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The Great Ivy + Bean Tour, Week Seven: Kentucky, Alabama, and Kentucky, again.

This week was one for the (world) record books, folks. Fasten your seatbelt.

After a stellar couple of days celebrating birthdays and being just plain lazy, which was incredible, we eased our way back into the swing of things with a Sunday evening load-in at the Easter Kentucky University Center for the Arts. Much like the venue in Green Bay, everything was big and located on multiple floors. I always feel fancy when I have to use an elevator to get to the stage. Maybe that’s just me.

EKU Center for the Arts in Richmond, Kentucky

We beat our record load-in time by a few minutes and got back to the hotel at a reasonable hour. Waking up super early the next day was going to come as quite a shock after being able to sleep in, so I was very grateful for the extra hour or so we now had to repack our things and head to bed. Jake’s family drove from Ohio to come see our shows the next day and to bring us homemade chocolate from his Mom.

Yeah, you read me right. She made. us. chocolate. Chocolate-dipped pretzels, homemade turtles filled with walnut and caramel, mint chocolate-dipped Oreos and so much more. It was literally the best chocolate ever, and knowing that his Mom made it for all of us made it all the more delicious.

Monday morning came quickly, as did the rest of the day. We performed the show twice before 1pm, had great help from the crew at EKU for load-out, and were back on the road in no time. We were on our way to Owensboro, Kentucky for our next round of shows, which was only about three and a half hours away.

The River Park Center in Owensboro, Kentucky

Our only responsibility on Tuesday was to load into River Park Center in Owensboro, a beautiful space located (much like the name suggests) right next to the Ohio River. We were trying to soak up as much of this low-stress day as we could since the next three days were going to be nonstop, so while Sydney and Jake went with Dylan to give the van and trailer a good scrub-down, Emily and Dan went to a park close by the theater to kick a soccer ball and lay in the sun. Tuesday was also Dylan’s birthday (as well as St. Patrick’s Day), so we all went out to dinner as a group in celebration of all the festivities. HAPPY BIRTHDAY DYLAN!!!

Ok, fun time's over. For the next seventy two hours, we go. go. GO.

We were up early again on Wednesday for another round of performances and the start of three straight days of traveling, loading and performing. Sadly, Dan wasn’t feeling 100%; he wasn’t ill per se, but whatever was getting to him, whether it was allergies or some upper respiratory bug, it was attacking his voice first. The poor guy didn’t have much of a voice for either show that day. I could tell he was a little frustrated by it, but that didn't prevent him from giving a wonderful set of shows. He may tell you otherwise, but don't listen. He was great. He's always great.

We loaded out of the theater in Owesnsboro as fast as we possibly could. We were tired, but we knew that we still had to travel to Hunstville, Alabama and load in to the theater before the night was over. I was rushing around for a whole other reason entirely. Our route to Huntsville was going to take us down I-65, the interstate that runs right through Nashville and right past my house, Mama and Papa Pennline, and Max. If we were quick about leaving Kentucky, we would get to Franklin (where my house is) with enough time to stop by and eat dinner with my rents. And that's exactly what we did.

Tour Family + My Dog and My Rents + My Home = Heart Explosion.

All nine of us filled the house for an hour, looking at old family photos, exploring my old bedroom, petting my dog and eating my mom's homemade lasagna. My parents were so gracious and loving, just like I knew they would be, eager to meet and feed the people who've taken care of me for the past four or five months. It was so surreal seeing all my friends at the dinner table, relaxing on my couch, taking pictures of Max. They are my family, and now here they are in my home! It was strange but fantastic, and I could feel myself recharging mentally and physically. And It was so nice to eat a full meal that wasn't from a fast-food chain or perched on our laps in a moving van.

After some tears, I said goodbye to my rents and my pooch and hopped back in the van with extra goodies from Mama Pennline that included a whole cherry pie and a pound of strawberries with chocolate fudge dip (Mama P knows how it's done, y'all). On our way to Alabama, Sydney wrote my mom the sweetest email saying thank you for the hospitality and the wonderful food. I was (and still am) overwhelmed by the gesture, and I felt so damned good knowing that my friends also felt recharged by the visit.

We got to Huntsville right on time for our load-in at the Broadway Theater that evening. I immediately started digging in to the snack bag my mom packed, and by the time we finished loading in three hours later, the pound of strawberries and half of the cherry pie had completely disappeared. I went to bed that night with a full stomach and full heart.

The gang onstage at the Broadway Theater in Huntsville, Alabama

Thursday was a repeat of Wednesday minus the Tennessee pit-stop, so it felt a lot like the movie Groundhog Day for me. We woke up early, performed two early shows, loaded out, drove BACK to Kentucky, and loaded into our next venue that night. I will say, though, our experience in Alabama was phenomenal. Our hotel was very new and very swanky, the audiences were super vocal, super excited to be there and to see us, and the staff at the theater treated us to a wonderful meal between shows.

Originally, we weren't sure we were going to have lunch provided by the venue at all-- sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. It's always nice when they do, because we'll end up taking extras with us to eat in the van for our next meal. We ALWAYS take advantage of free food.

When Alfredo our stage manager texted us that morning and let us know that they would have some snacks for us, we were expecting something real light, like sliced bread and lunchmeat. So when we walked in to a full salad bar, baked potatoes, chicken breasts AND an array of deli meat and cheese for sandwiches, we were floored. Like jaw-to-the-floor floored.

Okay enough about food already. Sheesh.

I was on autopilot by the time we returned to Kentucky and began loading in to the theater that night. My body knew what to do, but my brain was super discombobulated. Didn't we just do this? We already performed in Kentucky, right? What day is it? WHAT DAY IS IT?

The Carson Center in Paducah, Kentucky

On top of losing grip on reality, old tour nightmares came back to haunt us: one of our trailer's tires was flat on our arrival to the theater Friday morning.

AW COME ON, RHONDA. (shakes fist at trailer and sky simultaneously)

Dylan drove the trailer to a tire shop before our shows that morning in the hopes that it would be done by the time we finished that afternoon, and it timed out pretty well. We had two decent shows, had a great lunch brought in by the theater's staff, and were packed and loaded out of the theater by the time Rhonda arrived.

I was beat, though, physically, vocally, mentally, all the -ally's. After an eight-show week, with six of those shows back-to-back-to-back, I wanted to do a whole lotta nothing. I'm pretty sure we all felt that way. And we still had to drive all the way back home!

Well, Dylan had to drive us all the way back home. Sorry Dylan.

We (Dylan) drove to Cincinnati that night, and spent the evening hanging out in one of our hotel rooms drinking cheap beer and eating leftovers from our lunch at the venue. Sydney's friend from school Tati came to visit her and hang out with us, too, which was very fun. The next two days were rather uneventful, thankfully. We drove to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania the following day, followed by home sweet home on Sunday.

What a way to finish this leg of the tour! Next stop, west coast!

Cross your fingers crossed Rhonda gets there in one piece. Seriously. Do it.

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