WEDNESDAY,SEPTEMBER 5th and Thursday, September 6th, 2007:
Today I left for a 3 week tour of Europe with the Bellamy Brothers. They will perform 2 shows in Norway, 3 shows in Denmark (the “scene of my hit and run accident”), 2 shows in the Faroe Islands (yeah, look that one up on a map…a pin dot between Norway and Greenland…owned by Denmark, I think!), one show in Austria, and one show in Switzerland. I return home on September 23rd.
Bellamys flew on United through Dulles and Copenhagen and I am flying on NWA via Detroit and Amsterdam. We meet in Oslo and then fly even farther north into Trondheim. Have a 2 hour bus drive to get to the little town—Halsa– where they will be performing the first show on Friday night. Lindsey left for Athens, Greece today for a festival with Ty Herndon. I HATED missing that event as I love Athens and all the people I work with there. Next year!!!
Everyone’s flights were on time and we’re all hoping to see luggage and equipment when we land in our respective cities. My flight from Nashville to Detroit was on one of the little “puddle jumper” airlines that I hate. While waiting for the flight, I noticed a young Marine waiting as well. I went over to talk to him (imagine that!) and found out he is 23 years old although he looked like he was about 12. He served in Iraq at the beginning of the conflict for a very short time but hasn’t been back. He was in Sadr City – which used to be a very bad place. Not anymore. He goes back in November so hopefully I’ll get to see him for Thanksgiving. He said that his 19 year old brother is also in the Marines and is in Fallujah now. My first thought was, “Oh my. His poor Mom” and as I was thinking that he said, “You can imagine how my mom feels right now”. But, I can and I can’t. I can imagine how horrible it must be to worry about your children like that but having children of my own, I can’t truly “KNOW” how it would feel. She must be so very proud, yet so very scared. I gave him my card and told him to share the email address with his mom and his brother. I have Collin Raye going over in October and then Aaron Tippin, Switchfoot, and Karri Turner with a group of comedians all going over between Thanksgiving and NYE. Hopefully he will email me and I’ll get to see him and/or his brother when we visit. I gave him a big hug once we landed in Detroit. His name is Jeremy Shepler and his brother’s name is Justin. God always puts us exactly where we are supposed to be at the right time.
Flight to Detroit is uneventful. Full flight from Detroit to Amsterdam. Flight attendants are younger than most flights I take. It’s an airbus, so a nice plane. Have a short connection in Amsterdam (darn, I love to shop and get a massage in that airport), then arrive Oslo. None of the airlines can tell me if we have to pick up all our luggage and re-check it in Oslo. I know we did when I went over in July. Even thought it is checked all the way to Trondheim, we usually have to clear customs in Oslo. We shall see!
As an update on my injury, the orthopedic surgeon said my finger is “beautiful”. She showed me a photo of the rod that is permanently implanted inside the bone in my hand. I still have to wear a cast for another week but only when I “travel”. I get to take it off to type and have slept without it for a couple of nights now. It is very stiff and I have to exercise it several times a day. I will need a little cosmetic surgery on my lip in another 5 months. Still have lots of dental work to be done. There is a “foreign object” located above my left eye where the gash was bleeding so badly after the accident. The doctor says it could be glass or gravel but it will eventually work it’s way out. Nice!
Flight to Amsterdam was turbulent – a lot! And, for the first time in a very long time, I was unable to sleep at all. My hand was hurting really bad. I guess it’s the rod in the bone and the pressure inside the plane. Hopefully, once it heals, this won’t continue to hurt. Landed right on time in Amsterdam and had plenty of time to grab a latte en route to my next flight. That flight also left on time. Once again – no matter how many times I ask not to be – I was in the second row which is bulkhead. I have this same fight every trip. No one wants to believe Row 2 is bulkhead. I hate bulkhead. Landed on time in Oslo after yet another turbulent flight. Bellamys were at baggage claim. All our luggage and equipment made it (Yea!) and we had to pick up everything, go upstairs to the check-in counter and re-check everything – just as I predicted. Sad when I know more about international connections than the airlines. We still had plenty of time once we arrived at the gate. I was in the second row again – bulkhead again – but I had the gate agent move me. Then when I got on the plane, they had moved me out of business class into coach. I don’t mind since it is a 50 minute flight but I PAID for business class! Oh well.
Landed on time and a couple of people I have never met before met us with a really nice bus. The promoter that I have been working with did not meet us which immediately sent up a red flag for me. However, the bus was nice and had reclining seats and a toilet. Both people who met us were super nice. We did find out that it is 2 ½ hours, instead of 2 hours to the hotel. We had gone back and forth with the buyer on “where” we would be staying in Halsa. He gave us two options – one was a nice hotel and one was a former “dormitory”. I opted for the hotel. Then, while I was in Denmark dealing with my injuries, supposed the buyer called the office and said that he had been to Halsa and we should stay at the “dormitory”. He sent a photo of a room where the Prince stayed when he as there. Upon arriving at the hotel – which is not near ANYTHING – it’s in the middle of the “woods”, I learned that there is no telephone, no tv, no restaurant anywhere nearby, no reception desk and no “staff”. Evidently they installed wireless internet just for us which is great but doesn’t make up for the other inconveniences. There was a lady in the doorway and she told me that we are the only people staying in this building. There is no elevator and I walked up the stairs to check out the rooms. The only room that isn’t the size of a small closet is the room where the Prince stayed years ago. They actually only knocked out a wall between two tiny bedrooms. It’s a very clean hotel but very “stark” – just like a dormitory. David and Susan got the bigger room and we went down to look at Howard and Jenny’s room. It is the ONLY other room with 2 double beds in the whole building. It is so small they can’t get their suitcases in it and themselves as well. I was not happy and immediately started trying to reach the buyer. No answer. We drove 15 minutes to a restaurant for a really nice meal and he called while we were there. He was very apologetic and admitted that he had not seen the accommodations but had simply relied on photos. Hellooo….how often do you look at photos of a hotel on a website only to be disappointed when you arrive and see the place?
The buyer contacted the hotel where I had originally wanted to stay and made arrangements for us to move. But the other hotel was a 45 minute drive away and everyone was dead tired after flying for 2 days. So, I’ve been in my room answer 149 emails on the wireless that they installed just for us. At least that works.
Countryside is, as always, spectacular. We perform here tomorrow night and then fly up to Leknes. You can actually see the Northern Lights from Leknes. Will be the farthest North I’ve ever been in Norway.
Going to bed now. Almost midnight and I am TIRED! Someone is snoring the wallpaper off the walls in the room next to me. Has to be one of my guys since we’re the only ones staying here.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 7TH:
Did I mention there is also no elevator – not unusual for Europe but very inconvenient. Jenny (Howard’s wife) came by to tell me that Howard was sleeping in a different room. Just not enough space in their room. She said he was wondering since we don’t have “Do Not Disturb” signs, if the maids would come around early and wake everyone up. Then we both started laughing….What maids? When I finally got in bed, I realized that the SHEETS, COMFORTER, EVERYTHING IS MADE OF PAPER! Seriously. It’s sort of a microfiber paper. The bed is more like a folding cot with a ½ inch mattress on top. The comforter is some thin thing covered in paper, too. I have honestly had better accommodations in some of the places we have stayed in Iraq. The towels were placed out in the hallway for everyone to grab. I had to ask for toilet tissue this morning. Everyone just raided all the other rooms to get what they needed last night. Howard was standing in his room with no clothes on right before we left for dinner last night. He said someone knocked on the door and before he could say “just a minute”, the lady from the front door barged in. She got quite the surprise!
Got up to go jogging only to learn that it was pouring rain. Also learned that I forgot my “rubber workout bands”. Darn! So, it was lunges down the hall, squats and some aerobic moves that I can do until my rib and hand heal. The Bellamys were eating breakfast and said that when they came down at 7 am, the front door to the building was locked and there was no way for them to get outside. What if we had a fire or an emergency in the middle of the night? I don’t like the thought of being locked inside a building.
We drove over to have lunch with the Mayor at noon only I wasn’t aware that we were meeting with the Mayor. It is a female and she is really sweet. She has been the Mayor for 4 years and Monday is election day. She is running against 4 men. A pastor from a little church near where we are staying joined us. We were fed a cold plate with all their traditional fish dishes plus some venison and local sausage. I had so many phone calls during lunch that I didn’t get to eat. Susan (David’s wife) doesn’t eat fish so it was a light lunch for both of us.
Lars, our host, told us that this is the fjord where Keiko (the Free Willie movies) lived the last few years of his life. The countryside here is beautiful and we are located right on a fjord. He said that some men were out fishing one day and Keiko jumped up beside their boat. They threw everything into the water and took off as fast as possible back to dock because all the knew was that a 7 meter whale was chasing their boat. Since Keiko had been trained in captivity to “play” with humans, he just wanted to play. Once the general public found out where Keiko was, they flocked to the small village of Halsa. Lars was responsible for taking care of Keiko and he said more than 5,000 tourists showed up on Summer trying to get a look at him. He said that Keiko loved to eat Herring and people were always giving him crates full of herring to feed him. Sometimes, there would be a few fish that were not herring mixed in. Keiko would swish them around in his mouth and spit out anything that wasn’t herring! He died a few years ago of pneumonia.
Went back to the same place for dinner again tonight. As I said before, our hosts have been so nice and gracious. I’m just glad it’s the Bellamys who are here because they take things in stride better than some artists who don’t travel overseas as much.
The venue is really nice. It’s a hall and is set up so that one side has tables, chairs and a bar, the middle is for “standing”, on the other side is a white picket fence blocking off the “dance” floor, and on the far side are tables and chairs for “families” and people who don’t drink. It was pouring rain when we got to the show and continue to rain all night. We have a big crowd of enthusiastic Bellamy fans…first time they have performed in this particular area. I sat with Susan at the merch table and we fended off the “drunks”. Only one man dropped his pants to put on his t-shirt and I missed it because I had to go backstage for a few minutes. We did have another buy telling us HE was responsible for taking care of Keiko when he was here. I know that Keiko put this little village in Norway on the map, so everyone wants to say they were a “part” of it. The show went great and we got loaded out and back to the hotel by 2 am. I got 2 hours sleep and then we left for Leknes – way North in Norway. Hope we get to see the Northern lights. Everyone in Halsa was so nice and a pleasure to work with. Hope we can come back again soon – but stay at the HOTEL next time. I am sure that in the future we will all refer to this tour as the one where David and Susan stayed in the “Prince’s” suite. J