DAY TEN, SEPTEMBER 23RD
Got up early to work out in my room again and see the first group off to Nashville and New York. I took my bag down to the bus at 7 am for Penny to take back to Nashville with me. Just things I didn’t need in Korea and trying to keep the number of pieces checked within the minimum. I actually put the bag on the bus myself then went up to the restaurant for some last minute instructions. Penny went down to the bus after breakfast and came to tell me that my bag was definitely on the bus and they left for the airport.
Our group came down at 9:30 for our departure and this little Japanese man and woman come walking up carrying the bag I had put on the first bus. They were smiling and so proud of themselves because they had taken my bag off the bus and kept it for me!!!! I was furious. I have no idea what possessed them to pull it off. I told the travel agency they would have to pay the $230 in excess charges it was going to cost me to get it back to Nashville.
We left for the airport and expected another 7 hour drive. Didn’t hit nearly as much traffic going in as we did coming out, so we arrive at the airport 3 hours earlier than we anticipated. Got everything checked in and went to eat Sushi and shop.
No problems on the flight except a lot of turbulence at the beginning. Landed in Seoul and were met by Army Protocol and escorted to our hotel. We get to stay at a beautiful hotel on the base this time. Nice and convenient.
It’s 1:30 am and I need to get a little sleep. More tomorrow….
DAY ELEVEN – SEPTEMBER 24TH
FINALLY got in bed at 2:30 am. It was cold in the room, so I turned off the air conditioner. I also turned off the “fan” but it kept blowing and even though everything was off, it continued to run. At 3:30 am, I had to get up and put on socks because my feet were freezing. Then, I had to get up at 5:30 am – to jog, I thought. Still too dark outside. Went to the gym and ran sprints on the treadmill…my favorite thing to do. Also found out that it is a rule that you must wear a fluorescent vest if you jog on base. Glad I didn’t break any rules this morning.
Charlie had AFN radio and tv interviews this morning. As soon as he finished, we bolted to Itaewon to the tailor. He was measured for his suits, picked out his fabric and was finished in less than a half hour. The man runs circles around me when it comes to clothes shopping. Took him and Hazel to a glasses shop and they ordered several pair of designer glasses at a fraction of the cost of U.S. glasses. He goes back tomorrow for his fitting and to pick up the glasses. His suits will be ready on Saturday! And, great prices, of course.
We then went to the base exchange, lunch, and another interview – this time with our GAC film crew. I went to the Exchange and did my shopping, ran back down to Itaewan and ordered two pantsuits for myself, and hit the commissary for yogurt, soy milk, and other healthy necessities. A couple of the taxi drivers on base remember me from previous visits.
Had dinner with the band and then off to the first show. Show was at Collier Field House on the base where we are staying. It was a packed house and Charlie tore them up! He is absolutely an incredible performer. The man will be 66 years old next month and his stamina and energy on stage is astounding. He played the Nation Anthem on his fiddle and I still have goose-bumps from that little session. Saw several people that I remember from my trip here in February with Chely. Surprising since most of those people have now rotated out.
They brought “Nellie” their security dog in to meet Charlie. When I was here with Chely, the same trainer had a different dog and he tried to take my hand off when I offered to pet him. I stayed far away from this one, just in case!
Only 11:30 pm and I’m hoping to get in bed before 1 am tonight. Wooo-hoooo early night for me.
DAY 12 – SEPTEMBER 25TH, I THINK!
There are 3 – count ‘em 3! – state of the art gyms on this base and not one of them has a “butt blaster”! Unbelievable. I cornered the guy at the gym where we performed last night and quizzed him. He didn’t really know what I was talking about. This of course, led me to give a demonstration of how the machine works. He said they were obsolete and I suppose soldiers don’t really care if their butt sags, huh? Got a promise out of him to requisition the machine and have installed in the gym before I return. See…proves that sometimes it’s a good thing to “show your butt!”
Other than having to use free weights for the “butt blaster”, had a great workout at 5:30 this morning at the gym in the hotel. Off to Itaewan for our first “fitting” with the tailor then flying to the DMZ. Charlie will do two acoustic sets at the little remote camps around the DMZ then we’ll chopper to Camp Stanley for the big show in an aircraft hanger tonight.
I went back to my “secret” bag shop that I visited with Chely this past February. Took my film crew so they could purchase some gifts. As last time, we had to ask to see the bags behind the door – and of course, there is no door. They move all these things around and open a secret panel and we crawl in – under the stairway. The camera guys was filming and it freaked the shop owner out – imagine that! I then took them to my “copy watch” guy to purchase a few Rolex watches. This shop is also hidden away and they close the door once you enter. The room is the size of a closet and they watches are hidden under some scarves and ties. Again, camera guy tried to sneak in some footage and got busted BIG time!
