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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)

The opening day show went well, although the BMX act had to be cut due to the ice under our feet leaking up through the rubber. It happens. My friend Michelle was there with her nephew, and it looks like they had a great time!

On Thursday and Friday we only had one show. I was grateful because thanks to the crazy weather changes I've come down with something-or-other and could use the extra rest. More cooking and laundry, and preparing for the upcoming 3-4 day train run to Lincoln by making sure I've got plenty of food and cash for Pie Car.

Saturday, three shows. For the morning show, circus fan Dan and his wife came to see us and visit with animal crew. After the show we had a few minutes to meet up and chat. Here we are along with Benny Ibarra, who performs the "Wheel of Death" act.

(photo courtesy Dan)

Dan and his wife very generously brought us some big cans of Virginia nuts! Seriously, if you have never had peanuts or cashews grown in VA you are missing out. Definitely the highest quality you can find. Thank you Dan!! (Fun fact: the peanuts were from Whitley, a brand I used to sell when I worked for a candy shop in Williamsburg, VA. I always used to wonder what they tasted like! And now I know!!)

For the second show I had some family friends come take a backstage tour! Ben, Karen, and their daughter Melody. I showed them all the usual props, and there were even some camels hanging out so we got to take some photos! Everyone had fun :)

Sunday was a two show day. I came in early to pick up some treats from Hershey Park for Slick Sunday (Slick Sunday is a band tradition. On any Sunday where the train doesn't move, someone brings in donuts). Instead of the traditional donuts I got a tray of Hershey bake shoppe minis! Yum!

Then I had a visit from a new friend that I recently met online, she had read my blog and wanted to meet me in person. Very cool! I kidnapped her backstage briefly before the show. Nice to meet you Kristen!

Between shows I had time to kill, so decided to visit the animal open house. Here in Hershey it's outdoors and in the middle of a big lot slightly below concourse level, so it's easier to take good pictures that show the size of the whole compound.

(photo courtesy Robert S.)

Here is a short video that I took of the tiger run. It was pretty hot out...I had hoped to catch the tigers playing in their pool. But they were all sleeping in the shade as big cats are wont to do (they sleep for something like 15 hours per day!).

Another photo of the tigers' space:

I took this to show the transport cages (those black ones on the left) sitting next to the tiger run. Transport cages are used to safely move the tigers from their run to the arena and back, and also to move them to their trailer when it's time to go to the next city.

...and yes, I took this so that everyone can see we don't keep the tigers in dippy little cages :P You can also see that there are plenty of people walking around. Good on them for taking the time to come in early and get a good look at the animals!

Here's another video of the camels, just because <3 camels. As I was standing there taking video and photos, one of the handlers came over and told me that they were eating a vitamin supplement from that thing on the ground. They REALLY seemed to enjoy the taste, and spent some serious time sucking on their vitamins.

Interestingly, the animal activists were stationed quite close to the open house. So close that if they had just taken about five steps to their right, they would have been able see the compound from this viewpoint:

Oh well. If you don't want to see, I guess you just close your eyes.

Monday was of course Memorial Day. I was excited to have many friends and family in the audience, including my Uncle Mike, who served in the US Army and Reserves for 26 years(!) Since the train is so much closer to the arena this year, I invited my aunt and uncle and their friends to take a train tour! I showed them my room, the Pie car and the generator car. Sometimes I forget what a weird living situation I am in until I have visitors. Then I remember that yeah, it's weird to flush your toilet with a foot pedal.

After the tour we went to the arena where they visited the animals while I got changed into costume. Then it was time for a backstage tour! We saw Pie Car Jr., some circus acrobats working on their moves, a 16lb costume, and some super exciting dressing rooms (haha). It was so cool to have people backstage who were excited and interested in everything that they saw. I had a great time and everyone else did too! Thank you all for coming out. And thank you, Uncle Mike, for your service. <3

I also got to briefly visit with the Salsgiver family. Mr. Salsgiver was a pastor at my family's church way back in the day. It's been YEARS since I've seen him and his wife and son, and it was wonderful to reconnect and get a sense of how everyone's doing. Their son now has a child of his own, a cute young man named Mason. He loved his tiger makeup so much, he wanted to keep it on for school the next day!

(photo courtesy Brent S.)

My friend Maria and her family and friends were also at that show, but unfortunately I didn't have enough time to come say hello before the show started :/ Still, I'm happy that you were there Maria, and I hope you had a wonderful time!

While we were waiting for the show to start, it dawned on me that we had been waiting for quite a bit longer than usual. A few minutes after making this observation, I saw Dean (clown) get called down from his normal spot in the rigging and go racing off backstage. Dean is our Ringmaster understudy. In other words, our Ringmaster was missing! After another delay as Dean got into costume, the show went on without a hitch. Dean must have been sweating bullets, having been called to task so suddenly. But he did a fantastic job! You see, people? Clowns are PROFESSIONALS. Respect the clowns :o)

(photo courtesy Jameson)

And our Ringmaster is fine by the way. Good job everyone!

After the show I packed up and said goodbye to Jameson. He's traveling overland to see some baseball games along with some friends. Then my aunt's crew took me for dinner at Fuddrucker's. It was great fun sitting at a big long table with that rowdy bunch! We talked about the circus of course, but I also got to hear about my uncle's plumbing job (some pretty "interesting" stories that I won't share here lol!).

When we were finished eating we parted ways, and my aunt graciously dropped me back at the train. She gave me a pretty awesome gift: a huge Gertrude Hawk gift basket! I was to share it with train crew, as they've had a pretty awful week. Thank you so much, my family. <3

Now I'm settling in for a VERY long train run to Lincoln, NE. Everything about this is new. From what I understand, this circus hasn't played Lincoln in at least the past 50 years!! So it's a new city, new train yard, new crowd. How exciting! On top of that I've never been on this particular train run as I normally opt to stay with family for a few extra days before flying out. From now on the circus will be out west until the fall. Off we go!

Other stuff:

It looks like the city of Pittsburgh pulled it together to try and keep circuses in town. If you haven't been following this story, a local dentist drafted a proposal that would ban circuses based on the assumption that all circuses abuse animals. Yes, a dentist, accusing ALL circuses of animal abuse and trying to have them banned from the city of Pittsburgh. This is the kind of nonsense circuses like Ringling have to spend their time and money fighting in court. Fortunately, the city council held a public hearing and the courtroom was packed with animal specialists and Shriners who showed up to defend circuses and their treatment of their animals. The results aren't in yet but it's great that the circus at least had some public backing this time instead of having to fight alone. Thank you Pittsburgh.

An update on the Blue Unit's show build down in Florida. Ice skates on stilts??? WOW!!!

This week we were on hockey ice underneath the circus's rubber flooring. A few times water from the ice leaked up through the rubber and prevented the BMX act from going on (because safety first!). Here's a photo of the high wire anchor, which could only be set after drilling through like three inches of ice!
(Yes Blue Unit, we know. This is nothing. :P)

Not sure why these high wire guys and strongmen were racing. Who cares it's fun :)

Tiger foot <3


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 18th, 2016 01:43 am (UTC)
Wow! Those are some big toes on that Kitteh!
Jun. 18th, 2016 05:04 am (UTC)
Yeah! Their paws are HUGE!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )