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It's been a busy yet slow week. I didn't document it very well.

One day, I helped my mom to clean up the Christmas baking things.
Another day, we visited with her 89-year-old neighbor down the street.
Another day I had a rental car, so we ran errands and visited with some more of mom's friends.
A box arrived from my sister in California: some late Christmas gifts and stocking stuffers. My gift was some awesome treats, including a chocolate orange (I LOVE those! Like, unreasonably crazy for them!) and a beautiful box of traditional Japanese desserts from Minamoto Kitchoan in San Francisco! I've already eaten several of them: a green tea cookie, sweet white bean bun, and dark chocolate waffle. Decadent, refined, and delicious. Thank you Kayle!



I spent time with some high school friends: Lauren, Sarah, and Kristi. We had a tasty dinner at a local brewery and got all caught up on each others' lives. I was amazed that we decided to part ways before midnight...apparently we're old people now! :P It was great to see my friends and know that even after a year apart, we can get back together as though no time has passed.

On New Year's Eve Day, I went with my parents to run some errands. One of our stops was Buy n Large! Er, I mean, Sam's Club!

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Consumerism at its finest! Where everything is larger than life!
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Gallon o' Ranch!
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With my tiny train room, I normally have no reason to find myself in Sam's Club. A jar of mayo from there would be the same size as my fridge. But that's part of the novelty of it :)

That night we went to a New Year's Eve party at my parents' friends Sherrie and Arnold's house. We had a great time. Arnold's a great cook! Sherrie has a pet skunk. Isn't he adorable?


(photo courtesy Sherrie)

We left the party before midnight and got home in time to get ready for the New Year. 2017! Can't believe it's here already, and also can't believe how long this year seemed!

As easy as it is to complain about the events of 2016, I think that perhaps it's a good thing that we are concerned enough about what's happening in our world that we speak up, protest, vote, and participate. Maybe 2016 wasn't the best, but maybe from now on we will put more effort into making future years better. I hope!

Personally, and in the circus, it's been a pretty crazy year.


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I flew out of Chattanooga on Monday morning. Flights and layovers went just fine. At the airport I rented a car and drove a few hours to reach my hometown.

It was great to see my parents! I got to see them at Kayle's wedding, but weddings are such a whirlwind of activity and we didn't get much time together. Now I've got three weeks!

I also got to meet two new additions to our family! This is Immi (short for "immigrant"). One day my Dad was out mowing the lawn, and he noticed this small striped cat watching him. He turned off the mower, and she immediately ran over to him and gave him permission to own her :D She's a sweetheart.



This is Roux (meaning "red"). He was from a litter of feral cats born in my parents' neighborhood. He was caught and brought home just about a week before I got home.


His little tummy was pretty bloated so we figured he had worms. My parents took him to the vet and I tagged along. Turns out he had ringworm and also a respiratory infection, so he got some dewormer and an antibiotic. I was amazed at how well he behaved at the vet's! No crying or clawing or biting, and he took his medicine without complaint. Good little boy!


I've spend most of my time this week gearing up for Christmas. My Mom was baking lots of cookies to give as gifts to friends, so I helped with that. She can't see too well, so detailed decorating can be difficult. Still, I think the results are quite cute in a derpy way!


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


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

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

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

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

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



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

(photo of Tim and Susan, courtesy Cindy)

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We had originally planned to visit a nearby asylum for a tour, but turns out they only give tours on special occasions :P So to console ourselves we visited Fruit Bowl instead!

(photo courtesy Gary H. on Yelp)

As you can see, it's a store full of candy with some fruits and veggies around the edges to make you feel bad for buying nothing but candy. They have other goods too, including canned jams and pickled fruits/veggies, locally baked bread, and a large variety of professional baking supplies including flavored oils, unique cookie cutters, and notably a 10lb bar of chocolate!

We filled a big plastic bag with candy ($4.95/lb!) and picked up a few other specialties as well (I can never resist locally-made apple butter!) then hit the road with our loot. I'm going to be eating that for weeks!

We found a hotel nestled in the WV mountains, with virtually no wifi or phone service. Otherwise a good hotel though. The next morning after a nice breakfast we drove out to Wilkes-Barre (pronounced "Berry" you guys). But we didn't stay in town. A few minutes outside Wilkes-Barre is Scranton. This is the town where I was born. It's a depressed coal/steel town, not much to look at, and most people know it as "the place where The Office takes place". But there is a lot of great history here. We pulled up to our hotel.


(photo courtesy Sanden M., TripAdvisor)

This is the Lackawanna Train Station, now a Radisson hotel, and it has special significance to me and my family. Back when Scranton had mined most of its steel and was turning to coal as its next major export, my great grandfather got a job working in the coal mines. The miners had just unionized and conditions in the mines were incredibly bad. I'm told my great grandpa had a mule to help him carry the coal out and not much else. When DL&W Railroad decided to build a new train station in Scranton, offering better pay and conditions, my great granddad got on board. He started out as a coal shoveler, feeding the engines and such. But he worked his way up the ranks and eventually became a dispatcher in the station. My grandfather, too, worked at the station, although his primary job was still in the mines.

In other words, this town and this station are where my family got its start in America. So when I walked through the doors of the station-turned-hotel as a guest, the significance was not lost on me. It made me feel humble, and proud.

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For over 100 years, we have been honored to have these majestic, intelligent, beautiful animals among us. On this historic day, we'd like to share our memories and stories of the elephants with you.


(photo of Baby, courtesy Adria C.)

“Got the chance to ride one of the girls for animal walk. And I do mean chance. She didn't like Dustin's clown shoes and threw him off." – Brandon F., Clown

“Just [having] the chance to meet them...they are very majestic animals with very deep souls that you can see once you truly look in their eyes. They will be truly missed and will always be in my heart.” – Bernis T., Pie Car Chef


“I grew up in Allentown, Pa. When Ringling Bros. Circus came to Allentown, all of the wagons and animals went right past my house on their way to the Allentown Fair Grounds. One year, I told everyone in the neighborhood that I was going to leave town with the circus. When the night show ended, the elephants were walking back to the train. When they arrived in front of my house, one of the "bull hands" hollered, "hey Joe!". I thought he was calling me. I ran up to the third floor and hid under the bed. I was the talk of the neighborhood for weeks.” – Joe D., Circus Fan

“When the show used to winter in Venice (FL), we were playing a part of the show where the elephants backed up to the band stand (which at that time was between two portals). As I was accustomed to this I paid no attention; however, I noticed the trumpet players had stopped playing in the middle of the act (it was a 15 piece band 4,3,4). When I looked up the tail was up right above me. I moved in the nick of time, but never forgot those players didn't warn me.”
– Donald P., Musician


(photo courtesy Bernadette M.)

