Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Road Trip: A Pageantry Experience

I just drove to Ohio for the first time in 10 years… and it wasn’t for color guard. As a matter of fact, I didn’t end up driving anywhere near Dayton, Ohio.

Yes, everyone can take a collective gasp in shock or laugh in twisted humor… I know I found it amusing myself.

This 2nd week of June, I drove to Ohio to visit family in Cleveland. My twin cousins were the last of all my cousins to graduate from high school and it was their celebration party I would be attending. It was a huge family gathering and after so many years, I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity. So there I was, ready to go in my sweats, at 7:30am on a Friday morning. I ended up sitting in the back seat of the shiny red rental car while my sister and brother-in-law sat up front. With my travel bag at my feet, my mini suitcase in the truck, a small foam cooler in the seat next to me, a pillow, and a sleeping bag, I was ready for the 15+ hour drive ahead of me. My first initial reaction was… thank goodness I was not driving. It was really early and I was really tired. As a matter of fact, since I wasn’t on the rental permit and wasn‘t allowed to drive at all, my comfy spot in the back of the car was mine and mine alone. My second thought brought me to our beloved sport and all those who have ever drove to WGI or for all those who have marched DCI or are currently just beginning their DCI summer travels.

Before departure and settling in, I immediately fell into seat organization mode WGI -style. I laid out my sleeping bag to claim my space and placed my travel bag by my feet. I put my spare pillow case on the chair in front of me to have a drink holding pocket and I safely placed my flip flops in the side cubby for quick access. I switched to DCI - mode and made sure my suitcase was loaded in the trunk aka “under the bus” and then worked to make sure all other luggage/supplies were stored properly and safely. I “boarded” and snuggled into my seat.

As we pulled out of the parking lot and turned on the highway, I curled myself up into my sleeping bag, fluffed my pillow, and laid my head down. After 15+ years of Dayton travels, I have been permanently programmed that if I am not the driver in a vehicle on a long trip, I was able to instantly and gratefully fall asleep. Many WGI and DCI members know that sleep is rare on these amazing trips. I have had many experiences that upon arrival to Dayton, we performers usually had about 2 hours (if we were lucky) before jumping straight into rehearsal. The time between arrival and rehearsal was mostly meant for food, a quick shower, changing clothing, and for stretching. Have you ever sat on a bus that long? Soreness sets in really quick when you are curled up into a human pretzel on a single chair for hours and we all know that isn’t an excuse for a bad rehearsal especially at Nationals. Staff members are usually found eating/drinking, discussing plans for the night, and focusing on the details of the week. My DCI experience of my rook-out season at Teal Sound wasn’t much different. Once we arrived at our new site, it was usually the very early am. Between unloading the bus (I was on bus crew) and laying down again, it wasn’t much time before we heard the great memorable words of “GOOD MORNING TEAL SOUND! YOU HAVE 15 MINUTES TO MAKE IT OUT FOR STRETCH BLOCK!” I made sure I got some zzz’s on the bus.

I also knew instantly when the bus stopped and I would rise and shine. Well, I would get up anyways. We were somewhere in Georgia now. So what is the one thing that all pageantry people know to do when the bus stops? You run to the bathroom. Whether you have to go or not is irrelevant. You go. I hopped out of the back seat, flip flops and debit card in hand, and made a mad dash towards the bathroom only to realize how foolish I looked being one of 3 people getting out of the car. Thankfully, it looked like I just had to go rather than in my sleepy stupor thinking there were several people behind me.

We purchased breakfast and I returned back to my spot in the back seat. As I sat back there watching the world pass by and eating my French toast sticks from Burger King (they forgot my syrup L ), I briefly pondered about the great “Battle of the Back Seat“. This is the timeless battle that happens in any bus trip ever. We all know that people fight for that seat; it’s the long bench seat in the back that has just a little bit more room than the others. And since it is a rule that there is no using the bathroom on the bus, it was known that it wouldn’t smell like potty in the back of the bus. Then again, most of us know the definite stink of drum corps bus smell - a lovely mix of body odor and dirty clothing. A smell that was just a matter of time to develop regardless of bathroom usage. No matter where you sit when the stink finally sets in, no particular seat can save you. Sometimes, it can be far worse than any bathrooms I‘ve ever experienced. Anyways - so all in all, I always sat up front for previous mentioned first-off-the-bus rights. Others preferred the extra leg room. Guess it just depends on your priorities.

