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Before heading to Pittsburgh we visited a really awesome museum: The Strong Museum of Play! It's only a few blocks from the Rochester arena! Never knew!

The Strong Museum is primarly a children's museum, featuring a lot of play areas, a small library, and lots of hands-on exhibits. We were there on Halloween day and there was a special trick-or-treat event for toddlers. We saw lots of cute kids in adorable costumes!

But the real reason we were there is because the Strong Museum houses thousands of video games. The entire second floor is like a giant arcade. Some games are free, others require tokens, either way it's a great time. Most of the games are not on display, but are held in the archives and rotated out into the display cases every once in a while. When you've got tens of thousands of items it's hard to show them all at once! Here are some of the vintage gaming systems we got to see.

Game Boy, of course!

An Apple II computer, complete with floppy disk drives. (Yeah that link is for you Millenials who never experienced the "joys" of a piece of wax paper that held 0.5k data and could be erased with a fridge magnet :P)

This is pretty cool, it's a Nintendo cartridge specifically designed for gaming competitions. The parameters of the games can be controlled by the chip in the upper left. Supposedly these are quite rare and go on eBay for thousands. Cool!

This is one of those ET games that was ditched in a landfill after losing tons of money for Atari (it was a news story a few years ago when they dug 'em back up).

This is just a small sampling of what we saw. In addition to video games, there were displays of board games, puzzles, dolls, and other types of toys.

We found a giant Battleship board and played a game. I won!

That's ok, he won at two player Tetris later on :)
We bought tokens and played a whole bunch of old arcade games like Duck Shooter, Paper Boy, Donkey Kong, Mortal Kombat...all the classics. There was a whole room full of pinball machines too! We killed several hours here enjoying ourselves and still didn't see everything. I hope we'll get to come back again!

After our adventure we drove to Pittsburgh and had a taste of the local specialty: Primanti Bros. "almost famous" sandwiches! Their claim to fame is these huge sandwiches piled high with a meat (or two or three) of your choice, cole slaw, cheese, french fries, and tomatoes, sandwiched between two thick slices of white Italian bread. At first these look too big to bite, but the bread is really fluffy and squishes down nice and flat when you squeeze it. Not the healthiest thing in the world, but it's very tasty. Everyone should try one at least once!

The next day the train had arrived so we found the yard. This one's easy to locate because it's right across from a prison and under a large trestle bridge. As we pulled in and started unpacking, we saw that our flatcars (the ones with all of our stuff, not passenger cars) were not yet spotted. In fact, they were on the bridge over our heads. Kinda cool to see.

By the time we got back from the gym the flats had been spotted and were being unloaded. Once the flats are empty, here's what they look like:

It's usually only in Mexico and here in Pittsburgh that we have the flats between coaches like this in the yards. Circus people tend to use the flats as a place to hang out, or walk on them to get from one end of the train to the other. Train crew can ride small tractors on the flats to do their rounds on the train.

The next day was a dark day, but at night we had our annual end-of-tour party. Well, this time around it won't be the end of the tour, so what do we call this? End of year party I guess!

As usual there were many wonderful circus folks willing to share their special talents with us. Julia (clown) sang a gorgeous Sara Bareilles balad, it was probably my favorite of the whole evening. Krisztina (camel presenter) also showed off her incredible voice by singing not one but TWO power ballads. There are some circus kids who participate in a jiu jitsu class run by one of the dancers, and they put on a display of their skills with the help of a few hapless adults.

The traditional year end awards were given out as well: Steve (camel handler) got the Golden Shovel, Evelyn (pie car) got the Golden Spatula. Nixon (concessions) got the Ringling Fixture award, Claudia (wardrobe) got Biggest Heart. One of the Mongolian strongmen got the Greek God award, and a lovely Mongolian couple, Dashka Dashii and Binderiya Batsaikhan, got the Ringling Sweethearts award. Joshua (wardrobe) got the Fashionista award in the men's category. David Shipman (ringmaster) got the Nablo of the Year award for letting his dog escape and run around in the show during Finale. And there were many more awards, I'm sorry I don't remember them all. Great job everyone!!

