Archive for February, 2006

CDL EXAM

Tuesday, February 28th, 2006

I took the first portion of my exam yesterday morning. I arrived at the DMV with all the necessary documents in hand only to find out that they changed the law last Thursday in Virginia. Since I am technically getting a “new” document, my drivers license is no longer enough proof of “presence.” I had to make the 30 minute drive back home to get my passport and birth certificate. Once back at the DMV, I moved quickly through the process and was placed in front of the computer to test in three areas: General Knowledge (50 questions), Air Brakes (25 questions) and Combination Vehicles (25 questions). THIS WAS THE HARDEST EXAM I’VE EVER TAKEN! It took me more than an hour to finish up the test.

I easily passed the General Knowledge and Air Brakes portions. I didn’t do so well on the Combination Vehicle section. This part of the test deals with information about trailers being pulled behind the truck. Because our trailer is a utility type trailer, I don’t have all the things that this part of the exam covers – fifth wheel, kingpin, glad hands, couplers, service/emergency lines, etc. I simply back my truck until the trailer ball, lower the trailer into place, connect the electrical cable (lights and brakes) and we’re on our way. But in order to get my CDL, I also need to know how to handle a full blown 53 foot semi-trailer with air brakes! I’ll never drive one of these!

I’m retaking that portion of the exam again today. I’ve been studying – visualizing the process of coupling and uncoupling a trailer, test air flow through the entire braking system, getting to know my tractor protection values and Johnson bar, my shut-off valves and cut-out cocks. When I’m done with this exam, I’ll have the beginnings of a new career – Trucking Across America.

WE ARE HOME

Monday, February 27th, 2006

We finished up the long drive from Wisconsin Rapids to home yesterday afternoon. It’s nice to see the ground (no snow here in Virginia)! But the weather is still a bit chilly. No matter – it’s good to be home!

We all have a really busy week ahead of us. Today, I’m off to the DMV to take the written portion of my CDL Exam. Then the rest of the day is filled with appointments and interviews for upcoming shows.

PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (Wisconsin Rapids)

Saturday, February 25th, 2006

A Sold Out show and wonderful audience – that’s the best way to summarize our Wisconsin Rapids performance. And the venue was beautiful! The crew – local tech students – did a fantastic job of helping up get the scenery and intelligent lighting up and ready to go. A really fun day for all of us…and then the show. The audience came ready to have a good time and a good time was had by all. It was a great way to end this leg of the tour.

The night was short! We had to drive for a few hours after the show last night and didn’t get into a hotel until 1:30am. The morning came rushing at us very fast and we were up and on the road. We’re heading home for a few days with lots of things to do.

Tonight, Chillicothe, OH is our resting place…tomorrow we drive again!

WISCONSIN RAPIDS, WI

Friday, February 24th, 2006

We pulled into Wisconsin Rapids on Wednesday afternoon, found our hotel and then off to the local laundry. We’ve been on the road for more than a month so it was time to wash some clothes – oh the glamour of being on the road! We spent the afternoon completely the task…but it’s great to have clean clothes in the closet and in the suitcases!

The next day – Thursday – was a full day of outreach programs. The morning started with a program with some very special students at one of the local school systems. Many of these children are autistic or learning challenged. David and I spent an hour teaching them some easy magic tricks. One we got started, the kids were on a roll. They learned the tricks and then could not wait to get up in front of their peers so wow them with their magic. Personalities were blossoming and we watched the creativity of students come to the surface as they made up stories to go along with their tricks. This is always a rewarding and inspiring experience for me.

Next we were off to the television station to tape an interview that will air this morning. I had a “live studio audience” that was brought in and the interview went very quickly. It’s amazing how fast 30-minutes flies by! Then I stopped by one of the local senior citizen luncheons just to run around the room and say hi to the people. I met several who would be coming to the show tonight.

After the interview, we grabbed a cup of coffee and a scone for a quick break. Then we were off to the local rehabilitation center to conduct a workshop for therapists. If they aren’t completely familiar with the Healing of Magic program, some therapists don’t make the connection between “magic tricks” and “rehab goals.” Some of these therapists arrived at the workshop a bit confused and wondered why they needed to learn something as “hokey” as magic tricks. Before the 90 minutes was over, they all understood just how effective this treatment tool can be in helping their clients reach their therapeutic goals in a fast, safe, and fun way.

The day of outreach was over but I still had one more interview on my schedule to complete. This was with one of the local newspapers in the St. Louis area for our upcoming show at the Florrisant Civic Center Theatre next month.

Back to the hotel, picked up Cindy and off to have dinner…..

SENTRY THEATRE

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006

Our performance at the Sentry Theatre in Stevens Point went well but we had a smaller than normal crowd here this time. We get to Point about every two or three years with our show, last time was in 2004 – roudy crowd and a standing ovation from that show. This time, the crowd was “intimate” but very responsive. And we did have some really wonderful volunteers – including Morgan who was my “shopping girl.” She was possibly the youngest shopper I’ve had on stage but did an outstanding job.

Today we head on to Wisconsin Rapids – short drive, only 30 minutes. We’ll be spending the day doing “domestic” things in the truck, etc.

Tomorrow is a very busy day in Wisconsin Rapids – 9am session with some special needs students in the schools; television interview at 11am; workshop with therapists at the local rehab center at 1pm; and a newspaper interview at 3:30pm. Friday is the performance and then we’re all heading home for a few days.

STEVENS POINT, WI

Tuesday, February 21st, 2006

Today we’re in Stevens Point, Wisconsin for a performance tonight at the Sentry Theatre. We’ve been here many times over the years and have had really good shows. Today, it’s cold and we’re fighting the snow they received from the blizzard a few days ago – snow is piled up everywhere!

