Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Staying Alive on the Road

I have found one of the keys to staying sane on the road is to make sure I feel connected to people from home. My church home is at Crossroads in Cincinnati, OH. There I always feel pushed to find creativity, freedom, and I continually feel challenged by the people there. They are my brothers and sisters, friends, and mentors. I hate to be so far from them, but through the joys of the internet I try to keep up. This week some videos of the signature Super Bowl Sunday services have been up, but there has also been a video posted of an incredible couple of songs performed by the worship leaders at church with a video created by the team there in Cincinnati. It's pretty awesome stuff and has really rejuvenated me this week. I hope it does the same for you! God is so good and I know that he wants us to be running toward Him... toward FREEDOM!

Love to all!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Where little cable cars climb halfway to the stars...

San Francisco is one of those cities that you grow up seeing on tv and in movies. You build up expectations of what may be there and then as you get older you form opinions on how you may or may not like the city very much if you actually went there. For me- I didn’t expect to fall in love with San Fran. I though it was super cool in Mrs. Doubtfire and Full House, but with it’s reputation is uber-liberal and hippie-dippy…I was anticipating liking it fine, but not seeing it as somewhere that I really fit. I was wrong. I love San Francisco.

We arrived on a Friday morning with shows Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. On Friday we hit the ground running! (I should say walking, in this case….up MANY, MANY steep hills!!) One of the icons of the city are it’s famous cable cars, the only operating cable cars IN THE WORLD! I had read that there was a great Cable Car Museum that was free so we headed there and were so pleased to find an old building through which all the cable lines operate. I had no idea how these machines work and it was really fascinating to get a close look at the motors that keep the cable lines running through pulley systems under the street all over the city at a consistent 9.5 mph. Then we got to look at the cable cars and the grips that are manually controlled by a driver. They grab onto the cables to carry them up and down those infamous hills and all over the city.

From there we hopped on a bus to get ourselves to the Presidio (a park and former military base), which sits right by the Golden Gate Bridge. We were determined to walk at least part of the bridge since it was such a beautiful day outside. When we got off the bus we grabbed lunch and began our walk according to our map. It took a while longer than we anticipated, but we did finally make it to the bridge. The walk there was so exciting as, with each new corner, there was a new, INCREDIBLE view of the bridge. As we began our walk across I couldn’t help but belt out “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” and then Tavis and I continued with a duet of “America the Beautiful.” Ha ha! The walk across the bridge was pretty awesome. Between the view of the city and seeing that MONSTER of a bridge up close: we were blown away. We walked to the center of the bridge before heading back across and catching the bus back to the hotel. That night we took a recommendation from our hotel and ate at the Empress of China garden restaurant at the top of a building in Chinatown. It was literally the BEST Chinese I’ve ever had.

The following day I was so excited to get to Alcatraz! We took a cab down to the wharf where Tavis, Jess, Kim, and I caught a ferry out to the island. Approaching the legendary “Rock” was unreal and we were really blown away by how beautiful the whole place was. We wandered around for quite a bit before heading up to the main cell block building. The audio tour took us through the life of a prisoner on the island and what it could have been like to inhabit these cells. Hearing tales of escape attempts, and life on the Rock was a fascinating way to start the day. We headed back and had lunch on Pier 39 before going back to the hotel where I met up with my sister, Shannon, and her husband, Gavin! They drove a few hours from the home to come for a day to see the show in San Fran and I was THRILLED to get to see some family while on the road.

We spent that day walking all over Fisherman’s Wharf and finding different things to explore along the way. We walked EVERYWHERE and covered quite a few hills, even up to Lombard Street, the “crookedest street” around! For dinner we headed to the famous Tadich Grill, where I had San Fran’s famous tomato and seafood soup, Cioppino. It was OUT OF THIS WORLD!!! While Shannon and Gavin headed back to their hotel to get ready for the show, the cast headed to the JCC in a limo! It was a great night, as there were SO MANY family members there to support us! That night after the show we were able to all go out and visit at a fun lounge.

The following day I had breakfast with Shan and Gavin at their hotel before having to say goodbye. It was such a fun visit and a real treat to see them. It doesn’t happen as often as I would like, but when I do get to spend time with them it is always so encouraging and rejuvenating. The show was really fun that day and we were spoiled by having such great facilities at the JCC. After a quick stop at the hotel, Tavis and I decided to take a cable car ride to meet the rest of the cast. It was so fun to see the city from this view and enjoy a ride on one of these iconic cars. We ended up meeting all of Katie Reid’s family at a restaurant called Pier 23 where we took in some great seafood right on the water. Then we climbed into cars and headed to Ghirardelli Square where we indulged in some ridiculous chocolate creations. When we finished bingeing we started to walk back toward the cable car to get to the hotel when a limo pulled up and asked if we wanted a ride! It was pretty amazing and we couldn’t help but laugh as we jammed out to Bruno Mars the whole ride and reflected back on a perfect visit to the Golden Gate city!

San Fran- I’ll be back!


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Heading toward CALI!!!

With only two stops left in our 7 show, 7 day, 7 city section of tour, we headed back to Washington and the beautiful little town of Wenatchee. As usual, we didn’t know what to expect even after looking at google maps for research. When I woke up that morning, though, I was thrilled! We were sitting down in a gorgeous valley surrounded by snow-capped peaks and sitting right on a river. It was really an awesome setting. I got up fairly early to explore the riverfront area where a park had been built up and walked around the main street of town. It was really nice to have people say hi as I passed them on the sidewalk and to meet welcoming people that were so willing to help and guide me along my way.

After a workout at the local gym the whole cast met up for lunch at a really fun spot I staked out called Lemelo. It was a funky, bright cafĂ© with a huge menu of giant sandwiches, pizzas, and paninis! YUMMM! The theatre in town was a beautiful space with a great crew and we were excited to be so welcomed. From Wenatchee we had another quick stop to end this hard week in Medford, OR. Upon arrival we trekked to Sally’s Diner where we grabbed a great breakfast. We enjoyed a HUGE gym in town before getting to walk around and explore. Me and Tavis covered most of the town in about 30 minutes and then met the rest of the cast at a spot Kevin found called Porter’s! They had some pretty sweet deals on great food and we were well-fed for another good show that night!

To celebrate our day off we were in Arroyo Grande, CA and we made sure to make the most of it! Arroyo Grande sits right by Pismo Beach so we figured we better take advantage of it and spend some quality time with sand between our toes! Tavis and I headed down to workout on the beach, but instead of walking, the manager of our Holiday Inn volunteered to drive us! Heading to the water he realized that we were so close to a great spot that he wanted to show us so we turned down and headed to a small grove of trees. There on Pismo Beach were dozens of cars pulled over to see the miracle of the monarch butterfly migration!

From late November to early February over 100,000 monarch butterflies come to this acre of land from all over and live there. What was also amazing is that they only fly and are visible if it is dry, sunny, and over 60 degrees outside. Conditions were perfect and we were absolutely in awe. God is so big and so good. Even if I had planned a trip to see this natural phenomenon it couldn’t have worked out so well. After a nice workout on the beach the rest of the cast came down and we walked around, going to see the butterflies and watching the sun set on the Pacific! It was exciting to be there because I had never been in the Pacific Ocean on all my travels!

From there we walked down the beach to a town area where we scoped out a Mexican place for dinner. Mmmm- I can taste the lobster enchiladas now! After that we had another lucky twist of fate when we stopped into Alley Cat’s jazz club. It was a cute little restaurant with a tiny stage where a trio was playing. We soon met the owners, a young couple who basically had this place fall into their laps and had reopened it only 10 days earlier!!! They were so nice and their son was adorable, running around and keeping us all entertained. We couldn’t resist jumping up and singing, though, and the band was thrilled to find out we knew so much of the music they were playing. The mic was ours for quite a while as we shut the restaurant down!!!

When Alley Cat’s closed down we went around the corner to top off the night at Harry’s. It was quite a dive, with a singer performing everything from techno to Tony Bennett. Bizzarre. We had fun and were quite impressed with Katie R and Kim’s impeccable balance and Katie M’s ability to make great friends so fast! I love my cast so much. A quick cab ride home finished up the night. The next day we had lunch at Orcutt Burger and my burger was topped with avocado and bacon. Yup. Then I got my hair cut at a champion barbershop! My barber was hilarious, giving me advice on how to get my medicinal marijuana card in Cali and telling me about her adventures at Woodstock! Ohhhh, California. We had a great time in Arroyo Grande and our show went really well. It was great to have the owners of Alley Cat show up to see us, also! They are so sweet. I miss you all so much. I hope you are digging yourself out of the snow!


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Welcome to the Pacific Northwest!

I have been very interested in seeing areas of the states that I have never been to; the Pacific Northwest is one of those spots. My favorite author, Donald Miller, is from Portland, OR and writes about the area often. I've been wanting to explore and see Washington and Oregon for a while now, so this week was an exciting one! It was a pretty tough week, though, because we were doing 7 shows in 7 days in 7 cities! Whew! We started in Moses Lake, WA, which was a small town. We were near a nice gym, though, and a bowling alley. Before the show we got a couple games in (both of which I won!) and the show went relatively smoothly with Jess performing the role of Leslie. Living up to its reputation, Washington was fairly rainy as we headed to Longview, WA. Longview was a cute little town and I headed in to explore in the town with Katie Reid and Jess Kaufman. After going into the BEAUTIFUL old theatre we were told to head to the Monticello Hotel to enjoy its history and the beauty of the old 1923 building! We got there and wandered around the dark wood-paneled lobby and found a lounge area that was serving food. While we waited for happy hour to begin for better deals, we were told to look around and take in the hotel, the decor, and the ghosts. Yup...ghosts. I asked a girl at the front desk who wasn't very helpful, except to say "You'll see," when I continued to inquire about the history and the ghosts. She gave us free reign to go around the hotel. I was a bit disappointed to explore most floors and the ballroom and everything, finding little more than creepy hallways with a slight resemblance to "The Shining." Ha! It was funny, but uneventful. That evening we grabbed coffee and helped out a stranger before having another smooth show!
Our next stop on this "upper left" tour of the USA was Salem, OR. We had heard great things about this cute town so we made sure to take the hotel shuttle in early for plenty of time to explore. Tavis and I began our day in a well-equipped gym before meeting up with everyone else in the cast. From there we took to the lovely sidewalks and tree-lined streets of Salem. This town had a really nice feeling to it. It was one of those places you just wanted to walk around, talk to folks, look in shops, etc. There was a very laid-back, nice feel to the community. We headed to the riverfront of the Columbian river where there was a great little park filled with people walking dogs, playing frisbee, and escorting children. There was also a historic carousel right at the riverfront! We all found our rides (somehow I ended up with Francis the Mule) and had a blast acting like kids again. The walk continued as the girls enjoyed boutiques, the guys bought local bread, and we all dug through some antiques! From there we went to dinner where we indulged in seafood before going to the theatre.

That night I was so privileged to perform at the Historic Elsinore Theatre. GOOGLE THIS PLACE! It was an old vaudeville theatre that is built in a very unique style. There were moments all throughout the night where I caught myself staring at this theatre. Between the intricate woodwork and beautiful columns and arches...we were a little overwhelmed. Great crowd and a fun little topper at the end of the night next door at an Oyster bar where we all took oyster shots! Ha ha! Glad that I am on tour with some brave stomachs!

The next city of the week was Astoria, OR, a town right on the little cutout peninsula of Oregon! We had all heard so many good things about Astoria that we were very excited to get there! Our hotel sat right under the dramatic Astoria Bridge and the water provided us with quite the picturesque day. This city is known for its beautify, considering it was the setting for many movies to be filmed such as "Goonies," "Kindergarten Cop," and "Free Willy"!!! I was thrilled to find the hotel had bikes we could use to ride around town and Kevin, Tavis and I quickly got under way exploring and riding along the waterfront. We headed toward the Goonies house and Kindergarten Cop school, but made pit stops along the way for coffee, views, etc. Recommended in Tavis's "1,000 Places to See in the USA Before you Die" book, we indulged in an over-the-top brunch at the Columbian Cafe. Everything was served in the tiny little find from cayenne jellies to crab omelets! The Liberty Theatre in Astoria is a beautiful space. An old movie house, it is uniquely designed and renovated. Our show BARELY fit in the space, but after some re-staging and finagling...we made it work!

At the "Kindergarten Cop" school... "It's NOT A TUMOR!!"

A full company dinner was planned for a little after the show, so to check one last thing off our list in Astoria, I insisted that most of the cast follow me as I trek up to the famous Astoria Column, a monument that sits 600 ft. above sea level on a hill in town. I must say that Tavis, Kevin, Katie, and Kim were all such troopers. I CERTAINLY underestimated the length and intensity of the climb. For having just done a show and being fairly pooped, we walked SO FAR to reach that column. It was quite the little accomplishment, though, and we sure celebrated! Dinner at a restaurant called "Baked Alaska" right on the water was absolutely perfect. I can't remember the last time I was more stuffed with incredible food. Everything from fresh scallops to goat cheese salads and baked alaska for dessert!!! What a night to celebrate with the whole team!
We are having a great leg and I hope your 2011 started off with a bang! Let me know what you are up to these days!

Finished that Baked Alaska...no problem.