taz_39: (footprint)

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:


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.
taz_39: (footprint)

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 :))

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more... )
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It was an eight hour drive from San Diego to Oakland. We drove about halfway and got a hotel, then drove the rest of the way the next day. We didn't do anything special, partly because I still wasn't feeling great and partly because we had a lot of ground to cover.

Meanwhile the train was taking one of the most scenic routes we encounter on our travels, right along the Pacific Ocean. Nikki (train crew) took this epic video so you can experience some of the perks of riding the circus train :)

Once in Oakland we got word that the train would be late, so we decided to run some errands while we waited. Got Jameson's car cleaned up, mailed a few things, and found dinner at a cool place called The Original Red Onion. Great food, everything was made fresh. I had an avocado melt: avocado, swiss cheese, tomato, and egg (I also added bacon) on grilled Texas toast. It was delicious!

Our server gave us an extra-special treat: dessert on the house! A rich chocolate truffle mini-cake. Yum!

We got some groceries at Target and around that time found out that the train was spotted. We found the yard, unpacked, and called it a day.

The next day was a dark day. I did absolutely nothing but rest and eat the other half of my Red Onion sandwich, trying to recover from my tummy issue. But! It was Slick's birthday! And we were in Oakland, Home of Chicken and Waffles!

Two years ago we went there with Slick. It was maybe his second week back from cancer treatment, and we were all thrilled to spend time with him (pictured all the way on the right).

(photo courtesy Melissa A.)

This would have been Slick's 49th birthday, and we celebrated the best way we knew how: martinis, the best chicken and waffles in Oakland, and a big pile of friends sharing memories and having a great time :)

Read more... )
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**REMINDER: From now until September I'm on either Pacific or Mountain Time. If you are on the US east coast my posts will be appearing later than usual. Thanks!**

Jameson and I drove about five hours to a hotel in Grand Junction, CO. The roads were winding and dark, but the weather was good and we had no trouble on our travels.

The next day we went to Denny's for breakfast. Before receiving our meal, a server came over and told us that a woman sitting nearby had paid our ticket! We never saw her and were unable to thank her, but left a massive tip to "pay it forward". Mystery woman, whoever you are, thank you!!

After that we began our drive to Vegas. On the way we saw lots of awesome scenery. Sorry about blurriness or glares, it was difficult to get good shots through the windshield.

In Utah we stopped to visit a scenic viewpoint overlooking Black Dragon Canyon, so named for a pictograph that resembles a large flying lizard.

Another traveler offered to take our photo!

Read more... )
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After getting Jameson's car all patched up, we continued on our way to Colorado Springs. We booked a hotel just past the CO border, and on the way there encountered a huge severe thunderstorm. Nebraska is so flat and so much of the sky is visible...the size and violence of the storm scared me, but Jameson shrugged and smiled like it was nothing, and we drove on through. We ended up avoiding the worst of it, and I got some pretty awesome pictures too.

Over on the train side of things, some beautiful scenery courtesy Lindsey:

We safely arrived at the next hotel. On Tuesday it was a three hour drive to the train, parked in its usual awesome spot next to Monument Valley Park.

(photos courtesy Tom M. and Lina A.)

Many people were already out sunning and enjoying the fine weather as we drove up. I spent the evening doing chores so that I could enjoy the dark day: laundry, cooking, cleaning, and moving some bedding around (Tom sold me his mattress and I'm giving him my "mattress-sized cushion"). Jameson and I made a Walmart run. A nice normal evening.

Read more... )
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**EDIT: Originally I had thought that the caterpillars in this train yard were gypsy moths. I was wrong. They're tent caterpillars, so called for the "tents" they make in the trees. Many thanks to the anonymous commenter who pointed this out! CLICK HERE to read about the differences between the two types of pest.**

It's Trenton, yay!

Or not :P

The train parks in Morrisville PA, in a weird little yard half buried in the woods. The first thing I noticed when we arrived was caterpillars. LOTS of caterpillars. Their nests were in every tree.

Outside the yard there was nothing, just some industrial lots and a stretch of highway. I rode the bus to the arena. There is quite literally nothing to (safely) do within walking distance there either, except for a large Mexican grocery called Food Bazaar. I remembered it fondly from two years ago, and was thrilled to find that it hadn't closed. Along with "standard" American groceries, Food Bazaar carries a lot of brands and produce that are popular in Mexico and other countries. Here we have some eggplants, huge aloe leaves, and...quince or something that resembles it...