“My favorite moment is when I first arrived at the unit. Jason G (Management) parked the truck. I get out of the cab, and the first thing I see is six Asian elephants, two of them staring in my direction. It was a very surreal moment. I knew my life would never be the same.” – Benjamin H., Sound Crew

"Prince (elephant) had this thing for untying my shoes..." - Barb R., Ringling FCP Employee

(photo courtesy Adria C.)

“My fondest memory was taking my Aunt to RBBB (red unit), introducing her to my friend Gunther and letting her feed an elepant. She had never been to a show before.” – Darlene L., Circus Fan

"Gunther had this elephant, her name was Congo, she was huge. Only African elephant that's every been on this show, she came over with him from Germany, in the 50s. We were doing an animal walk in Savannah, and the local guy--he was a sheriff or deputy or something--he wanted us to wait because a friend of his was trying to get to the animal walk [to see it] after the show. We had to get going, so Gunther said, "No, we go now!", and the guy's like, "Hey buddy, just a second, you're not going anywhere until I give the word." Gunther insisted, "No, we're going now," and turned around and started to walk toward the animals, and this guy went after him, and reached out and put both of his arms around Gunther in full view of the elephants.

"Gunther yells, "CONGO!", and Congo spins around, sees this, and comes charging at the guy, ears out, tail up (note: these are signs of aggression), and she sounded like the G- D-
Santa Fe Chief comin' down. And this guy just freaks out, going "Ok! OK! We can leave now!!" - Anonymous

(photo courtesy museeducirquealainfrere)

"Here's one of my favorite memories:"

– Francis C., Traveling Show Ministry

“First, not a specific memory, only [memories] of the many times I stood backstage and turned around to find elephants RIGHT BEHIND ME. They are 4-ton ninjas, totally silent when they need to be. Second memory is of a marshmallow fight between the trainers, some elephants, and the tiger trainer's son Gunther. The people mostly threw at each other, with the elephants stealing the evidence...” – Eryn C., Circus K-12 Teacher

“When the show played Providence, RI, the elephants were staged before their act right in front of 60 wagon doors. The first show I didn't realize this and went to leave the office, only to open the door and find elephant butts blocking the way!” – Adriel P., Circus K-12 Teacher
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“When I was first hired to do cannon I hadn't been on an elephant since I was little. My first official day on the job I went and met Rye (the director of the show) and talked about what I would be doing. Miser (my cannon coach) had set it up so that I only would have to be in the opening act, my cannon act, and the closing act. Rye asked if there was anything he could do for me and I told him the only other things I could think of that I wanted would be if I got a cape and could ride the elephants. He looked so surprised but told me he would see what he could do. Miser thought I was crazy to ask for more work in the show.

"Fast forward to winter quarters...I figured Rye had forgotten about our conversations because I saw my costumes and no cape :( But Lo and behold, up went the list of people who had elephant riding practice...and I was one of them! I was SO excited, like really really excited. I went out to the barn early for the first lesson and all the crew was making fun of me 'cause I was like vibrating with excitement.

"I got to ride Assan, one of the older elephants on the show. She walked really slowly but I didn't care. I was riding and elephant! It was the highlight of every show for me. If I had a bad cannon shot I got to ride Assan, if I had a great cannon shot I got to ride Assan. No matter what I was allowed to ride and interact with the sweetest elephant ever. I was always early for the elephant cue too, I just could never wait to go see them all line up. It's one of the things I miss the most about being on the show. It's something I will never forget and cherish forever.” – Elliana H-K., Human Cannon

(photo courtesy Jessica H.)

"Lisa was a young elephant at Roberts Brothers Circus in 1989. Like all young ones, she loved playing in water. One of my favorite memories is watching her jump in mud puddles.  She would literally--or at least as much as an elephant could--jump up and land with a splash in any puddle she could find. Lisa did this with such joy that it just made you smile.

"For some reason, Lisa was often tied near the generator truck. Like all young ones, she liked attention. And she found a sure way to get it: Lisa learned how to turn off the generator! Whenever she did so, people would come running. Lisa was a fast learner but it took her humans a longer time to learn to tie her up further away from the generator!

"Another elephant I knew was Flora the elephant from Circus Flora. When we were making the movie Big Top Pee Wee, she would be staked out in a field that was at the center of how the trailers were circled. Her favorite toy was a tire and she would play with it for hours. But if she got tired of playing by herself, she also knew how to get someone to come and see her. Flora perfected the skill of rolling the tire to bump into the trailer that held her groom. The bump against the trailer from the elephant-rolled tire would always get him to go out to see her.

"My favorite Flora-the-Elephant moment happened one day on the set for the Big Top Pee Wee movie. Flora and Mikey, the miniature horse, were tethered near each other in a field. They were close but not too close. Mikey was dozing in the sun. From my trailer window, I watched Flora stretch out as far as she could and reach out with her trunk...and pull Mikey’s tail! She then quickly moved back by her stake, turned her back to Mikey and literally looked like someone just standing there, looking up and whistling a nonchalant tune. Mikey looked all around but didn’t see anything that could have woken him up. He dozed off again and Flora did the same thing! She really had to stretch to reach his tail and move fast to get back near her stake with her back to him looking innocent. It was hysterical! The second time, Mikey looked right at Flora but she had her back to him and was not close. It almost looked like he turned away and then looked at her again before he went back to his nap. Flora pulled her stunt and his tail a third time! This time, Mikey looked right at her and moved to the end of his tether and out of her reach!

