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Jameson and I spent the night in Duluth, so that he could rest up and fight off the flu. The train would take a long time to reach Cincinnati, so we were in no hurry.

On Monday morning we enjoyed a nice breakfast, then went to a shipping store so I could mail off my spare trombone slide to a buyer in New York. I hope he'll enjoy it! After that we hit the road, reaching our second hotel in Knoxville TN around dinnertime. We decided to eat at a nearby Outback Steakhouse, and although the food tasted good both of us felt bad after eating, so we spent the rest of the night lying flat on our backs in the hotel room.

On Tuesday we began driving to Cincinnati, and got there in time for dinner again. We found a good pizza place for some oven-fired margherita. After our meal we saw that the train was still not in the yard (we are always late to arrive in Cinci due to the high volume of rail traffic). We decided to see a movie and if the train wasn't spotted or close to it by the time we got out (10pm) we'd get another hotel. We chose M. Night Shyamalan's "Split". It was really creepy, and at the end there was, of course, a twist! We really enjoyed the movie. By the time it was over the train still wasn't in the yard, so we decided to cave and get a hotel. It turned out to be the right choice as the train ended up officially spotting sometime after midnight.

On Wednesday there was another round of severance negotiations in the morning, so Jameson took us back to the train and waited while I sat in on that phone conference. We are making progress, and I'm excited for the day when we'll be finished negotiating. After the meeting we went to get some groceries. As we returned to the train and began unpacking, I was surprised by a visit from Brian Miser, a former Human Cannon with Ringling and a current Human Cannon in his own right. Mr. Miser is thinking of purchasing one of the Ringling train cars for a project he's putting together. Cool! I invited him into my room to look around and take some measurements. He also took a look at Jameson's room, since it's a different size and shape. While I'm sad that the train is being sold off, it does make me happy that a circus person is considering purchasing this piece of circus history...I'd like it if this car, which I consider to be "my home", ends up in good hands rather than a scrap yard. I was too shy to take a photo while Brian was in my room, but snapped a quick pic as he went outside to inspect the undercarriage and such.



The weather was sunny and windy, and since we're here for two weeks I decided to take my flytraps outside and keep them there until the weather turns. I'll be pretty ticked if anyone runs them over.


They have begun growing again since I took them out of the fridge, so maybe they'll be all right!


Later in the day Jameson finally got his offer of employment letter from LA Film School. It's official, he's leaving us. I'm very happy for him, but of course it's hard not to be sad, too. Neither of us wanted to leave this job yet. Neither of us wanted to have to think about living and working apart. But what we want never does have much to do with the big picture, does it?

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Jameson and I spent Monday in Orlando. We were both feeling crummy, so didn't do a lot, just errands and resting. I slept for most of the day. Didn't realize how exhausted I was.

On Tuesday we had one last wonderful breakfast at Keke's. Then we packed our things and said farewell to Florida. I wonder if I'll be coming back, or not.

We drove all day and arrived in Greenville around 9:30pm. The train made good time and was spotted when we arrived. Railfan Joe Dougherty was on hand for our arrival, and took lots of great pictures of Nikki and other members of train crew unloading the flatcars. The Greenville yard is one of few accessible, paved yards, and one where the flats are stored with the coaches (passenger cars).





Some of the cars are hand-painted.


On Wednesday morning Jameson had a job interview, which went very well. Afterward we went to Publix to stock up on groceries for the week. I bought several prepared meals, because it's going to be a busy week and I don't expect to have time to cook. Then it was back to the train. I spend most of the day applying for more jobs and resting, as I hadn't slept well.

We have a pretty weird schedule here in Greenville. There were 10am shows scheduled for both Thursday and Friday, so we all had to be up early and there was no time for a rehearsal. Plus our bandmaster Brett had to fly home for a family emergency, so we had a sub on trumpet and Tim will be conducting for the entire week.

I like Greenville, a lot. I've probably mentioned this before...it has a special place in my heart, being one of the first cities that I ever visited on tour as a trombonist. It is a beautiful city with a thriving economy, but it's HOW it got to be beautiful and successful that I find really wonderful. The town found itself struggling during the 70s, with WWII-era industries failing and commerce moving to the suburbs where shopping plazas and malls were being built. Both the private citizens and the city government officials decided that they would not sit by and watch their city decline. They formed an ambitious plan involving both private and public sectors, and began a total redesign of the entire town. From the structure of the buildings to the landscaping to the businesses and economic foundations, they laid the groundwork for their hopes, and worked hard to achieve it. And the result is a beautiful city growing at an incredible rate.

