MONDAY, OCTOBER 16TH:
(Have been in Japan at my Country Gold Festival since last Thursday with Charlie Daniels, the Grascals, Cowboy Crush, and Moot Davis. Today I fly with Charlie Daniels to Korea where he will perform 5 shows for the troops.)
Up at 4:30 am to see everyone off to the Kumamoto Airport. Every year I think it’s the BEST year we’ve ever had for Country Gold. But this one will be very hard to top in 2007!
After the other groups left for Kumamoto, I left with Charlie and his group for the Fukuoka Airport. We were supposedly on ANA Airlines (a sponsor of Country Gold) but it was really operated by Asiana. Asiana won’t “work” with us at all. They charged us $1,100 in excess luggage fees! At least we were on a beautiful, new aircraft. Business Class was practically empty but, of course, they sat some strange man by me. The flight attendant asked him if he wanted to move and he said “No”….so I MOVED!!!
It was only a one hour flight and we were served some really horrible sushi for lunch. All our luggage and equipment arrived in Seoul with us. We checked into the Dragon Hill Lodge and I had asked that Bebe, Dean, and I be in a room near where Charlie and Hazel are placed. It just makes things easier since you must use your room key to push a floor on the elevator keypad. But, once we got it our rooms, we learned that there was a desktop computer in the rooms. It was impossible to plug in our laptops. So, we had to take all our bags back down to the lobby and get rooms in a different tower.
Bebe and I went to pick up the cell phones that we were renting. Only $16 for two weeks plus a $20 calling card. What a deal!!!! I had their card from when I was here in February and we “pre-reserved” the phones. Instead of it taking an hour or more for them to program the phones, everything was ready and waiting for us.
Everyone had to go get their ID cards made. Even though we had submitted all the information months ago, nothing was prepared and we spent 2 hours just getting the cards made. Charlie sat for 30 minutes waiting for his because the girl who was making it had no idea what she was doing.
Bebe wanted to have a “nice” dinner – which meant going off the base. We took a taxi and went up the Hyatt Hotel where I stayed last October with Trick Pony. Had a wonderful dinner at a French Restaurant. Then hopped in a taxi back to the base and now I’m on email until God knows how late!
Tomorrow is a “day off” except for a couple of hours of interviews with AFN. Then we perform one show each night for the next 5 days at a different Camp each night.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 17TH
FINALLY – a GYM to work out in!!! Got up early to go down and work my “legs”. Then Charlie had to do radio and television at Armed Forces Network Korea. He was on the air on radio for an hour and also cut several PSA’s for AFN tv.
Came back to the hotel and worked on email for several hours and then walked over to Itaewon to buy some more luggage tags. While I was picking up my luggage tags, some American guys walked in and were talking about “flying”. I started talking to them and found out that they fly for UPS. BUT, they were from Nashville, TN!!! One of them lives a few miles from me and even jogs on the same Greenway where I jog! One was in the National Guard and knew several people that I know there. I asked them to come to Charlie’s show on Saturday night at this camp but they were only here for one night. One of the guys will be in Hong Kong while I am there and I gave him my cell phone number so he can call me.
The phone and clock in my room do not work and they had to replace both of them. The air conditioning is only blowing on the fan setting – no cold air! This place is definitely not as nice as years past. L Had to get all the prizes (cds, dvds, t-shirts and fiddles) together that I had shipped over here for the shows. Thankfully, everything has arrived.
Walked over to the base exchange to buy some paper for my printer since I left the paper I brought with me in Japan! Then I met Bebe for dinner. We went to a FABULOUS Restaurant called the Ninth Gate which is located in the Westin Chosun Hotel. It was expensive but definitely worth it.
Tomorrow is our FIRST show in Korea. We are taking the bullet train down to Camp Walker in Taegu. It’s a nice Camp but the General that I knew has left Korea. L
Got to get in bed and get some sleep.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 18TH:
Did I mention that when we changed our rooms, they put us on the 9th floor in the other tower – the top floor – and they are in the process of re-roofing the building? Yep – about 7 am every morning, the drilling and pounding begins. J
Went jogging this morning. Weather is still perfect. I got busted by a school crossing guard for not wearing a reflective vest. I pulled the “I’m here with Charlie Daniels” line and he was impressed. But I still had to buy a vest today. LOL.