They also sell pretty much every cut of meat you can imagine (except eyeballs, I haven't seen those yet). Near the meat section there was a line of white tubs containing various interesting pork and beef parts. They were not refrigerated so I've got to assume they were in brine. Pig snouts! You can see one snout pretty clearly near the bottom.

So...after getting groceries I went home and enjoyed some internet. The blog repair is coming along.

The week was spent doing shows and chilling at the train. I honestly can't think of anything especially exciting or unique that happened here. Some cities are like that.

After the last show on Sunday, Jameson and I ran into Bernadette (elephant handler) outside the arena. We all three play Ingress and we're on the same team, but because our schedules are so different we've never gotten to play together. So we seized the opportunity and claimed a row of enemy portals down the block, linking them together and fielding them. Good work team :)

After that Jameson's dad arrived to pick him up and take him home for a visit (and to retrieve his car before we head west). Bernadette and I caught the bus back to the train.

Next is Hershey PA. I'm from Pennsylvania and Hershey is the closest we ever get to my hometown, so my parents and friends will be coming out to see the show. I'm looking forward to it!!!

Other stuff:

Elephants will often try to smash fruit with their feet to get at the goodness inside. An effective tactic with many fruits, but a disaster with the slippery mango!
Adria (elephant handler): "I gave Mable a mango to see if she would like it...hilarious. No, she doesn't like mangos!"

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

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

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

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

Read more... )
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Woke up to a dreary Monday in Jacksonville, FL.
The view was still pretty good despite the rain :)


I was nervous about the audition, and wanted a little extra time to myself. And felt like a little pampering. So for only the second time in my life, I got room service. Smoked salmon and capers on a bagel and a "side" of fresh fruit (that huge thing is a side??).

Luckily I had a clean tupperware in my bag, so managed to save half the fruit for later.
After that lovely meal, I decided to walk to the performance hall as it was only 1/2 mile away. It was raining but I didn't care. Audition personnel were waiting to sign me in.

Read more... )
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Most will have heard how my travel plans were crushed already, but for the livejournal crowd I'll give a summary anyway.

I woke up early in Birmingham and took the airport shuttle to the Delta terminal. Check in and security went smoothly, and I killed an hour waiting for the flight. We were boarded on time, but around takeoff time the captain got on the com and informed us that a "flat spot" had been found on one of the plane's tires. And since the airport didn't have its own maintenance and instead contracted out, it would be an hour before maintenance crews even arrived to look at the tire.

We were allowed to disembark the plane. Back at the terminal, chaos ensued with over 100 people looking to rebook flights and only two representatives to help everyone. The whole reason for my early flight was to make it to the evening funeral service. When I realized that no one here would be able to help me, I ran downstairs to the rental car counter, explained my situation, and was given a rental car for the low low price of $160 for a two hour drive (thanks for nothing Avis). Halfway to Atlanta I realized I would not make my connection, and quickly called Delta to book a later one. Upon arriving at the airport, I realized that even for this connection I'd have to run to the terminal. But before that, my Aunt called to let me know that a massive winter storm was moving in and that I shouldn't travel if I didn't want to get stuck in New Jersey.

That was that. I chose to throw in the towel. Got a hotel near the airport and spent the day trying to calm down and reflect on my Obachan's life on my own.

I was so happy to see Jameson the next day. He's such a great supportive boyfriend...really, I don't know what I'd have done without his support.

We drove to a hotel in Greenville, ate dinner at a Mexican place, and just chilled. On Tuesday morning the train was spotted, so we got groceries and headed over. It was still pretty early in the day, so I chose to catch the bus to the arena and from there walked to some of my favorite spots in this gorgeous city!

Read more... )
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After our night's stay in a gorgeous hotel, Jameson and I went out to explore Savannah GA!

First stop, brunch at Funky Brunch. This place looks like a breakfast-y Mellow Mushroom.

(photo courtesy scaddistrict.com)

A unique feature of this restaurant is the tables, some of which have built-in griddles so you can cook your own pancakes! The kitchen mixes your batter and includes any fruits/toppings you'd like, and you assemble everything yourself. Neato!

We didn't get pancakes, but enjoyed some mildly alcoholic treats along with our breakfasts.

After that we wandered.
Savannah is a very pretty riverfront city, so just walking and enjoying the scenery was a big part of our day.


Read more... )
taz_39: (woody2)

The train run was wet and cold. We arrived on time (wow!).

Tuesday was load in. I had some work and chores to catch up on. I also walked to two nearby thrift stores to find high-waisted black pants (my costume vest this year is very short) and was lucky to find two pairs!