"My favorite elephant memory of all time was from when I worked on Reed Brothers Circus. We opened in Oregon, in a town by the ocean. I think it was Coos Bay. My partner and I arrived on the lot just in time to see Jo Dee Craigmile leading Bucky Steele’s elephants down to the ocean for a swim. It was a beautiful and breathtaking sight and one I cherish." - Jessica Hentoff, Artistic/Exectuive Director of Circus Harmony

(photo courtesy Jessica H.)

"I was first introduced to three lovely ladies on a mud show. At first, just watching them in the back yard. Then over the years, feeding them their favorite fruits and veggies, an occasional cupcake and of course, rolling them watermelons. It was amazing to get to know each one, what they liked best and how they liked to be fed. The last year, I bought the "personal size" melons and just popped them into their mouths! Watching them try and keep all the juice in was pretty cool. I was then privileged to get atop one of the biggest elephants I had ever seen...sitting behind her ears while she styled for the camera was amazing! This ride cost me a huge apple pie and a gallon of cherry vanilla ice-cream; obviously not for the elephant but for her human caretaker. Sadly, these ladies perform in another part of the country now, but what wonderful memories!" - Pat S., Clown

"My favorite story is of Asia. Once she found out I kept Snickers bars, she sniff me every time she saw me. I started to have to buy her her own. One day I made the mistake of forgetting to buy hers. She actually looked at me turned around and gave me her butt." - Michelle J., Circus Employee
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"Being in the portal, 7 months pregnant, waiting to collect Andre (Ringmaster)'s coat after opening and finding myself unexpectedly nose to nose with Lennox (sound tech), who was starting to load out, and the elephants were inches behind him. We had a pretty good conversation for a few minutes cause no one could move. Hahaha." - Blue B., Wardrobe

"We were doing PR for Good Morning America and I [crashed into] the last elephant I flipped over during my leaps act."
- Mujaheed S., Acrobat


(photo courtesy Adria C.)

"We had a PR in Baltimore for Runner's World Magazine with Kenneth Feld. The photographer of the shoot said, "Can we get that yellow haired one on the elephant?" Without missing a beat I walked over to Baby and waited for her to kneel. It was simply amazing to just be able to sit on an elephant, and call it a job at the same time. Throughout the shoot, the photographer kept asking for Baby to back up, or move forward, and Baby just wasn't having it after 3 or 4 adjustments, she was starting to feel on my leg with her trunk, and from what I was told, she was ready to yank me off and down to the concrete. Thankfully, through excellent observation and a true passion for their animals, the handlers got me down before I was a noodle, and wrapped the shoot at the same time." - Kyle B., Clown

"So many memories! Whenever they lined up for spec I'd be outside smoking and Mark would enjoy giving Asia the command to sit on my lap. A bystander would swear this elephant was sitting on my lap, little did they know there were just hairs between the two of us but she would never sit on me, she hold it forever. Another memory is out in California the hay was kept on the outside of the tent. One of the elephants thought it a great idea to steal one, pass it down and kept on doing it until every elephant had their own bale hay...it was hysterical!" - Michelle J., Circus Employee

(photo of Siam, courtesy Adria C.)

"I did start out on several different elephants but Assan was the longest one I had a one-on-one relationship with. She was the lead elephant as the elephants entered the arena for the Manage (note: "Manage" is from "Menage" short for "Menagerie"). Assan ran the full circle of the arena...down the back track, around the end track and then the entire front track to reach her bull tub. Gunther ran the distance with her and I believed she loved every minute of their run together. After Gunther retired he was away for book signings from time to time. When he was gone his daughter Tina would then do the run with Assan. But while running with Tina, if Assan saw Gunther backstage she would slow down about half way down back track until Gunther would come running out to join her to finish the lap. She loved the attention.

"When I first joined the show one of my favorite traditions was the annual Easter egg hunt in the arena. Everyone has Easter egg hunts outside in the grass but our kids got to do it in an arena, three ring lengths of egg hunting opportunities. Eggs were hidden in rigging, in ring curbs, and even in props. It was as if the elephants always knew when it was Easter or maybe they could just smell the sugar, but after the egg hunt for the rest of Easter Sunday the elephants, particularly Assan, would be caught sniffing around the props looking for and occasionally finding the easter candy the children had not found.

(photo courtesy Jade F.)

"When getting on the elephants, one must hold on tightly to the head piece with one's left hand. There was an occasion when a fellow dancer was getting on Banana (elephant) and must not have had a tight grip. Banana tossed her leg up to get the rider on and the next thing I heard was the dancers voice coming from the other side of the elephant saying "Umm, I think something went wrong since I am standing next to her instead of sitting on her!" She had been tossed clean over and had landed standing on the other side!

"Assan had a funny quirk. Once she reached her bull tub she would shake her head side to side rather rapidly before she would sit up on the bull tub. Some thought it was difficult to ride her because of this but I always found it endearing. I just held my thighs tightly around her neck and allowed my hips to follow her movement. A friend was watching one time and thought I was going to be thrown off because there I was sitting upright and then all of the sudden all she saw was my boot because Assan had turned her neck so far to the left. But when she straighted her head there I was just like I was supposed to be. I told my friend no big deal...I just always trusted Assan.

"When I went to the doctor to confirm that I was pregnant, I was told no horseback riding. I asked about elephant riding and she looked a little surprised but said that she thought it would be ok as long as I didn't fall off. I told her that I had never fallen off and I didn't plan on starting now. So I rode for the first three months of my pregnancy on Assan, with Barrett inside. I was never nervous or hesitant. Brett (my husband) could see the act daily and he swears that Assan took even more care stepping over the ring curb during that time because she knew I was pregnant.

(photo of Assan, courtesy Theresa B.)

"Assan and I shared quiet moments. She would take my hand in her trunk and lift it up to her mouth so that I could pet her tongue (which I would tell her that I'd only do this because I loved her!) She would wrap her trunk around my hips or sniff my shoes. When I would sit on her waiting for the act she would lift her trunk up to me so that I could stroke it. Many times I would lie on her head and talk to her. I never gave her treats when I was on her because we were told if we started that then we would have to do it every time because the girls would expect it, and we might forget but they never would. Even after I stopped performing when I would be outside near the elephants, she would hear my voice and start to walk over to me. She loved attention so much that she would lower her head toward Mark Oliver or her handler Ivan Espana wanting them to stroke her head. One time she did this while I was on her and at one point I put my hand on Ivan's shoulder (he only stood about 5'5") and said, "Ivan, do you see a problem here? I am on top of an elephant and able to touch your shoulder??" His response was, "No, I don't see a problem." He gave her some attention and she stood back up.