I have this great pair of jeans but because of the way they are made, it’s impossible to wear anything under them. I wasn’t thinking when I put them on and totally forgot that I had my first “fitting” today with the tailor. I wasted a good hour of shopping time just looking for underwear in Itaewon. For a shopping village that has EVERYTHING, they don’t have underwear. I was almost reduced to purchasing a pair of men’s silk boxer shorts when I finally spotted what I needed. Then the lady tried to insist that I buy 3 pair for 10,000 won instead of 1 pair for 5,000 won!
We flew from Seoul up to Camp Bonifas and Camp Greaves which are the two bases located at the DMZ. We are flying Chinooks instead of Black Hawks this entire tour. I don’t like the Chinook but at least they don’t drop those out of the sky to give us a thrill. Charlie’s wife has even more trouble than I do flying. Every time the chopper would turn on it’s side, she’d grab the arm of the guy sitting next to her. They gave her a set of earphones with the largest ear pieces I’ve ever seen…big, round beige plastic “globes”. She looked like Princess Leah! We fly with the back open, and it’s very windy. They let Charlie sit up in front with the pilots and Bebe got to sit at the open side door for a few minutes. She had to put on these huge clear goggles to look out. Looked like a huge bug of some sort!
Our tv crew got some amazing footage. The Chinook is a huge cargo helicopter with twin rotors. We have two – the one we are in and one following us “in case we go down”. Very comforting.
While Charlie signed autographs and performed acoustic sets at both of the
Camps, I got our tv crew a tour of the DMZ. We had all been on the tour previously but it was a real treat for the tv crew. They actually got to film a “body” being returned from South Korea to North Korea. I told them to call CNN quick and sell them the footage!
We took the bus up to Camp Stanley because of a recent “incident” in that village. The Chinook is very noisy and the Army did not want to draw attention to our presence. Apparently, in Korea, children “leave their mother’s side” at a very young age. They are allowed to play outside and cross streets by themselves as early as 2 years of age. All the locals know to watch for them. The child will hold out their hand and turn their face away from the approaching traffic and cross the street. Motorists know to stop. The U.S. Army had a convoy traveling in this area with 5-6 vehicles. Apparently, the lead vehicle did not pass along the information that there were children along side the road. The children gave the necessary signals and proceeded to cross the road. However, the next vehicle in the convoy did not see them and struck and killed them. Our soldiers are being court marshaled by the U.S. forces. The Korean forces wanted them turned over to them to determine their punishment, but we refused. There are lots of demonstrators and there have been several “incidences” involving U.S. soldiers being harassed and in one case, beaten. We’ve been told not to go off base alone and not to get in a conversation with any Koreans if they approach us.
The show at Camp Stanley was awesome – packed an aircraft hanger. Very loud, rambunctious fans. They don’t get a lot of entertainment that far North, so they are always very appreciative. Bussed back after the show and we get to “sleep in” tomorrow. We don’t depart until 4 pm for the show tomorrow night!
DAY 13 – SEPTEMBER 26TH
As with all the branches of the U.S. Military, there are many different nationalities represented by our fine men in uniform. A lot of them are NOT familiar with country music but come to the shows anyway because they are so starved for entertainment and for ANYTHING from home. I was trying to explain who Charlie Daniels is today to a group of Afro-Americans. The first words out of my mouth were, have your heard the song, “The South’s…” and then I froze! Changed it to “Devil Went Down To Georgia” so quick!
Got up and jogged around the base early this morning and only got lost once. Realized that if I were going to go shopping under the bus station where the locals shop, this would have to be the day. So, I located John Downie’s wife in the pool at our hotel where she swims for HOURS every day and we hit the stores.
Took the Chinook up to Camp Humphrey’s for tonight’s show. The show was held outside at a field and they said it is the largest crowd they have ever had attend. Most of the audience had little American flags and when Charlie played the National Anthem, everyone was waving them. It was very moving. Had some really nice MP’s who took great care of us. Nothing like having a cute MP with a gun following you around every move you make!
Shane, our camera guy, got to ride on the back ramp of the Chinook to and from the venue today. Hooked him up to the tailhook and he crawled out the back. Know he got some awesome footage. The tv crew goes home tomorrow. They are going out with some of the musicians tonight to visit some of the local nightclubs. There are LOTS of prostitutes working the clubs in Itaewon, so this should be some interesting footage that will end up on the cutting room floor.
