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We drove to Auburn Hills. On the way we went through Detroit. Both of us were prepared for graffiti, damaged roadways, burnt out cars and condemned houses, because this is what we'd seen two years ago when driving through. Instead we were pleasantly surprised...things aren't perfect, but there is obvious change. Keep it up Detroit, it ain't over until the fat lady sings.

To kill time after reaching Auburn Hills we walked around a mall. Jameson found a new backpack for the laptop he'll be getting soon. And I unexpectedly found a new laptop when we visited the Microsoft store! I have this weird history of owning Dell Inspiron laptops. At this point I've had four of them, each of which has lasted a minimum of five years (and even then they're still fully functional, just outdated). My poor Inspiron N5110 had its battery fried last year, and ever since I upgraded it to Windows 10 it's been a little laggy, having not been designed for that OS. Long story short, it's six years old and the time has come to replace it. The new one is an Inspiron 15, a combo of software/hardware sold exclusively by Microsoft (one great thing about this is no bloatware). Got it at a great price and so far I'm enjoying it!

Tuesday was a dark day. Didn't really do much...Jameson went to a movie while I stayed at home to set up the new computer and do chores. That night everyone was watching democracy at work. I think I went to bed around 2am when it became clear Trump would win.

Wednesday also a dark day, I borrowed Jameson's car to return the nice backpack I'd bought last week in Pittsburgh, turns out it was too small for the new laptop. Go figure!

Thursday was opening day. Not much was said about the election results...this is the circus, probably 2/3rds of the employees here can't vote. I just looked around, looked at my coworkers of all different colors and religions and nationalities, and at the circus kids who can't even speak the same language playing together without a care, and I did take a moment to appreciate the unbounded diversity here. What matters here is not where you're from, or what color you are. It matters that you do your work well, and stay true to yourself, and take pride in both your work and yourself. To be honest I wish everyone could experience this. I'm not sure what it will mean to have Mr. Trump as president...all I can say is, I hope the fears circulating across the web right now are unfounded.

Anyway, opening day came and went. We had a long rehearsal to work in some new changes for next year. Our new ringmaster sang part of the rehearsal with us, she sounded great! Can't wait to hear her in the show :)

Friday we had the first split we've had in a while. I was super tired so went to the train for a nap during the break. While waiting for the bus to leave the arena I happened to catch the camels headed inside for a midday rehearsal (just an FYI, if they weren't rehearsing they'd need to be exercised anyway, this is not extra camel labor :P)



Both shows were good. We got to play the National Anthem for Veteran's Day.

Saturday, three shows. I brought a lot of things to the arena to sell, mostly clothing and books, just trying to clear up some space in my room. End-of-tour cleanup, so to speak. Others had the same idea, Victor (tiger crew) was able to sell quite a few things and Lindsey (clown) sold some her artworks. It feels like the end of the tour, like we should be having our final show countdown, like we should be preparing for Winter Quarters. Just looking at the Palace of Auburn Hills brings back memories of "see you down the road" hugs and dressing room toasts. But this year is different. We will continue into the new year with the same show. It's strange. But things change, and hopefully this is a positive change.


(photo courtesy Detroit Free Press)

Sunday was a two show day. I wish I had exciting, fun things to share with you this week, but it was just a slow week. The arena is isolated next to a highway, and we had a full week of shows, and there just wasn't much happening. Next week is going to be downright weird: we have a solid THREE dark days in a row, followed by a SIX PACK in Youngstown OH, followed by a two week break for Thanksgiving. My goodness!


Other stuff:

Medusa the snake getting some hang time on an aerial orb.


(photo courtesy Jon M.)

Horse and camel trainer Robert Štipka working with Colonel during preshow.


Checking out the slomo setting during the cannon shot (one of few times I'm not playing).
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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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Jameson met me in Albany, and we got a hotel near the airport. I was exhausted! The train wasn't due to arrive in Rochester until Tuesday afternoon, so we killed time on Monday at a mall, and on the drive of course, and on another hotel.

On Tuesday we hit the grocery and went back to the train. I spent the day unpacking, cleaning, doing laundry...all the chores. We also went to the gym.