"Lastly, here is a picture of the time Assan tried to follow Mark Oliver Gebel into 16 wagon (Payroll Dept) and Mark decided to leave a note from Assan to the current purchasing agent about what apples she liked." - Theresa B., Dancer


"Walking into the building in Boston...we had to walk by the elephants to get to the dressing rooms. Well one elephant in line decided to reach out and purse-snatch...she grabbed my purse off my shoulder with her trunk and stepped all over it while I stood there speechless. Finally a handler came over and got it back for me but everything was smashed and broken already!" - Dawn T., Dancer

"The day I met Gunther Gebel-Williams was in Roanoke, VA around 1992. He had retired from the ring and handed his boots over to Mark Oliver Gebel to carry on the family business. Gunther still traveled with the Red Unit as Vice President of Animal Welfare. I attended the Saturday night performance with a friend, but I went back and hung around the edge of the back lot during Sunday's first show just to watch the comings and goings into the arena.

"There was a movable metal barricade and a security guard. I did not intrude onto the lot, but rather wound up speaking with the guard as I watched the performers come and go from the arena. When preparations were underway for the elephant act Mark brought them up and lined them all in a row along the curb that rimmed the sidewalk running across the back of the Civic Center. I can't remember exactly how many elephants there were, but at least ten, probably more. Mark was in front of the elephants and Gunther walked over to speak with him. During a lull in their conversation I politely shouted to Gunther and motioned to my program as a way of asking for an autograph. He motioned to the security guard to let me through and for me to come over to him.

"So there I was, face to face with a herd of elephants in the presence of Gunther Gebel-Williams and Mark Oliver Gebel! Being that close to such a large herd was a bit unnerving. They both signed my program along with Tina Gebel and later that day, Lisa Dufresne. I treasure that program more than others because of the day's events. Unfortunately my camera was out of film (yes, film back then) so I have no photographic remembrance...just the wonderful memories that will travel into eternity with me." - Dan K., Circus Fan

(photo courtesy Dan K.)

"It was in Miami, Fla. - I believe in 1990 - with the Red Unit. I was on Ring One Props, and Manage had started. We prop guys were also on hand to assist with rolling bull tubs and with sweeping up any !@#$% that the elephants "left behind" (ahem). Mary was the elephant up on her bull tub in the Back Track corner of Ring 1 and Gunther Gebel-Williams shouted the command to begin the dance. Keith Greene and the band went into the number, and the elephants began to dance and twirl on the bull tubs...but Mary was having just a little bit of difficulty: she had to go. And I mean, GO. Of course, her back was to the audience, and I was between them with a large plastic trash can and shovel at the ready. After a few drops, the audience was already shaking their heads and laughing with us (note "with" us). Then when Mary KEPT GOING, I started catching the drops before they hit the floor. The audience ROLLED with laughter, catching the attention of more of the audience along the End Track and Ring 1 area of the Front Track...which got THEM laughing loudly, also. That got Gunther's attention...and HE STARTED LAUGHING, TOO!! It wasn't over. Mary had one more big one to go. So naturally I just shoved the trash can under her backside and let it go. The audience was now in tears that they were laughing so hard. Gunther was just one of the type of great men who went with what was happening, and when Mary was obviously ready, she went on with the show. (The audience was laughing so hard it nearly drowned out the loudspeakers blaring out Keith's band music, LOL.)" - Rhett C., Circus Employee


"We will still find your presence
in the spaces between
curtain and concourse
and
we will still see you standing
in those moments before
the perfunctory turns to
performance:
O
ladies of ponderous gracefulness
O
mothers of exuberant joy! - Francis Cancero"



(photo of Siam, courtesy Ryan H.)

"I'll be honest, I didn't think I could be in the circus. I needed a change in life, and suddenly the circus called and offered me one. I still didn't know. I went and met the band, nice people, saw the book, seemed like I could play it. I still didn't know. You hear rumors, the stories of "bad circuses". I love animals with all my heart, and couldn't bear to associate myself with a company that would even THINK of hurting an animal. Then I saw them, all standing in a row backstage, waiting to rehearse their new routine. I was told I could sit on the bandstand. And here they came, on the softest feet, shuffling SO close to me. And I realized at that moment, I would get to be THAT close to elephants every day. They looked happy, proud, ecstatic to be performing. Flapping their ears, swaying to the rhythm of the band. I knew. I knew the respect I held for them, so did everyone in this organization. My dearest elephant friends, change is inevitable, the world will continue to spin on it's crazy way, and that means you get to go eat your veggies in retirement now, and not with us. You will get to help study a cure for cancer, the thing that has taken so much from all of us. Thank you for letting me be in YOUR show for the last few years. Safest of travels to your new home." - Jameson B., Musician

(photo courtesy Jameson)

Congo. Sabu. Prince. Toby. Banana. Cita. Banko. Tonka. Luna. Sara. Ziam. Baby. Mary. Kenny. Bonnie. Asia. Angelica. Bo. Mable. April. Assan. Tommy. This is a partial list of the elephants I've had the pleasure of working with over the last 22+ years. They are unique in every way. Part of me wonders what they think of all of this, their "retirement." But, as for me personally, I am selfish. No longer will I get to see them during preshow. The looks on the faces of the audience as they watch Mable paint and play. No longer will I hear the tremendous roar of the crowd when the herd comes through the portal. Never again will I get to see their amazing act. Nor will I get to see the personal interaction between animal and trainer. It sucks. But the circus changes. It has to grow and move, and we have to go along with it. We will scoff, we will lament the changes, we will remember "the good old days," and, the show will go on. We will entertain the masses. We will do what we do as no others can. The show has changed from when each of us started, and there are many more changes ahead. The circus changes all of us. And the circus changes itself. And we love it so, so much." - Brett B., Bandmaster

"Karen, Nichole, Mysore, Suzan, Lutze, Minyak, Bonnie, Kelly Anne, Sara, Juliette, Angelica, Rudy, Asha, Gunther, Barack, Tova, Jewel, Tonka, Luna, Bonko, Baby, Mable, Assan, April, Asia, Siam, Sundara are the names of all the amazing elephants I have been able to work with and around in the last twelve years. Although I am not a trainer, I have had an incredible opportunity to still be able to learn about these majestic creatures and care for them.

