Archive for April, 2008

CHA-CHING!

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

We left Monticello, UT this morning to make our way toward Austin, TX. The next few miles – about 20 before we hit the Colorado border – were beautiful! We drove past the Canyons of the Ancients and Cindy was able to get some great pictures. I’m going to post all of her pictures very soon on Flickr but here’s just a peek.

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We drove that short distance and entered Colorado when I was directed to enter the Port Of Entry. As is the practice of the West, I was asked to bring out my wallet and shell out $74.60 for a “trip permit” – a piece of paper that gives me the privilege of traveling through the great state of Colorado. I was only in the state for 67 miles so it cost me, roughly, $1.11 per mile to drive through Colorado.

You guessed it, as we entered New Mexico, I was once again directed to enter the Port of Entry where I handed over another $55.00 to the state for the privilege of traveling through New Mexico. With diesel fuel averaging around $4.35/gallon and the additional expenses of these trip permits, life on the road isn’t getting any cheaper!

If you’ve been keeping track (like I have), here’s my total for the last few weeks:

New Mexico – $143.60

California – $130.00

Oregon – $162.02

Washington – $58.00

Idaho – $91.50

Utah – $ 50.00

Colorado – $74.60

TOTAL – $709.72

And that’s not the end yet! I still have to buy these permits AGAIN when we travel from Texas through New Mexico ($86.60) and California ($60.00).

That will bring the grand total to $856.32.

…BUT WAIT, there’s more! Once we wrap up in California, Nolan and I will make the trip back across country where we’ll be buying some of these permits for the third time.

Cha-ching! That’s the magic word to make your money disappear!

MONTICELLO, UT

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

This is a small town – less than 1900 people – but it is nestled in a beautiful location and it happened to be on route from Blackfoot, ID to Austin, TX. When we were contacted by Blue Mountain Entertainment located here, it seemed like good routing and scheduling. But we had some major reservations about this performance tonight. We were concerned about the size of the stage and were unable to get much information about the technical capabilities of the venue before we arrived. Keith and Nolan made a trip over to the theatre last night and were able to give Cindy and I some idea of what was coming at us.

As we pulled in today, we found a group of volunteers who were willing to do whatever needed to be done to make the show happened. Cindy scoped the space and was able to put together a show with great variety of illusions in spite of the limited space. Nolan and the volunteers got the cases off the truck and on the stage and then, we dismissed everyone. This would be a day that only our team would be working to make it happen.

Keith and I had a great lighting system to work with – a new ETC lightboard and fixtures. Unfortunately, we were a new type of act for this venue and we were a bit more technically advance than what they were used to.

After a busy afternoon, each of us were able to get this show in the air ready for the evening performance. We even had a little time to walk down the street to the local grocery store. I found a new candy bar there that I had never seen or tasted before – Idaho Spud!

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I actually bought two of these candy bars. I gave one to Cindy. She took a bite and gave it back to me. I took a bite…and came to the conclusion this is a candy bar for the “less discriminating” candy lover! But you gotta love the name!!

We came back to the theatre and found dinner waiting – homemade lasagna, salad, green beans, winter squash, and strawberry shortcake!

It was showtime before we knew it and doors were getting ready to open. The crowd started rolling in…and they just kept coming, and coming, and coming! The theatre was packed – standing room only. And, eventually, they had to start turning people away. Those that did get a seat, were a very appreciative and responsive audience. This was the biggest crowd they’ve ever had – and we were delighted to be the artists to bring them in and help expose a new group of people to Blue Mountain Entertainment.
In the end, we had a good day, a great show, and a wonderful audience!

BLACKFOOT PAC & THE DRIVE THRU UTAH

Monday, April 28th, 2008

Yesterday we were in Blackfoot, ID performing at the new Performing Arts Center. For a town of this size, this is a beautiful theatre. As we pulled into town, we were welcomed by the first sign we saw!

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We stopped for a quite bit to eat before driving over to the PAC. Once we arrived, the crew was there to get us unloaded. Except for a few snags along the way, it was a fairly uneventful day. As we neared showtime, the crowd started to gather in the lobby. And before we hit the stage, there was somewhere between 900-1000 people in the house – a great audience!

After the show, we drove to Pocatello (about 20 miles) to spend the night. It was late by the time we got to the hotel but we hadn’t eaten so I ran to Burger King and Keith and Nolan went to Applebee’s. While waiting in line at the Burger King, I heard someone call my name. It caught me by surprise and, as I turned around, I saw three guys who had been at our show in Rexburg the night before. We talked for a few minutes and they shared their favorite tricks from the show….then I grabbed our food and ran back to the hotel.

