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Circus Xtreme Dark Week

As mentioned last week, this week is a rare mid-season break for the Red Unit. On Sunday after the last shows, everyone scattered to the winds. Some went home to be with family (and for some of our performers, that means flights home to Mongolia or Russia!) while others took vacations and excursions. I hope everyone has fun and comes back safely!

Jameson and I decided to go to Chicago for the week, to stay with his parents. We drove partway on Sunday, and the rest of the way on Monday. Partway through the drive I got notice that USPS had tried to deliver my trombone to Jameson's parent's condo, and had failed. Oh wait...you're probably wondering, "What trombone?"

Well, about a week ago a member of the trombone forum asked if I'd be interested in a trombone that he was selling. This wasn't just any trombone. It's a Williams model 6.

I won't bore you with too much history, but here's the basics. Earl Williams was an instrument maker who opened shop around 1930. He teamed up with Spike Wallace, who at the time was the principal trombonist of the LA Philharmonic. They made horns together up until around 1940, at which point they parted ways. Earl continued to make his own horns until World War II began and he was contracted to a factory for war production. After the war, Earl was able to buy large quantities of brass from the US government. He opened up shop in LA and continued making horns by hand. His work was in high demand from the famous trombonists of that era. In 1958 he moved his shop to Burbank, and there continued to make trombones until his death in 1971.

Even though Earl had others working in his shop with him, all of his horns were still made by hand, so there are a limited number of them out there. In addition, these horns are extremely high quality and produce a unique sound that can't be found in any other brand of trombone. For these reasons, Williams trombones are still in high demand. The model 6 is one of the most popular models, and it's the same size as the horns I currently play in the show. This one was in excellent condition, came in the original case, and had only two previous owners. I decided that an opportunity like this wouldn't present itself again. Knowing that we were about to have a week off, I had the trombone sent to Chicago, where Jameson's parents graciously agreed to receive it.

After a frustrating several hours trying to get USPS to deliver the horn, we realized that it wasn't going to happen, so Jameson's dad offered to go pick it up (thank you!!!). So it was waiting for me when we arrived!

I don't want to bombard you with photos, so if you'd like to see more pics here they are. The trombone came with other items from 1960s tromboning, including several mutes, a trombone stand, and a vintage water spray bottle. Cool!! I cleaned it up and played it just a little...the slide is fantastic and it sounds fantastic, I can't wait to play it in an arena and really take it for a spin!

But for now, it's vacation! The next morning all four of us got up and went to the gym on the condo's bottom floor. After a great workout we were very hungry, so we got cleaned up and took the red line to Crosby's Kitchen. Jameson's mom had seen it on a PBS show, and the food looked great. And it was! One of the appetizers we'd seen on the show was lobster deviled eggs. And BOY were they just as delicious as they looked! If you come here, get these. SO good.

For my meal I got a rotisserie chicken sandwich that was top notch. I didn't take a picture because I was eating :P At one point I noticed that Jameson & family were getting excited about someone sitting nearby. I discreetly asked what was up. Turns out Jason Hammel was sitting directly behind Jameson's dad!

He seemed to be there with some family, so we didn't bother him. Pretty cool though! The Cubs did have a game that night, so perhaps he was having a nice meal before heading over to Wrigley Field.

After our meal that's where we went too! Jameson wanted to take me to Wrigleyville, a sports shop selling all-Cubs merchandise across from the stadium. Because the next day we were going to see a Cubs game, so I needed to be properly dressed! I'm not a sports fan, but we're in Chicago after all! Jameson treated me to a cool Cubs shirt. Thank you sweetheart!

Then we returned to the condo to relax.

The next day we decided to have a picnic lunch on Lake Michigan! We drove along the lake looking for a good place while Mr. and Mrs. Boyce pointed out various sights along the way. Eventually we found a good spot on a rock wall where the water lapped against the shore. What a beautiful place to enjoy a meal!

After eating we packed up, then went for a walk along the actual beach (with sand and all). There was a dog-friendly beach nearby so we decided to go watch the pups running and playing in the water. It was pretty cool! You don't often get to see dogs running full tilt, but here there were all kinds of dogs chasing balls and each other!

We returned to the condo for a brief rest, then got changed into our Cubs shirts and made our way over to Wrigley Field. It was cool and clear out, a beautiful night for a game!
The Cubs were playing the Reds. We were in the outfield across from the scoreboard, which is still the old-fashioned kind operated by people. Neat :) We enjoyed lots of ballpark snacks, like Chicago dogs and ice cream served in baseball caps. A few foul balls flew our way, but nothing came that close...until this awesome home run went shooting past and right out of the park! Jameson found a screenshot of us craning to see it:

In case you're wondering why Mrs. Boyce doesn't appear in any photos, she hates having her picture taken :P
The Cubs won 9 to 2, and immediately after the winning pitch everyone started singing. Crazy and kinda cool!

We had a great time. Thanks Boyces!

Thursday was another day of adventure! Instead of the gym, we decided to walk to Eataly, an Italian specialty grocery. We've been here before and it was awesome. This time was equally awesome! We ate lunch at one of the many restaurants inside. Mrs. Boyce and I got the gnocchi. As you can see it's not traditional gnocchi (this is Roman-style), but it was very good! Thanks to the addition of spirulina, the texture was similar to that of grits. It was rich and delicious.