"I started with a shovel behind them. In the last few years my responsibilities have moved from direct, daily hands on care to helping plan the daily and weekly operations with the trainers and handlers. These hardworking people have taken the best care for these animals and have treated them as family. The relationship you can build with an elephant is unique and complex. Very few will ever understand it but if you can, then you will understand why our hearts will be so heavy tomorrow. "The Girls" as we call them, will be moving on to the next chapter in their lives after the two remaining shows tomorrow. They will be missed by many of us. But their good health, good behavior and excellent displays of intelligence by each individual elephant is proof of the successful people that took them into their lives and cared for them as if they were their own children.

"To all of the trainers and handlers that I have had the pleasure of working with from 2004 to now...I'm so proud of you and I am very lucky to have been able to work and learn from you. Each and every one of you have made an incredible positive impact on this beautiful, endangered species." - Jonathan M., Animal Specialist

(photo courtesy Jonathan M.)


"My heart goes out to some amazing people today. More than 140 years of history ends as the elephants take their final bow today at Ringling. These handlers and caretakers have given up so much of their lives to make these divas safe, happy and healthy every day. I have only love for how this circus has cared for these beautiful creatures, being a true example of how animal care and welfare should be. I struggle to describe all of my emotions as this day begins, however cherishing how lucky I am to have worked so closely with them even for such a small moment. Best of luck, happiness and endless thanks to the crew that is moving on, and love and kisses to the beautiful divas on their journey to retirement." - Stacey T., Veterinarian

(photo courtesy Adria C.)


"I usually don't comment much on the subject, however I acknowledge this day [5/1/16] with a heavy heart. I am proud to have been a fourth generation elephant trainer/handler, I was blessed to live and work with these amazing animals for over 30 years, and I stepped away a couple of years ago to raise my 4 year old son. For me, this is the day that will mark the end of an amazing era. I was privileged to spend a good deal of my elephants' career working on Ringling Brothers Blue, Gold and Red [touring units] and I would like to thank the Feld family for all they’ve done, these memories I will cherish for the rest of my life. It has been a great honor for me to be a part of this very special club, whose members have dedicated so much of themselves to their charges, and I say Thank You to these “elephant people”. Thank you very much." - Brian F., Elephant Trainer/Handler

(photo courtesy Jade F.)

"A couple of years before I worked for Ringling, while my family was visiting my brothers at the show in Omaha, we happened to be walking through the animal open house area between shows. I forget how it came about, but as we were passing the elephants the idea came up for us to be able to meet them and whoever the trainer was called us over and let us meet one. He did a spiel full of random elephant facts while she explored around our shoes and hands with her trunk. It was such an amazing experience as someone on the outskirts of the circus world. A couple years later I came on the road and worked just across the animal compound from them every day. The precious memories of watching them lounge around, play with tires or bamboo, or frolic in water spewing from a high-powered hose. To be around them backstage and watch them perform from so close by...to see their diverse personalities and their relationships with each other and their caregivers... it's beautiful. Interactions that are part of the every day here, like walking out of the bathroom only to find a line of elephant butts blocking the path, or crossing in front of the Divas and getting caressed by trunks are such sweet moments that will be missed so dearly. The circus will never be the same." - Judah W., Stagehand


Thank you to everyone who took time to write in for this project, and for those who didn't write in but nevertheless contributed via their sentiments and photos.

I hope that these firsthand stories, thoughts, and feelings have touched you and given you a glimpse into the lives of these amazing animals and the people who are priveleged to have earned their trust and love. Though they will be out of the public eye, please...please do not forget them. We on the circus will never forget.

See you down the road.
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My last week home was a good time. On Monday I took Raven back to New York, to her office at the startup company Alley NYC. She gave me a tour of the building; it's a coworking space for all kinds of companies...and that's about all I understand about it! But the workspace is awesome and I'm awfully proud of Raven for the work she does here.




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To be honest, this week was a blur.

Between visiting with friends, preparing for Christmas, and prepping for Kate's bridal shower, our whole family was busy every day. On Christmas Eve we decided to go to Mass at a local Catholic church (Kayle's fiancee is Catholic). It was a very nice service, although I didn't know all the cool traditional moves ;)



The next morning: Christmas! We woke up to a pile of presents!


Skylar (Kayle's fiancee) made us his family's southwest grits recipe, it was delicious! Then we dug into the gifts! I started with Jameson's which he kindly sent me so I'd have them for Christmas morning. He bought me some adult coloring books and all the gel pens in the world (literally! There are like 60 in the pack!!). I also received a POP vinyl Drogon figurine. My favorite gift, though, was this stunning ukiyo-e style art created by Jed Henry. I can't wait to have it framed.


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We had a really nice visit with our Aunt Chris and Uncle Andy!

We spent a lot of time together doing fun stuff. Went to a mall, ate out, cooked at home, went to a movie, had a really fun trivia night with some of our Aunt's friends, and played a lot of fun games. We also caught up with each other; it's been so long since we were in the same room and that's a shame. In the future we hope to make more time for each other, even if it means planning far in advance. In any case, for a few days, we were together and it was awesome.



Kate, Jonah and I drove home, and Raven flew. Back at home there was Christmas prep to be done, as well as preparing for my parent's vow renewal and my sister's bridal shower (she's getting married in April). My parents are remodeling one of the basement rooms, and it's almost done, so I helped to move furniture down there. With the help of some ladies from church, we also cleaned, decorated for Christmas, and prepared the guest room for Kayle (my sister) and Skylar (her fiancee). They arrived on Saturday. Skylar just proposed to Kayle a few days ago, so it's a very exciting time! Here they are looking through a wedding catalog :)

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I flew home on Monday. This adorable service dog was on my first flight.