It always makes it tougher to unload the truck in cold weather. The load in at the Sentry is difficult anyway – through the doors, down a freight elevator and to the stage. But we have to do it in small loads because the elevator isn’t big enough to put some of our larger cases in all at once. We have to have a good crew to make good time!

I’ll write about the show tomorrow….today, we’re all tired of the snow and cold, ready to see some warmer weather!

OUR LAST WEEK OUT….

Sunday, February 19th, 2006

We have entered our last week on the road before heading home for just a couple of days. We are spending the night tonight in Clear Lake/Mason City, Iowa area – and it’s still cold! We can feel the temps warming up a bit….I think it was around 15 degrees today.

I have a busy Monday morning of phone calls and interviews before we head out of the hotel. We’re going to get our truck washed – again! The snowy weather has really taken a toll on the rig and it’s just plain nasty looking right now. It’s begging for a bath! After the wash, we’ll head to Stevens Point where our next performance is at the Sentry Theatre on Tuesday.

Once our final performance is over on Friday at the Performing Arts Center in Wisconsin Rapids, we’ll be driving to Milwaukee. Cindy and Kylie will be flying home while David and I will bring home the truck. That’s a big change of plans, thanks to the FMCSA Officer in Iowa! We were going to ALL fly home for a few days because our next show on March 4 is back in Iowa. Now, we drive the rig home so I can take my CDL exam and then turn around and drive it back to pick up the girls when they arrive in Milwaukee…then off to Pella, Iowa. It’s going to be a very busy and short trip home for me and David.

Tonight – we rest and have dinner at Perkins!

ON THE ROAD

Saturday, February 18th, 2006

I call this blog “On The Road” because it chronicles our experiences out here. There are good times, rough times, challenges with venues and moving equipment across the country. The fact is, Life goes on out here – people get sick; mechanical problems happen; clothes need to be washed; hair needs to be cut; bills have to be paid, etc. And that’s just out here. Life at home still goes on as well, even when we’re not there – mail has to be picked up; appointments have to be made; house maintainance must be done; connection with friends needs to be developed, etc. This is our life and it’s not for everyone.

What most people don’t think about is the fact that, when we’re on the road, we are doing more than only performing. That’s the smallest part of what we do! In order to pull together a tour, routing is incredibly important to make it profitable. THAT requires lots of work well in advance.

Everyone on our team has responsibilities apart from “acutal performing.” Wayne attempts to maintain the office while we are gone but there are many things that each of us have to do. Each show has to be “advanced” so they are ready when we arrive; newspaper, radio and television interviews have to be arranged and coordinated so get maximum exposure for the show; illusions have to be maintained because they are constantly being used; marketing materials have to be designed and printed; music has to be edited and loaded into the computers (this is NOT a one time thing but a constant update to the show); phone calls and emails have to be answered; and so much more. And that’s just the SHOW! We also have to deal with all the “normal” things in our personal lives – friends, family, bills, appointments, etc.

Because we are a completely self-contained operation, everything in the business is handled “in house” and I like it that way. Call me a control freak but I want to know about everything that’s going on with this business.

In addition to actually traveling and performing the shows in our 05/06 tour, I am busy returning phone calls and emails (hundreds of them sometimes) to potential sponsors of our show for 06/07. We are especially blessed because we book our shows 12-18 months in advance but that requires a lot of planning. Currently I am wrapping up our bookings for next year – a tour that will take us across the U.S. in the fall, back to Asia in the winter, across the U.S. again in the spring and end in Australia in early summer.

My day generally starts out the same, whether on the road or at home. I’m up early and spend some time reading and meditating on the things that are important to me – my faith, my wife, my family, my friends, my job – and how I can improve each of these to have a positive impact.

Each of us make sacrifices to be out here. Our personal lives take the biggest hit because it’s difficult to build deep friendships with people when you’re gone most of the time. That’s one of the reasons why the “team” dynamic is so important. We are co-workers, friends and family. This is our life – in a nutshell.

THE TASSEL CENTER FOR THE ARTS

Friday, February 17th, 2006

Let’s start off by saying IT’S REALLY COLD IN NEBRASKA RIGHT NOW! We got up this morning to a bone-chilling minus 3 degrees! Clear, crisp skies and cold that will take your breath away!

We pulled into the Tassel Center for the Arts this morning. What a beautiful place nestled away in this small, midwest community. We were fearful that the cold might keep the crowd away but the box office phone rang all day and, in spite of temperatures around minus 10, people came to the show – hundreds of them!

This was another record set up day for us as well. The crew was well prepared for us, load in went quickly and the show was up before we knew it. Another long dinner break – we’re going to get spoiled!

The comments from audience members afterwards were very positive, warm, and encouraging. They’ve never done anything like us here before so the uniqueness of the show was well received – a standing ovation.

Tomorrow, we head to Wisconsin…where we’re hoping it will be warmer (HA!). We have a couple of days to make the trip and we’re looking forward to taking our time. The events of the last couple of weeks have really taken their toll on us. We’re going to take our time and enjoy the journey.

HOLDREGE, NE

Friday, February 17th, 2006

We arrived in Holdrege, NE early in the evening after a one hour “shopping stop” in York, NE at the Walmart Supercenter. People never think about the fact that we’re moving constantly and need to replenish supplies, just like you do living in your home. So we stopped, picked up some snacks, batteries, show stuff, etc. and then finished up the last 90 minutes of the trip to Holdrege.

We checked into our hotel and then went next door to the Country Cookin restaurant for dinner. We had a great time at this place and the owner, Scott, and his crew gave us great service and indulged my videocamera (footage for the next DVD). We had some things we’ve never eaten before like Cheese Frenchies and more – really good service, good food and good fun!

It’s COLD! And today’s high is 9 degrees!!!!