Long flight to tomorrow for our show at Camp Walker.
DAY 14 – SEPTEMBER 27TH
There were lots of “families” at the show last night a Camp Humphreys – something you don’t see at Stanley, Bonifas, and Greaves (the bases farther North). My MP said that they are building lots more housing at Humpreys and more soldiers will be allowed to bring their families. But, the trade-off is that they will have to serve for TWO years instead on of ONE year.
Got up early to get our film crew off to Nashville. They could not stay the entire trip but got all the footage they needed to for a great show. Everyone had to depart together today (the tech crew has been going earlier in a van while Charlie and the musicians flew over arriving just in time for the show). They performed at Camp Walker in Taegu. It was an hour ride by helicopter and would have been a 4 hour plus bus ride.
We had several hours to kill, so we shopped a little at a “mini-mall” and the exchange then Bebe and I had manicures. The manicures were very different from what we have in the states. You’d think after the fiasco I had with the manicure in Turkey, I would have learned my lesson. But, NO, we have to try it again. At least I don’t think I’m going to get an infection from non-sterile instruments this time.
The show was outside and the stage was not covered. We were worried about the weather because it was overcast and definitely looked like rain. Everyone involved with the show at the base kept saying, “Oh, it’s not going to rain”. And it didn’t…until the very end of the show. Then it poured. And, of course, Charlie kept playing! His keyboard player took a sheet of clear plastic and covered himself and the keyboards entirely and played from underneath the plastic. I was worried about Charlie and the guys standing there with all that electricity around them and it pouring rain. But, he finished the show and then signed autographs for an hour. The rain stopped during the autograph session.
One of his musicians – who shall remain nameless to protect the innocent – was telling us about an adventure he had down in Itaewon the other night. Evidently, he got separated from the others after they drank a little Shoju and had a few beers. He found a taxi but didn’t know about the “color” system. You NEVER take a taxi unless it is black or grey. Black taxis are much nicer (leather seats, etc.) and cost more than the grey taxis. Grey taxis and Black taxis are the “safe” ones. Anyway, he got in the taxi and told the driver “Yongsan”. He said the driver started going down back streets and alleys and finally ended up out on the highway. Now, Itaewon in only about 3 blocks from Yongsan, so he knew he was in trouble. Said the driver finally pulled over in front of some strange building and motioned for him to get out. That’s when he paniced and told him to take him back to Itaewon. The driver didn’t speak any English and could not even understand “Itaewon”. By luck, the musician spotted Yongsan and had the driver pull over. Then he got confused about the price because he was thinking that the fare was in U.S. Dollars when it was actually in Won. The price was 4300 won and he thought it was $43.00! He got out of the taxi and had the guard at the gate explain to the driver that he didn’t have enough money and would have to go to the hotel to get the payment. The driver agreed to wait. And, being the honest young man that he is, he went to the ATM, withdrew the money and went back to pay the driver who had already left!
Riding in a Chinook for an hour is not fun. Usually, we take Black Hawks half the way and then a small plane (C-12 or C-16). But this time, it’s Chinooks for all the trips. It’s a lot more convenient but not very comfortable. I don’t know why anyone would want to sleep in ear plugs. My ears start hurting after about 10 minutes of wear. The “seats” and I use that term loosely are the canvas webbing hung along the sides of the chopper. It’s impossible to stretch your legs out in front of you because there is always geared stored in the middle and also because the crew has to keep walking back and forth and they are “plugged” in. It’s freezing cold because of the side window and back being open. It’s very noisy and since you have ear plugs in, conversation is impossible. So, the only thing to do is “sleep”. Only there’s no way to get comfortable enough to do that. Now, the view is spectacular with all the different colored lights. Millions of lights – a lot like Hong Kong from the air. And the pilots have been kind enough to let a different guy sit up in the jump seat each flight and also let one of the guys do the “tail hook” from the back on the trip home tonight. But, even with the pilots dropping us out of the sky, give me a black hawk any day. At least they hook us up with headsets and we can “talk” to each other on those flights!
ALL the bases have done an excellent job in preparing for Charlie’s visit this time. I don’t know if Art has finally got them all “whipped” into shape or if it’s just easier since they have hosted Charlie before. But, all in all, even with a show EVERY day, it’s been an easy, well-organized trip. This base makes a huge cake for Charlie every year and has him cut it with a sword!
We don’t depart until 4 pm tomorrow and it’s Camp Casey. I know all the guys there from our previous visits and there is no worry that they won’t be “together”. They have one of the best facilities in all of Korea and an excellent staff.
