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Before heading out to Raleigh we stopped at another 2nd and Charles in Charlotte. I found an original GameBoy!!! You can buy these on Ebay for fairly cheap, or of course you could use emulators instead. But...the nostalgia got me. I bought it and ordered some games for it. They should be here in a week or two. In the meantime I had to make sure it worked.


When we got to Raleigh the train was close but not in the yard. We decided to get dinner at a place Jameson found, called The Cowfish. It seemed like a really weird concept. Sushi and burgers?? But we were surprised...it was FANTASTIC food! We both ordered the "burgushi". From The Cowfish website: "Burgushi items include sushi rolls created using burger components, and pick-up style sandwiches created using sushi components." The buns were probably the most amazing part, they were basically rice paper burritos filled with white rice and imitation crab, then smashed flat to resemble flatbread.

Here's my sandwich, the 4-S: Koji-marinated yellowtail, cucumbers, red peppers, sprouts and slaw, sandwiched between rice paper "buns" filled with rice and kani, and a side of sweet potato fries. It was incredibly good.

I have to mention that before getting our entrees, we lucked into a free appetizer! Someone made an extra blackened tuna nachos, and a server seeing our table empty decided to gift it to us! Wonton chips with crab rangoon dip, seared tuna, guac and sprouts...I definitely could have eaten these as an entree!

On top of everything, the service was amazing. The place was packed and there were birthdays being celebrated all around us, but somehow the staff managed to make us feel like we were the only people in the place. We're actually planning to go back on Monday. The Cowfish currently only has restaurants in Charlotte, Raleigh, and Orlando. If you are ever in these cities, I really can't recommend this place enough. Delicious food, great service, and a really cool vibe. GO there!

(photo courtesy nctriangledining.com)

After that we got groceries and went to the train "yard" (it's really just a very muddy strip next to the main road) where we saw the coaches pulling in. We felt optimistic at first, but then remembered Rule No.3 when overlanding: just because you can see the train, doesn't mean you're home :P We got a hotel and it was the right choice, because several hours later the train was still not spotted. We're learning :)

The next day we were able to get on the train and unpack. I was excited to receive my DNA analysis report from 23andMe (Jameson got me the kit for Christmas) and got to work looking through all of the information about my heritage and my own personal traits. You can read my overly extensive review of 23andMe's services HERE.

Probably the most interesting thing I learned through the test was my maternal haplogroup. A haplogroup is a group of ancestors who migrated across the continents thousands of years ago. Amazingly, which haplogroup you are descended from can be traced through your DNA. It turns out that my haplogroup was N9b, a very small group of people who migrated exclusively from Siberia to Japan, found almost nowhere else in the world. I knew my grandmother was Japanese, but hadn't known for sure that she was native Japanese (known as Ainu). Interesting stuff!

And let's not forget the other 73% of my DNA!

There are tons of reports and I still don't quite understand all of the information I've been given, but it's terribly interesting stuff and I intend to read over everything! DNA testing has advanced quite a bit in the past decade, and I hope that now that I've contributed my sample to the study pool I might have a chance of finding out even more in the future!

On opening day we found out that Taba, our tiger trainer, was out with an injury. This meant a few modifications to the show for us, but for the audience it simply meant no tigers. In my three years with this show, Taba has never had to completely cut his act. But we're all human, and these things happen. Sorry Raleigh :( The modified show went well.

Thursday we had two shows, and it was my birthday! After the morning show Jameson took me for a tasty lunch at P.F. Chang's! And then took me to the Godiva store for some truffles! I felt very spoiled :)
That evening, I had my eye on those clowns. Those sneaky, sneaky clowns. It's a Ringling tradition for the clowns to pie people on their birthdays. After the final show, when it was time to pack up and go home, I peeked backstage and didn't see any clowns. So I started walking toward the band storage box, planning out in my head how I would put my stuff away and whip around so as not to be caught by surprise. Just when I had decided yes, this is a good plan...POW. Pied in the face. Good job LaRena, Lindsey, and Stephen!

Back at the train, I received an Amazon gift card from my parents and birthday wishes from around 200 friends on facebook. Thank you friends and family! I'm grateful that you all took time out of your day to make me feel special!

Jameson had some presents for me as well: an "easy Kanji" book since I'd had to quit Japanese lessons before learning kanji, and two Reign: The Conqueror DVDs! The Reign series was not very popular and is pretty difficult to find! I was touched that Jameson remembered these things, which I'd mentioned once, offhand. He's an amazing, thoughtful man.

I had a wonderful birthday. Thank you :)

Friday was another two show split day. It was very rainy, so after the morning show I came back to the train to do laundry and hang out. The yard quickly became a mud puddle. The evening show went well.

Saturday, three shows, well attended. I gave both the Minick trombones a bath. Musicians who live in houses would normally bathe their trombones in the tub. I can count on one hand the number of arenas where I have access to a tub or even a large sink. At this arena the sinks were tiny, but at least there was hot water.

Sunday was of course Super Bowl Sunday! I could care less about football, but the band boys had plans for a party. Our dressing room was on the suite level and has a projector screen in it, sooooooo

While they were getting the party started, I drove to Lucky 32 to meet my aunt for dinner! My schedule this week meant a super short visit, but I was happy to see her at least once before we leave North Carolina. We caught up on various things, and enjoyed an amazing meal (no pictures because I don't like to do that when with family). My aunt has a new job teaching, and seems to be settling into it well. She and my uncle are on a hunt for a new dog, but so far haven't had luck finding a match. I'm sure they'll find the right pooch eventually!!

Before parting ways, my aunt gave me a birthday card and some snacks. Yep, I'm spoiled. Thank you for a wonderful visit Aunt Chris!!

I'm typing this from the band Super Bowl party. Afterward Jameson and I will hit a nearby hotel, then spend tomorrow driving to get close to Atlanta.

Other stuff:

I wasn't the only one celebrating a birthday this week! Joe (crew) got pied as well. HAPPY BIRTHDAY JOE!!!

(photo courtesy Lindsay)

Elephant mouth!!!

(photo courtesy Adria C.)

Bernadette having her hand eaten by Asia(?)

(photo courtesy Bernadette)

A beautiful sunset to see us off.

(photo courtesy Nikki R.)