FESTIVAL COUNTRY CHIHUAHUA
FRIDAY, AUGUST 24TH – NASHVILLE TO CHIHUAHUA, MEXICO:
Today I left with Bucky Covington for a performance in Chihuahua, Mexico for the PBR. We do this event every year, but I haven’t been here in several years because it has conflicted with events in Scandinavia. I’m probably more apprehensive about being here than going to Afghanistan. But where we are in Chihuahua is very “safe” and we have private security guards escorting us at all times. Penny was down here last weekend with Anita Cochran and everything was fine.
I haven’t worked with Bucky before but have heard good things about him. There are 6 people in his group and one is his brother who is the tour manager/drummer. AND, as if it’s not hard enough for me to remember names, his brother is his identical twin! Everyone arrived at the airport on time and they are a really nice group of guys. Haven’t worked with anyone in the group before which is unusual.
We got checked in only to learn that our flight was delayed by at least 30 minutes due to late arrival of our aircraft. The guys went to eat and I went to the gate to answer emails. We fly via Houston on United and both our 2 hour flights are on the small jets…which I HATE. We ended up departing almost an hour late but since we had a 3 hour layover in Houston, no problem. Very few people on the plane and I had an exit row which was nice. Had a little turbulence for a few minutes but nothing that made me scream. J We landed about an hour late and learned that our flight to Chihuahua was delayed by about 30 minutes. We ate some lunch and then went to the gate area. I had told Kevin to go to the counter and see if he could get an exit row seat as well. There was a United agent at the counter but when Kevin walked up, he informed him that he needed to go eat and didn’t have time to deal with him. Trust me, this guy could definitely stand to miss several meals!
Kevin waited until the guy came back but as he approached the counter the guy because belligerent and told him he had just gotten back and didn’t have time to deal with him! What a jerk. L Kevin was finally able to switch to an exit row seat right before we boarded. Then after we had boarded the plane, this same counter agent comes on board wearing a clown nose! Very appropriate actually. He went to the back and told all the guys who had gate checked their instruments that they would take very good care of them. You would not believe the difference in the way the musicians get treated since that guy put the video up on YOUTUBE showing United Airlines throwing his guitar across the tarmac. Major changes in favor of the musicians as it should have always been.
Flight was pretty turbulent and I was not happy. The flight attendant gave us our forms to fill out and they were all in Spanish. I asked for the English version and he said they didn’t have any. He said that even he did not know how to fill them out and maybe we should ask one of the Hispanic passengers to assist us. Unbelievable. Fortunately since Penny had the same problem last week, she had made a copy of the form and included in our itinerary showing how to fill out the forms. We landed about 15 minutes late and then it took forever to go through Passport Control and Customs. It’s a tiny airport – one room actually. But the amount of paperwork is overwhelming. The final inspection is putting all your bags through the scanner and then you have to “push a button”. If the screen is “green” you go out of the Customs area. If it is “red”, you have to let them search all your bags! Fortunately, we all hit green and escaped to the arrival area.
Armando and Paulina were waiting for us with Robert our driver and our two security escorts Manual and Efrendi (not sure about the spelling on that name!). They had a van and we almost didn’t get all the luggage and equipment in the back for the trip to the hotel. It was about a 30 minute drive to the hotel. It’s a Westin Hotel and is AWESOME. Penny stayed here a couple of years ago but it’s my first time. Really, really like this hotel!
I went downstairs and ate dinner with a couple of the guys. Zoe (my granddaughter) was getting a cold when I left this morning. Now I think I’m getting it. For the first time, I didn’t bring my bag of “meds” with me since I’m only here 2 nights. Lesson learned….never travel without drugs!
We have a 10 am lobby call and the time difference is one hour behind Nashville. Going to bed very soon.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 25TH – PERFFORMANCE IN CHIHUAHUA:
Forgot to mention that while I was having dinner with a couple of the guys last night, Bucky and some of the others were in the bar across the lobby listening to a local group play. About halfway through out meal, the music changed to “country” and English voices. The guys couldn’t stand it…they had to get up and sing. The hotel is “open” as far as being in a square and you can see all the rooms from the lobby. I was afraid management was going to shut them down because the noise level was about 10 times louder than the little local group who had been playing. But the guys only played 3-4 songs and stopped. It’s amazing how many people have recognized Bucky – before we left Nashville and after we arrived here. Even the Customs agents when we landed in Chihuahua stopped him and asked to take a photo with him. It’s great!
Was in bed by 1 am and got up at 6 so I could work out. There is a nice fitness room in the basement with lots of cardio and weight training equipment. Breakfast was a buffet with LOTS of stuff I couldn’t eat….I love Mexican food and would eat it for 3 meals a day but can’t “afford” to intake all those calories. The menu at the restaurant last night was huge. I had a white fish with shrimp grilled in garlic and steamed broccoli and cauliflower. I WANTED the Combo Mexican plate. 😉 Was delighted to learn that the restaurant this morning could make me an egg white omelet. My one “cheat” meal will be at lunch today when we go to a Mexican restaurant.
