We were up early on Tax day because it was a travel day to Florida. I was doubly excited because there had been rumblings that we may have the opportunity to visit Walt Disney World. It was confirmed late yesterday that we would, in fact, be doing just that. So Monday became Travel/Walt Disney World Day! I was beyond excited.
The flight to Orlando from O’Hare was great. Sat next to an great girl from Winnipeg, Canada on the flight, who works for the Winnipeg Jets Hockey Team. We had a great time chatting about hockey, puppetry, Canada, travel and life in general. It made the two hour trip fly by. No pun intended. Well, maybe a little.
Upon landing in Orlando we made our way to Walt Disney World and met at Epcot and thanks to the very gracious connections of Tyler Bunch we all got complimentary Park Hopper tickets. It was about 3PM. We began in Epcot and went on Spaceship Earth, Test Track and Mission Space. Then we broke for lunch at The Land in Epcot.
Then Sean Johnson, Dan Ring and I went over to Magic Kingdom. We rode Haunted Mansion and then went to my favorite, The Country Bear Jamboree. Right in front of the Jamboree were several characters including Big Al, who I’ve never seen in person. I was, because I’m insane, wearing my vintage Big Al shirt, so I went up to get a picture with him. I then wound up being dragged by Big Al into a big dance circle. There is video. When I get to regular internet, I may upload it.
After my dance debut, we watched Country Bears. I am not a fan of the edits. They seem disjointed and Dan, who’d never seen it, commented that it just felt like a bunch of random songs. I AM grateful they didn’t take it out.
I will make this one gripe, across from the Country Bear Jamboree is a merchandise kiosk called Big Al’s, named after Big Al from the Country Bear Jamboree. In that merchandise kiosk there is not one, not one, piece of Country Bear Merchandise. Not one. Yeah.
Anyway, we then went on Little Mermaid and ended at the Carousel of Progress. We then had to head back to Epcot to meet up with the rest of the group. We did and in another stroke of fun luck, Brian Clark had a rental car so Sean Johnson and I stayed with Brian for two more hours at Magic Kingdom while everyone else went on to Ocala, Florida.
We headed back over to Magic Kingdom and we did that park. This week was just a perfect time to be at the parks. There were no lines. In the two hours left in the day, Brian and Sean and I did Space Mountain, Mickey’s Philharmagic, Big Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise, Peter Pan and then, with five minutes left during park operating hours, we ran across and went on Space Mountain one more time.
Then, as we were walking towards Main Street, the lights on Main Street went out and the Main Street Electrical Parade was just beginning. After the parade we had a great meal on Main Street and then headed off to Ocala.
Today was just a great day. Just a fantastic day. Just a great case of perfect timing and it made this amazing tour the best tour ever. Much thanks to Tyler Bunch for his contacts, Greg Bellon, our production manager and Brian Clark for making this day possible.
An unexpected trip to Disney World in the middle of a fantastic tour.
This day will be in the top 10 of my best days ever.
We were back on a bus early this morning heading off to Joliet, IL from Milwaukee. The bus ride was nothing major, which if you’ve been reading was a very good thing.
We rolled into Joliet and drove past the Old Joliet Prison, the prison used in the opening credits of The Blues Brothers. Very cool. I put She Caught caught the Katy on the iPhone as we passed. Thought it was appropriate.
Minutes later we were at our accommodations. The Harrah’s Casino Hotel in Joliet. We checked in and I hadn’t had breakfast so I decided to strike out for food. I was much into eating at the Paula Deen kitchen that was in the hotel. I looked up what was around on Yelp and discovered Chicken-N-Spice. Sort of a ‘mom & pop’ version of KFC. It was pretty great. Dan Ring joined me and we had a good lunch.
We walked past the theatre and saw that the Marx Brothers had performed there in the 1930’s. pretty amazing. The theatre outside was beautiful.
We walked back to the hotel and I decided to check out the casino with the eight dollars I had in my pocket. I wandered around looking for something to play and wound up at a video poker machine. Two hands later I was up forth six dollars. Decided that was a good time to call it quits and headed back to my room.
I prepared my bag for the show and headed to the lobby. We walked as a cast and over to the theatre.
The venue was beautiful on the inside and they have a lobby that is just about a city block long. It was impressive. We went into rehearsal and tonight it was going to be a little nerve wracking as I was switching into operating the Henson Digital Puppetry System and Ive Grown Accustomed To Your Face.
I’ve done HDPS before in San Francisco, so I’m more or less okay with that, but Face would be a new one. I was swapping in with Sean Johnson and we were both making our debuts. It was exciting, but as I said, nerve wracking.
I was confident though because on the walls backstage all the previous artists had signed their name and the Oak Ridge Boys had been through here. I felt Grandma Donny would be there in spirit if that was the case.
The show was great. DId a fun New Choice with Peggy about bobsledding. We did an insane Hot Dog bit about a Spelling Bee and Face and HDPS went over great (though there’s room for improvement in both. I’m sure once I have them down pat, it’ll be the last night of the tour and then I won’t do them again for several months to a year.
Alien Barbershop was fun. Lets see if you can guess the topic:
I have hot flashes.
I’m cranky you bet
And when it’s time to get busy
I’m not very….fun.
After the show it was back to the hotel and we all spent some time in the casino. Not too much though as we had to get up early for a flight to Florida. And we were all excited for FLorida because there was a possibility something very cool would happen tomorrow. And it did. But you’ll have to wait and see what it is.
(No editing, just a stream of thought travel diary.)
APRIL 8, 2013
Today was a much anticipated day off. After the rough travel that kicked off our tour most were ready to just chill for a day.