Both flights were easy. The weather was unusually cooperative. I actually fell asleep on the second flight, a rarity for me.

My Dad picked me up and drove me home. It was great to see my Mom, who I haven't seen since May. She had a major head surgery over the summer and I couldn't make it home to see her through it. She is recovering well but she's photo shy so sorry, no pics :P It was nice to be home.

I was DYING to check out the new trombone! It was packaged very well and came in a brand new ProTec case. Looking at it in person, I can't believe the excellent shape it's in. This horn was probably made in the 70s and it looks like it's never been played!!



The grip is slightly more curved than Brett's Minick, so I'll have to get used to that. It also has two leadpipes as opposed to the three that came with Brett's. But they're both original; one has an "M" scratched near the bottom. I played the horn for a little bit, and thought it felt just like the other Minick. The deeper grip means a small adjustment, but that will take a few days to overcome at most. I can't wait to play both Minicks and compare them! Huge thanks to JoyBrass and Yoshi, and BrassArk and Noah, for making this happen. I'm very excited to see what this horn can do!

The next day I got to sleep in. Glorious sleep. Mom and I ran errands and she prepared dinner. When Dad got home we ate, and after that he went downstairs to work on the unfinished basement. They're going to turn it into an office.



When we came to a stopping point it was time for ice cream! Mom got us some Yuengling ice cream (I had no idea there was such a thing) and it was amazing. Another must-have treat from home :)

Wednesday, more errands and shopping. Shopping is not a favorite thing of mine, so after a few hours we came home and ate lunch, and chilled.

On Thursday Mom had several medical appointments, one for eyes and one for her foot which has been bothering her. Between the appointments we rested at home.



That night I visited my sister Kate and her fiancee Pat. We all went to dinner at The Blind Pig, a new place downtown. The food is all local and fresh. I had sweet potato gnocchi with apples, squash, pesto, and goat cheese. I really enjoyed it :)


On Friday I had breakfast with my Aunt Nicole and Mom at Perkins. After that we ran some errands, then all went home to play cards. Dad came home around dinnertime; we had leftovers, then chilled.

The next morning Kate picked me up, then we drove to Shippensburg to get my brother Jonah, then we three drove down to North Carolina to visit our Aunt Chris and Uncle Andy! My sister Raven flew down and met us there. It's the first time we've all been in the same room together in AGES. Jonah is so TALL. My Aunt was throwing a party so several of her friends were there. We enjoyed some amazing finger foods, and a variety of seasonal adult beverages! A fun time was had :)



After saying goodnight to the guests, we all enjoyed a good night's sleep. The next morning after breakfast, we decided to visit the Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh. Almost as soon as we stepped inside we were ushered into a live animal presentation. We got to view a flying squirrel (in a box, they're quick buggers), pet a hissing cockroach, hold a small black rat snake, and view tiny week-old mice.


After that we went to the butterfly room and enjoyed watching lots of butterflies, big and small, fluttering around bowls of fruit and sugar. We also saw snakes, whale skeletons, and laboratories where DNA samples are analyzed. The museum is free and takes charitable donations. It's worth a visit!


When we were finished at the museum, our aunt and uncle took us to Busy Bee Cafe. They've got a pretty awesome menu that changes pretty often. Kate got a "spinach burger" that turned out to taste way more fantastic than it sounds. My aunt and I got a chicken sandwich with pears and a BLT made with house-cured bacon (it looked more like pork belly!) and we each had half of each sandwich. The food (and drinks) were delicious! Company was pretty good too :)


(photo courtesy Uncle A.)

Now we're all back at the house relaxing. Tomorrow I think our only major plan is trivia night with some of our Aunt's friends. And that's just fine. Chilling with family is what the holidays are all about.


Other stuff:

Meanwhile in Florida, the circus train has arrived and the animals are enjoying a lovely vacation!


One animal was not so happy, however. This poor little alligator got himself caught on a rope hanging from a dock where the circus trailers were parked.


(photo courtesy Claudia)

Claudia (wardrobe) saw him and ran to get help. Pretty soon several members of animal crew had arrived and were working to free the alligator. The bald guy is Jonathan, he works with most of the circus animals and has experience with reptiles. The partially-bald guy is Terry, our head elephant handler and trainer.

(photo courtesy Claudia)

Claudia got this great footage of these two gents pulling the gator from the water. Terry uses an elephant goad/bullhook to help lift the animal, and Jon covers it with a towel to calm it down.


Finally the little guy was all taped up and ready for release back into "the wild". Great job everyone, especially animal crew. You guys are awesome.

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

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




(photo of flooded tracks courtesy Rob L.)

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

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

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



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We arrived at Jameson's parent's house late and went straight to sleep.

In the morning we went downstairs and were greeted enthusiastically by Addison and Mo. Addison has really grown up! She is 1 year old and about 80 pounds, so believe it or not she's still got growing to do! She is much more well-behaved than she was when we first met...but she is still a goofball <3



We enjoyed a day hanging out with Jameson's Dad, eating a fantastic lunch at a local Italian spot and taking a tour of , the town where Mr. Boyce grew up. He says it's changed a lot, but some things, like the house he used to live in, are still the same. For dinner Mrs. Boyce made us kale, a savory beef pot pie, and some truly delicious oven-roasted brussels sprouts. How anyone can make brussels sprouts taste good is a mystery to me.

All too soon it was time for us to leave. The Boyces gave us each a bag of Valentine's goodies (I love my fuzzy socks!! Thank you!!) and a hug and sent us on our way. We made good time to the train and were thrilled to see that unlike two years ago, it was parked in a place that's visible from the road.
And THE YARD IS PAVED. Halelu!

feb15-2015-4

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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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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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After Sunday's shows, Jameson and I drove to a hotel as usual.

The next day we crossed PA to reach my parents' house. The drive was long and boring; nothing but farmland for five hours :p My parents gave us a nice warm welcome :) After meeting Jameson, they took us to dinner at Rose Marie's, a nice Italian restaurant in downtown Bloomsburg.

We also drove around a bit, showing Jameson some of the more "interesting" sights to be found in our little town such as the Civil War memorial, Bloomsburg University, and the Fairgrounds. It was too dark to see much of the Fairgrounds unfortunately, but we described to him how the Bloomsburg Fair has been operating for over 150 years, with the only exception being 2011 when a terrible flood prevented this annual event from happening.