Worked on the internet until time to depart on the bullet train to Camp Walker in Taegu. It is SUCH a nice ride….210 miles per hour and you can’t tell you are moving. It is so smooth, it makes everyone sleepy.
Had a bit of a scare when the escort met us in Taegu and said the “dinner” was all set up with the General. I had notified everyone that Charlie does not eat dinner but he would be happy to meet with the General and anyone else, but does not eat before the show. Evidently it was a misunderstanding. The Camp had set up a little VIP reception – exactly as I had requested – 30 minutes prior to Charlie needing to begin interviews. I have a great friend – General McHale – who was the General at this base and I thought he had already left for D.C. It was a wonderful surprise to learn that he is still at Camp Walker – leaves next week – and the new General is also there. So I got to say goodbye to General McHale AND meet the incoming General. Also got another GREAT coin from General McHale. He has two sons and one of them sings the Korean National Anthem in the local language. Just a great family!
We had our first drawing for the Stars and Stripes promotion that has been running in their newspaper. A soldier who has been deployed to Korea a total of 8 years (not consecutive) won and brought his daughter backstage with him to meet Charlie. He won an autographed fiddle from Charlie, a dvd, cd, t-shirt and $50 cash. He also had his photo made with Charlie and it will run in Stars and Stripes next week. It’s a great “perk” for the troops in Korea –thanks to Stars and Stripes support of Stars for Stripes! We will do this at each of the 5 Camps we visit. I have run into so many people who said they filled out about 50 entries because they want to win. J
I sneaked over to the Evergreen club for Mongolian Bar-be-que because I missed dinner with the band. It was wonderful. I haven’t had it in years because there are only certain nights that the Camps serve it and we always missed it by a day or two.
The gym where the show was held was packed to capacity. Charlie does such an awesome, rockin’ show. Of course, everyone was on their feet and crowding to the front of the stage when he started “Devil Went Down to Georgia”! We were a little concerned about being able to sign autographs and take photos for everyone in the one hour we had before departing to the train station. But Charlie and his musicians are “pros”. They signed every autograph, took every photo, shook every hand, and had a personal conversation with everyone in line before we had to leave. You would not believe how many people came through the line and said, “I saw you in Iraq or Kuwait or here in Korea in so and so”. It’s a great feeling to know that we were able entertain them in those areas and they REMEMBER Charlie’s visit. Also good to know that they are safe!
I think everyone slept on the train ride back to Seoul. We had to show our ID cards when entering the base and “Taz” was sitting in front of me and couldn’t find his. Now I know where he gets the nickname “Taz”. You have never seen stuff flying around like this. He was digging through his pockets, his bag, everything in sight. At one point, me, Jimmy, and Charlie saw the ID card IN HIS HAND and tried to STOP him but he wasn’t listening and just kept spinning around. The ID card has a huge green stripe on it and we all KNEW we saw him holding it. He never found it and our escort had to clear him. Hopefully he calmed down a little when he got to his room and located it. It was quite an entertaining ending to the night. LOL
Got back in the room after midnight and stayed up until almost 4 am dealing with email and work from home. L
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 19TH:
Okay, I forgot to include the strangest part of last night’s trip. I went into the ladies restroom at the Taegu train station. First of all, not only was there NO toilet tissue in the stalls, there was not even a “holder” for toilet tissue. Thankfully all my trips to Iraq and Afghanistan have prepared me for situations like that. When I walked up to the sink to wash my hands, I caught a glimpse of a camera tripod out of the corner of my eye. There was a white half wall just as you entered the restroom. A Korean girl was sitting in one of the stalls with the door open and the camera set up on the tripod. She was taking photos of another Korean girl who was sitting on the floor in front of the white wall. It was pretty bizarre!