We left for the venue at 10 am and dropped the guys off to set up for sound check. The venue is the Municipal auditorium and it’s really nice. It is set up for the rodeo which will take place just prior to the performance. There will be around 6,000 people watching the rodeo but we never know how many will stay for the “free concert”. Some of the attendees are only there for the rodeo and not country music fans. I went with Bucky and Armando to Armando’s radio station to tape an interview. Only took a few minutes and then we stopped at a pharmacy on the way back to the venue for the Press Conference. I had heard that you could purchase antibiotics over the counter without a prescription and wanted to get something to try and ward off the worst of this cold. Not so at this pharmacy. Of course, I could have gone next door and had a doctor write a prescription but didn’t have time for that and wasn’t entirely comfortable with the idea. When we arrived back at the venue, I learned that the media was waiting to do the press conference on the arena floor. It was supposed to be set up in a room upstairs so that we would not have to interrupt sound check. All the media attendees were already in place so we had no choice other than to stop sound check for about a half hour.
Sound check went pretty quickly after the press conference and we left for the Mexican restaurant for dinner. I had the chicken fajitas which wasn’t too horrible. True Mexican food is very, very different from Mexican food in the U.S. which I refer to as Tex Mex. It is much blander and they use onions, peppers, lime, and salsa for the flavoring. Most of the guys ordered steaks which this area is famous for. Northern Mexico is the beef cattle and Southern Mexico is the dairy cattle. Food was really good.
We actually stopped by a Super Wal-Mart on the way back to the hotel and I got my over the counter cold medicine. Not sure what it is but hopefully it will help until I get home. I took one tablet, drank about a quart of water, and slept for 2 hours. Feeling better now. We leave for the concert at 8:15 pm. Show is from 9:30-11:00 pm. Should be back at the hotel by midnight for about 3 ½ hours sleep before departing for the airport at 5:15 am. If flights are on time, we’ll be back in Nashville by 3 pm tomorrow afternoon. Talk about a quick visit to Mexico!
There was a really big crowd of people who stayed to watch the show. Bucky and the guys gave them a high energy, great performance. The actually took the stage about 30 minutes early. We had to walk past the bull pen outside to get to the dressing room. I noticed all the bulls turning their heads and looking at me. Some were actually snorting and pawing the ground. Well – DUH – I had on a bright red sweater! Good move. NOT.
At one point in Bucky’s show, a little boy who looked to be about 5 years old got up on stage and started playing “air guitar” along with him. So precious.
We got back at the hotel by 11 pm and I’m going to bed VERY soon. Have to get up at 4 am.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 26TH – NASHVILLE:
Everyone was in the lobby on time for a 5:15 am departure from the hotel….except our Security Escort – which was pretty important. When I questioned where they were, Paulina said they had “problems with their tires”! To say I was upset is probably a gross understatement. A Security Company only has one vehicle? And, they should have been at the hotel way before anyone else this morning for our departure. We had the one van that had picked us up at the airport and we had managed to cram everything into it for the trip. Paulina was trying to secure the hotel van but we were already late departing, so again we crammed everything into the other van. I called Armando to express my feelings about 7 Americans driving across Chihuahua in the dark with no escort. He came with his van and followed us to the airport which was nice of him but certainly did nothing to relieve our anxiety about the unescorted trip.
We arrived safely and got everyone checked in. It’s a tiny airport and nothing was open to even buy a cup of coffee. There was one little “souvenir” shop open where I got the grandchildren some t-shirts and toys and a bottle of water.
The flight departed on time and it wasn’t a full flight. I had the Exit Row again which helped. Landed Houston on time and there weren’t any long lines for Immigration or Customs. Got our bags rechecked and headed to the security line for our gate. There was a lane for Priority United Members but the woman handling the line was letting everyone go wherever they wanted. I ended up standing in line longer than the regular customers just to get through the line.
We boarded our flight on time and Kevin was behind me in line as we boarded. He had his small rolling bag that he had carried on every flight. The male flight attendant stopped him at the door and told him he had to check it. We politely explained that we had just flown on 3 other United planes exactly like this one and it fit easily in the overhead. His response was, “I don’t care. It’s new rules and I’ll be fined if you bring it on board” and refused to let him bring it on the plane. Then 3 people behind Kevin was a lady with a rolling bag much larger than Kevin’s bag. The flight attendant said nothing to her and when hers wouldn’t fit in the overhead, he actually helped her turn it and shove it in! I was in the Exit Row again and it was a full flight. The flight attendant came back and I thought he was going to brief us on sitting in the Exit Row. Instead he said, “Are you aware you’re in an Exit Row”. I responded “Yes” but the guy next to me only nodded his head. For those of you who don’t know, the passenger in an exit row is required to give a “verbal” response. The flight attendant then said, “There’s a card in the back of the seat that you should read” and walked off. No “Have you read the instructions and are you willing and able to help open the exit in case of an emergency, etc. etc.”.
Anyway, we landed Nashville on time and all our bags made it. Glad to be home after the quick trip to Mexico! Armando, Paulina and Robert were great to work with. Other than the security incident this morning, it was a great trip.