Wednesday was a dark day. I did some writing and some practicing, and descaled my coffee pot. There was a mall run around noon and I went just in case there were more black pants to be found. Regency Square Mall in Jacksonville looks good on the outside, but it was actually pretty depressing inside. It used to be a huge mall with an East and West end. Now the West side is almost completely closed...only the anchor stores were open.

There were a few Ingress portals around to keep me occupied. One was holding up several large fields, so I took it down :P
Read more... )
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Monday got off to a great start with some awesome gifts from Theresa Barlow, our boss's wife. She brought us each a loaf of chocolate pumpkin bread, and lots of cookies!

After the band's run-through in the house, Irina surprised me with a gorgeous hand-painted music box from Russia! I love it <3

On Tuesday and Wednesday we did full dress rehearsals in the house. We had most of our music and were able to play along with most acts. After playing for the Mongolian act for the first time, several members of the troupe turned around and applauded us. That felt really good :)

Read more... )
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Monday: a standard day.
Tuesday: The band finally got to have a sound check in the rehearsal space! We're making progress :)
During a break, I got this great video of one of our horses playing with a ball <3

On Wednesday we had our regular rehearsal, then played in the house again. We played music for the Bungee Act as they rehearsed. While we were practicing, some crew members were working on the lighting grid above our heads. It was a ballet of cherry pickers and scissor lifts.

Thursday was a day off. I joined Jameson at his apartment in Orlando, where we started our day with a tasty breakfast at Keke's Breakfast Cafe!

After that treat, we returned to the apartment to wrap each other's Christmas presents! He wrapped mine in the music room while I hogged the living room. Can't wait to exchange gifts soon :)

Read more... )
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I flew home on Monday. The flights were ok, though there was quite a bit of turbulence due to weather. I was lucky to catch an earlier flight for the second leg of my journey, so arrived at the airport "on time" despite both of my flights being delayed. Some of my parents' friends had planned to pick me up, but because it was dark and rainy my Dad left work early to come get me. Thank you Dad!!!

While waiting for him, I played a little Ingress. There are lots of portals in the Philly airport.

I made the fields between gates E and D, and after I left someone else built on those fields at gates C and B :)

Dad and I got home around 9pm. After a much-needed night in a real bed, I woke up late on Tuesday and Mom and I went shopping for "Early Thanksgiving". My sister Kate came over, and together we three prepared some of the food for the next day.

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Jameson and I stayed a night at a hotel in Youngstown, and after brunch drove another four hours to Auburn Hills. As it turns out, the hotel Jameson booked is also the company hotel this week! (i.e. advance and overland employees stay here and anyone from Ringling gets a discount at this hotel)

We found dinner at a nearby mall, and Jameson got himself some treats. His birthday is on Friday :)

We then hit the hotel (the train wasn't in yet) and enjoyed some QT. We watched most of Fully Charged and had a nostalgic moment hearing the music again and seeing the acts. And now we're in that same place with Built to Amaze. Wow....

This week went both quickly and slowly. I was excited for the end of the tour and so took care of packing and whatnot during the one-show days, before we even hit the weekend. Got my hair trimmed, got the last of my groceries, made sure I'd have a hotel near the airport, packed a bag. Not having internet sure made me productive this week :P

On Friday those performers and crew who will not be joining us in 2015 were moved to a hotel near the arena.
The train was strangely silent and lonely. Or maybe the weather just made it seem that way.

Andrew (our trumpet player) will be leaving as well. It was great to meet him and play alongside him.
He gave me one of his potted plants.

Next year we will have someone new. It's been interesting and fun meeting so many trumpet players this past year and a half while Slick was out getting treatment. We have had SIXTEEN trumpet subs. That's almost one every month! But to be honest, It'll be great if we can get someone who is able to stay on long-term. That's asking a lot on this gig. We'll see!

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After a night at a Holiday Inn, Jameson and I made our way to my parents' house in Bloomsburg, PA.

Although we only had one evening to spend with them, it was really great. We had dinner at a local Chinese place, and spent the rest of the night just talking. We don't often talk over the phone so it was nice to get caught up :) I'm looking forward to having a week with them this month!

My tiny backwoods hometown doesn't change much, but I did notice a few new things...some new businesses, remodeled buildings, a new hospital near the Walmart. Overall though, it's still the same :P

We left the next day after lunch at Perkins. On the way to Pittsburgh we passed by several small towns, and in a few of them we made sure to play a little Ingress, dropping resonators on a few lonely-looking portals in the hopes of maintaining our Guardian badges. We'll see how it goes!

