Trenton to Hershey might be one of the last for me for a while. Jameson will have his car, and we've got a few road trips planned once the circus heads west :)

The weather started out pleasant, but got stormy later in the day.

(photo of flooded tracks courtesy Rob L.)

On top of that we were delayed due to a railroad defect detector not responding like it was supposed to. In the words of Eryn, a circus teacher: "The Circus Trainmaster has a radio on the same channel as the train engineer. Every once in a while, you will hear an automated voice on the radio say, 'CXS (or NS or BNSF), TRAIN DEFECT DETECTOR.' This is an automated system that inspects the train as we pass over it for safety hazards such as dragging equipment or hot wheels (such as if a brake is stuck). Most of the time, after the train has passed, the detector will announce, 'NO DEFECTS.'"

Apparently, one of the detectors that we passed over didn't respond at all. Because of that, railroad crew had to manually inspect for safety issues by walking the entire length of the train. It cost us a lot of time, but Safety Absolutely First.

We arrived in Hershey around 8pm. The animal walkers (self included) had been waiting in Pie Car for the radio call to get off the train. The train would not be spotting in Hershey; we were just going to do the walk, unload the flats, and from there take the coaches to Harrisburg where they'll be parked for the week.

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Another long train run! Day one, another day of fixing my blog and indoor chillin'. Day two, pictures!

We had lovely weather as you can see. We arrived sometime on Wednesday morning. As soon as I looked out my window I remembered the yard, and the Stop & Shop two miles away. Time to stock up for the week! Jameson and I walked there an back...and on the way back three different circus friends with cars stopped to offer us a lift. Have I mentioned how wonderful my coworkers are? <3

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I'd like to apologize--again--to anyone who's tried to read past entries in this blog. By the time I got working internet, the photos had once again been moved by facebook. I'm happy to announce that I spent the entire first day of the train run repairing all posts from 2012. Just the photos, not links or anything else. I'll go back for that once all the photos are back. Thanks for reading!

So yeah, the internet was working wonderfully. I spent all of Monday online fixing the blog. I didn't go outside for photos but I'm not above hijacking other peoples' great shots!

(photo courtesy David Shipman)

(photo courtesy Lindsey)

On Tuesday I did spend time outside, and happened to be out while we were crossing a series of bridges along the border of WV/KY/OH.

This bridge was very high up. People looked tiny.

Here we are going around a yard somewhere in WV.

Grass growing up between the ties makes this look like a green path of sorts :)

Near the end of our trip we passed a junkyard using buses as a fence:

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

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

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

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

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

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

An unintentionally artsy-fartsy shot of some bridge pillars.

The train taking a mountain curve.

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


The next morning we awoke to find ourselves in Newark. Aah, that fresh NJ air :P

We're in the same yard--the one next to the prison and the airport--but in a different part, so that we won't have to pass through the guardhouse every time we want to get home. I spent the morning enjoying the internet (haven't had good internet for three weeks!!), repairing my blog, and reading up on the "elephant issue" until I became too aggravated to continue that. Then it was time for a Hangout chat with my tax preparer. Then it was time to do several loads of laundry.
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As the frozen train made its way to Brooklyn, I used the free day to get an updated driver's license and visit my parents. It was a normal weekday for them and both of them have nasty colds. We didn't get a whole lot of time together, but some is better than none! We shared a meal and just enjoyed each others' company :)

Meanwhile, some circus folk flew/drove/Amtrak'd into the city early to catch a Broadway show or enjoy NYC's many other delights. Some took the train run despite the lack of running water. Looks like it was a pleasant run despite that. They left while there was a pretty dusting of snow on the ground, as shown here in Rebecca's photo.
And there was some very nice scenery. Photo courtesy David Shipman, Ringmaster.


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I decided to ride the train to Bridgeport, so that I could use the "free" day to sort through my room and figure out what needs to stay/go before the end of the year. I was really hoping that my bass trombone would fit under the sink, so I cleared it out.

Totally didn't fit :( But I did reorganize under there.
.....ok, yeah, it looks just as messy as before :P

The New England scenery on this run was lovely. I didn't stay on the vestibule as it was very cold (too much time out West, I'm becoming a wuss) but sat near my window and enjoyed the view.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The train run was really nice :)
I didn't take all that many pictures...tried to stay off the vestibule this time to help my sinus issues wind down, and I think it might've worked...? But on the first day we had a lovely sunset.

Late on Tuesday we arrived in Cincinnati. Internet signal is pretty strong there, so I was finally able to watch a preview clip from the upcoming season of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire! For those who don't know, my sister Raven is in an episode! She's the youngest contestant that's ever been on the show!!! She appears in the preview at about 00:18.