The food was great and everyone seemed to have a lot of fun hanging out, dancing, and taking pictures. Around the tables were scattered various photos featuring the history of Ringling Bros. Looking at them made me thoughtful about what the circus was like, and what it will be like, in a year, in five years, in ten. I hope I get to find out.

That same night, as everyone knows, was the World Series in baseball. My sweetheart Jameson is a hardcore Cubs fan, so he was extremely distracted for the entire party...in fact the only reason he showed up at all was because he was playing piano for Julia. As soon as he was finished he took off to go watch the game. After the party I joined him, walking into the room right when the Indians scored a home run and tied the game. Ooooops. I watched for a little while, then during the rain delay decided that I must be bad luck and left. And whaddya know, they won!

(photo courtesy Jameson)

Thursday was opening day. During the opening day meeting it was announced that we'd have some extra rehearsals coming up, and a new ringmaster! A young lady named Kristen! She may very well be the first female ringmaster in Ringling's history! Exciting stuff! The show went well and was well attended compared to recent shows in other cities.

On Friday we had one show in the evening. I had some errands to run throughout the day, including mailing off my absentee ballot. I received it quite late and am not sure that it will be counted...but I hope so. This is my first time voting, I'm a little ashamed to admit.

After my errands there was a little time to kill, so I visited a local luggage shop to search for a new backpack. My old backpack has been dependable for the past four years, but now the leather bottom has a hole in it that's only getting bigger, and there are other holes in the bag and straps as well. There's not much shopping in downtown Pittsburgh so the luggage store was my only real option, but I was pleasantly surprised at how many backpack options they had. My backpack goes with me EVERYWHERE, 24/7, so I decided to invest in something with a warranty that will last a while. And also make me look less like an incoming freshman.

The Friday evening show went well. I noticed lots of little changes here and there, implemented by Rye Mullis, one of our directors who will be preparing our show for continuation through 2017. Interesting.

Saturday we had three shows. It's strange to think that this is the first three-show Saturday we've had in a while. Attendance was OK. All of the shows went smoothly considering the changes being made.

On Sunday we only had one show at 2pm. It was daylight savings and I was happy to have that extra hour of sleep! I spent the morning packing and writing this post. Our single Sunday show went well, and afterward we hit the road for a few hours, ending up in Cleveland. As we pulled into our hotel we suddenly realized we'd been here before...a year ago, on our way to Toledo! And we remembered a fabulous burger bar nearby called The Rail. Dinner! Just like last time, the burgers were amazing. Beautifully cooked, awesome drinks and sides as well.

Now it's time to relax. And then it's Auburn Hills...but not the end of the tour...

Other stuff:

Ryan Henning (animal specialist) took this adorable photo of our tigers this week. This is what circus tigers normally do: sleep, play, enjoy each other's company. Don't be fooled by the sign-wavers out front yelling about chains and torture. See for yourself. Also, tigers naturally sleep for 15 or more hours per day.

(photo courtesy Ryan H.)

You may have noticed that I tend to post fewer photos of the animals when there is not a public Animal Open House. This is because, like people, animals need and deserve time to themselves. I try to respect the animals by not infringing on their space at every opportunity (and I do have a LOT of opportunity). Here is a photo of the tiger tent from the outside, taken from the arena's back steps. The tent was rented for the tigers' comfort, as there was not enough space inside the arena for all of the animals this week. The tent is climate controlled, and as you can see by the fancy chandeliers it is probably normally used for human purposes.

A friend of mine got to visit the CEC this week as part of the National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA) conference. I was thrilled to see some of our Red Unit elephants in her photos! Here's April, Mable and Asia together, I was very happy to see them together as Mable and Asia had been especially close. April is the one sitting in the monster truck tire, lol.

I am not entirely certain, but I THINK this is Siam..? A little hard for a bystander like me to tell from this distance, but her ears and body shape seem similar to me. Someone help me out here.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 12th, 2016 01:44 am (UTC)
We love the SMoP. We live about half an hour away and the kids always have a blast when we go, but I think it's a fun place for kids and adults.
Nov. 12th, 2016 07:21 pm (UTC)
Awesome! We definitely enjoyed it and plan to go back the next time we're in town :)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )