Cross-Country Road Trip, Week 1.

Day One: Huntington Beach, CA. to Scottsdale, AZ.

It was an exhausting morning getting out of Huntington Beach. I had to switch rental cars, which ended up taking longer than I had planned, and I had to thoroughly clean my rental apartment before leaving – which in retrospect, I shouldn’t have done, seeing as I am still only getting half of my cleaning deposit back. Ah, well. I got on the road around 10:30am, and it took a while to get out of Orange County. I couldn’t wait to get out of the city and onto an open stretch of highway. Luckily I eventually did pass through Indio and on through Joshua Tree towards Arizona. It was funny to see the saguaro cacti again – very deja vu. Wasn’t I just here? I reached Scottsdale in the late afternoon and after a dinner at Claim Jumper, settled in for the night.

Arizona, we meet again!

Arizona, we meet again!

Day 2: Scottsdale, AZ. to Las Cruces, NM.

Another fairly easy drive – I left Scottsdale around 10am and headed east. Before too long I was back in Tucson, where I just was three weeks ago! As I drove through the city, I decided to pull over and get some gas, and in the distance I could see the Aircraft Boneyard. Ryan and I had driven by the Boneyard on our last day in Tucson three weeks before, and didn’t have time to stop. The sight of all those thousands and thousands of old planes just sitting there on acres and acres of land was quite stunning, and I really wanted to get a few photos. I decided to drive by quickly and try to get a few snaps. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any good place to pull over and get out of the car, so I had to make do with some shots through the car window. One day I will get back to Tucson and properly walk through the Boneyard!

Parts of the afternoon drive were quite stunning. New Mexico is just so beautiful. In the early afternoon, big puffy clouds filled the blue skies, but as the day went on, the clouds got bigger and darker and lower, and later in the afternoon I found myself driving through some pretty spectacular thunderstorms. It would have been kind of beautiful if I hadn’t been so freaked out that I was going to get struck by lightning! I made it safely to the hotel, though, around 6pm, and lucked out by being given a two-bedroom apartment at the Towne Place Suites as I am a platinum Marriott member. Woohoo!

Airplane carcasses at the Aircraft Boneyard in Tucson

Airplane carcasses at the Aircraft Boneyard in Tucson

Day 3: Las Cruces, NM. to San Antonio, TX.

A long, long drive this day across I-10, which was surprisingly beautiful. I thought it would be barren and dusty, but it was actually quite green with some beautiful rock formations. I was thrilled to see that the speed limit along that stretch of I-10 was 80 mph! Yes! I made really good time in part because of that, and in part because I didn’t see a single highway patrol car all day. In Arizona, the highway patrol were everywhere, and if not a live cop, then a parked car with a camera. I must have seen at least 20 highway patrol cars the day before, so it was nice not seeing ANY once I passed into Texas.

It rained most of the afternoon, but the driving was fine, and no scary lightning! I reached San Antonio around 7pm, having passed through a whole time zone that day! My hotel was on the Riverwalk, but I was too tired to venture out.  I ordered in food and settled in for the evening.

A dreary day in Texas

A dreary day in Texas

Day 4: San Antonio, TX. to Houston, TX.

A nice sleep in and an easy drive to Houston from San Antonio. There was even time to stop at a yarn store before heading to the hotel 🙂 I checked into the Hyatt downtown and had a nice afternoon and evening in, relaxing. That night I met up with my dear friends Fran and Tanya for drinks at the hotel bar. They are both working on the “Mary Poppins” tour which is playing the Hobby Center in Houston. Fran toured with me on “Spamalot” in 2007 and Tanya and I have known each other since our early twenties when we were both working as stage managers in the Bay Area. I love both those girls to death.

Houston skyline, as seen from my hotel room window

Houston skyline, as seen from my hotel room window

Day 5: Houston

A lovely day off with no driving! I slept in and then met up with Fran and Tanya for lunch and some thrift shopping. We had a great afternoon, catching up, laughing and making some good purchases. I scored a handful of vintage dress patterns at an antique store for a dollar apiece! That night I went to see “Mary Poppins” (which was really good!) and then went to the opening night party with Fran and Tanya. They both came and hung out with me after the party in my hotel room while I packed. It was hard saying goodbye to them both – I love them both so much!

Fran

Fran

Tanya

Tanya

Day 6: Houston, TX. to Wichita, KS.

