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Fun Random Stuff

Heads up, this is a long one! (maybe I should have posted it in parts...oh well :D)

This is just a list of things I’ve noticed or learned so far...things for me to reminisce about in the future, and for you to enjoy reading about now :)

About the Train

On Sundays (typically our last show day in a particular city), while the crew stays at the venue and packs up, the rest of us come back to the train and secure our belongings for traveling, pick up any groceries we need for the duration of the train run, etc.

The water has been disconnected in preparation for the move, and there will be a lock on the washer so no one will try to use it.

The communal trash bags are moved to the vestibules rather than the outside of the train, and the little red and white stepstools that we use daily are also stored on the vestibule.

Anyone with a satellite dish or bike attached to the outside of the train must store it, otherwise the crew will remove/confiscate it.

So far, the train typically begins to move in the early hours of the morning between 4-6am.  However there was one time we left around noon, so I guess it depends on when everything’s loaded and ready to go.

I may have mentioned this before…there are teachers on the train, but classes are held at the venues and when the train is moving, there is no school.

Putting a plug in the sink before the train starts to move really does cut down on noise in the rooms!!

During the train runs, people socialize in the pie car or visit each other, or just relax and recoup from the work days. Many people go out on the vestibule to enjoy the scenery, take pictures, and wave to the gawkers.

In my limited experience, you can tell when the train has reached its destination because it will stop for a half hour or so, and then move backwards very slowly for a bit while the animal cars are removed.

When the train stops for a long period of time–like, for an animal walk or because another train is using the track–you can tell it’s going to move again when the air brakes release. It makes a whining/feedback kind of sound. The ride is usually kind of jerky until the train gets up to speed.

Sometimes if the yard can accommodate it, the train stays in the yard as a whole unit. Other times the train will be split up. In this yard (Springfield, OH), the train was split with two halves on each side of an intersection. In the last yard (Charleston, WV), the two halves of the train were next to each other. In Fairfax it was a whole unit.

You can cook, clean, and do all the things you’d normally do on the train while it’s moving. The train generates its own power, and the water stores can be replenished at stations along the way.

Once the train arrives at its destination, an announcement is made and the vestibule doors are unlocked. And then we can go explore!!

About the Rooms/Cars

The train cars are old 50s BUDD or Union Pacific passenger cars that have been bought and customized by Ringling.

The rooms are different depending on the model of the car, the seniority of the occupant, how many kids you bring, etc.

My room is an 8 x 7 and pretty typical. It's what you'd call a 'stateroom'. Smaller rooms (8 x 5 I think) are called 'coffins' for obvious reasons. You’d think a smaller room would be easier to clean, but it actually needs to be cleaned more frequently because it’s so small! So much dust and mud is tracked in from the yards, and because it’s your kitchen, bedroom and dining room all in one, the dirt can pile up quickly if you’re not careful! I sweep every 2 days or so and do a full dust/sweep/mop on Sundays before the train run.

Rooms can be modified in any way…within reason :D Wallpaper, hardwood floors, you name it. Just let the porters know before you do it!

All of the cabinets and storage spaces have latches on them to prevent stuff from shifting around during train runs. Shelves have lips around the edges to prevent items from rolling off. Creative use of Velcro and bungee cords is recommended :D

The Venues

The circus no longer uses tents…at least, the Red Unit doesn’t. So far, we’ve been in indoor stadiums.

When we get to the venue, the first thing we generally do is find our dressing rooms and our instrument storage boxes.

On the first show day at the new venue, we have dress rehearsals to familiarize the animals and people with the new space. The band has sound check and also rehearses certain numbers with the other performers.

The band gets its own dressing room, but since I’m the only girl, I share a separate one with Karen (animal trainer) and Yulia (acrobat...hope I spelled her name right!).

When we’re not performing, we’re free to explore the city, rest, eat…whatever!

The Performers

I haven’t met everyone yet and am horrible with names, so bear with me. Most of the performers and/or troupes they belong to are listed on the “Fully Charged” website.

The strongmen are REALLY impressive. There’s one part where one dude is standing on the other one’s arm while he turns in a circle…it’s NUTS. Off-stage, I’ve seen them playing with their children and hanging out…someday I hope to work up the courage to tell them how totally wicked cool I think they are!!

Many of the female dancers and acrobats do not use English as their native language, so I have yet to make friends there. From what I have seen on- and off-stage, these women are stunningly beautiful and CRAZY flexible. The aerial act is a really impressive display of their talents.

The Negry acrobat family is also ultra-impressive…their act is near the end of the show. It’s the four Negry boys and Yulia…Yulia’s great, but being a girl, I mostly pay attention to the boys, who perform topless. Rawr.

Unfortunately, I can’t say a stinking thing about the high wire act because it takes place almost directly behind me. All I can say is, these guys (and the one girl) haven’t fallen from the wire since I got here (knockknock).

The jugglers open the show with a pretty impressive display…I’ve only seen parts of it, but they juggle clubs, balls, bats, glowing things, torches, rings, and who knows what else!

Why are so many people afraid of clowns?! I’ve got to google that! Aside from the band and the sound techs, I’ve probably interacted most with the clowns. Did you know that clowns create their own unique characters and costumes? Some clowns are totally old-school white face; others wear minimal makeup. Some play into stereotypes or strive to look like caricatures, while others go with a more ‘modern’ look. Either way, they’re all creative, outgoing, zany people :)

The animal trainers are very impressive as well. Can you imagine making a stallion rear on his hind legs and walk toward you? Or have an elephant run full speed at you, trusting that it will stop when told? It’s amazing what these people can get these animals to do, and the level of trust and understanding that exists between these performers (yes, the animals are performers too!). These guys are simultaneously admirable and scary; that is, I’m scared FOR them every time!

The band…the band is cool, what more can I say? Nothing :P