SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 20TH LEAVING HONG KONG FOR KOREA:
Today is Charlie and Hazel’s 46th wedding anniversary and Bruce Brown’s birthday. Not a lot to report today since it was a travel day. I got a couple of hours sleep and was up and ready to go at 6 am. No traffic today, so we arrived at the airport early. Had several Cathay Pacific reps waiting to assist us so check in was smooth. We had over an hour to shop, eat, rest before boarding the almost 4 hour flight to Seoul. The Cathay Pacific plane was one of the really “older” models but the flight attendants were super nice. I watched another movie – that makes 3 in less than a week, a record for me. Thought I’d be able to sleep but couldn’t. When we landed Tim (our MWR escort) and Bill Bryant (Tim’s boss and an old friend) and LTC Dave Hater (assigned by General Morgan) were waiting to assist us. Dave is a big Charlie Daniels fan so we’re glad he gets to spend this time with us. All our luggage/gear made it and we boarded the MWR bus to our on-base lodging at the Dragon Hill Lodge. MWR has purchased a nice, new bus since I was here 2 years ago. We had to stop and get our ID cards before going to lodging. Got Charlie and Hazel’s first and I took them to the hotel. Everyone was checked in by 5:30 pm, not bad since we had landed at 2 pm. Had a meeting with the MWR staff and it looks like they might be able to get Blackhawks to fly us to Camp Casey for our performance on Monday. That means we will have a 20 minute ride instead of a 3 hour ride. Also means that we will be back at the hotel that night by about 11 pm instead of 1:30 am. Since we have to leave for the airport at 6 am to fly home, that would be really terrific. Had a quick dinner with Bebe, David, and Jimmy in one of the nicer Dragon Hill Lodge restaurants. Went to the shopette and purchased water for my room. I was going to unpack and answer some emails but was just too tired. So I set my alarm for midnight and slept for an hour. Up and answering email now and going back to bed. We noticed scaffolding outside our window and I called the front desk to see what time they started working. They told me they wouldn’t start until LATE – – 8 AM! Military definition of late and musicians definition of late are drastically different. That means no one is going to be able to sleep past 8 am each morning including Charlie and Hazel. Our MWR rep assured me that they are working on the roof and the scaffolding is just to protect the area below. He says we won’t hear ANY noise from their work. We’ll see how tomorrow goes and if it is noisy, I’ll give everyone the option of moving. Our show tomorrow is on this base, so that will be an “easy” day, thank goodness! My blackberry does not have network service. It never has in Korea or Japan because of their phone system. However, for the first time, everyone else does have service. I’m on T-Mobile and called them to find out why. T-Mobile doesn’t have any blackberrys with 3G service yet and that’s what it takes. I’ve been with T-mobile since 2003 but am changing my server as soon as I get home. I don’t like the new Iphones, so will have to find a server with a blackberry with 3G service. Jude
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 21ST – SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA:
For once the weather report was correct unfortunately. Got up at 6 am and it was pouring rain. Today was my “jog” day but I had to switch and go to the gym and work out with weights instead. It’s supposed to be pretty again tomorrow, so should be able to jog tomorrow morning. Grabbed some coffee and cereal, took a shower, and went downstairs to check on renting a cell phone. I could rent one for $30 or buy one for $25! So, now I have a cell phone that works in Korea. Bebe, David and I rode over to the base exchange. I forgot to bring a jacket and haven’t needed one until today when the rain dropped the temperature. Then David got in a taxi by himself and went to the Electronics Mart while Bebe and I went to Itaewon to shop. I found a watch that my daughter wanted and Bebe got a beautiful jade necklace. I’m going back tomorrow to finish up my shopping because we ran out of time today. Hopefully, we’ll get approval to take helicopters tomorrow instead of a 2-3 hour drive. While Bebe was purchasing her necklace, David called her cell phone. Said he had been thrown out of 3 taxis and could not make them understand where he wanted to go. Bebe had to hand her phone to the Korean lady selling her the necklace so she could tell the taxi driver. David said he’s not leaving his room again!
We had to leave for the show at 6 pm. Of course, it was moved inside but they waited too late to make the call to move it inside. My guys were running 2 hours behind just trying to get everything up and running. But, the show started on time and Charlie gave an amazing performances. Afterwards, he signed autographs for 2 hours. Lots of families at this show which is much different than Iraq where we usually go.
I’m back in the room answering emails and hoping for good weather and blackhawks to take us to Camp Casey tomorrow. Saw lots of my friends here tonight that I haven’t seen for 3 years and hope to see many more tomorrow.
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 22ND – 2ND SHOW IN KOREA:
Got up early so I could talk to my office before they closed for the day. This 14 hour time difference is “difficult” on communication. Weather is beautiful today and I went for a long, wonderful jog. Still remember my “route” here.
Bruce – our birthday boy – spent most of yesterday in the Emergency Room. He has had pneumonia a couple of times and had an upper respiratory infection that he couldn’t shake. Doctors diagnosed him with bronchitis and gave him a Z-pack. Hopefully he’s feeling better today.
Still haven’t heard back on our approval for the helicopters to Camp Casey today. So, the plan right now is to bus down and hopefully get to fly back tonight. Won’t know until later today. Military/Government bureaucracy!
I went back down to Itaewon to finish my shopping and was able to stay in touch with the escorts with my Korean cell phone. They called me at 1 pm and said the chopper pilot had to know if we were going with him or not and they had to tell him “no” because they still had not received the authorization. They left with my 9 musicians/crew on the bus and at 1:15 pm, received the authorization to fly on the choppers! It was too late because the chopper had already been cancelled. However, Charlie will be flying up later this afternoon and everyone will fly back tonight after the show, which is the important thing. Another great example of government bureaucracy and “red tape”.
Found everything I was looking for at Itaewon. Bebe joined me right before I finished up. I had remarked to her yesterday that the street seemed so much “shorter”. She thought it was just because it was raining and not many people were out. It seemed that way again today but I figured out that it’s because the little “carts” weren’t out. Maybe they only come out at late afternoon/evening now but I sure missed having those bargains available.
We arrived at the helipad to find our Blackhawk waiting for us. It was a very quick trip over to Camp Casey – only 20 minutes. This was a “VIP” chopper and MUCH different than the ones in Iraq. They had all of us on headsets and the windows were closed. They even have heating and air conditioning! What luxury. There were these huge “pods” outside the windows and I asked what they were since we don’t have those on the choppers in Iraq. They are extra fuel tanks. Pretty cool. Flight crew was so sweet but their “duty day” was over and they couldn’t stay and fly us back. We’re getting a new crew for the return trip.
The flight really brought back memories. In the mid-90’s we choppered all over Korea. I even had the rare opportunity of taking a 2 hour Blackhawk “training” flight down the corridors between North and South Korea. Still one of the most memorable flights of my life…Thank you, Loren. (Loren…always think about you and those chopper flights in Korea – and Ronna’s skirt, Rick getting “sick”, and the bathroom at the DHL! Fun times. ). We flew over so much of the same “territory” only back in the 90’s we had a wild and crazy chopper crew that liked to drop us out of the sky and fly the map of the earth. This flight was so smooth.
Weather is good, so the show is outdoor. It’s “cooler” up here so we will do the autographs inside. There were about 1,600 people attending and would have been much larger if two of the units weren’t out in the field. Charlie and the band gave another outstanding performance and then signed autographs for about 2 hours for the fans. We sent the tech crew back to Seoul on the chopper and then it returned to fly us back. SOOOOO much nicer than having to drive 2 hours or more back after midnight. At least I got 3 ½ hours sleep last night before having to leave for the airport!
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 23RD – NASHVILLE BOUND!:
Got up at 4:30 am and had my bags outside the door at 6 am. I forgot to put the charger for my little Korean cell phone in the suitcase, so I opened the door to add it. The door closed behind me and I was locked out. Fortunately, I was fully dressed. J
Everyone was on time and we arrived at the airport with plenty of time to check in. Only, all the names were in separate records, plus the Cathay Pacific flights and American Airlines flight did not show up in the same record. Took the ticket agent almost 2 hours to get us checked in. I figured we would owe about a thousand dollars in excess, but she didn’t charge us anything! We made it to the gate just in time to board the flight to Hong Kong.