Probably my hardest day of driving so far – it was a long day, 600 miles of driving, and I was tired from staying up late. Now I was headed north from Texas. I pulled over at one point to take a cat nap at a rest stop and felt much better. It was frustrating driving in Texas – there was lots of traffic and numerous road closures – I was very happy to see the “Welcome to Oklahoma” sign! I was also relieved to be off the hugely massive wide Texas freeways and onto the smaller midwestern highways. It was a really pretty drive through Oklahoma and Kansas – the sunset was especially beautiful that night. I got to the Candlewood in Wichita close to 8pm and tumbled into bed early – time to catch up on some much-needed sleep!

A long, long day of driving

A long, long day of driving

Day 7: Wichita, KS. to Saint Paul, MN.

Another long drive – another 600 miles. I began listening to the new Dan Brown novel “The Lost Symbol” and became totally engrossed in the story, which made the day pass fairly quickly. As I drove through Iowa and into Minnesota, the temperatures kept dropping, and the leaves on the trees changed into all varieties of bright autumnal colors – finally, fall! I had to laugh when I recognized a shopping center outside Kansas City with a Cracker Barrel and Walmart that we had stopped at for a dinner break during a tour bus ride from Fayetteville to Des Moines last year with “Spamalot”.  That says something about how much traveling I have done on the country’s highways when I recognize specific Cracker Barrels!

I arrived in Saint Paul around 6:30pm, and had a quick dinner at Chili’s before heading back to the hotel for a restful evening.

Signs of approaching winter in Minnesota

Signs of approaching winter in Minnesota

Tomorrow, a shorter drive to Wisconsin, to Ryan’s, where I will be until Friday! Almost 3000 miles of driving under my belt in one week – whew! I’m ready for a few days off!

22 Weeks, 22 Cities

This week marks the end of a very, very long stretch of one-week stops. Twenty-two to be exact, making the last day off – free of travel and work, way back in January when we were in Boston. I went on vacation that week, so my Mexico trip was the last time I had any time off. That was six months ago!

Traveling to a new city every week has had its ups and downs. On the one hand, we were able to explore a variety of cities that we may not ever had had the chance to visit, if not for this tour schedule. We were also able to play at some amazing theaters around the country, and meet some really nice people along the way. We were able to experience a true touring gypsy life – which some accustomed to better than others, but I think  in the end, we all feel pretty proud of ourselves, regardless, from having made it through.

On the downside, packing every Sunday got to be a drag – both packing up the show, and packing up our own suitcases. The travel between the shorter jumps was fairly easy – the overnight bus rides were fun and convenient. But in the last few weeks, when the stops have been further apart, all the air travel has been a drag. The schedule has also been unfortunate in that you can never stock up on groceries (well, too many groceries), because you can never finish them all on a one week stop. That is one thing to really look forward to on the longer stops – a stocked fridge – that you might actually finish!

Tallulah has been a sainted kitty throughout all the moves. She only had one spiteful episode (peeing on my suitcase in Nashville), but other than hiding under the bed every travel day – she has been the best-behaved, most adaptive and loving little puss on the planet. She is a rock star.

So to recap – here are some of the highlights of Spam Tour’s “Trail of Tears”:

PROVIDENCE: We said goodbye to Michael and Jeff, our original King and Patsy. The girls sent them off right with a hilarious game show-edition shot night. We also enjoyed the diner truck which parked late night behind our hotel.

Jeff and Michael's final shot night

Jeff and Michael's final shot night

HERSHEY: Brad Bradley made his debut as Patsy, with Chris Gurr assuming the role of the King. We had a blast at Chocolate World, and were welcomed with open Italian arms at Fenicci’s.

Waiting to see the 3D movie at Chocolate World

Waiting to see the 3D movie at Chocolate World

NASHVILLE: We visited the Opry, hung at the honky-tonk’s on Broadway, and celebrated Patrick’s birthday. Julie Barnes made her debut as the Lady of the Lake, as both Esther and Lyn were out. Cara Cooper joined us to take over Sabra’s track.
Julie's debut as the Lady of the Lake

Julie's debut as the Lady of the Lake

JACKSONVILLE: Hometown of Patrick and Keith Reese. Was lovely seeing Keith’s smiling face around the show again. Adam Souza assumed the maestro’s baton as Ben began his leave of absence.

Also, Gary Beach joined us, and began rehearsals to take over the role of the King.

