TRAVEL FROM FRANCE TO GERMANY – TUESDAY, JULY 28TH, 2015:
No “ghostly” visitors last night but the light definitely stayed on in the bathroom all night.
This morning I was better prepared for the shower. None of the showers in Europe seem to have “full doors”. They all have “half doors” and the water always sprays out into the floor. That I was aware of and ready to combat. What I wasn’t ready for yesterday was the fact that the water pressure was so strong (a good thing). The shower head is a “hand held” model and as I was washing my hair, I could feel the spray slowly inching upwards. Then the wand whipped off the holder and danced around inside the shower spraying everything in site in the entire bathroom….including the towels and my clothes.
Had a quick breakfast of yogurt and fruit again and then was going to walk over to the bank to change money. I asked the front desk clerk if the band would change money for me and she said “No”. She called the bank and they told her that the Post Office would change money. So I walked a block to the Post Office only to find it was closed and opened at 9 am. I went back to the hotel and brought my suitcases downstairs and then walked back to the Post Office. No one spoke English but I was able to communicate enough to understand that they would not change money to Euros. Guess I’ll be waiting until I get to Germany and the military base!
The bus is fantastic, as I expected. A huge seating area downstairs with electrical plugs. Upstairs there are 2 captain’s in the front window, 14 bunks and a huge lounge area in the back. There is even internet connection – for a fee. Not very reliable connection, but at least something.
Only “negative” today was the fact that one of the drivers was smoking when he picked us up. I made sure he understood that we did not want smoking while he was driving us. Shame that such a beautiful bus smells of smoke!
I was sitting in the downstairs seating area and about 10 minutes outside of town, a wine glass flew off the counter beside me and shattered everywhere. Shards of glass were even where I was sitting. Tristian and I picked up the larger pieces and then he used the vacuum cleaner to get the remaining small pieces.
The internet on the bus is only for 100 mb so that didn’t work for me. I was able to log onto the Xcom Global device I brought with me but even with that, it kept fading in and out as we drove from country to country.
Everyone was hungry by 1 pm and we were near the Switzerland border. As soon as we crossed over, there was a Marche. Was disappointed to find it was only a “mini-Marche” and did not have a great selection. But they did have salmon that was excellent. Lots of the guys got steak and then some went to Burger King and others to the Coop. Got back on the road and headed towards Bern where they were able to get some great photos of the Alps.
My internet kept going out and I was unable to log on with my Xcom or the bus Wi-Fi so didn’t get a lot of work done. Was surprised that I didn’t get sleepy, especially since I’ve only had a few hours of sleep each night.
We stopped for dinner at 8 pm about 30 minutes after crossing the border into Germany. Craig wanted traditional Germany food and the place we found had great Schnitzel. There was a McDonald’s next door and half the guys went there. Can’t believe they would rather eat at a McDonald’s than have Schnitzel in Germany!
It was another 2 ½ hour drive so we didn’t arrive at the hotel until Midnight. Unfortunately, no one gave Michael (owner of the bus) the information about the change in hotels so his drivers would have taken us to the wrong hotel had he not found out at the last minute. The base had planned to have the bus take us everywhere while we’re here. However, we were scheduled to depart at 8:30 am for sound check and the drivers would not be able to “legally” drive again that soon. I couldn’t reach anyone on the base so I called John Howe and asked if there was any reason why we couldn’t change the sound check time. We moved it to after lunch at 1 pm which is much better for everyone.
The hotel is nice and the internet works great. It’s raining here and forecast is for more rain tomorrow although there is a chance it will clear up by show time. John decided to try and fit the stage inside the hangar but it didn’t work. So he set it up facing the inside of the hanger so that the audience will be covered. His stage is covered, so that won’t be a problem for the guys.
Going to try and grab a few hours sleep tonight and will deal with the “transportation” issue tomorrow!
WEDNESDAY, JULY 29TH – FIRST SHOW IN GERMANY – ANSBACH ARMY GARRISON
Had a “decent” workout this morning and a quick breakfast. By the time I got out of the shower, Lt. Col. Ponton (Director of AFE) had arrived from the U.S.
We departed the hotel for lunch at the base and a tour of the flight line afterwards. The aircraft were helicopters and one was the helicopter that Craig had jumped out of when he was enlisted. Craig had a really great visit with all the air crews while the musicians/crew toured the choppers. When we first walked in, I overheard one of the soldiers ask his buddy “Who is that guy?”. His buddy gave an exasperated reply of, “That’s Kenny Chesney!” LOL.