Wednesday was a dark day. Spent time at the gym, and later on Jameson and I went to look for pumpkins to carve! This close to Halloween there weren't many options, but we found three that fit the bill! The little white one is a "backup" in case one of us messes up our carving!



While Jameson was watching the Cubs game, I prepped the pumpkins! No guts no glory!


All done and ready for carving!


And of course I kept the seeds for roasting in my compact NuWave oven!



Thursday was opening day. It felt good to be back! I was surprised when many folks stopped me in the hall to say "welcome back" or "we missed you". Thanks everyone, I feel loved!!

One of our favorite things about the Rochester arena is that there's a Dinosaur BBQ right next door! After rehearsal we all headed over there for some fantastic barbecue. I had the classic brisket sandwich, cucumber tomato salad, and cornbread! Yum.


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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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We arrived in Salem on Monday morning, unprepared for the Columbus Day crowds that would greet us. Wow! There were so many people! We went to Red Line Cafe for lunch. Having been there last time, we knew it would be good food! The line was out the door, and the restaurant actually had bathroom bouncers to keep non-customers from using the toilets! First time I've ever had to get a hand stamp in order to pee! Haha! In any case the crepes were amazing. I got a Nutella crepe with strawberries and bananas.


After our meal we simply wandered. There was a lot more going on than the last time we'd been through. Street performers, tons of people in costumes, ghost tours, and some sort of sidewalk sale/faire with stalls selling homemade goods. Some of the goods we like most were candles laser-cut to look like crystals and skulls, mounted "trophy heads" of narwhals, elephants and dinosaurs handmade by a local artist, and awesome t-shirt designs and art by a local church raising funds for its LGBT outreach.

In our wanderings, we stumbled upon an Escape Room Salem challenge! These things are popping up everywhere lately! The owner was running the place himself that day...he hadn't planned to be open, but I think the Columbus Day crowds might have prompted him to do some business! He was able to fit us in around 3:30 with another group of four, which turned out to be two parents and two young ladies. It was a three-generation superteam!!!

This was the first escape challenge I've done with multiple rooms, and I have to say it was pretty fun! The rooms were decorated in awesome fashion, like a lab with lots of lit-up dials and mysterious equipment. The goal was to prevent a zombie apocalypse. We were given a walkie-talkie so that the owner could provide clues when we got hung up (which we did right off the bat haha). In my opinion what made this challenge more difficult than others we've done was the fact that we had to find clues in a certain order. This meant that we often ended up with all six of us surrounding one clue, all of us trying to be involved in solving it at once. It took some serious self-control to step back and allow others to manipulate a puzzle. Everyone wants to have a hand in the victory! But we took turns and helped each other, and ended up escaping with an impressive eleven minutes to spare! WOW!



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We drove a long ways this overland...probably about 10-11 hours to get to Albany. The fastest way was by cutting through a section of Canada, so we brought our passports. Canada's pretty nice-looking! And with a Tim Horton's at every exit too! We had a pleasant safe drive and crossed into and out of Canada without issue.


We drove straight through; others stopped to enjoy Niagara Falls!

(photo courtesy Anna D.)

The train actually beat us to Albany, which was a pleasant surprise. We were able to get groceries and get on the train Tuesday night. On Wednesday I borrowed Jameson's car to pick up supplies for my venus flytrap's winter dormancy...because getting run over didn't quite kill them, so I will try my best to give them a shot at a better life next year. To stay dormant the plants need to be kept cold, and there's no way I can keep them cold if I have to bring them into a heated train car every time we move. So I'm going to have to try refrigerator dormancy. I got a bottle of antifungal, and a brick of sphagnum moss. I also picked up some groceries I'd forgotten the day before. Exciting stuff.

Thursday was opening day. We found out that the train will be in a different yard in Boston, much farther outside the city. What a bummer! We really had it good in the MIT yard, with shops and restaurants within walking distance. Oh well. Word has it we'll at least be close to some public transit! Thursday's show went well, but crowds were pretty poor and our Human Cannon was out due to a wrenched shoulder.

Friday, one show. I spent the day working on things for our upcoming contract negotiations and doing general writing. The evening show went well, though again, underattended compared to the past several cities.