DAY 15TH – SEPTEMBER 28TH
After dealing with a 7 am crisis via “email” back home, went for a 5 mile run. The weather continues to be beautiful. Charlie and I went to the tailor to pick up our suits. They are awesome – superior quality and workmanship for a price less than half what you would pay in the states. Did some last minute shopping but decided to wait for the Osan trip on Monday for better deals. I did pick up another coin case and shipped it home to myself. Each base that we visit gives us a “commemorative” coin for their particular troop, battalion, etc…sometimes 2 or 3. I’ve already filled 2 cases and am starting on the 3rd.
We arrived at Camp Casey to find that they were expecting rain and had moved the show indoors to the gym. Also learned that there had been an “incident” yesterday at Camp Red Cloud, only a few miles away. Evidently some of the local protestors had thrown a couple of “maltoff” (I have NO idea how to spell it!) cocktails over the fence onto the base. No one was injured but it was quite a shock as this had never happened previously. So, the entire base was on a “lock down” which meant all the soldiers were confined to the base. If we had been able to hold the show outside, they were expecting a huge crowd. The gym only holds 3,000 people and it was packed. The rain and lightning began just about the time that the show kicked off, so it was a good thing they moved it indoors. It was a ROWDY crowd and that’s being conservative. When Charlie finished Orange Blossom Special, Colonel Stein and Lt. Col. Levin presented him with a special plaque and then the crowd started chanting, “USA, USA, USA”. Charlie kicked off the Star Spangled Banner and for the first few bars, the chants continued. Then, they figured out what he was playing and it was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop. Very moving moment. He ended with his usual of “Devil Went Down to Georgia” then came out to sign autographs. He signed for over 2 hours and went through 3 sharpies!
The really neat thing about Charlie is his genuine love for the troops and what they mean to America. The minute he gets off the chopper or out of the van or wherever he is, he immediately heads for the soldiers – to introduce himself, shake their hands and ask them if they want to take a photo. I’ve seen so many artists who are surrounded by their “entourage” and are whisked into the building so that they don’t have to come in contact with anyone. It’s very refreshing to see Charlie in action.
So, the Chinook has a pretty unusual “landing” pattern. They line up over the landing pad but they “back into” it and swing the tail of the chopper around. The tail sets down first, then the rear wheels and then the front wheels. When you’re looking out the back, it feels a little like being on one of the “Scrambler” rides at the fair as you’re swinging around. Last night we swung around and around and around again. I swear we ended up at the same place where we started. They explained that the chopper that we were actually over the pad where the chopper that was following us was supposed to land so we had to do some maneuvering to get out of his way and into the correct slot. When we land, it looks like a hurricane coming to land – all the trees are blowing over, leaves and debris is flying everywhere and the noise is deafening. Most of the time, we do a “hot” disembarkation which means we get off while the rotors are still turning. You would think that the wind generated is going to snatch your clothes right off you but actually it just turns your hair upside down. No need to spend any time styling my hair on this trip because it’s all over as soon as we land.
Camp Casey is one of my favorite places because of the people who work there. Scott Abell, Scott Levin, John Antes – all top notch.
Looks like we may be bussing it to Kunsan tomorrow because of the weather. If it rains, the choppers can’t fly. It’s 3 ½ hours minimum by bus. Rough day. We get the call at 9:30 am tomorrow. Much as I dislike the Chinooks, I’ll certainly take a one hour chopper ride over a 3 ½ hour bus ride any day.
DAY 16 – SEPTEMBER 29TH:
So, a “Molotov Cocktail” is named after a former Russian President. You fill a whiskey bottle full of gasoline and stuff a rag into it. The rag serves as a fuse – you light it and throw. When it lands, the bottle breaks and sets off the gasoline. (Thanks, Gerald!)
At the last minute, we were given clearance to fly over. There were some pretty good bumps and drops from air pockets but all in all, it was better than the 4 hour bus ride would have been.
Kunsan is the only Air Force Base we played. All the other bases were Army. Kunsan is also the base where Chely had her F-16 ride last year. All the friends that I made there in February have since departed except for one person – Crystal. She’s there until December. This base is home to the “Wolf Pack” and the commander is known as the Wolf, second in command is Wolf II and then there is the Viper and Falcon who are over base services and base operations, I think.
Upon arriving we were taken for the “Big Coyote” briefing which takes place on a hill above the base. They explained the positioning of Kunsan and how the troops would be deployed in a war. It was extremely enlightening. Just as they briefing ended, gunfire erupted and soldiers came out of the woods. They had a “pretend” war with several of the guys getting “killed”. Quite a surprise for us!