After eating, I promptly fell back asleep. I must have been up and down because time had drifted by.

Somewhere in South Carolina, I woke up again and we stopped for food. I was sad at first as my first guard reaction was that we were at Cracker Barrel. Oh, how I love Cracker Barrel. I thought of the rocking chairs up front, the oversized checker board, and how I could play in the store. It always became WGI tradition that we would do breakfast at Cracker Barrel and we could buy our Secret Sister/Brother a new present. I love the cinnamon apples there too; it just made my guard breakfast. Instead, we ended up at Bo jangles chicken, which made me think of one of my 2005 Paradigm rehearsals and Momma Jordan made us her amazing homemade fried chicken and how in DCI we never got fried chicken or restaurants on tour. (No restaurants unless on laundry days there was a fast food place in walking distance) We got whatever came off the food trucks. Some days it was a full spread of hot scrambled eggs, bacon, biscuits, etc. Other days, it was boxes of cereal and PBJ. I do know some of the upper level corps get some pretty amazing food on the daily. We ate up and continued on the journey.

Now that I was full, I became restless. What does one do when they are restless? You became the DJ of the car and being the DJ isn’t easy. Even when its only 3 people, someone always dislikes the choices! I remember there was nothing more difficult than to get a bus full of marching members, WGI or DCI, to agree on a single movie to pass the time. I remember never watching the end of anything either because the next group wanted to put their movie in as soon as possible. Movies that I always felt were bus appropriate were musicals, anything with a dance number, and team sport related movies. They were easy to relate to as we all danced and were a team. Movies that never made everyone happy and always caused fights were horror movies, most comedies because everyone has different levels of humor, and guard videos. Yes, guard videos. It didn’t matter if we were going to Nationals or another DCI show. We were surrounded by the sport. Despite popular belief, we really didn’t want to watch it all the time. We were living it. I know guard videos were a big no-no during my DCI days because the guard members were sharing a bus with the drummers and it was an agreement that we wouldn’t torture them with guard videos if they didn’t drum on EVERYTHING while not on the way to a show. They had our blessing to drum away enroute to a show; we were too busy putting on makeup and changing to care that they were banging on everything. But if they insisted on tapping on everything every second of every bus trip, they might of lost fingers.

Farther down the road, somewhere along the way, the line-in cord to the radio was taken away from me and I proceeded to fall back asleep. I woke up again in the little town called Bland, Virginia.

 I immediately felt all the aches and pains of being curled up in a back seat as I stood up and got out. Stretching seem vital at this junction of the trip as was checking out the small little town we stumbled into for a gas/potty break. WGI and DCI travels gave us all the great opportunity to visit places we would never have had the chance to go to. So many of my fellow performers said they haven’t been out of Florida as we embarked on an out of state Regional or the Nationals trip. Paradigm members learned valuable lessons about snow in our 2003 season. Our South Florida members learned the finer meaning of cold as we were snowed in in Rhode Island after attending the Regional up there. With DCI, we never knew where we were and that was all part of the adventure. Most days we didn’t know what day it was either. I marched before the peak of smart phones so back then no one was that connected like they are now. So I was thankful for the morning schedule though that usually had vital information marked on top somewhere for us.

Again, somewhere, I got bored and fell back to sleep.

Around 10:45pm, after traveling through mountains and many more miles, we finally arrived at our destination excited to be there. We quickly unpacked, thankful to be up and mobile. Family met us at the door and we were given a great meal and a lot of laughter til about 1:30am and we had to go to bed. The long journey was complete and extensive trek from Florida to Ohio was made worth it by great food, family, camaraderie, and the knowledge that is was a rare opportunity to have all these people together for a short time. The limited time wasn’t dwelled on, but everyone knew how rare the next few days together were and how quickly it was going to be gone.

After a fantastic weekend that went by all too fast and a grateful flight home, it was then that I realized as I packed way too much for 3 days just like I always did for a Dayton trip and I was glad I wasn’t making that trip home again via driving. DCI, please enjoy those bus trips. My body is just way too old for that anymore.

To all those out there beginning their DCI summer experiences, all of you amazing performers, volunteers, and staff members, from all of us at Paradigm, have a great summer full of memories and incredible experiences, good luck on the buses, and we can’t wait to see your performances


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