Saturday, three shows. I felt a little down. Maybe it was the weather, maybe it was just that smaller audiences are kind of discouraging. But still, shows went well. We had visits from some awesome former circus musicians, and that really brightened the band's day :)

On Sunday we only had one show. I am choosing to end this post before our show because I don't feel like bringing my computer overland (if anything exciting happens between Sunday afternoon and midnight you'll find out in the next post :P). This was just kind of a 'meh' week. But it's good, because it helped to get me back into the swing of work. I enjoyed playing the Williams trombone all week, and am getting more used to it. I love to see my circus friends every day :) Next week we are in Boston. Boston in the fall! It's usually a wonderful visit, I'm looking forward to it!


Other stuff:

Rebecca (head of wardrobe) loves to decorate our car for Halloween! This year's decorations are AWESOME. We have the coolest car. Thanks Rebecca! CLICK HERE for a tour!

While in Albany, Chaz (drummer) made some friends at Akira Albany, a Japanese restaurant. The whole staff came out to see our show! And they invited us to a special Hibachi meal just for us! I didn't go, but about twenty circus folks did, and they were treated to an amazing lunch (CLICK HERE to watch the Hibachi go down). Thank you so much to everyone at Akira Albany for your generosity and hospitality! We'll be back!!!


(photo courtesy Chaz)

The animal setup this week. I've no idea where the tigers were though. Hiding!

(photo courtesy Robert S.)

Congrats to the Blue Unit on performing a milestone 100 shows!!! You rock!!!

(photo courtesy Landon B.)
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Our last two days in Chitown went quickly. On Monday after our workout we went to Glenn's Diner. This place is known for its seafood, and also for having a seasonal selection of cereal, of all things! Pretty neat place. Mrs. Boyce and I both got this amazing seafood salad, full of lobster and smoked trout and shrimp. I couldn't even finish mine and had to ask the boys to help polish it off!

From there we went to the Lincoln Park Zoo. It's a small one but very good! They have several big cats, primates, reptiles, farm animals, and more. Plus the weather was fantastic, sunny but with a chill in the air, fall is definitely here!




Jameson and I feeding some cows :)


That evening after a wonderful dinner made by Mrs. Boyce, Mr. Boyce invited me along to his choir rehearsal! He sings with the Apollo Chorus of Chicago, an amazing group that's been performing since 1872!! They were rehearsing for a concert and also a wedding, at a local community arts building. I picked out a seat in the back and settled in to listen. To my surprise, the first song they rehearsed was Eric Whitacre's "Alleluia"! This piece is very familiar to me, I played it in college wind ensemble with my graduating class, but that arrangement is known as "October". But it's the same piece, and a very nostalgic and wonderful memory for me. I was very happy to hear it again.


The rehearsal went for about three hours with some breaks in-between. I got to hear a reduced section of the chorus (including Mr. Boyce) rehearsing for the wedding...I took footage of this but as the wedding was that week, decided against posting it. They sounded great :) I love sitting in on rehearsals and seeing the process of refining music. It's a lot of work for everyone involved, but the results are absolutely worth it!

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As mentioned last week, this week is a rare mid-season break for the Red Unit. On Sunday after the last shows, everyone scattered to the winds. Some went home to be with family (and for some of our performers, that means flights home to Mongolia or Russia!) while others took vacations and excursions. I hope everyone has fun and comes back safely!

Jameson and I decided to go to Chicago for the week, to stay with his parents. We drove partway on Sunday, and the rest of the way on Monday. Partway through the drive I got notice that USPS had tried to deliver my trombone to Jameson's parent's condo, and had failed. Oh wait...you're probably wondering, "What trombone?"

Well, about a week ago a member of the trombone forum asked if I'd be interested in a trombone that he was selling. This wasn't just any trombone. It's a Williams model 6.

I won't bore you with too much history, but here's the basics. Earl Williams was an instrument maker who opened shop around 1930. He teamed up with Spike Wallace, who at the time was the principal trombonist of the LA Philharmonic. They made horns together up until around 1940, at which point they parted ways. Earl continued to make his own horns until World War II began and he was contracted to a factory for war production. After the war, Earl was able to buy large quantities of brass from the US government. He opened up shop in LA and continued making horns by hand. His work was in high demand from the famous trombonists of that era. In 1958 he moved his shop to Burbank, and there continued to make trombones until his death in 1971.