Got up at 8 am and went to the gym to work my arms. It’s going to be hot again today. Worked on email until we departed for Camp Casey at 2 pm. The bus driver always takes the back road up to Casey to avoid traffic. But the roads are horrible and we get thrown all over the bus on the ride up. Just as we were leaving Seoul, I guess he cut off a guy on a motorcycle. The guy started blowing his horn and chasing the bus. He got up alongside the driver and they started screaming at each other in Korea. More entertainment.
By the way, Taz found his ID card in the back pocket of his jeans. J
Lots of good friends at this Camp. One man who works for MWR that I have known for years has had 5 heart attacks and just survived throat cancer. This is the first time I have seen him since he got out of the hospital. He has lost 200 pounds…and he is SMOKING again. I just don’t understand. I assume he has a death wish.
A young E-1 was the Stars and Stripes contest winner. He was from Springfield, MO and has been in Korea for 4 months. Looked like he was about 12 years old. He brought his friend backstage with him who was from Minnesota. His friend had brought his fiddle for Charlie to autograph so he got a special treat because he got to meet him backstage and get the autograph.
The gym was PACKED with rowdy CDB fans…just the way we like it. Charlie puts on such a high energy show. He is amazing! The autograph line was LONG but he still finished it within one hour. One of the MWR reps was telling me how impressed he was that Charlie would sit and sign autographs until everyone was taken care of. I told him that I don’t work with anyone who won’t agree to do this!
Bebe and I were talking to one of the guys on base and he said that it has not rained in 72 days in Korea. This means the mosquitoes are HORRIBLE. Bebe can attest to that. She was bitten all over her arms and legs and even on her ear the first night in the hotel. It was so bad that she had to ask the front desk to spray her room! She isn’t allergic to mosquitoes in the U.S. but she sure is overseas. Her ear was swollen up like Bozo the Clown. J It looked better today but only because she has been taking medicine for the bites. The guy we were talking to said that if we walked out onto the soccer field tonight, we would be covered with mosquitoes. He said that all the soldiers have to keep their long sleeves rolled down even in the summer because of the chance of getting Malaria from a mosquito bite. THAT was not what Bebe wanted to hear. I’m sure she’ll be calling her doctor for malaria pills when we get back to the hotel tonight. AND, tomorrow night the show is OUTSIDE. I’m not showing any skin anywhere at that show!!!
Back at the hotel early – by 11:30 pm. These shows are so much different than the performances in Iraq or Afghanistan. The troops need the entertainment in this area, but it’s still just “different” from performing in a combat area. It’s 2 am and I am not even halfway through my emails.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 20TH:
Did I mention that Condi Rice is evidently on the Charlie Daniels tour, too? She was in Japan, now Korea and headed to China today – exactly OUR itinerary!
Worked on email until 11 am when I went down to Itaewon with Bebe to order “luggage tags”. She ordered so many, we have to pick them up tomorrow. She also purchased a couple of nice “bags”! Went back to the hotel for a quick lunch and then the bus ride to Camp Humphreys. Camp Humphreys is going to be the main location once Yongsan Garrison closes – supposedly in 2008. A soldier told us that it’s going to take a LOT more “building” before the “Hump” will be able to accommodate everyone from Yongsan. Osan is near Humphreys, so at least the shopping will be much better and cheaper there. J
We arrived at Camp Humphreys and the show is definitely outside but the weather is still beautiful….dusty and a little cooler. I remember this set up from when I was here with Darryl Worley in October 2004. They bring out hay bales and everyone gets a free cowboy hat and bandana. The bowling alley that we used for the green room/dressing room last time is now a school. So they had pulled up trucks and turned them into dressing rooms. We all went over to the Alaska Mining Company for dinner. I learned my lesson last night – I got an omelet tonight – pretty hard to mess that up! J
The MWR Director said that there is a huge contingency of Air Force here and several nearby camps brought in buses with troops to see the show. There was about 1,500 people in the audience. It was such a great evening. They even made me wear a cowboy hat and bandana – for a few minutes. They gave me the child’s hat – which fit – but looked silly!