We arrived at the train around 6pm. I was glad we hadn't been on this run, as apparently CSX had forgotten to pick us up in Rochester resulting in an eight hour delay!!! ARGH. Although load-in time will be limited, at least it won't be a total load-n-go. Once we got to the train I unpacked and relaxed. I've got a lot to do before the end of the tour but most of it couldn't be done that evening. Plus there was blazing fast 4G and I had to take advantage of it ;)

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So, I had to post a little earlier than planned last week thanks to sketchy internet.
The shows on Sunday were fine. Jameson and I got to a neato hotel in Port Chester. It had the CREEPIEST hallways (photo lost, go figure).

The next day we decided to do an NYC day trip!
We caught a train to Grand Central and walked to Sarabeth's for lunch. Jameson got "Goldi Lox" (salmon scrambled eggs with cream cheese, a scone and jam) and I got a potato waffle with ham, two eggs and Mornay sauce. We both got orange/banana/pineapple/pom juice. Everything was delicious!

After the meal it was time to do some serious Ingressing. We've both picked up Mophies to double our playing time (#nerdy), and I brought my pocket router to cut down on data usage. One of the features of Ingress is a "missions" option...a sort of scavenger hunt that takes you down a path of historical or artistic significance. Although this feature has been on Droid phones for quite some time, it's new to iOS.

We decided to try the High Line mission. At first we weren't quite sure how to reach the Waypoints...some of them seemed to be inside buildings! But we finally figured out why we couldn't reach these spots. The High Line is a park built on an abandoned rail line ABOVE the city!

So once we got ABOVE street level, the mission became much easier :) Basically we had to walk the length of the park and stop at certain portals marked with a Waypoint indicator.

Read more... )
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Since we were coming from Manchester, the train had a short way to go to reach Worcester. Jameson and I traveled overland, stopping at a Holiday Inn in a small town outside Salem. The next morning/afternoon our day trip adventure began!

Trip to Salem )
The Lion King in Boston )

The next day was a dark day. I used mine to catch up on computer stuff...writing this post, researching flights to/from home, early Christmas shopping and such. Likewise Jameson relaxed and ran errands like tending to his car and going to see a movie.

Friday...was very much the same :P Not much to report! I know the clowns and Emelins had rehearsals for next year. I went to the building early to practice. Thrilling.

The weekend was uneventful too, but it's worth mentioning that we had not one, not two, but THREE "band holidays" in this one weekend: A Deuce Saturday (two shows), A Slick Sunday (train doesn't move + someone brings doughnuts) and a McDonough Monday, a relatively new "holiday" in which we all wear our McDonough shirts :D

(photo courtesy Rebecca)

We had only one show on Monday afternoon, then Jameson and I went to a hotel.
Next week is Boston. Looking forward to it!!!

Other stuff:

The elephants hangin' out during Animal Open House. Mabel is hiding! Siam is saying "aaaaah"!

(photo courtesy Ryan)

Logo for the new 2015 show. You know it's REALLY extreme because of the X in X-treme.
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Jameson and I traveled overland from Ohio. After the last show on Sunday we got to a hotel in West Virginia and enjoyed it very much :) The next day we continued our trip to Virginia, where we visited Jameson's parents and the puppies. Everyone is doing well, especially Addison, who is GIGANTIC. I remember when she was just a cute little fluff-puff that you could hold in your arms. And now she could put her paws on my shoulders!!

And let's not forget little Moe!

Shortly after arriving we took the dogs for a walk. There are some pretty intense Halloween decorations in this neighborhood! The undead pig is the creepiest :D

(photo courtesy Jameson)

During our visit we enjoyed Mrs. Boyce's fantastic home cooking, including squash/sweet potato lasagna and juicy homemade beef burgers. While out running errands, we also got to enjoy lunch at True Food Kitchen. This is a chain that specializes in following Dr. Andrew Weil's "anti-inflammatory diet" centered around local ingredients. Having recently opened, the restaurant features a lovely modern interior. It was packed while we were there.

I got the seared spicy tuna wrap with avocado, mint, snow peas, radish, cashews, sesame, and wasabi aioli. The sides were roasted kale and sweet potato hash. It was VERY good!

We had a really nice visit. On Wednesday Jameson's Mom had to go back to work and we had to drive about eight hours through eight states to reach Manchester! It was a long day involving a lot of traffic, but we listened to good music and talked and enjoyed each other's company :) We arrived at the train a little after 9pm. There's internet here! I'm very surprised.

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March 2017



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