Even though Earl had others working in his shop with him, all of his horns were still made by hand, so there are a limited number of them out there. In addition, these horns are extremely high quality and produce a unique sound that can't be found in any other brand of trombone. For these reasons, Williams trombones are still in high demand. The model 6 is one of the most popular models, and it's the same size as the horns I currently play in the show. This one was in excellent condition, came in the original case, and had only two previous owners. I decided that an opportunity like this wouldn't present itself again. Knowing that we were about to have a week off, I had the trombone sent to Chicago, where Jameson's parents graciously agreed to receive it.

After a frustrating several hours trying to get USPS to deliver the horn, we realized that it wasn't going to happen, so Jameson's dad offered to go pick it up (thank you!!!). So it was waiting for me when we arrived!




I don't want to bombard you with photos, so if you'd like to see more pics here they are. The trombone came with other items from 1960s tromboning, including several mutes, a trombone stand, and a vintage water spray bottle. Cool!! I cleaned it up and played it just a little...the slide is fantastic and it sounds fantastic, I can't wait to play it in an arena and really take it for a spin!

But for now, it's vacation! The next morning all four of us got up and went to the gym on the condo's bottom floor. After a great workout we were very hungry, so we got cleaned up and took the red line to Crosby's Kitchen. Jameson's mom had seen it on a PBS show, and the food looked great. And it was! One of the appetizers we'd seen on the show was lobster deviled eggs. And BOY were they just as delicious as they looked! If you come here, get these. SO good.



For my meal I got a rotisserie chicken sandwich that was top notch. I didn't take a picture because I was eating :P At one point I noticed that Jameson & family were getting excited about someone sitting nearby. I discreetly asked what was up. Turns out Jason Hammel was sitting directly behind Jameson's dad!


He seemed to be there with some family, so we didn't bother him. Pretty cool though! The Cubs did have a game that night, so perhaps he was having a nice meal before heading over to Wrigley Field.

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Jameson and I went our separate ways on Sunday. I drove a few hours to reach St. Louis for the night, while he flew to Florida to get to his house.

The next morning I did my workout solo in the hotel's gym, which was surprisingly nice!



After that I had a nice breakfast, though it was kinda strange to be eating at a restaurant alone. Not something I normally do. But I was seated near the hostess stand, so a few of the wait staff came by to chat and made it less lonely :) Plus breakfast was delicious! Avocado toast and eggs!


After the meal I went to a local music store that had great reviews, but unfortunately it was not for band/orchestra instruments. So I hopped back in the car and kept driving until I reached Kansas City. There I did a little shopping, ran some errands, and chilled at the hotel.

The next day was spent in much the same way. I checked out and had to find things to kill time while waiting for the train to arrive. I spent the afternoon at Panera working on computer stuff. As I was packing up I realized that I couldn't find the keys to Jameson's car. Oh no!! After checking everywhere, I ran outside and up to the car...and there were the keys right on the driver's seat. Ugh. So I bought another coffee, called AAA, and sat down to wait. It didn't take long for someone to come help me out, but I certainly felt like an idiot. It happens to everyone...right?

By that time the train was in the yard and close to being spotted, so I stopped at Cosentino's for some groceries and dinner. Got to the train, unpacked, and relaxed.


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On the way to Lexington we stopped in Nashville. It seems like every time we play Nashville, it's February and two degrees outside and raining. I've been through the city several times, but have never been down the main drag. This time I finally got to see Nashville!


Oh wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. Before exploring the strip, we had a wonderful dinner at Whiskey Kitchen! We'd been here earlier this year and the food was AMAZING. Today it was just as good! We started off with calamari. This isn't freezer squid, it's squid steaks cut into thick slices, hand-battered, and fried alongside spicy pickles. Tender and delicious. Best fried calamari ever.


Jameson got seared tuna (I should have taken a pic because it was beautiful) while I went the unhealthy route and got hot chicken and chipotle mac n cheese! The chicken was tender and hot enough to make me sweat. The mac n cheese killed the flames nicely. Thanks again Whiskey Kitchen for the above-and-beyond eats!