We then went to the hangar so everyone could see the F-16s. They also had a monitor set up with a radar screen on it. It was showing footage of the bombs that were dropped on Afghanistan.
Charlie did an interview with AFN and then Charlie and Hazel were taken to the “Wolf Den” to rest and I was given the “Pup Den” – same lodging as I stayed in when I was there with Danni Leigh years ago and earlier this year with Chely. Brought back wonderful memories of past visits.
The show was incredible and the perfect ending to a wonderful tour. One of the F-16 pilots got up and played “The South’s Gonna Do It Again” on guitar with Charlie. He said it was the highlight of his life. All the musicians would have given anything to pilot an F-16 and all he wanted to do was pick with Charlie Daniels! Everyone at Kunsan from the Wolf on down were so nice to us. The troops stationed there are so isolated. They are not allowed to bring their families with them and must stay for one year. It’s great to be able to bring them a little bit of home and happiness for a few hours.
Shopping Day tomorrow at Osan. I’ve got a list….
DAY 17 – SEPTEMBER 30TH
Have to look up the day and date each time as I have no idea what it is! Definitely time to go home. When the Sonicare loses it’s charge after 10 days, I know I’ve been gone too long!
Right before the show last night, the base was shut down for a “bomb” scare. Half the base was confined because there was a package left in the Exchange. However, Wolf II and Falcon heard about it and went over to the exchange and “personally” took care of the situation. Otherwise, the show could have been delayed by at least an hour and probably more.
We were invited back to Kunsan but ONLY if we agree to stay overnight. They want to take us “Hooch Hopping”. Evidently, that’s when you go from “hooch to hooch” and have a drink with the person living in the hooch. Hmmmm…..
Three of us went POWER SHOPPING in Osan today. I had a list of items to pick up for other people plus Charlie’s wife had given me a long list. Found most of the items at incredible prices. I purchased 44 pachimas for Charlie’s wife to give as gifts. Got them for $5 each which is unheard of. Dean – Charlie’s driver and right hand man – can definitely keep up with and maybe “outshop” even me. We had a really great time and everyone was happy with our bargains. Now we just have to figure out how to stuff two tons of purchases into a one ton bag!
Had a really nice “farewell” dinner with all of Charlie’s group, plus the MWR reps from the base and our protocol officers. Everyone was extremely pleased with the tour and wants Charlie back again soon.
I know that these “road kill” reports contain a lot of humorous stories that happen in conjunction with my travels. But, in all seriousness, I hope that everyone reading these will remember how proud and thankful we should be to our men and women in uniform. Many of you may not know that Korea never signed a peace treaty – only a cease fire. So our troops stationed here are serving in a “war zone”. But, it’s not only the troops stationed here but in every country of the world, that we need to be thankful for. Think about how you would feel if it were your spouse, sibling, child, or just a loved one who was the one serving in the U.S. military. The next time you see a man or woman in uniform, take time to say thank you to them. Because they are the reason that we live in the “land of the free and the home of the brave”. Without them, we could become another Korea, or Bosnia, or Kosovo.
Flying home early tomorrow and more than ready to get back.
DAY 18 – OCTOBER 1ST
Okay, so I’m a few days late getting this written.
We had a problem checking out of the hotel. All the rooms were paid for by “contract” and there was a new girl on the desk. She did not have a clue how to handle it. She kept insisting that everyone put up a credit card to pay for the rooms and, of course, we refused. She grabbed her jacket and LEFT. I think she quit on her very first day.
Got to the airport with our 48 pieces of luggage/gear. They charged Charlie $390 for one overweight suitcase!!! If we had known, we could have just bought another suitcase and then paid only $150 for one extra piece. Unbelievable.
When we got on the plane in Seoul to fly to Tokyo, the pilot told us that a typhoon was approaching Tokyo and they expected the airport to be closed within a few hours. He also warned that there would be turbulence on the flight over. Boy, was that an understatement! It was even worse than being dropped out of the sky in the Blackhawks. When we finally made it to the ground, I voted that we get a hotel room and wait out the typhoon. Of course, no one else agreed with me.
Flight from Tokyo to Minneapolis was actually painless and very smooth. Landed on time and all our luggage/gear made it. We learned that they closed the Tokyo airport right after our flight departed. Landed on time in Nashville and again, all the luggage/gear made it.
I honestly think that it would be a great idea to have a gate attendant meet all international flights on the jetway with one of those fire hoses. Just spray everyone off and then have them walk through a “dryer” like they have at the car wash. The LAST thing you want to do is hug the person picking you up.
Great trip! Get to stay home 2 whole weeks before I fly back to Japan!