Every time I come here, I am amazed at the leaps and bounds being made. This time, the area near our train has gone from being a row of empty shop fronts to an active market area, with local grocers, art studios, bike shops, and more coming soon. On the drive to the arena, a once-empty stretch of land now houses a massive housing boom...new apartments under construction as far as the eye can see.

Anyway! Opening day was a little rough, because of the early start and Brett's absence and a union meeting scheduled for the afternoon. But it was made better by a visit from our sister unit, the Blue show, currently performing Out of this World in Charlotte NC. They were seated in the section closest to the band, which was really nice because we had a loud rowdy bunch cheering us on!



After the show they immediately came down onto the floor and started socializing and checking out all of our stuff. People were climbing all over the portal, playing with props, taking photos, laughing, talking. It was a lot of fun. I got to see some members of the Blue unit band, including Landon, the union steward on that show (we'd never met!). A large group photo was organized...I had already left by the time it was taken so I'm not in it, but I'm glad so many people stuck around for it. It'll be a nice memory for us to look back on, that day when Red and Blue circus families got together :)

(photo courtesy Steve B.)

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Well. That was unexpected.

I've described how the news was broken to us HERE. Please read it, I'm not in the mood to type it out again here :P



And you can read what the media has to say about it HERE. And HERE and HERE and HERE and all over really.

We all knew that something was going to happen, and that it wasn't going to be good. The main theories had to do with downsizing or being sold off to another company. Turns out it was even worse than that.


(Let's see now if I'm asked to take this photo down. Place your bets!)

The day after (today, Sunday) we had two shows. As I type this we've done one, and it was extremely difficult. I don't know how people are running out onto the floor and performing with big smiles on their faces. It's gotta hurt.

It also hurts that now, of all times, there's this giant audience. Clapping and screaming and cheering. At the moment it feels like being surrounded by a bunch of vultures, or rubberneckers trying to catch a glimpse of the dead bodies in the road. And I'm sure this level of "enthusiasm" will continue to follow us as we die out. People are gross.

Anyway, I didn't want to be dark about this, but it's been less than 24 hours and like most people here I did not get much sleep last night. I'm feeling bitter about a lot of things. I'm worried for my future. I'm sad for all of us. I'm angry at how the news was delivered, how things turned out, all of it.

That said, I can't deny that it's been a privelege to work here. I am so glad that I've kept this blog, and documented every week as thoroughly as possible. It will be a great set of memories to look back on. Not many people can say they lived on a train, danced with clowns, walked with elephants. It was wonderful, and unfortunately, those who come after me will not have the opportunity to experience it. So I will treasure it, knowing that I am one of the last to do so. Wherever I go from here, I will carry five years of circus magic with me. And I can't thank Feld enough for that.

At the moment I feel like there's not a whole lot to say. There were warning signs that something like this might happen, but again, I don't think most suspected a plan to totally do away with Ringling Bros. The band had just started negotiations with Feld and were waiting for our next meeting date to discuss a new contract. Heck, we just hired a new female Ringmaster (who I hope will be compensated for the trouble of quitting all of her jobs for this gig). But despite all the warning signs, I think we were all convinced that none of it meant "The End". After 146 years, really?

But yeah, as any musician will tell you, all gigs must come to an end.

So I suppose next week we are to sit down with people from HR and other departments to figure out any kind of severance, incentive to stay through May, etc. I imagine that most troupes will stay through the end...it's probably beneficial to do that. But the band doesn't have an active contract, so I don't know what we should expect.

Each of us has a lot to do. I have to find a place to live, look for jobs, retrieve my car...all kinds of things. Jameson is busy doing the same, but being the incredible thoughtful boyfriend that he is, he is including me in his job searches and in his plans. What a great guy <3

I will continue writing my blog up until the last day, and I'll maintain it after leaving the circus. I'll do my best to show what it's really like around here. Oh, and now that there's no incentive for me to keep quiet about certain things, here goes:

The Truth About Ringling's Circus Animals and The People Who Train Them:

THE ANIMALS ARE NOT ABUSED. RINGLING'S ANIMAL SPECIALISTS ARE PROFESSIONAL, SKILLED, GOOD HUMAN BEINGS.

Oh, sorry! Were you expecting some scandalous revelation?

My opinion on this will not change despite the fact that I've lost my job. In five years here I have never seen any animal abuse, and no amount of PETA propaganda will convince me otherwise. Just sayin'.