Afterward Jameson and I indulged in some house-made gelato. He had banana with chocolate swirls, and I had elderberry. Yum! After Mrs. Boyce had found everything she needed for dinner later in the week, we made our way back to the condo. We walked five miles total. Yay! And it was just as well, because for dinner we had reservations at Duck Duck Goat! It's a fairly new restaurant run by the same amazing people behind Little Goat Diner. This one has Chinese family-style cuisine. We enjoyed some dumpling appetizers, an octopus cucumber salad, "forbidden goat" black rice with quail eggs, "silver needle" noodles with clams and bacon, grilled shrimp, and crispy pork belly. Everything was delicious and very flavorful. I didn't take pictures because a) too dim and b) family style, I'm not going to make everyone wait while I take pics!!

Friday morning we all got up and hit the gym (if you're gonna eat like this, you gotta work for it!), then we went for burgers at The Burger Point (undoing all our hard work haha). I got "the classic", pretty straightforward burger, with a potato curl skewer seasoned with salt and vinegar. Crazy good.

After that we returned to the condo to watch the Cubs game and relax before our evening activity: Escape the Room Zombie Challenge!!! We arrived a few minutes early to get signed in. Our room was sold out, meaning it was the four of us plus eight other people. Like other "escape the room" adventures, there were many locks that we'd have to open and puzzles to solve before we could escape our room. Unlike other challenges, this one locked us in a room with a zombie! He was chained to the wall, but his chain would get longer every five minutes. If he or his chain touched anyone, they'd be "out", still able to participate verbally but unable to move from a certain spot in the room. There was also an actor playing a doctor in the room, to observe us at our work.

Jameson was fantastic. He was all over the room, gathering clues, unlocking boxes, totally busting tail to get us out of there. The rest of us tried to keep up! We did a good job of going over the whole room. It was a little confusing sometimes with so many people all talking at once, but somehow we did manage to communicate and solve most of the locks in the room. The zombie heckled us an awful lot, and chased us around. It was really distracting, but fun! He got one girl, and I think none of us realized it until near the end of the challenge when she was standing against the wall and yelling ideas at the rest of us. Darn!

The final challenge was certainly difficult, it involved clues from all over the room and required us to listen to each other and collaborate. One of our teammates unlocked the final lock, and it was a satisfying feeling to walk out that door alive and unbitten!! Go Team Survivor!!!

(photo courtesy Room Escape Adventures Chicago)

After we escaped, the "doctor" gave us a summary of how we'd done, complete with personal profiles (this kind of thing is used by companies for teambuilding). Jameson was bestowed the title of Leader! No surprise there! I was the Organizer, Mr. Boyce was the Collaborator, and Mrs. Boyce's was something like the Bringer-together-er haha! Anyway we all played a role in the escape, and we had an awesome time!

We had just enough time to go to a late dinner at the Gage, a nice restaurant a few blocks away. Awesome food and drinks, no pics because this was an upscale place. Tasty end to an exciting evening!

On Saturday we got up early to hit a local farmers market. I got a small bottle of honey while Jameson's parents shopped for produce. We enjoyed breakfast at Little Goat, a favorite spot for all of us, sister restaurant to Duck Duck Goat where we went on Thursday. I had grape pancakes, they were delicious! Then we went home for a quick nap before the Cubs game. It was a nice chill day.

On Sunday we were able to sleep in, that felt very nice. We decided to take a day off from the gym. I'm going to do a little bragging here for Jameson...so far he has lost EIGHT pounds!! All that hard work is paying off. His goal is only a few pounds away. Great job sweetheart! We ate lunch at Portillo's (local hot dog joint) and stopped at Whole Foods for dinner items, then it was back to chilling out! For dinner we went to Umai, a popular sushi spot. We started with a sashimi appetizer. Mrs. Boyce is holding the chopsticks and that's the closest I may ever come to taking her photo!!

I wanted to try something a little different, so opted for the katsu don. I've never had it before. It was delicious! The pork was tender and juicy, the seasonings reminded me of hearty chicken soup. There was no way I could eat it all (GIANT bowl), but it was very good.

Well, as you can tell, it's been a week full of delicious food and awesome adventures for Jameson and I! I feel very spoiled! I'm also very glad we've continued going to the gym almost every day while we were here!! We have two more days of enjoying Chicago, then it's back to the circus in Grand Rapids, MI!

Other stuff:

Jameson's parents have two dogs, Addison and Mo. Mo is a cute fuzzy little dude, but he's a daddy's boy and doesn't care for me too much :P Addison on the other hand is like my big fuzzy niece! She loves to hold my hands in her mouth (even though she's not supposed to) and bother me first thing in the morning. Cutie!

Back at the train, a lot of work is being done to our broken generator. CAT trucks are lining up to get started.

(photo courtesy Nikki R.)

Old generator being taken out.

Empty generator car:

New generator going in:

(all photos courtesy Tim R.)

Nikki on train crew captured this amazing reddish rainbow that appeared at sunrise, as the train was getting ready to depart Kansas City. Wow!!