This morming, we were up early to make the drive to Southeastern Utah – a small town called Monticello. As we entered Utah, I had to pull into the Port of Entry to purchase a Fuel and Trip Permit – there goes another $75!

I have to say, though, this is a stunningly beautiful state. We were able to see some of the most unbelievable scenery as we drove down Highway 6 through Price, UT. Just when we didn’t think it could get any more beautiful, we were wrong. We picked up Highway 191 through dinosaur country and the canyons of southeast Utah. As we drove through Moab, the scenery was spectacular! This is the land of canyons and arches – and it was amazing.

As we left Moab, we started to climb in elevation – higher and higher. By the time we arrived in Monticello, we were over 7,000 feet. The views are beautiful here – and tomorrow we perform.

KIRKHAM AUDITORIUM/BYU-I – REXBURG, ID

Saturday, April 26th, 2008

The day started very early with a 9:30 arrival at Kirkham Auditorium for a 10am load in. We were greeted by a very professional crew – who also happened to be very personable and friendly. THIS was going to be a great day and I could tell from the beginning. From the Technical Director to every member of the crew, there was an attitude of doing whatever was necessary to make the show work…but they were ready for us before we even arrived. And the day went so smoothly we had some time to eat dinner and relax a bit before the doors opened at 5:30pm for that first show.

We had two sold out performances with standing-room-only in the rear of the auditorium – almost 2,000 enthusiastic people ready to have a good time. We had some amazing volunteers, all of whom added a special touch to each show – whether they were building suspense, adding a comedic element, or expressing amazement. In the fist show, I thought we might lose our youngest volunteer when it came time to put his “neck on the line” but, in the end, he was a real trooper and was rewarded with his own magic set.

There’s a lot that I could write about our day today. It was such a positive experience on so many levels. But I’m completely exhausted. And we have to be up early again in the morning to drive to Blackfoot, ID for our performance on Saturday night (tomorrow).

I’ll look forward to the opportunity to come back to Rexburg and BYU-I in the future!

SHOWS IN IDAHO

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

Our trip into Idaho was fairly uneventful. We came through the Port of Entry Weigh Station with our Permit prominently displayed in the window. They didn’t even bother to weigh us. As we crossed the scales, they never changed from “0 Pounds.” And the officer just smiled, waved, and motioned us on.

The weather continues to be a little wonky. There was a chance of snow this morning in Twin Falls but it’s supposed to get up to around 50 degrees today. We’re leaving Twin Falls this morning to head to Rexburg. We have two performances there tomorrow on the campus of Brigham Young University – Idaho Campus. Ticket sales have been very strong and both shows are nearly sold out. After BYUI, we’ll head to Blackfoot for a performance there on Saturday night….and then to Utah for what could be a challenging performance in Monticello.

UPDATE – 5PM

We’ve arrived in Rexburg, ID after a crazy day of weather! Forget about those 50 degree temps – it never got above 35 degrees! As we drove north on Interstate 15 toward Idaho Falls, the sky started looking very dark ahead of us.

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By the time we made Idaho Falls, we were in the middle of a major snow episode! We stayed in the snow for about 30 minutes, all the way into Rexburg. Flakes were huge, wet, and acculumlating on the ground AND on my windshield. What’s this all about? It is APRIL!!

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We are excited about the performances on Friday night. We have two – one at 6pm and one at 8:30pm. Ticket sales have been very strong and both shows are SOLD OUT. We’ve already had some media exposure in the area and there should be articles in Friday’s local papers – the Standard Journal and the Post Register.
We did notice one tease at the bottom of the Standard Journal that read – Two magicians, one night. And as we walked into the local grocery store to pick up a few items, there was a banner over the entrance that shed some light on those words. Turns out someone hired another magician to perform in Rexburg, ID at the Mormon Tabernacle on the same night that we are performing at BYUI Center Stage Artists Series.
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Now the “tease” makes sense – two magicians, one night. I guess the article will talk about both of our shows. We’ve been booked for this event for more than a year. It doesn’t make any sense to me that someone would book another magician to perform on the same night in a town of slightly less than 13,000 people. But they did. It doesn’t seem like a smart thing to do – splitting the potential audience between two magicians who are very different performers. But maybe having a choice is never a bad thing!

ODD SIGNS IN OREGON

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

A picture speaks a thousands words….but you have to wonder WHY some signs are necessary.
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MORE CONFUSION FROM THE FMCSA!!

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

For those of you who have been reading this blog for a while, you know I’ve had some…well, let’s say “issues” with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. I underwent an exhaustive compliance and safety review in May 2006 where all of these issues were supposed to be put to rest. I’ve been “trucking along” well since that time…until yesterday.

History first. There are some states – mostly in the West and Northwest – where we actually have to buy a fuel/tax permit in order to drive our truck. That might sound a little odd and I’m sure it works wonders for their “tourism” – even Recreational Vehicles have to buy a trip permit! Nonetheless, it is something that we are aware of and it’s just a part of doing business in those states. After my initial FMCSA review almost two years ago, it was determined that I would (1) need to obtain a Class A CDL, (2) keep a log book of the number of hours I drive, and (3) have all the appropriate documentation of a real commercial driver. I met all of those requirements (and now have a second career option as a commercial truck driver if the magic thing should ever stop working). And I’ve been going strong for the last two years without any problems.

Yesterday, I entered the Oregon DOT Weigh Scales at Cascade Locks and was asked to bring in my paper work and documentation. That’s never a good thing. I came inside with all my papers and ended up purchasing another fuel/tax permit to drive through Oregon ($165.00). And then they checked out my log book. And this is where this thing becomes so confusing. They told me that I’m completing my log book incorrectly! Now, I’m doing it EXACTLY as I was instructed by the FMCSA Safety Inspector – exactly! They contacted “their” safety inspector in Portland and he wasn’t sure but thought I might be wrong. So, who is right? And what am I supposed to do if THEY don’t know what to do?! It’s the same thing all over again – they want to make up the regulations as they go OR they just don’t understand their own regulations! Honestly, I’m not sure which is true but it is incredibly frustrating for me.

I’m out here just trying to make an honest living, do the right thing, and run the roads legally. And just when you THINK you know the answers, just when you THINK you’ve been given the right information from the people who are supposed to know how to interpret the rules, another “official” comes along as has a different opinion on the matter.

As it turns out, they let me go without any problems – except for the 45 minutes I spent at the Weigh Station and the frustration of dealing with a bureacracy that doesn’t have any level of consistency in the way they enforce their rules and regulations.

As a precaution, we’ve already purchased our fuel/tax permit for Idaho which will be prominently displayed in our window! And we’re working on Utah….

LONGVIEW – BOTHELL – TACOMA

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

These last few days have been crazy, busy, and exhausting. But they’ve also been exciting, incredible, and thrilling.

We’ve just finished up a 3 day run of performances in Washington state. The schedule was a bit frantic at times but everything came together well. We arrived in Longview, WA on Thursday night. We loaded in, set up, and performed at the Columbia Theatre on Friday night. After the show, we packed, loaded it up and drove to Olympia. Saturday morning, we were up early and drove (in the snow) to Bothell, WA to load in, set up, and perform at the Northshore Performing Arts Center that evening. After the show, we packed, loaded it up and drove to Tacoma because we had a 7am load in on Sunday morning for a 3pm matinee at the Pantages Theatre. After the show, we packed and loaded it up….again. And then, back to the hotel for some much needed rest!

COLUMBIA THEATRE – LONGVIEW, WA

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The Columbia Theatre is a beautifully restored vaudeville house saved from destruction by the explosion of Mount St. Helen in 1980. You can read all about it on their website. It is an intimate 900 seats and we had a full house coming to the show on Friday night.

The audience was fantastic! From the moment they entered the theatre, there was this sense of excitement and energy about the show. When we hit the stage for the first illusion, the audience literally burst into applause! And they kept that energy high throughout the entire show. When we finished the finale, they were on their feet for a standing ovation. They made me feel like a rock star!

NORTHSHORE PERFORMING ARTS CENTER – BOTHELL, WA

This is a very new venue – only 2 years old. They are still very much in the early stages of raising the awareness of their community that they even exist! It is always a challenge to market performances when no one knows about the venue. We were able to get a couple of nice articles in the local paper, the BOTHELL REPORTER, and a very nice article in the SEATTLE TIMES.

We had a wonderful crowd for the show and, while not sold out, it was a great audience and one of their largest crowds to date. Our on-stage volunteers were awesome – adding that spontaneity to a show that you just can’t predict! We also had some friends drive down from Canada for the show. It was especially nice to see Shawn and Lori Farquhar. They made the trip down with a large group of friends. We had very little time to visit after the show because our schedule was tight. We had the drive to Olympia after the show so I didn’t have the opportunity to spend as much time with them as I would have liked. There were several area magicians that I met as well – a nice treat for me!

PANTAGES THEATRE – TACOMA, WA

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The Pantages Theatre is another wonderfully restored vaudeville theatre in Tacoma. We were there early, slightly before 7am, to get loaded in for the 3pm show. The local IATSE Union 15 was our crew for the day. We worked well as a “team” with only a few snags along the way.

Matinee audiences are generally more reserved than evening crowds. I’m not exactly sure why but I’m sure there’s some psychological reason for it. This audience went against the “typical.” They were really very enlived and electrified! Volunteers from the audience were animated – including the Mayor who managed to get selected to be on stage (a very nice coincidence)! And with the closing words of the performance and “good night,” they were on their feet with applause and cheers. It was a privilege to be in this place!

I met so many people in the lobby after the show. Someone left us a wonderful gift – an original recording of Henning’s Broadway musical THE MAGIC SHOW. I wish I had had the chance to meet him personally and thank him for such a wonderful token, but he left it quietly as I talked with those who stayed for the “meet and greet” in the lobby. He left a simple note that read:

I believe it was no accident that I found this recording this morning before coming to your show…I am aware of teh positive influence that Doug Henning had upon your development as a performer. I hope you will accept this as a small token of appreciation for what you and your troupe have and continue to contribute to the tradition of magic which has brought so much enjoyment to the world.

Cindy and I were both touched by the kindness of this gentleman and the response we received from the Tacoma community.

Now, we’re off to Idaho!

ARRIVING IN WASHINGTON STATE

Friday, April 18th, 2008

Today was fairly uneventful in our travels…and a much shorter day of driving! We left Cottage Grove, OR for the 120 mile drive to the Portland International Airport where we would pick up Ethan. He’s going to be spending the next few days with us on the road in preparation for joining the team next season.

He arrived in Portland about 40 minutes later due to some flight changes and we pulled our 65 foot truck pulled through the “arrival” lane. We missed him the first time around so had to make a second trip. This time he spotted us – he was on the top level, we were below! He ran down the stairs, across the lanes, and jumped onto the back of the truck with his luggage. Nolan grabbed him and pulled him in. What a way to get started!

Once back on Interstate 5, we were just miles from Washington. I pulled into the first Weigh Station and they didn’t bother to check me out at all. They gave me the green light to keep on going…but I pulled over to make sure I didn’t need a Trip Permit in this state (most western states require them). I had this problem a few days ago in California and it costs me an extra $100 from the tax man! I didn’t want that to happen again. I went inside the office and was told I would have to GO BACK an exit to buy the permit since I was required to have one before I actually entered the state. I understand that it’s my responsibility as a “motor carrier” to get that information but a little assistance would be appreciate from the state officials!

We drove south an exit to purchase the permits at their version of the Dept of Motor Vehicles. That was another challenge – no place to park a truck our size BUT this is the place where I’m supposed to buy the permit? Literally, there were NO TRUCK PARKING signs everywhere. I finally pulled over in front of the building and just turned on my flashers. I finally got the permits and we were on our way. I’m good for six days in Washington state and it only costs me $60. Welcome visitors!

We drove into Kelso/Longview and stopped at the mall for dinner before heading to the hotel. Once parked and checked in, we took a little walk to the shopping district for a few supplies…and found a city park with a giant squirrel!! Tomorrow is the show at the Columbia Theatre…and a nice article in today’s newspaper.

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FINALLY – OREGON!!

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

It seems like we’ve been driving forever BUT we finally crossed over into Oregon! And what a breath-taking view it was with Mount Shasta in the background!
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While we only drove 388 miles today, it took more than 9 hours! It was the day of steep grades – up and down. I think we drove a total of 9 passes today on I-5 North – some of them very, very steep and miles long. There’s just no way to make good time when you are climbing these mountains at 35 mph.

We are continuing to be plagued by some engine troubles. At least it’s not something “serious” but I’m not happy that we are having any problems at all. After spending several thousands of dollars in December, this new engine shouldn’t be giving us any trouble! The air intake hose on top of the valve cover keeps “popping” off and when it does, it sounds like something is exploding! It happened yesterday and Nolan and I thought we fixed it last night when we stopped. Obviously, we didn’t get that clamp quite tight enough!

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We also did a few minor repairs on the trailer brakes and the rear signals. The intake hose “exploded” off again and, once again, scared us! We pulled over, put it back on again, and tightened it down VERY tight. With each stop, Nolan opened the hood and made sure that everything was staying in place. It was and, after 9.5 hours, we rolled into Cottage Grove, OR for the night.

If you know me, you know that I really dislike (hate) hotdogs! I couldn’t believe that anyone would think this is an improvement on the hotdog but they must like them in the Northwest. I’ve seen these signs everywhere!

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