Now we have a show to do, and then another on Monday. Then the job hunt begins.
Tomorrow I'm going to share the post I'd originally written to go up today, before I knew we were all getting canned.
Please enjoy as over the next few weeks I document the final days of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

See you down the road.
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On Monday Jameson and I were a little surprised (and embarrassed) to discover that the train was actually arriving in Nashville that evening. Whoops! It's not a huge deal, but we could have been on the train Tuesday morning. Oh well! We used Monday to clean up, pack, and enjoy one last day of relaxing. I've recently gotten some emulators, and tried my hand at some old Sega Genesis games. I ended up beating the Aladdin game. Yay nostalgia!


On Tuesday we began our 10-hour drive to reach the train. Travel was pretty smooth, except for Atlanta...traffic is always hideous in Atlanta it seems. We stopped there for dinner and waited for the traffic to die down, then continued on our way. We arrived at the train around 10pm (it felt later because of the time change). Home sweet train! I unpacked, did a load of laundry, and went to bed.

On Wednesday the circus was loading in to the Bridgestone Arena. Jameson and I got groceries, then I spent the day getting things in order and preparing for work again.

Thursday was opening day! We had our usual meeting and a long rehearsal. There are lots of new performers and crew coming in, so we have to make sure everyone knows their part.



For dinner a bunch of us went to Jack's Bar-b-que down the street. It's counter service, you go up to the counter and order your meal and sides and they assemble it on the plate for you right there. I got a brisket sandwich, cucumber salad, and baked apples. Yum!


The show went well, though attendance was pretty poor. We were happy to see Melissa (Blue Unit musician) among the crowd, and got to say hello and chat for a bit after the show. She'd brought a friend who's currently performing in The Grinch. Both of them seemed to have a good time.

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We ended up hitting some pretty miserable traffic once crossing the FL state line, causing us to be nearly two hours late getting home. At some point we left the highway to get dinner, very hungry and tired. We managed to pick probably one of the worst restaurants that either of us has ever been to. It's called Cody's. Don't go to Cody's in Florida.

Still hungry, we got back on the road and after a grand total of 20 hours in the car, finally made it to Jameson's apartment. Whew!

The next day was a busy one, so we got started with a tasty breakfast at Keke's. I decided to be piggy and got coconut pineapple stuffed french toast. It was so stinkin' good! But I forgot my phone so no pictures for you :P After that we went to Home Depot for paint and painting supplies. For today is the day we paint the kitchen!



That's a shot of Jameson's kitchen. The cabinets are a sort of purplish-red, and the walls are yellow (they had been minty green but Jameson painted them when he moved in). The kitchen has been this way for over a decade, so it's time for an upgrade! I did the walls while Jameson did the cabinets. We removed all of the cabinet doors and painted them separately, but made the mistake of keeping them on the drop plastic, causing problems later on :/ Oh well...live and learn! We painted for 4-5 hours, then called it a day. The next morning we finished the remaining cabinet doors and reinstalled them. Project complete!



And what better way to break in the new kitchen than by cooking a meal in it!


Jameson got a cookbook from him Mom for his birthday, and put it to good use! He made sesame-orange chicken. I loved the sauce! We were both pretty tired after all of the painting, cooking, and cleanup, so spent much of our day being total couch potatoes. As I type this I'm watching Jameson play Lego Star Wars.

The next day was pretty slow. We had planned to go to the gym, but Jameson wasn't feeling great so we skipped it. Instead we ran errands. We took some DVD cases to FedEx to be shipped to a recycling plant, then hit the grocery for some ingredients we'd forgotten. Back at home we ate lunch and worked on some music we'd brought along to study on vacation. I did bring a trombone to practice with, but with new music and especially audition stuff I like to play "air trombone" until I get the muscle memory down.

For dinner Jameson made burrito bowls!! It was adobo-seasoned chicken with a ton of veggies...beans and peppers and onions and sweet corn. We put it over rice and topped it with lettuce, cheese, guac, salsa, and sour cream. Delicious!



Since Jameson had done all the cooking, I did all the cleaning. I absolutely hate cooking, and he absolutely hates cleaning, so it's a nice balance we've got going. Teamwork! Later on Jameson played Overwatch with some friends. I like watching him play, but I'm a total motionsick wuss, so can only watch for about 30 minutes at a time. Anyway, I watched as much as I could and enjoyed it :)

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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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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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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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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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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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**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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