Adam as Ben at sound check

Adam as Ben at sound check

FORT MYERS: Where we were re-introduced to “Crawdaddy”, a strange crawfish-loving keyboard player who had first played with us back in Naples. Most of this week was spent doing taxes with Trudy!

Crawdaddy!

Crawdaddy!

MIAMI: Gary made his debut as the King, we had an awesome anniversary party for the show at the Raleigh Hotel on Miami Beach. It was a generally happy week spent on the beach – oh, and quite a few people got tattoos. Sadly, we said goodbye to Jeff Klein, our associate company manager, and welcomed his replacement, David.
Original Spam Tour members at the 2-year anniversary party

Original Spam Tour members at the 2-year anniversary party

WEST PALM BEACH: We had a big photo call at work, and spent much of the week around the gorgeous shopping center near the theater. Ryan and I stayed at a very cute pool house, as did other members of the company.
Gary and Esther - one of my shots from the photo call

Gary and Esther - one of my shots from the photo call

CLEARWATER: One word – O’Boobigans! We sent Lee Appleton, our drummer, off in style with a party at an Irish bar/Hooters called O’Boobigans. Crawdaddy returned, and great controversy began when one of his lobster puppets mysteriously disappeared…
Lee, Ryan, Lobster Puppet, Keith and Crawdaddy

Lee, Ryan, Lobster Puppet, Keith and Crawdaddy

ORLANDO: We said a tearful goodbye to Julie Barnes, whose going-away party was at a fun tiki bar downtown. Some people ventured to Disney – I enjoyed our Extended Stay Deluxe and stayed in most of the week, with the exception of a walk around the cute shopping area of Winter Park. This was Vera’s last week before her leave. On our final Sunday in Orlando, some clean-shaven faces showed up to work to kick off the Beard Contest!
Julie at her going-away party

Julie at her going-away party

BIRMINGHAM: Probably one of the least favorite stops on the tour. Sort of a depressed, run-down city. There was the trolley that took you to Five Points where you could get pancakes at the Original Pancake House, otherwise you were stuck with Subway. I think everyone ODed on Subway that week. Bree Branker made her debut, and David Havasi began rehearsals. We also had a visit from Casey, our choreographer. Probably the highlight of the week, was the man-o-vator at the theater…
Patrick on the man-o-vator

Patrick on the man-o-vator

GREENVILLE: A surprisingly cute town! We all ate our faces off at the myriad restaurants on Main Street, a vast contrast from Birmingham the week before. There was lots of hiking and park-going, and Brian O’Brien’s farewell pub crawl was truly awesome. We also had the best stage management office we’ve ever had – walls lined with windows overlooking the river. Lovely.
Brian makes a new friend on the pub crawl

Brian makes a new friend on the pub crawl

RALEIGH: It was Jonathan Brody’s final week – we had a cajun dinner hosted by Piper to send him off. Not too much doing in Raleigh – some shopping at the mall across from the Candlewood, and some photo-taking of all the old, old houses. There was also an evening of Cornhole at a local bar, which was quite fun. David Havasi made his debut in Brian’s old track. There was a big blow-up among the chorus boys over some ridiculousness that sort of clouded this week.
Taking pictures at an old cemetery in Raleigh

Taking pictures at an old cemetery in Raleigh

DAYTON: Probably second only to Birmingham in general ass-iness. The theater was big and new and nice, and if you ventured over to the Oregon District, there was an area of cuteness, with cool shops and restaurants, but downtown was rather barren. We spent most nights at a bar called J-Alan’s, which Ken dubbed “The Hootennanny”. Terry and Patrick both did open mic performances there. Rick Costa made his debut this week in Jonathan’s old track. Oh, and who could forget Tony’s masterful win in the Beard Contest!
Patrick at open mic night at the "Hootenanny"

Patrick at open mic night at the Hootenanny

MILWAUKEE: Pubs, pubs, and more pubs. That’s how I remember Milwaukee. The art museum building was stunning to see. We said farewell to Piper with another pub crawl, this one in a party bus. Piper and Julie leaving were big blows – it was hard to lose those two girls – I miss them! Milwaukee was also the debut of “Duckie” – Tera-Lee performing a male ensemble track.