Yeah, this has nothing to do with circus. I am just so proud of her!!! I don't know how much money she won and it doesn't matter. She got on the show and had a blast. SO AWESOME :D

Anyway, we were pretty much a day late getting into town. Thursday was supposed to be a dark day but ended up being load in. Once again we are parked in the RJ Corman yard. I remember it well because the yard is literally in the parking lot of the building, and it is immaculate...no broken glass or rusty nails here! I was happy to see that the RJ Corman "museum" is complete; two years ago it was just a framework. Now it's a weird building in the middle of a parking lot...but hey, it's the unique things that attract us :)

Jameson and I went to a Kroger that we remembered; the walk was a bit further than I remembered but maybe that's just because it was very hot out. We were dripping by the time we got back to the train!

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Monday was probably one of the strangest "train run" days ever.
We couldn't move until Monday night, so the water was hooked up all day. What a treat!

The vestibule doors were down too, indicating that it was OK to get on and off the train.
I walked around a bit before it got too hot, taking blurry pictures of flowers.

Then it got hot and I started sneezing. I went back inside to eat and lie down. This is how I usually get sick...it starts with allergies and turns into a head cold or sinus infection. At least it usually happens during a break so I'm not sharing the germs at work :D So Monday was basically a day of nothing. No moving, no doing. I rested and ate and watched tv.

The train began moving Monday night and into Tuesday. When I checked Google Maps around noon I saw that we were just then leaving Alliance, TX, meaning we were about three hours behind. That's pretty good. As soon as we leave TX the internet will become much less reliable, so I enjoyed it while it lasted. Checking facebook, I saw that some of our crew were having an interesting experience while traveling overland. Looks like their trucker not only tried to make a turn under a bridge, he also locked his keys in the cab. Ouch.

(photo courtesy Melissa)

It's great that no one was hurt and 3 of 4 people can smile about it..haha.
I didn't do much on Tuesday either. Cooked and cleaned, and enjoyed the internet while it lasted.
Kept in touch with Jameson, who was running errands and playing Ingress in Chicago.
I watched some movies, including a documentary called Last Train Home about the annual migration of China's laborers to their homes in the countryside. It's the largest human migration in the world and it looks like a terrible experience. Remind me to never go to China during the holidays!

We passed through Oklahoma City at night. We'll be back for you OK City!!

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I got some nice pictures leaving New Orleans.

Rollergirlderby took some lovely footage of our train passing back over the huge bridge.

For lunch I made a nice salmon salad (this is significant because it's the first salad I've had since before Mexico).

Crossing Texas was a little boring photo-wise, but I still enjoyed gazing out the window.
We arrived very late, meaning it was unfortunately a "load-and-go" for the crew. No one likes to feel rushed :/
We are also in a different arena this time. Two years ago we played the Alamodome right downtown, a short stroll away from the Riverwalk and the Alamo. This year it's the AT&T Arena, and the surrounding area was not promising :/ Oh well. Can't always be in a convenient spot!

So no sightseeing for me this week. But the 4th of July was on Friday, and we had a company party!
Much like last year, there was a water slide for the kids and a pool for the grown-ups (though I only saw kids getting in haha). There was an open bar with beer and wine, and in addition to the usual hot dogs and hamburgers, Uncle John made some fantastic delicious juicy ribs!! 'Merica!

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We got off to a late start on Monday morning.

Jameson and I had pork chops and rice at the Pie Car for dinner. Dessert for that evening was my last Mexico Coke. I don't normally drink much soda so it was a special treat :)

We arrived in New Loredo almost on time; it didn't much matter anyway because we stayed there overnight.

On Tuesday we woke up early to do customs once again. Train crew came through first to confiscate any "banned" food items. I find this funny because all of my food at this point is stuff I snuck into Mexico from America at the beginning of the trip. Does that mean I can't take my American food back to America? Lol. So we went to Pie Car to have our passports stamped again, then waited and waited and waited to the point where people with early evening flights were freaking out that they might miss 'em. There was eventually a van to take people to the airport.

We finally started moving around 3:30pm, and stopped short of the border for American customs.


On the other side of the bridge, my phone started working. Aaah, 4G...the sweet, sweet nectar of civilization. I called my parents to let them know I'm alive. Then we sat in the yard until after 9pm while our water tanks were filled, animals were watered/fed/cleaned, and Pie Car was restocked.

Wednesday was an all-day run. I was able to tether my phone several times throughout the day to make plans for a short trip after we reach New Orleans. Otherwise it was a pretty boring day. I did all the things I normally do, and cleaned our donnikers, and didn't take many pictures because it's Texas. Rebecca and I are the only ones on our car this run; everyone else chose to take flights out of Loredo. I don't mind the quiet, but I'll be happy to get to our destination.