The musicians/crew were delighted with our Production Company and their crew – Public Address. I’ve worked with my dear friend John Howe at that company since we were in Bosnia in the 90’s! They really are the “best” and we’re lucky to have them for all three shows in Germany.
We finished up sound check at around 3:30 and arrived back at the hotel by 4 pm. I had a couple of hours to work prior to going back over for the performance. The show was moved inside a “hangar” because of all the rain and wind they had here yesterday. It rained off and on again today but cleared up by show time – but was cold!
There were over 600 people in attendance which is great for this smaller base. And again, Craig and his guys gave a superb performance. Craig went out into the audience at this show as well and that is always a crowd pleaser. There were lots of families with children in the audience tonight, too. I got a great photo that will be on my JSI website later this month of a little boy who is about 4-5 years old standing and watching the show with his hands covering his ears! J
The autograph line was LONG but Craig finished in about an hour and a half. Vikki had catered in some delicious Chinese food for us. Tomorrow we drive to Grafenwoehr – a trip that we were told was 4 hours but which we learned today is only 2 hours, maybe less!
Going to bed SOON,
THURSDAY, JULY 30TH – TRAVEL DAY FROM ANSBACH TO GRAFENWOEHN
Got in a quick workout again this morning. Then had breakfast with some of the guys.
We loaded up and left the hotel at 11 am for the 2 hour drive to Grafenwoehr. We were almost to the base when the bus driver stopped on the side of the road. He was talking on the phone and then turned around. I asked him if we were “lost” and he said that we weren’t but that we were not staying at the base where the festival is being held. News to all of us. We are staying 30 minutes away at Rose Barracks.
I started trying to reach our coordinators and finally confirmed that the information was accurate. We had gone 30 kilometers out of our way and had to backtrack so we didn’t arrive lodging until after 2 pm. I got everyone checked in and we are in 3 separate buildings. I am on the ground floor, but there is still a set of steps to climb and carry the suitcases up. Several of us were given large “suites”.
I had a few minutes at my laptop to type of the list of pre-ordered meals for the restaurants these next two nights. Then we drove over to the base for sound check. Because Public Address is so great, sound check only took about 30 minutes. Was able to meet our local MWR coordinators during that time and figure out the “plan” for the next 2 days. Craig’s voice is pretty hoarse and he needs to rest it as much as possible since there are 2 more 90 minute shows coming up.
After sound check, we went back by lodging and picked up Craig and Karen and went to what is supposedly the best “beer garden” in this area. The food was excellent! We sat outside and the only “negative” about the restaurant was that it got really cold before we finished eating. The food came out about 5 minutes after we ordered!
We left the restaurant and returned to lodging at around 9 pm. There is a laundry facility in the basement that we are allowed to use AFTER 4 pm each day. Craig had done most of his this afternoon while we were at sound check but several of us still needed to do ours. There’s no vending machines for laundry detergent so I was going to use the Dawn dishwashing detergent! But, one of the guys had a large container of laundry detergent and was happy to share with me. Only a couple of the items I washed can go in the dryer so I have clothes hanging all around my room to dry.
The festival at Grafenwoehr these next two days is open to the public as part of their annual “friendship day”. Should be a huge crowd of military and their families and local residents!
FRIDAY, JULY 31st – FIRST PERFORMANCE AT GRAFENWOEHR
Only got 3 hours sleep last night, so didn’t get in my “run” this morning. Breakfast was “continental” but they had boiled eggs and yogurt so not too bad.
Our driver – Bill (WHO IS AWESOME!) arrived at 9:45 am to take Craig to meet the guys driving the Strykers. He had decided not to go to the firing range but rather rest his vocals for the next two days of 90 minute performances (very smart!). He spent several minutes taking photos and signing autographs while his wife, Jerry, LTC Ponton, and Russ “suited up” for the ride. I thought they were only going to give them a “ride” but quickly learned that they were going to get out and “shoot a few rounds”! That’s when Craig decided he wanted to go with his wife. Bill and I rode separately in a van instead of the Stryker (I’ve been in one of those many times!) When we got to the range, only Russ, Jerry and LTC Ponton actually fired the “big guns”. Craig signed autographs and took photos with everyone and there were quite a few people gathered there.
Yesterday when we tried to get on base, we were told that we were not on the access roster. LTC Ponton went with me to talk to the security but it wasn’t until Craig got off the bus and started signing autographs and taking photos with them that we were “expedited” through. Bill has a pass in his vehicle so we are not having any problems any more.