Cuz and Piper at her going-away

Cuz and Piper at her going-away

APPLETON: Ryan’s home local! I had fun visiting his house that week. We also hosted a super cool shot night – the ice luge! Even Gary Beach did a shot! I also discovered a great yarn store in Appleton – Iris Fine Yarns. Sarah Lin Johnson took over Piper’s swing track.
Gary taking a shot from the ice luge

Gary taking a shot from the ice luge

MADISON: My love, Madison! One of my top three favorite stops on the tour. That city rocks. We did a lot of bike riding, a lot of eating and drinking (at the Black Dog and Essen Haus), and I did even more yarn shopping. And p.s., the Capitol Farmer’s Market ROCKED! We also had a visit from Jeff Dumas, and Darryl’s family hosted a party for us at their house!
Gurr, Suzanne, Matt and Paula hanging out at Darryl's

Gurr, Suzanne, Matt and Paula hanging out at Darryl's

GRAND RAPIDS: Kind of a letdown after Madison, but it had pockets of cute. I got my hair done at a nice salon. We visited the art museum, and did a little bit of bike riding. But the highlight of the week was having Elaine around to cover Mitchell’s vacation. Yay! And also Bret arriving to cover Ken’s vacation! Scary weather driving to Minneapolis.
Getting drunk with Elaine when I should have been packing

Getting drunk with Elaine when I should have been packing

MINNEAPOLIS: The crazy weather of being in Tornado Alley continued, with thunderstorms peppering the week. We visited the sculpture garden and played mini golf with Ryan’s friend, Brent. In work-related news, Patrick split his head open causing a frenzy of last-minute replacements on the Saturday. I visited the Mall of America, Brit’s Pub (a couple of times), did quite a bit of bike-riding, and had a lovely Monday night meal with Bret.

Brent and Ryan playing mini-golf

Brent and Ryan playing mini-golf

OKLAHOMA CITY: Hmmm…sort of along the lines of Dayton. Not horrible, but not much going on. Crazy windy but hot weather. The Memorial was quite a sight to see, and made the week worth it. We also stayed at a nice hotel downtown called The Colcord, and enjoyed drinks a couple of times at a cool brewpub called Tapwerks. 
OKC Memorial

OKC Memorial

ALBUQUERQUE: Ken was back from vacation, and it was Jovon’s turn for a week off. I was in bliss all week with my buddies Michael and Tanya and Bret all back in my life. I had a great visit to Santa Fe with Tanya, and Albuquerque’s highlights included the breakfast burritos at Frontier, Satellite Coffee and the weather! Gorgeous! Hot and dry. Sadly we said goodbye to our A2, Tony.
With my Ta

With my Ta

With my Bretty

With my Bretty

SAN ANTONIO: Hot and sweaty is how I will remember San Antonio. The Riverwalk was fun – highlights included meals at the Iron Cactus and Boudros. Mi Tierra at the Marketplace was also good, although if I never see menudo again it will be too soon. I had my birthday here, and was treated to a yummy chocolate mousse cake from Ken! I also treated myself to some new camera equipment! Oh, and then there was the Alamo. Eh. Patrick bailed on us this week to go and do “Gossip Girl” for eight weeks, so we scrambled a bit (another couple of gender-bending performances by Tera-Lee), but we had it figured out by….
Tera-Lee doing some gender-bending in Rio

Tera-Lee doing some gender-bending in Rio

FORT WORTH: Where Brian O’Brien re-joined us to help fill in the gap left by Patrick. Kevin Burrows was also around this week to help cover some of other boys’ vacations. Everyone was antsy getting ready for Canada. There was a quick trip to the Stockyards, but otherwise it was all about getting phones, and credit cards and money in order. Vancouver here we come!
Packing up trunks for Canada

Packing up trunks for Canada

22 eventful weeks! I look forward to the next 22, only I am happy to report that we will be spending some quality time in the next few cities with longer sit-downs, just enough time to recoup before another slew of one-weekers begin this winter. 

Bring it on!

The Heat is on in San Antonio

Sunset as seen from my balcony

Ken kept singing “The Heat is On” from “Beverly Hills Cop” this week, so I couldn’t resist using it for the title, especially since it is the truth.

It was HOT in San Antonio. HOT. Not dry heat like in New Mexico. Sticky, sweaty, nasty hot. 100 degree hot everyday with like 100% humidity. Ew.

Thank god the hotel was literally across the street from the stage door of the theater.

Ken and I and a few other folks took a quickie Express Jet flight to San Antonio from Albuquerque. I had never heard of Express Jet before booking that ticket, but I recommend them! We were given breakfast, a cookie, drinks and a mint (on our 1 hour flight), and they had XM radio for you to listen to. Very nice!

