We rose at a relatively normal time, for once, and clambered onto the bus for a hopeful 11am departure to drive to Kentucky. Yet again, we made the mistake of giving Ed Jillings the single room available and as such he was invariably nowhere to be seen at 11 o’clock. Many people were still merry from the previous evening’s social with Count Me In. In a futile attempt to help, Alfie offered Sylvan a chocolate croissant. However this was to no avail and the stodgy pastry was swiftly spat out onto the pavement outside the bus.

We eventually settled in for what was the longest bus journey of tour so far. Departing at 11.30am, we arrived at 9.45pm at night. Kudos to Elio for driving us all that way and still keeping in high spirits! Throughout the journey there were regular stops for people relieve their bladders and buy snacks. It felt like we never moved onwards at all as we managed to stop consecutively at no less than three Casey’s General Stores during the first half of the journey. After the third, we thought we should seek out some real food and not just Pringles and Gatorade. However as we have come to learn in the last three weeks it is rare to find ‘real’ food on the road. Eventually fate forced out hand and we had to confine ourselves to Burger King and Pizza Hut – for probably the billionth time on tour. Charlie continues to yearn for ‘a fresh cucumber’ with all its nutrients and watery goodness.

Once we set off again after our luncheon, Ludo was swiftly demoted from the front seat due to his questionable DJ-ing abilities, much to his offence. Instead Rob and Alfie took the mantle of joint-aux-cable-supervisors and the bus was swiftly filled with what I can only describe as ‘sick beats’. This didn’t stop the more tired amongst us from having a snooze in the back of the bus, however…

A very sleepy back row

A very sleepy back row

We had a brief stop over in St Louis as we passed over the Mississippi River to stretch out legs and get out to have a look at the famous Gateway Arch, part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. It is the world’s tallest arch, standing at 630ft and it made us all feel rather small.

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Big arch, small person

After that brief and rainy interlude we swiftly reembarked to complete the last 4 hours of our mammoth journey. We eventually arrived at what we thought was our hotel… only to realise that it was actually further down the road. Having checked into our typical American Motel rooms, we headed out in search of some dinner, having not eaten any real food for several days. We swiftly came across a restaurant called ‘Tokyo Hibachi’ offering Japanese cuisine. After begging the waitress to seat us (at 10.14pm when it closed at 10.15), we managed to settle down and enjoy some quality food that was made to order and not off the shelf!

The meal was quite a spectacle, especially those who had not experienced tepanyaki before. Our chef came out and wowed us with his tricks including making huge flames, spinning eggs around, throwing knives in the air and catching bowls in his hat. The food was as impressive as the creation of it and we stayed in the restaurant long it to the night until the waitresses asked us to sing a song before leaving.

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Our wonderful chef astounding us with fire

The following morning we awoke still full of delicious tepanyaki, thankful for a balanced meal for once, and set off at once for Hopkinsville, merely an hour and a half’s drive from Paducah (child’s play compared with the marathon journey of the day before). The heavens had completely opened however, and a monsoon plagued Kentucky’s highways for the entirety of our journey. This didn’t dampen the groups spirits in any way however, as it was Sylvan’s 21st birthday! Many happy returns! Our sources can indeed confirm that he has felt a great wave of maturity come over him, what a shame that it came after our visit to Las Vegas. Sorry Sylvan! The rain had not subsided by the time we reached the Alhambra theatre, much to the group’s dismay, resulting in a mad rush for the stage door, flight cases in hand, fighting against a veritable river in the street. Thoroughly drenched, we began to set up for our penultimate show.

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The Alhambra theatre was absolutely beautiful, with Mediterranean architecture and murals surrounding the stage. On discovering that the building itself was having it’s 90th anniversary that year (Sylvan was very happy that this had occurred on his birthday), we really enthused in the space, and sound check became a much easier affair. This meant that we had a considerable amount of free time in the green room/dressing rooms to relax. However, some members of the group were not content with resting, and decided to embark upon a ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ adventure. I was a little bamboozled by the game, but the old hands (Sylvan, Duncan, Ted, Sam and Ed) quickly got the new recruits (Alfie and Greg) up to speed with the imaginary adventure and it’s manifold intricacies. Most of us also ordered Dominos, and the food coma soon set in, allowing the group to feel fully nourished (if not entirely with healthy food) and rested for our last evening performance!

The audience were fantastic, very enthusiastic and energetic, and this helped us push through any fatigue we had. The lighting was also absolutely brilliant, adjusting between each song perfectly. A particular highlight of the evening was in Bump ‘N Grind, in which our lucky female volunteer turned out to be a longstanding ST fan, having seen the group perform last year in Miami on STUSA16! She promised that she had moved to Kentucky that summer completely by chance, but we have our suspicions. After the show, it was very enjoyable to mingle and meet some of the locals, who told us more about the theatre’s history. Before setting off, we sang a hearty happy birthday to Sylvan, tucking in to the delicious carrot cake that came with it with great gusto.

We also just managed to catch the final results of the ICCA finals in New York, in which Aquapella (from Bath University), who were representing the UK, won the award for outstanding choreography. Congratulations to them! Not only that, but the finals of the Voice Festival UK was held back home in England and we’re super proud of our Exeter gals the Sweet Nothings for bringing home the respective award Outstanding Choreography! Congratulations also the Rolling Tones who won the whole evening!

The 3 hour journey to our hotel that night might have been extremely boring, if not for ‘Dungeons and Dragons’, but a 3am arrival in Somerset left the group largely zombified after an exhausting day. Only one show left!

H.E./L.G.