How the fairgrounds normally looks:

After the 2011 flood:
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Bloomsburg is at the bottom of a series of floodgates, and also positioned between Fishing Creek and the Susquehanna River. Flooding occurs about every five years, but lately the water level has been higher and higher, and has become a serious problem.

Anyway, we had a nice visit. Originally I had wanted to stay all day Tuesday, but a buyout show was scheduled for Wednesday evening so we had to hit the road first thing Tuesday morning. Well, almost first thing :) We visited my sister's house for breakfast. She made an awesome breakfast casserole! My siblings Raven and Jonah were also home from spring break, and I was really happy to see them and introduce them to Jameson. Although it was a brief visit home, it was wonderful to see everyone :)

Saying goodbye to my car was a little rough :P I wish I could bring it with me always, but it's expensive to have to get hotels every week, and extra hotels when the train is late, plus gas, tolls, parking, etc...at some point it's just no longer worth it. But it was convenient and fun to be able to get groceries whenever I wanted, offer rides to people, and visit friends in other cities. I'll probably do it again next year.

On the way to Jameson's parents' house we stopped in Centralia, PA to have a look at the cemetery and what remains of the abandoned coal town.
If you're a gamer, you might recognize this town as the setting for Silent Hill.

As a local, I'd driven through Centralia many times but had never bothered to stop. We visited the cemetery first. There were many interesting graves.
A LOT of people died before the age of 50 here, and most were Irish immigrants.

Mar19-2015-2

We also took a look at the closed portion of Route 61, where burning coal seams have torn the road apart, releasing toxic fumes and making the road impassable. Pedestrians can access the area, but at their own risk.
Here you can see that many college students have defaced the condemned area.

Mar19-2015-3

The road is cracking from the heat of the fire underground. Sometimes steam and toxic fumes rise from the cracks. And sometimes it's hot enough that you can stick a piece of wood in there and it'll burn.
Mar19-2014-4

Jameson checking out the cracked road.


There was no fire or steam while we were there, but the ground was certainly warmer to the touch than it should have been on a 30 degree partially cloudy day.
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Monday was pretty chill.
Mom and I ran some errands and my car got inspected/a new registration.
On Tuesday I was thrilled to share a meal with friends Kristi and Tara! We went to high school together and have remained in touch over the years. We went to a hibachi place down the street for half price sushi and fried ice cream. Catching up is nice :)

I had also invited our friend Kristin, who lives in Berwick and owns her own Etsy shop.
After having been featured in a magazine, her business took off. A good thing! But the holidays are crunch time, and between making her orders and taking care of her two young children, border collie and husband, she was REALLY getting crunched!
So she couldn't come to dinner with us...but I got to go make spoons with her!!


(photo courtesy Kristin's Etsy shop. She took pics of us making the spoons together, but hasn't had time to post 'em yet!)

To make the faces on the spoons, you use a technique called 'woodburning' (or pyrography) which is exactly what it sounds like...using a hot poker to burn the wood in the desired pattern. Kristin showed me what to do, then drew the faces on the spoons, and I burned the wood in the correct way (most of the time haha). I have always loved doing crafts, so this was very relaxing and enjoyable for me...making the little faces while her kids ate dinner or played around us, the dog occasionally putting his head in my lap, and talking about work and family and whatnot with Kristin. Thank you Kristin, for some very enjoyable hours of creativity :)

Kristin has many other handmade items in her shop, including ornaments, baby toys, clothing, and more. She makes everything herself, so that she can work from home and raise her children while doing something she loves. Take a look at her SHOP, or read more about her life and family on her BLOG.

On Wednesday I drove with my mom and several of her friends to the Sight and Sound Theatre to see the Miracle of Christmas show. If you read my blog regularly, you may remember that I got to go see the Jonah show last year around Thanksgiving. Sight and Sound is a theatre that performs musicals exclusively based on Biblical texts. They're well known for their productions of Noah and Joseph, both of which feature incredible staging, Broadway-level acting and singing, and lots of live animals! The stage wraps around the sides of the auditorium for a really immersive experience.



(see the staging on the sides?)

Here's the trailer for Miracle of Christmas:


It was a very good show. Every year I wish I could take pictures and/or bring friends out to the middle of nowhere to experience these productions.
Next year they're doing Moses. Can't WAIT to see that!!

On Thursday I accompanied my mom to a weekly Bible study, where I met some more of her friends and had some really fantastic hot chocolate! We studied a chapter of Romans and had discussions relating to the verses. I was grateful to be welcomed into their group. Thank you ladies!

After that, I went to my sister's house for a short visit. My younger brother and sister are staying with her for the Christmas break. It's the first time we've been in a room together since, like, February!



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Due to a large storm system moving across the country, many flights were cancelled or delayed.
Several circus folks were caught up in the reshuffling of flights. But I think everyone got to where they were going eventually. Jameson and I left from IND in the afternoon (our flights were at a similar time).
My first flight was on time and very nice. I snapped this pic as we were descending.



The next flight was...less enjoyable :P
Although the connecting flight was on time, we were held at the platform due to air traffic control rerouting flights from congestion elsewhere. We waited for 2.5 hours, then boarded the jet and waited another half hour on the runway. Things could have been worse...it could have been snowing, or the flight could have been cancelled like the other connection to Philly. Jameson's connection actually left early, and he had to buy a whole new plane ticket :(

Anyway, we both got to where we were going eventually. My Mom and Aunt picked me up at the airport. It was great to see them! Equally great to sleep in a real bed that night :) The next day was pretty chill. We were supposed to go to a Bible study, but it was cancelled due to snow. The snow was beautiful and didn't build up on the road. Mom and I enjoyed catching up and cooking dinner together.

The next day we got up SUPER early to take my aunt to an appointment, then to a class (she's studying to be a nurse). My aunt has recently had shoulder surgery and couldn't move her arm well, so I stuck around to take notes. It was math. MATH, people!! My nemesis!