After checking into the lovely Holiday Inn (I mean that – my room had a balcony, which I LOVED), I headed down to the famed Riverwalk to grab some lunch. The Riverwalk is pretty cool – it is lined with restaurants and bars and you can take little boat rides down it – it feels very Disney Mexico at Epcot if you know what I mean. It is filled with families and on the weekends, lots of drunkards, and is a lot of fun. I ate some delicious fish tacos at the Iron Cactus and had quite a strong margarita!

San Antonio Riverwalk

San Antonio Riverwalk

It was a bit too hot to really do much, so aside from walking along the river for a little while, I mostly hibernated at the hotel and enjoyed my balcony!

Tuesday was load-in…and my birthday. Lucky me! Last year my birthday fell on load-out, this year load-in. Maybe next year I’ll finally have the afternoon off! I did have a lovely lunch with Ken, Karl and Jovon at Boudros on the Riverwalk – they make the guacamole at your table and it was delicious! The show that night was fine, uneventful, and afterwards Ryan and I went to an Irish pub on the Riverwalk for some food and a beer. There were some company members there, including the hair and make-up local, whose birthday it was also. She had a yummy cake which she shared with me – so nice!

On Wednesday Ryan and I stopped by the theater to pick up some packages that had arrived for me – I ordered some new camera accessories! I got a new wide angle lens for my G-9, a lensbaby, a remote for my Nikon and a new bag (I also got a new 50mm lens for my Nikon which arrived yesterday in Fort Worth). After opening everything up at the hotel and figuring out how it all worked, we went and got some lunch at the coffee shop next door, Sip, and then went down to the Riverwalk to take one of the little cruises.

The cruise was fun – obviously very touristy, and it was short – only about 30 minutes. It was so hot out though, I’m not sure I would have wanted it to last any longer. It was a fun way to see the whole Riverwalk and to hear a bit about its history. Plus boats are always fun. After that, to cool down a bit we went to the Iron Cactus for some frosty margaritas!

With Ryan on the Riverwalk cruise

With Ryan on the Riverwalk cruise

On Thursday I had rehearsal, but afterwards, Ken, Karl, Jovon and I went over to Market Square to Mi Tierra for dinner. Mi Tierra had been recommended by one of the locals, and it did not disappoint. It is a restaurant with a bakery and a bar, and is open 24 hours. I had some really good enchiladas with mole sauce (and because my order was late I got a free margarita!). Jovon tried some menudo as an appetizer which looked really nasty. I know it is a delicacy and all, but I just don’t see the appeal of eating stomach lining.

After the show I headed back to Mi Tierra with some of the girls from the show for “Girl’s Night”. It was a small group, but we had a nice time drinking margaritas in the bar and chowing down on chips and queso.

On Friday Ryan and I went to check out San Antonio’s biggest tourist stop, the Alamo. It is actually quite small and underwhelming in person. When you see maps of the old compound you see how big the fort used to be, but now not much of it is left. It was really hot and overrun with people so we didn’t stay long. It was interesting to see and read about the history. I had no idea the guys at the Alamo lost their fight – I figured they must have won since the Alamo is such a symbol of Texas pride. But no, they lost. We went back a couple of nights later to take some photos of the Alamo at night – it was lit really beautifully. I’m glad I went, but I wouldn’t tell anyone to go out of their way to visit it – the fact that street is lined with places like Ripley’s Believe it or Not is kind of indicative of what it has become. Sort of a shame really. Kind of like all the casinos that have come to surround Niagara Falls.

Saturday and Sunday were the usual four show days – Saturday was spiced up a bit by the fact that Tera-Lee once again had to perform a boy’s track. Patrick, who plays Lancelot, is out for a few weeks to film a couple of episodes of “Gossip Girl” (which all happened at the last minute on Monday), and some of the ensemble guys already had pre-arranged personal days this week, so when it came down to it, we were short men for the weekend – therefore, Tera-Lee went on in one of the male ensemble tracks. We are so lucky that we have an associate dance captain who is such a good sport, and so talented to boot! She was great, and the audience was none-the-wiser.

Here she is in Rio:

We closed on Sunday and then traveled to Fort Worth on Monday, our last stop of the one-weekers! 

Thanks to all who passed on birthday wishes!