I however love seeing things I’ve never seen, especially history related, So I decided to rent a car and drive into Dallas to see Dealey Plaza. Our wrangler, Sean Johnson decided to join in.
We got there in no time and while we waited for the Sixth Floor museum to open, we walked around the plaza. It’s really fascinating seeing the things you’ve only seen in the Zapruder film in person. It puts the whole event into perspective. We stood on the grassy knoll and I even filmed a little video from the spot where Zapruder stood on that day in 1963.
After exploring all the angles from the Plaza checked out the Museum Cafe & Gift Shop, where you can get yourself a tin of Book Depository breath mints, if you so desire. Fun.
When the Museum opened we went in and tok the 90 Minute audio tour. I really enjoyed it and thought it does a great job of presenting all the information and events that lead up to that day. As you walk through you’re learning all about Kennedy and his administration. Then they start breaking it down…his arrival in Texas, then his arrival in Dallas…then the motorcade. Then suddenly you’re at the sixth floor window. The actual window.
Looking out the window I realized that the shots weren’t as far away as I always thought they were and looking at it, it would be possible for him to make them. It’s pretty powerful and even more so when you realize that Oswald was here. He walked on these floor boards. (The boxes are a recreation, but the floor is legit. Also, you’re not supposed to take pictures. Shhhh….)
Then the museum takes you through the aftermath and the conspiracy theories. They do a really good job, in my opinion, leaving it all open for you to decide. I don’t know if Oswald was in cahoots with anyone else, but seeing the view of the street from the window, I do think it was possible for him to make the shots from there.
We then walked over to the JFK memorial. Pretty unremarkable if you ask me, but was still glad to see it.
Having our fill of conspiracy, we then went for barbecue in Dallas. The place was called Off the Bone and it was pretty good, I ordered the pork and links. The pork was okay but the links were just amazing. I told Sean I was glad we left right after we ate because I was tempted to order more.
We then just drove a bit around Dallas. We tried to see if we could go up in Reunion Tower but couldn’t find parking anywhere. So we drove back downtown and went to Pioneer Plaza and checked out the ‘cattle drive’ sculpture they have and the cemetery behind it where some important figures in early Dallas history are laid to rest. We then walked over to City Hall which is an impressively weird building.
About that time we got a call from Patrick and Peggy who’d taken the train into Dallas and were wondering if we could give them a ride back. We picked them up and then, upon hearing about the Cattle Drive sculpture we doubled back because Peggy had to see it. More pictures with cows were taken. Then we headed back to Fort Worth.
I’ll add it’s eerie driving out of downtown via the same route JFK’s motorcade took. Two white X’s mark the street in the approximate spots where JFK was shot. Again, eerie.
Once back in Fort Worth the plan was made to have dinner and we decided to listen to fellow Stuffed & Unstrunger Michael Oosterom’s suggestion to try Angelo’s Barbecue. A whole big group of us walked the 1.6 miles to the place and it was worth every step. Just fantastically great barbecue. We were all appreciative of Michael’s suggestion and toasted him even though he wasn’t there.
After the walk back, the evening was just sort of chill as people relaxed, not having anything much to do. The travel starts up again in earnest after tomorrow’s show in Fort Worth, but we are ready!
(No editing, just a stream of thought travel diary.)
APRIL 7, 2013
It was with a heavy heart that we had to leave our amazing accommodations in Hamilton, Montana. WIth those great digs and the amazing crowd we had the night before, none of us wanted to head to the airport.
We did however because, dammit, there were more shows to perform. The drive from the cabins to the Missoula airport was pretty great, mainly because we were doing it in the day time as opposed to 4am at night like we had on the way in to Hamilton. Beautiful countryside, lots of cows, sheep and other animals frolicking about in the grass. It was a great ride and out drive, who’s name escapes me, who drove Peggy, Ted & myself, had a great sense of humor and we all four laughed the whole way to Missoula.
Topics of funny included a store we passed with a sign that advertised it’d figured out a way to make ‘Tarping your hay’ easier. Peggy and riffed on just how time consuming tarping your hay is. We then passed a tattoo parlor in Missoula called ‘You Mother’s Nightmare Tattoos.’ Next door was a place called ‘Piercings By Paul.’ The joke then became that you cold get a tattoo and a piercing at the same time thanks to holes in the wall of the tattoo parlor which allowed you to stick the things you’d like pierced through to allow Paul to work his magic. It’s always fun to travel with comedians because the funny just seems to keep rolling along.
We got to the Missoula airport, which was festooned with many taxidermied creatures on all the walls and were soon winging our way to Denver en route to Fort Worth. On the plane from Missoula to Denver, I created a puppet out of one of the barf bags. He visited with Patrick and Peggy who were in the row in front of me. They dubbed him Barf Bag. Minutes later, two sexy girl barf bags appeared over the back of their seats and Barf Bag met the Ho Bags. The woman next to me thought we were out of our minds. We are.
The flight from Denver to Fort Worth was unremarkable. What was remarkable was the bus that was awaiting us upon our arrival to DFW. It was a party bus in all sense of the term. Lights, leather, extremely nice compared to what had come before.
Upon arriving in Fort Worth we checked in and explored the downtown a big. Major construction going on here, but there’s still some great buildings to check out.
Allan, Dan, Tyler, Ted and I had dinner at a place called The Flying Saucer. A pub type place. Not being a drinker it was not my thing and the menu didn’t entice me much. Being in Texas I wanted barbecue, but the place I was recommended to visit in Fort Worth was closed Sundays, so I made do with pub food. It wasn’t bad, I had some bratwurst. It was okay, but not my thing, especially being in one of the barbecue homelands.