After that experience, we had lunch together and hung out for a bit, then Mom and I made dinner. I seasoned the fish. And totally blew it. It was SUPER spicy. For those of you who don't know, I am a horrible cook. We choked the meal down and enjoyed another relaxing evening.

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After the Hershey shows, I took Melissa's car to my parents house to spend an extra day at home.
It was great to see my parents and my sister Kate and my brother Jonah.
I spent Monday with my mom and Kate; we made taco salad for my Aunt Nicole, Uncle Mike, Aunt Penny, and cousin Tony, all of whom came over for lunch. We had a great time catching up. Everyone seems to be doing pretty well!

After that I went to Kate's house to check out her vegetable garden and to visit with Jonah.
Kate and Jonah had salvaged some of our Mom's things...diaries, photos, books...and I got to glance through them briefly. I'm glad they were able to save this stuff. Next time I'm home there are photocopies to be made.
We joined Kate's fiancee Pat at The Inn at Turkey Hill (Brewery side) for dinner.
It's been ages since I've been there. Our Mom used to bake for the 'fancy restaurant' part of the building.
The new brewery is pretty nice.

Jonah will be going to Shippensburg University in the fall. He got a scholarship!!
He had his last day of school this week and will graduate in a few days.
I am SO proud of him! Now all of us kids have become 'adults' :)
I wonder what Jonah will decide to study? How exciting!!!

When I got back from Kate's I spent some time with my parents,
who were celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary!
They went out for dinner together. When they got back,
Dad showed me how to tighten the parts on my new bike.
I was really touched that he had it all put together for me when I came home. <3
He and mom also got me a bunch of goodies...mini bungees for the bike,
magnets for my room, a non-stick pan, some local honey...and a larger version of the hex sign on my door :D
I got spoiled :)

I had to leave early the next day. As always, I wished for more time. Being with family is wonderful.

I drove the same route that I had taken back in 2010, when I'd driven cross country to live with my sister in Cali.

drive
I was even able to stay at the same hotel in Iowa!
Hotels are great. Mostly because they have real beds and bathtubs :D


After a great night's rest I left the hotel and finished the trip to Council Bluffs where the train was spotted.
First I stopped at a local bike shop to make a minor repair to my bike.
Then I got much needed groceries!
Then I got to the train, unpacked everything, and tried out the new bike!!



No pics of me riding it yet, sorry :P
For those who don't know, I got this bike via craigslist
from a gentleman in South FL who enjoys biking and DIY.
The 'road' next to the train is paved, so I rode up and down for a bit, adjusting the seat/handlebar heights as needed. I practiced folding the bike and lifting it on/off the train.
I went to the far end of the train and practiced turning.
Almost wiped out a few times, but that's ok, it's been like 15 years since I rode a bike and I'm bound to fall!

Here it is 'stored' in my room:



Some people use the crew's workshop to store bikes, and others use the possum belly or the top bunk in their room. I'd considered using my top bunk, but this bike has a steel frame and probably weighs 30-35lbs.
Getting it up there would be tough for me.
Anyway if I really wanted a more conveniently compact bike, I'd have gotten one like Jameson's!


His is cute! But mine is more 'my style'. (vintage)
I will be using the bike mostly to get groceries, and for leisure :)

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We are in my home state, Pensyl-tucky! Hooray!
I am posting a little late because our last show was on Monday :)

The train got in around 5-6pm last Monday--too late to go anywhere, to early to sleep--so I walked around the yard.
There are lots of snail shells here.



On Tuesday I did some cooking, then walked to a farmers market that Brian had mentioned.
To get there, the fastest way (without crossing live tracks) was to
climb up to this overpass and hop over the fence. Aah, the train life.



The market was kind of small, but they had everything...meat, cheeses, breads, canned goods, fresh produce,
flowers and herbs. I have enough bread for myself, but picked up a loaf of rye and a wedge of cheddar
for Rebecca (wardrobe), then got some veggies for myself.


When I bought this Boston Bibb lettuce, the vendor asked if I wanted the flower,
claiming that it's edible. I didn't take it because it looks like a carnation...and it is,
and they're edible, who knew! Not me!



After dropping my goods off at the train, I cleaned up and met my friend Trish and her man Brian for dinner.
Trish and I grew up on the same street; she's been my friend since we were infants!
We went to Brick City Bar & Grille, a trendy place downtown.
I enjoyed the food and REALLY enjoyed catching up with her! It's been too long!


Wednesday and Thursday shows went as normal.
I had a little time to scoot over to Chocolate World for lunch and dessert for the next two weeks, haha.

I may or may not have bought all this candy...


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I wasn't on the train run this week...instead, I opted to drive from Greensboro to my hometown to spend time with my parents. Even though I only got to spend a day with them, I'm very grateful for that time. Working in the entertainment industry and especially for a touring show means that time with family and friends becomes more rare and more precious.

My Mom and Dad pretty much spoiled me while I was home. We went out to eat, and they bought me a warm winter coat, rain boots, and other goodies. But the best part of the visit was simply spending time with them. Watching TV at the end of their workday...chopping up veggies for a salad with Mom...talking with Dad about politics or whatever else. I was able to relax, and take a much-needed break from the circus for a day.

My parents' love and support is something I wouldn't trade for the world.
I'm blessed to be able to call them my Mom and Dad.

Returning to the train was actually kind of hard.

Sometimes living on a train feels like living on the moon...like you're cut off from the outside world.
I wanted just a little more time.
But you know, every time I wear my rain boots or my winter coat,
I will feel warm, knowing that we love each other no matter where we are.



As you can see, our train yard this week was pretty messy, so the rain boots came in super handy.
Temperatures also fell as low as 15 degrees, so the winter coat was much appreciated as well.


We had a tight show schedule, so there wasn't much time for exploring.
I did go with Skippy (trumpet sub) to see the Liberty Bell!



Haven't seen it since I was little!
For lunch we went to Cuba Libre. It was VERY good! I got to try yucca for the first time!

Skippy asked the wait staff to bring an uncut yucca for me to see, as I had no idea what it was.

It tasted like a potato, only creamier somehow.

Anyway, that was about the only adventure I had in Philly.
We were busy with shows. Some weeks are like that!

Next week's schedule in Richmond is not much better :/
But if anything interesting happens I will write about it :)

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