The winners of the Stars and Stripes prize package was a young boy – about 8 or 9 years old. He is here visiting his Dad who is deployed here. We have had such great winners for this contest. I’m hoping Stars and Stripes will be pleased and want to do it again.
Show was terrific again. How could it not be with a crowd that size? Really glad the weather was nice enough to hold it outside because I don’t know how we would have gotten that many people inside.
The autograph line was the longest I’ve ever seen in Korea. More like the lines we get in Iraq! Charlie didn’t finish this one in an hour! J But EVERYONE in line got an autograph and we didn’t leave until they did!
Show tomorrow is here at Yongsan Garrison. Gotta ship some things home tomorrow so I don’t have to take to China and Hong Kong with me!
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 21ST
Got in my “last” jog in Korea this morning. My eyes feel like sandpaper because of all the dust at Camp Humphreys last night. Took all my “excess” clothing, gifts, office supplies over to pack and wrap and had them pack it for me. Then took it to the Post Office and mailed it home to myself! Don’t want to take all that stuff to Beijing and Hong Kong. I went by Military Clothing Sales and purchased a pair of Wiley-X sunglasses. It is now mandatory that we wear protective eyewear on all military aircraft when we are in Afghanistan and Iraq. I’ll be spending Thanksgiving in Afghanistan with Aaron Tippin and New Year’s in Iraq with Karri Turner, Jim McMahon, and Kevin Butler.
Bebe and I went down to Itaewon to pick up the luggage tags. They were all ready and exactly like we ordered. Came back and walked through the base exchange and then had a sandwich at our hotel. There was a soldier marrying a Korean lady and their wedding was out back of the Dragon Hill Lodge. We sat and watched a lot of those “festivities”!
Then I went to my room for 4 hours of answering email. Didn’t even have time to pack anything like I had planned. Guess I’ll be doing that tonight after the show.
We had dinner at Comminsky’s on base and it was “Pasta Night”. You picked out everything you wanted on your pasta – mushrooms, broccoli, tomatoes, garlic, chicken, shrimp, etc., picked out the type of pasta, and picked out the type of sauce. Sort of like Mongolian Barbeque – only pasta. It was great.
I knew there would be a lot of people backstage for the VIP Meet and Greet since this is the base where the Command lives. The two Generals and their wives that I am friends with were – of course – out of the country! Hopefully they will be back in time to meet us at the hotel tomorrow night for a farewell drink. But, we did meet the new 3 Star – General Dave Valcourt and his wife Diane. Truly LOVELY people. Korea is really lucky to have this “team” of Generals here at this time. I saw one of the guys from the General’s staff who has been so helpful to me and I brought him and his family backstage to meet Charlie. He no longer works directly as the General’s Aide but does still work with him. He introduced me to his replacement and I brought her backstage to meet Charlie. Trying to take good care of his staff even though he can’t be here because I know how much that means to him.
The gym is packed to the rafters! I have begged the “powers that be” over here for years to bring Charlie back. He draws huge crowds and the troops LOVE him and his show. For all of you reading this, if you have never seen the Charlie Daniels Band perform, then make it a point to do so. Not only is he a legend and phenomenal entertainer, but his musicians are the best. Anytime you mention the CDB band to someone in the industry, their first comment is usually – his drummer is a MONSTER. His drum solo is not to be missed. The minute Charlie walked on stage, he got a STANDING OVATION and received several more throughout the evening. Major General Valcourt presented him with a beautiful pewter Eagle and a plaque from General Bell.
As usual, I’ll be sad that tomorrow is our last performance for the troops. Anyone who has ever entertained the troops knows what I mean. Being able to do something for these fine men and women who serve our country is what inspires me. It may empty my “pocketbook” but it certainly fills up my heart. I am so fortunate to be able to work with wonderful entertainers who give of their time and talents and enable me to do these tours.
The autograph line was long and I got to talk to lots of the “new” staff while Charlie and the band were signing. I am VERY impressed with the new Director of KORO (the organization who makes the decisions on who comes to Korea to entertain). If he implements the ideas he discussed with me, the troops will definitely benefit from his leadership.