All I wanted was to eat breakfast and sleep. There were two Asian men sitting behind me and they were talking LOUDLY to each other. I asked the flight attendant for earplugs, put those in, AND put on my headset and I could still hear them just as clearly as if they were yelling in my ear. Needless to say, no sleep on that flight.
Landed in Hong Kong and I HAVE CELL PHONE AND BLACKBERRY SERVICE AGAIN!!! I will be an AT&T customer by the end of next week after this nightmare experience. We were all cleared to go into the Lounge for our 4 hour layover.
The layover was actually nice because I got caught up on my emails…hundreds and hundreds. I worked the entire time. By the time I got on the plane to San Francisco though, I was “toast”. Managed to stay awake for the meal, which wasn’t very good, and finally convinced myself that I could watch “Taking Chance” without getting so emotional I’d get thrown off the plane. I’ve wanted to watch it for a long time but was reluctant because I knew how it would affect me. After meeting Kevin Bacon a few weeks ago with the Bellamy Brothers, I decided it was time to face my fears.
I didn’t make it past the first 5 minutes of the movie before I was crying. I wonder if it affects people who have not been a part of something like this the way it does those of us who have witnessed it firsthand. I will never forget my first “Angel Flight” or any of those thereafter. I am incredibly blessed to have been included in something so important for one of our fallen heroes. I remember the first time, when we landed in Kuwait with the Angel Flight, the flight crew announced that since it was a “civilian”, it wasn’t necessary to stand. When the casket was lifted by the military escorts to be taken from the plane, everyone stood at once. If you have not seen the movie, make it a priority to watch it. The tender, loving care that is given our wonderful men and women who have given their lives for us is something every American needs to be aware of. To be able to stand in line at the back of the military aircraft while these heroes are taken on board or off board is life-changing. I also remember the last time we were honored to be a part of this ceremony. A member of the flight crew told someone in my group that he did not think it was appropriate for us (civilians) to be in the procession. That was before the ceremony. As he stood and watched my group salute the casket and tears roll down every face, he immediately changed his mind and apologized afterwards. I understand how the military are all “family” and I’ve never served nor do I come from a military family (unless you count the 3 years my first ex-husband served in the Navy!). But that doesn’t diminish my love and utmost respect and appreciation for all our men and women serving to protect my freedom. Even though they never tell us the names of the heroes, we still feel a “personal” loss.
We landed in San Francisco and quickly cleared Immigration. My Global Entry pass worked like a CHARM. Then it took forever for the luggage to come out. Since most of the group had to get boarding passes issued, we told everyone to go on through as they collected their luggage. Charlie and Hazel had to go pay duty on their purchases and were sent to a completely different area. The lady in the Cathay Pacific Lounge had asked for “assist” to meet Charlie but NO ONE showed up. She also told us that since our luggage was checked all the way through, we would leave it on the belt outside Immigration and there would be a ticket counter right there to issue the boarding passes. NOT! I’ve never been in an airport like this one and will avoid going back through San Francisco in the future. We had to walk to a completely different terminal with our luggage and then check in again – like we were not even transfer passengers. The line was very long and our layover was very short. The Security line was impossible. There was a line for “Priority Passengers” and then everyone else. But, they only had one scanner open so they were checking passports for people in two different lines and then everyone was pushing to get into one line to go through the scanner. It took me over a half hour and that’s with only about 30 people in front of me. Fortunately, we all made it to the gate in time and took off right on time.
I’m on an American Airlines flight now to Dallas/Ft. Worth and they have wireless internet in flight. I’m in heaven. Only thing is, you need a DC adapter to plug into power and I don’t have one. Have already gone through one battery. Plus, now I’ll work the entire flight and won’t get any sleep. L
Worked the entire flight and landed in Dallas at 9:30 with a scheduled departure to Nashville of 10:30 pm. I was really dragging by that time. Fortunately, our departure gate was right next to our arrival gate. When we got on the plane, they announced that we had wireless internet again. I was too tired to turn on the computer. We landed in Nashville on time and all our luggage and gear arrived, too. Door to door, it was 33 hours. J
It was another great trip with the Charlie Daniels Band. His love for our U. S. Military is evident not only in his performances but by the way the treats our service men and women off-stage as well. Looking forward to another tour with them soon.