Several months ago, Donna Leal e-mailed me to mention that she was going to be on tour with the Madison Scouts for ten days, working on the cook truck from Sevierville, Tenn., to Denver. She agreed to keep a log of her thoughts for a future Fanfare column, which I am ecstatic to present here, almost exactly six months after the start of her tour. Her notes were so comprehensive that we'll be reading them over three installments, the first three-part Fanfare ever. If you've shared a unique experience with a corps, please share it with us by contacting me at Day minus two: July 27, 2004 This is the eve of my great adventure. After a 27-year wait, I will be going on tour with the Madison Scouts. I've always wanted to tour with the Scouts and after a quarter-of-a-century (!) wait, it appears as though I'm finally going. It all started when I posted a message on the Scouts forum, volunteering my services for the day if the Scouts happened to be in Sevierville. A young man named Nick Krebs referred me to his mom, Debbie, who would be running the cook truck all summer. The next thing I know I'm going on tour for ten days. I'm a bit concerned about my husband, Jim, being on his own for such a lengthy amount of time. A list has been posted on the refrigerator of things I'm hoping he'll accomplish while I'm gone. I would not enjoy coming home to a house full of dead plants and starving pets. I've had six months to get ready to hit the road, so all the last-minute things that must be accomplished before I go surprise me. I have promised Justin Ashton, the Scouts drum sergeant, homemade cookies, and I don't have time to finish cleaning my kitchen after an evening of baking. I wonder if the two bowls I left in the sink will be there when I return. As I lie in my bed, it occurs to me that I won't be sleeping in my bed for ten days. Ten days. It seems like a lifetime. Day minus one: July 28, 2004 My husband, Jim, takes my duffel bag and I to work today. I will be going from work to the show then I hit the road for ten days with the Scouts. I'm of no use to anyone today, so at 3 p.m., I'm officially off. Attending the show with me this evening are my friends and co-workers, Kelly Brannen and Rebecca Thomas. Both Kelly and Rebecca are drum corps fans. Rebecca was recruited for Spirit of Atlanta's color guard when the corps was formed, while Kelly's high school color guard instructor, Bobby Fayard, marched with Madison and instructed visual for the Cavaliers for several years. Russell Ramsey and the Sevier County High School band boosters have been sponsoring a Drums Across America show since 1976. They usually do a great job, but total chaos seems to be the norm this year. Maybe I'm just apprehensive about what I'm about to embark on and am therefore overly critical. The show's been oversold, so as a result, people are milling about searching for seating long after the show has started. Rebecca and I decide to use the intermission break as an opportunity to find Deb. I am looking forward to meeting Deb, as we have only exchanged e-mails and an occasional phone call. However, I feel as though I've always known her as we both share a deep love for the Scouts. As we wander about outside the stadium, I notice someone working on a Scouts vehicle and introduce myself. I am pleased to meet Mike Anello, as he works on the cook truck. Unfortunately, I learn he's working on the air conditioning on what is affectionately known as the 'Bago. This will be my home for the next few days, and the air conditioning is not working? Kansas in July with no air conditioning? I don't think so. Maybe I need to re-evaluate my plans. Deb is elusive, so we return to the stadium for the Scouts' show. We attempt to get to a concession stand before the show resumes, but don't have any luck. After the show is over, Kelly and I finally locate Deb. Using a cart, I lug my duffel to the 'Bago. I bid Kelly a fond farewell and give her a big hug. The Scouts are having their evening snack as I begin getting acquainted with everyone. We soon load up and I hear the words I've waited almost all my life to hear: "We're getting ready to roll out." I'm on tour with the Scouts. We've barely passed into the central time zone when I am struck by a feeling of absolute terror. I have to use the bathroom. Maybe if I don't think about it, the feeling will go away. Why did I drink all that water before leaving Sevierville? More importantly, why didn't I go to the bathroom? I make my way to the front of the 'Bago. "Well, this is certainly the most embarrassing moment of my life," I think as I explain my dilemma. An unscheduled stop is in order. I find the restroom only to discover a locked door. Luckily, it was only for routine cleaning and the facilities were open. Drum corps rule no.1: If you have a chance to use the bathroom, use it! Our first scheduled stop is at a truck stop in middle Tennessee, and as I'm one with a highly developed curiosity regarding new places, I decide I must go in. I am greatly entertained by a lively exchange between an enraged truck driver and the cashier. Apparently, there was no soap in the shower. I am openly staring as the drama unfolds. I hope the trucker does not turn his ire on me. He seems a bit peeved. Day one: July 29, 2004 I must have finally fallen asleep in the 'Bago, as I awoke to find myself in what we thought was Shelbyville, Tenn. Actually, we landed at Riverdale High School in Murfreesboro, Tenn. I absolutely cannot wait to brush my teeth. Drum corps rule no. 2: Always have your toothbrush handy. I rush to the first running water I find. In this case, it happens to be a water fountain. In my first encounter with life on the road with a group