On Thursday we were able to make up quite a bit of the time we'd lost getting "side-tracked", and arrived in New Orleans pretty much on time.


Going through a lower income neighborhood, I can't help but think that America's lower classes often have better housing than Mexicans of similar standing.

We crossed the Mississippi River via the Huey P. Long Bridge. Neat!

I was super excited to be anywhere except on the train :P I remember the area and immediately found Big Lots, then Guitar Center for some Slide-o-Mix, then Walmart for everything I could carry (and that turned out to be too much). LJ and some other circus folks were there too, so we snagged a cab back to the train. I was happy to see my fridge full again! The water was hooked up, so I started some laundry and packed for my mini-vacation :)

vacay )


Jun. 19th, 2014 10:18 am
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We are finally leaving Mexico City!!

With all of the shows that we played, I didn't make time to visit other areas of Mexico City, and so what I experienced here was only a fraction of what this huge city has to offer.

Some things that were different from two years ago:
The area near the arena seemed a bit cleaner, and there was a stronger police presence. This may just be my imagination, but that's what I noticed. There were also far fewer people attending our shows. This was really disheartening. Feld doesn't get money from ticket sales here(?), but still...some nights we had to start the show with fewer than 100 people in the audience, and in a 22k arena that's just depressing. It's a big change from two years ago, when we had to delay the start time because so many people were on the arena floor taking pictures. I really hope that in the future, we'll find a way to advertise more or do what needs to be done to get butts in the seats, because it's a hard thing to do twelve shows a week for only a handful of people per night.

(photo courtesy Brett)

Some things that were the same were the houses and the general living conditions of the working class. Although many people here seem happy, it makes me feel sad to see families living in houses made of scraps with no doors, no clean water. As mentioned in the last post, stray animals are rampant. I have seen so many types of feral cats and dogs wandering the streets, and some lying sick or dead next to the road. I wonder if the Mexican government has any programs in place to at least begin to address the problems of potable water, sanitation, and animal control.

Anyway, although I personally didn't get out much, I think many people had a good time in Mexico City. We did a better job of taking care of ourselves this time around; fewer people got The Revenge, and I didn't see many people passing out either. We got through it! Great job everyone :)

I had been a bit under the weather on Sunday, so spent the Monday train run resting and taking pictures from my window.


This is kinda interesting, some walls use broken glass cemented to the top in place of barbed wire.

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We arrived in Loredo on Thursday night, a few hours late. As we were spotted, we were also informed that no 'greywater' would be allowed in this yard. This meant no showers, dishes, etc., because all of that water gets flushed right onto the tracks. A little frustrating, as many people have gone days without showering at this point. Eew.
On the upside, there is 'ok' internet and phone signal! I'm savoring the connection before a month of data withdrawal :P

During the night there was a big thunderstorm. Kinda cool and unexpected!
In the morning around 7am an announcement was made that inspectors would be coming through. I made my preparations and waited, and waited. Eventually some train crew came through with trash bags to take any food that we wanted to throw out before customs came through. Around 9:30am customs reached our car (they started at the high end and we're in the middle). It was about the same as last time, except this time they did actually bother to come into the room and look around (last time they just stood in the hallway and glanced in).

Guy #1 wished me 'good morning' and came in with a big binder. He stood in the center of the floor and kind of turned in a slow circle, looking at my countertops and cabinets. Then he made a little note in the book and stepped back into the hall. There were three other dudes in the hallway with him; the second guy told me to take my passport down to Pie Car for paperwork. The third guy glanced into my room and said, "Nice floor!" (you remember I installed some vinyl faux wood flooring a few months ago). I said thanks. Guy #2 came back to glance in again and asked if I had installed it myself ("Yes") and complemented me on how it looked compared to the standard flooring. :D

Anyway, I took my passport to Pie and was surprised to find both US and MX customs set up inside, and doing a great speedy job of processing everyone. Last time this part was a mess; this time it took less than five minutes. US Customs checked me off first, then MX Customs filled out an FMM form for me and stamped the passport. Everyone was polite and quick, and it was really easy.

(photos courtesy Claudia)

I was glad to have my feet on the ground even for a little bit!
The weather was nice, cloudy and rainy-looking. I had hoped to find some dung beetles rolling poop around to photograph for you, but I guess they're not fond of this weather.

When I returned to my car, there was an orchid in the trash. Someone had dumped it either because customs told them to or they figured customs would take it. I fished it out.

Train Run )


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