**There are lots of clickable links in this post, so you can view the products I'm talking about. Enjoy!**
We had a nice long train run from Grand Rapids to Manchester.
The scenery here is really nice. Autumn is just starting to arrive.
I might be getting better at taking pictures while the train is moving. What do you think?
We got to Manchester quite late, so I wasn't able to explore :/
That's ok though, because my friend Justin was on hand to show me around the very next day!
Here he is doing what he does best (besides bassoon I mean): music retail!!
Justin was my boss back when I worked for Music & Arts in New Jersey.
We later became coworkers when I was given management over a store on Long Island.
He's a great boss and a great friend :)
He showed me around the downtown which is full of awesome restaurants and shops, most of which are locally owned and unique to Manchester. We got coffee at j. dubbs and strolled around, catching up.
It's been a while!
The next day I got to meet his wife Jessica (we had met briefly in the past, I believe). She's running her own yoga studio, and dyes/sells her own organic fibers. Some of the fibers come from an angora rabbit! The fur is used to make a very soft yarn for sweaters, socks, etc.
Justin and Jessica were kind enough to drive me around to various farmers' stands along route 3A in Manchester. Thanks to them I got local bread, apple butter, apple cider, and probably the BEST oatmeal walnut cranberry cookie I've EVER had. In addition to that, on my own time, I picked up a local brand of peanut butter (only 3 bucks, couldn't resist) and a jar of Trappist Preserves from St. Joseph's Abbey. I managed to (barely) avoid the temptation to buy more. We're going to Boston soon so I gotta behave myself!!
Anyway, we also visited a shopping plaza to use an about-to-expire coupon. I got a pair of hard-bottomed slippers for the winter. At home I would have used thick socks or slippers with grips on the bottom, but that won't fly on a moving train that gathers dirt and dust in every city.
After that we went to Mr. Mac's, another local favorite restaurant featuring...you guessed it! Mac & cheese!
The ingredients are local, healthy, and selected with care. I got the small veggie skillet and it was DELICIOUS.
Jessica and I also had Angry Orchard cider. Yum!
After that, they took me to Bert's Better Beers.
I'm not a beer person, but hard cider is very popular here and I can handle that :)
Bert has a huge collection of photos of his signature beer bag,
taken in various interesting places such as the Pyramids, Taj Mahal, North/South Pole, etc.
Justin told him I was with the circus and he gave me a bag.
I'll be posting a picture of it in front of the circus train, and maybe in a few other places as well ;)
Justin then picked up a 6-pack of Woodchuck Pumpkin Cider, and was kind enough to gift me a bottle!
Today (Sunday) they came to see our 4pm show.
I was able to get them some backstage passes...my very first backstage guests!
Unfortunately a Series Of Unfortunate Events prevented them from getting the full experience...the animals were being held in a tent away from the arena, and the only way to get close was to get yelled at (we did). Asia, our star elephant, was also out for the week with a foot booboo. The backstage area here was unusually dark, so we did a lot of stumbling around. I showed them the Cannon that Brian Miser gets shot out of every day, and the logs that the strongman lifts, and the Big Bike acrobat prop. Various clowns, acrobats, and floor crew were running around preparing for the show and for load out.
Justin got a pic of Jessica standing on an elephant tub!
Next time hopefully we'll get you next to a REAL elephant, Jessica!!!
A fun time was had here in Manchester, thanks to these two :)
Our shows were pretty typical this week, with the exception of Asia's absence. The show is LESS without her :(
The band was measured for next year's costumes today. Happy to report that I'm the same size as last year!
Our train yard had lots of interesting things in it. For one, a snow plow engine!
I'm no train geek, but COOOOL!!!!
On the first night I noticed several of these scattered around the yard, the white parts glowing in the moonlight.
Someone had their nails clipped!
Coolest of all were these nails, embedded in the rotting wood of the unused tracks between our cars.
Cindy (teacher) clued me in to their existence. The number on the head is the date. Dated nails were driven into railroad ties and telephone poles to indicate the year the tie/pole was treated/laid. This nail is from 1940.
There were older nails (1929), but they were in good wood and couldn't be pulled out.
According to Google, various sizes, shapes, and designs exist dating back as early as the mid-1800s.
I wonder what's the oldest year I'll be able to find?