THEN we went to the strip, to walk our dinner off. One of our first stops was a record store that had been full of all kinds of vintage vinyl the last time Jameson had been there. Unfortunately now it's been cleaned out, and mostly houses country CDs and vinyl box sets. What a shame. As we continued down the street we noticed that although there weren't a lot of people out, there was a LOT of live music, so much that in the street it just sounded like a wash of sound. Pretty much every bar had a live band. In some ways that's awesome, and in other ways it might show how competitive it is to be a musician in Nashville.

Before going to our hotel, Jameson drove me down the REAL "music row", where all of the recording studio offices are. We saw the offices of RCA, Warner, BMG, and many others. But many of the buildings were for lease or sale, and new condos were springing up in this historic place where musicians used to go to be made or broken. It was amazing to see, and kind of sad, because the music industry just doesn't work that way any more.


Anyway, I was very happy to finally see Nashville :)
That night we stayed at Hotel Preston, a unique hotel that Jameson found outside the city. The decor was really cool! It was a funky change from the normal chain hotels. We had a great stay here...look for this hotel if you're in the area!

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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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On Monday, after a good breakfast, we went to the Ft. Worth Zoo!!

This zoo is so awesome! The enclosures are as close to a natural habitat as possible. You can walk the entire zoo in a few hours, so that's exactly what we did. Because it's the start of the school year, there were very few visitors. It felt like we had the whole zoo to ourselves!








Partway through our visit, our friend and former Ringling vet tech Jessi came and found us...and she brought some friends! Jessi works in the outreach portion of the zoo. She handles certain animals for educational programs (school groups, camps, etc) giving people a chance to learn more about these amazing creatures in person. Today we got to meet Allie the American alligator! Isn't she beautiful? When she arrived at the zoo, she was only as big as her head is now! She'll continue to grow up to eight feet long! Wow!


Jessi's coworker was also there with a penguin named Oscar. So cute! We found out that Oscar was hatched at the zoo, and that she's a she!! It is very difficult to tell male and female penguins apart, and she was named before it was discovered that she was female. But the name stuck. She was very cute! It was awesome to see Jessi and meet her two-and four-legged coworkers!


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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 ended up a little busier than expected. I got up early to take my two trombones to Eric Edwards for repairs. His shop is a ways outside Dallas, but he's a top-notch repair tech so it was worth the drive! His workshop is in his garage. I love seeing all the awesome tools that brass techs use to fix instruments!


Brett's (my boss's) trombone needed a good cleaning and some cosmetic work. Trombones are supposed to be soaked in a bathtub and then cleaned, but as you can imagine I don't have access to many bathtubs :P It's been four years since this trombone had a good wash...I probably waited too long. My trombone just had a leaky tuning slide, which is a pretty straightforward fix.

While Mr. Edwards was working on the repairs, I got a lot done. I mailed FedEx and USPS packages, got a protective cover for my phone, ate lunch, took Jameson's car to the wash, and went grocery shopping. By the time I got back Mr. Edwards was almost done, so I hung around in his kitchen and sent a few emails from my phone. Here he is test-playing Brett's horn.



Soon enough the repairs were complete! I was amazed at how great Brett's trombone looked, clean and with many dents and dings removed. The slide had been regulated as well, and the leadpipe had been fitted with a new grip, making it easier to remove (so maybe I won't damage it again!). My trombone was already in pretty good shape, but now it's in excellent shape! I'm going to enjoy it while it lasts! Thank you Eric for fixing up these two awesome horns!

I got back to the train around dinnertime and returned the car to Jameson.
On Tuesday we got up early to go to the gym, and brought Lindsey (clown) along! She recently got a Planet Fitness membership. I guess it's currently pretty popular with circus folks! After our workout it was back to the train for laundry and cooking.

I'm going to skim through the rest of this week, because it was a series of one-show days and not much happened. It was over 100F every day, so I didn't feel like going out. I did a lot of indoor stuff, chores, movies...boring things. The shows went well and were surprisingly well attended for weekdays.

During the week there was a shoe drive PR event, an attempt at hitting a world shoe collection record while taking donations for a good cause. Unfortunately we fell short of the world record, but still managed to gather the most single-day donations in the history of the charity. Congratulations and thank you to everyone who participated!