As background, Yongsan where we performed tonight has their families with them. There were lots of spouses and young children in the audience. While I have become accustomed to seeing the young 18 and 19 year old men and women serving our country sing EVERY word to a Charlie Daniels song, it is pretty amazing to see young kids – 6-12 years old –dancing in front of the stage and applauding at the end of every song. At some of the other Camps we visited, the audience is comprised strictly of “single” men and women as they are not allowed to bring spouses and families with them. Charlie’s show works no matter what the audience demographic.
After the autograph session, we went backstage and cut this HUGE birthday cake that MWR had provided for him. Was back in the hotel by 10 pm because it was only a 5 minute drive instead of 2 hours! J
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 22ND:
Up to go to the gym in the hotel to work butt, back and abs! Coffee and a shower and 3 hours on email. Then, we drove up to Camp Red Cloud. It has been raining all day – something they desperately needed but our show tonight was supposed to be outside. They moved it inside to a gym where we usually have the performances. Traffic wasn’t bad going up and we arrived at the Camp earlier than we anticipated. There is a new General and he had arranged for Charlie to come to his house for a few minutes. We drove the bus from the gym up to his house but the road was so narrow, we had to park the bus at the bottom of the slope and walk up. We were almost up to the door of the house when a lady came running out of another house motioning to us. Evidently, we were going to the WRONG house. When we walked up to the General’s house, there was a big orange Auburn University flag out front so I felt right at home!
The General and his wife were really nice people. Plus, they had just been to Beijing and gave us all kinds of “tips” on what to see and do.
Back to the gym for interviews with AFN and PAO and then the Stars and Stripes contest drawing. There were four buses that came in for the show. Two were from Camp Stanley where we were originally scheduled to perform instead of Camp Red Cloud and two were from Camp Casey where we performed the other night. A lot of the troops at Camp Casey were out on an exercise when Charlie performed there, so they missed the show Glad they got to come over for this show.
Saw several of my old friends at Camp Red Cloud including the Colonel who used to handle the entertainment for this Camp. I was talking to the wife of one of the Officers that I have know for quite some time and she said that it was their house we almost “crashed”. She said she saw us walking up the drive and she was in her old sweat pants. She started running around trying to get into nicer clothes before we arrived at her door. Then when she looked out again, we were gone! J
There was a great crowd of people at the concert. MWR had arranged for a huge cake to be presented to Charlie right before he performed “Devil”. This cute young girl was going to present it to him. So she went up on stage and as the speech was being made, she was holding the cake. All of a sudden, she dropped the entire cake! It was priceless. Of course, Charlie and the musicians were laughing uncontrollably and the crowd went wild. The poor little girl was sobbing! Her big chance to be on stage with Charlie Daniels and she dropped the cake! Everyone told her it was fine and it was the highlight of the tour for us. But, then, if that wasn’t funny enough, during the autograph session, some of the soldiers went up to the stage and started eating the cake off the floor!!! We’re going to send the video back to Nashville to have it aired on GAC.
Bebe and I walked over to “Mitchell’s” (the nightclub at this base) with my friend the Colonel. I’ve been coming to this camp for many years and the club has been in renovation for quite some time. All of the artists that I have brought over have donated a piece of memorabilia for the club – a la Hard Rock Café. Everything is now up on the walls and it looks great. I took photos so I can email them to all the artists who participated.
The show was great and the crowd was enthusiastic. We had a long autograph line but Charlie worked his way through it in an hour. The bus ride back was longer than the ride up because of traffic.
We met with our friends – General Bell and Major General Sargeant and their wives for a “Welcome/Farewell” drink. They just flew in from overseas TODAY and it was really terrific that they took the time to come by and see Charlie. It was the PERFECT ending to an already PERFECT tour.