of men, I pass a sleepy-looking member emerging from the ladies locker room. I discover that while on tour with a great majority of men and a tiny minority of women, the men rule – meaning the ladies rooms can be coed. The morning was spent slicing bagels and discussing past drum corps shows. It's enjoyable to talk drum corps with someone who knows the Rockford file as more than a 1970s television show -- someone who knows why the greatly loved and much missed 27th Lancers had such a phenomenal guard. It wasn't long before the members began making their way to the food truck for breakfast. I'm impressed by how polite and well-mannered they are. Several of the guys from the drum bus ask if I'm Donna, and they thank me for the cookies. I have a brief moment to myself, so I call everyone to let them know I made it through the first night. I speak with Delane -- a non-drum corps person -- when I call work. Part of the drum line is rehearsing in a corner of the parking lot, so I hold the phone up so Delane can hear the excitement. "Did you hear that, Delane?" I ask with great enthusiasm. "What is that?" inquired an extremely puzzled Delane. "That's part of our drum line!" I explained. "I thought it was a train," she replied. Delane obviously has had no prior experience with drum corps. We barely finish breakfast when it's time to prepare lunch. I realize I haven't eaten in 24 hours as I eat two meatballs. I don't seem to have much of an appetite. I discover that Alan and I will be taking the 'Bago to a local car dealership as we seem to have a burned out brake light. Alan, who marched with the Scouts for many years, is spending the summer driving the support staff vehicle. He's very personable and we are soon talking like old friends. My assignment, upon reaching the dealership, will be to charm the mechanics so the 'Bago will be repaired in a prompt manner. I only hope the air conditioner can be repaired. Quite frankly, I may be short on charm today. I haven't had a shower since yesterday morning at 6 a.m. and I look like I slept in my clothes. Uh, I did sleep in my clothes. I have an incredible motivation driving me as I flirt with the attendant. If we don't get back to the housing site by 2 p.m., I won't have time to shower before departing for the show. I say everything short of promising this man I'll marry him if he'll get that brake light fixed. I hope my charms will also result in an air conditioner repair, but apparently there's the issue of an unavailable part. To my vast relief, I did get my shower before departing for the show. I'm quickly discovering one must never take for granted the small comforts while on tour. This is the first time I've seen all top-12 corps live since the 1980 DCI World Finals in Birmingham, Ala. I'm particularly looking forward to seeing Santa Clara Vanguard and the Cavaliers. I love Santa Clara -- I always have. I was lucky enough to see the Cavaliers in 2003 in Sevierville and really enjoyed their show. I'm anxious to see what they do with James Bond. I've also heard a lot about the Cadets and their baton twirler, so that will be something else to look forward to. Sitting in the end zone is not a prime spot for watching a drum corps show, but I was able to get an idea of what the shows are like this year. I'm not a big fan of baton twirlers, but the Cadets' guy was talented. The people around me really enjoyed him, screaming and clapping with much enthusiasm throughout his performance. Personally, I enjoyed hearing SCV warm up with "Tradition" from "Fiddler on the Roof." Unfortunately for the Cadets, it was during the middle of their show. I loved what Santa Clara did with "Scheherazade." Nobody performs Rimsky-Korsakov like the Vanguard. (I do love Santa Clara.) The Cavaliers did not disappoint with "007." It appears as though they have a great guard. I couldn't really see the drill, but I bet I'll enjoy it when I finally do. As we head to Indy through a driving rainstorm, I talk a bit with Kenny Miller (corps manager) and Rouland Charles (tour manager). I later awake to find myself shivering on the floor of the 'Bago, covered with one of Kenny's blankets. I must have snatched it from him during the night. To this day I have no memory of falling asleep and have no idea how I ended up in the floor. NEXT WEEK: Donna discovers junk food and finally hears the corps members sing "You'll Never Walk Alone." Thoughts of going home early (due to missing her husband) begin to run through her mind. Then feelings of maternal instincts start to take over and she begins to dread the coming end of her tour of duty.
Michael Boo has been involved with drum and bugle corps since 1975, when he marched his first of three seasons with the Cavaliers.

He has a bachelor's degree in music education and a master's degree in music theory and composition.
He has written about the drum corps activity for over a quarter century for publications such as Drum Corps World, and presently is involved in a variety of projects for Drum Corps International, including souvenir program books, CD liner notes, DCI Update and Web articles, and other endeavors. Michael currently writes music for a variety of idioms, is a church handbell and vocal choir director, an assistant director of a community band, and a licensed Realtor in the state of Indiana. His other writing projects are for numerous publications, and he has published an honors-winning book on the history of figure skating. His hobbies include TaeKwonDo and hiking the Indiana Dunes. But more than anything, Michael is proud to love drum corps and to be a part of the activity in some small way, chronicling various facets of each season for the enjoyment of others.