It was also time for the clowns to make their annual contract renewal decisions: who will stay, who will go, and who will transfer to the Blue Unit. As it turns out, more than half Clown Alley will be leaving us after this year :( Everyone in our Alley is fantastic, I'm going to be very sad to see them go.



Saturday and Sunday were both three show days, with Sunday's shows beginning at 10:30am for some reason. Honestly we all just plowed through this six pack weekend. I got nothin'!

I'm really, REALLY looking forward to Ft. Worth and a little break next week.


Other stuff:

Here are the Blue Unit band's new outfits! They look like space captains! I'm jealous!!!


(photo courtesy Melissa Y.)

Pretty train photo from Nikki R.
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The overland to Dallas was pretty uneventful. After arriving a day before the train, we put in our hour at the gym. Then to reward ourselves for our efforts, we went to Blues Burgers!

It's a small restaurant in a shopping plaza, offering burgers and sandwiches along with local sodas (the website says Oak Cliff but the brand we saw in the restaurant was Dublin). We enjoyed cherry and orange sodas with a queso appetizer, then our amazing food arrived...Jameson got the True Blue (angus beef, blue cheese, house slaw, caramelized onions on locally-baked bun), and I had the Yardbird (fried chicken breast, pepperjack, mango chutney, caramelized onions, lettuce & tomato, garlic aioli on a grilled ciabatta bun). So dang good!!



The food was super fresh and delicious. I'd highly recommend Blues Burgers to anyone visiting Dallas!

After our awesome meal we went to the hotel expecting to chill out. Our plans were thwarted when some of the equipment in the mechanical room (which was right next to our room) began making an insanely loud banging noise. There was no way we were gonna get any sleep, so we asked for a different room, but there were none. So we ended up packing up around midnight and moving to a different hotel down the street (don't worry, we were refunded).

After a good night's sleep we woke up, had a nice breakfast at a nearby diner, and found the train. This yard is under an overpass and next to a small, rundown neighborhood. The yard is extremely active, with trains going by at almost all hours and honking their horns loudly as they cross the street under the overpass. I'm grateful for my earplugs!

Opening day was good, good crowds, good show. I like this arena :)


(photo courtesy Lindsey A.M.M.)

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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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We drove to New Orleans!

We found a random seafood place for dinner. It was delicious and too dark for photos :P After our meal we relaxed at our hotel for a bit. The hotel was right on Canal St. The view was....



Hahaha. So, then we went on a haunted tour of New Orleans!
Our tour guide took us through some less-populated areas and gave us some history about hauntings, murders, deaths, etc. that had taken place in various buildings. The stories may or may not have been true, who knows! But our tour guide was a great storyteller so it didn't much matter. We had a really awesome time!

A creepy building where parts of Interview with a Vampire were supposedly filmed:



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We had a looooong drive from Phoenix to San Antonio!

There were several mishaps along the way. Poor Applesauce (head of lighting) ended up with a cracked windshield :(


(photo courtesy Applesauce)

Mr. Štipka (camel trainer) had some trailer trouble, and although he was able to get assistance quickly, he was delayed. Kudos to him and all of animal crew for putting the animals' needs first and getting them safely to Texas!!

Even the train had problems: a collision with an 18-wheeler who thought he'd crossed the tracks but his back end was hanging over the rails. He was very, very lucky. This could have been much, much worse. Since the train had to make an emergency stop for several hours while the authorities arrived, Lindsey (clown) had time to get this photo of the back of the truck. Safety first y'all. Stop, Look, and Listen. Trains cannot stop for you.


(photo courtesy Lindsey)

Jameson and I were fortunate to have a problem-free overland. We actually arrived in San Antonio around the same time as the train. We knew this thanks to a neat app on the iPhone called Find My Friends. We've been using it to follow Rebecca (wardrobe) who often rides the train.


Of course it takes much longer for the train to be parked than our car ;) So we got a hotel for the evening and went to the train the next day.

The yard here is not very hospitable...there's a gas station near one entrance, but you have to cross a lot of live track to get to it. The arena is similarly solitary. When I first joined the circus, they were playing at the Alamodome which is right downtown, but since then we've switched to the AT&T arena a bit on the outskirts.


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