Tomorrow morning Charlie’s band and staff departs to Nashville while Charlie, Hazel, Dean and I go to Beijing to sightsee. I just couldn’t go ANYWHERE and totally RELAX, so I managed to wrangle us a meeting with Ambassador Randt while we are in Beijing. He wanted us to come to lunch at his residence but the only day he could host us was when we were at the Great Wall. So we are going by the Embassy to meet him. God forbid that I go somewhere and do nothing but be a tourist. J
MONDAY, OCTOBER 23RD:
Departed the Dragon Hill Lodge exactly on time. There was a really severe thunderstorm that passed through the area at around 5:30 am. The wind was ferocious! I was hoping it would blow over before we left.
No problem checking in at the airport. I had to go to the Korean Air check-in counter with Charlie and Hazel, and Bebe and Jimmy took everyone else to the NW counter. John Downie said that NW was all set up and waiting for them – already had their boarding passes printed. I am SURE Bebe and Jimmy were happy.
In Korea, after you give them your checked bags, you have to stay in the area for 3 minutes to make sure there is nothing in the bag that is questionable. I told them I KNEW they would call my name because I have a can of hairspray in my suitcase. Always happens. They did. I went into the back and opened the suitcase and showed them the hairspray and everything was fine. Can’t understand why they don’t just open the suitcase and check like they do in the U.S.
Nice plane to Korea and very impressive that the lead fight attendant comes by, introduces himself, and says to let him know if we need anything. All the fight attendants were very nice and helpful – total opposite of 90% of the flights I take I the U.S.
When we took off, the plane started slamming from side to side. I was scared to death and was hanging on to the armrests as I was sitting by myself and didn’t have anyone I could grab on to. Hazel had her head buried on Charlie’s arm and was praying. Dean was asleep! J It was really the bumpiest take-off I have ever experienced and very strange because the movement was side-to-side instead of dropping out of the sky. Hope I NEVER have another flight like that.
Have learned that the food leaving Korea is NEVER very good and it was true again today. The roll was editable as was a little of the rice.
Two hours later, we landed in Beijing. Charlie’s son and Dean’s girlfriend and her mother were supposed to meet us at the hotel. When we got to baggage claim, Charlie, Jr. was sitting there by himself. Evidently there was a problem with Dean’s girlfriend and her mother’s tickets that morning and they missed their flight. The Peninsula Hotel staff met us when we exited Customs and had a van waiting to take us to the hotel. The traffic is horrendous and they drive even crazier than the people in Korea. The hotel is beautiful and we had no problem getting checked in.
We had to change our time to depart for shopping as we were waiting for Dean’s girlfriend and mom to arrive. I spent quite a while with the Concierge changing sightseeing and dinner times but got everything straightened out (that message is for you, Bebe! J ). I walked up the street to a little convenience store to purchase some water. The streets are six lanes wide, but there are no “turning lanes”. The cars just MAKE a turning lane and pull right over into incoming traffic. I needed to cross the street and there wasn’t a crosswalk in sight. I jumped right in the middle of a group of Chinese who were trying to cross and let them “shield” me from the oncoming traffic. The real danger is the bicycle riders! They don’t slow down and will run right over you before you know what hit you.
The hotel provided a “guide” named Ronald who speaks excellent English and is very “cool”. We went to the Pearl Market and were told to go to the 4th floor and ask for Sandra. There were photos of movie stars and celebs all over the wall – including a recent one of Condi Rice and one of Colin Powell! Hazel bought a beautiful string of pearls and purchased several more strands as gifts. I didn’t buy anything as I’m waiting for my daughter to get here to shop with me. Our guide then took us to an “office building” on a back street” and when we entered the room, it was filled with “knock-off bags”. There were some really great bags but again, I didn’t make a purchase. Hazel bought a couple of bags but we’re going to wait until we get to Guangzhou to buy the majority of the things we want.
Came back to the hotel and had dinner at the hotel restaurant. It was traditional Chinese food and some of it we liked and some we did not. We tried some pretty strange things, though.
Lindsey landed early and was SOOO tired when she arrived at the hotel. The hotel had sent up hot chocolate and a plate of little cookies for her. She crashed almost immediately!
So, again, I’m answering email and trying to get caught up a little before departing for the Great Wall tomorrow morning!