But, we were told this morning that we are not going to secure an “access authorization” to be able to purchase anything on base. The suggestion was made that we “make a list” of what everyone needs and someone will make the purchases for us. That’s not very realistic with 13 people all with different needs at different times. LTC Ponton made a few “well placed” calls and by early afternoon, we had the authorization we require. Makes things much easier.
I walked to the Post office to mail 2 postcards and left thinking I had probably enlisted. The clerk insisted that I must have an APO address to mail anything. I showed my orders and pointed out the paragraph regarding the post office and he finally relented. Then he had to measure the post cards and weigh them and opened numerous drawers to secure 3 different stamps on each card. I should have just taken them home and put in the mailbox and pretended I had mailed them!
Stopped by the food court and got a grilled chicken salad for lunch and then worked for several hours. Yesterday, I distributed copies of menus for dinner tonight and tomorrow night to everyone and got their orders. I turned these in yesterday to our hosts when we arrived at sound check. Bill found out today that no one ever contacted the restaurants to MAKE the pre-order. He went by both restaurants but the one we are eating at tonight doesn’t open until 5 pm. So, we won’t have “pre-ordered” food tonight and I’m hoping the service is quick enough for us to eat before heading for the performance! Spent a lot of time getting orders for 2 nights from 13 people and typing it up so would be nice if the food is pre-ordered.
We left for the restaurant at 4:45 pm and arrived just as they opened. I went over all the orders with them and they were very quick to bring out the food. It was a great meal and everyone seemed to enjoy it. We stopped back by lodging and picked up Craig and Karen and then drove to the festival site. MWR said they had 140,000 people over 3 days last year and have already exceeded their one day attendance for Friday last year. I told them it’s because Craig is performing. J
Craig had a fantastic show with a huge crowd of country music fans – all who knew his music and sang along. The audience was families – military and local Germans – and lots and lots of kids. I had to leave to go to the shopette to pick up some things for the boys for a few minutes. Bill did get stopped at one of the gates even with the pass and I had to show my passport and orders.
At one point, Craig went out into the crowd and it was pretty wild. Jerry and Joey went with him as well as a couple of security guards. Someone Joey got a huge gash on his ear and it bled a lot. It was impossible to sign autographs after the show but Craig did meet with a few of the fans and had a special gift from two guys who lost a buddy in a chopper crash in Afghanistan a couple of years ago.
We departed the festival grounds at around 10 pm and were back at lodging before 11 pm. We are going into Nuremberg to “shop” tomorrow! J
SATURDAY, AUGUST 1ST – LAST PERFORMANCE IN GERMANY AND ON THIS TOUR
Very sad news last night that Lynn Anderson passed away. She was a wonderful lady and I am happy I had the opportunity to know her and work with her once. RIP Lynn.
Got up early enough to get in my jog today. I stopped in the “office” and asked where the jogging trail was located. The man at the desk responded, “I have no idea. I don’t manage the jogging trail”. Hmm…..good point, I suppose but not a great start to my day.
I think I eventually found it during my run but not sure. Didn’t matter. Weather was beautiful and it was a great run. Showered and met the guys downstairs for the trip into Nuremburg. We wanted to leave early but our driver is from a base that is an hour and a half drive from us. So, we left at 10:30 am. After a stop at the ATM, we arrived Nuremberg at noon – 1 hour and 15 minute drive.
I’ve been to Nuremberg many times and think it is a beautiful city. Lots of churches, old buildings, a castle and shops and shops and shops. Some of the group were specifically looking for Black Forest Clocks. I was just “looking” because I have another week in Europe and can’t buy anything because I have several more flights. I’ll go shopping in Silkeborg where I’m very familiar with all the shops. J
We split up and I wandered around. It started raining and of course, my umbrella was at lodging. I bought a cheap umbrella and a book and then discovered that I could change money at the main train station. I hiked over there but there was a long line. We were supposed to meet the mini-bus at 2:30 pm to drive back to base, so I decided to wait until I get to the Nuremberg airport tomorrow to change money.
I stopped in Dunkin Donuts to use their restroom but someone was in there and after 10 minutes, was still in there. I went next door to the Burger King but it was a “pay toilet” and the machine where the money was inserted wasn’t working. I crawled under the turnstile! Amazing I didn’t get arrested but I was so frustrated by that point, I didn’t care.
I was back at the bus at 2:30 pm exactly but none of the rest of the group were there. They had taken a “tour” of the “dungeons” and said it was awesome. They also found their Black Forest Clocks at a shop that is shipping them home for them. It was a good “day off” for them!
Only had a few minutes to change clothes for the show and then we went to dinner. We had “pre-ordered” the meal so we were able to eat quickly. Another excellent German meal! The streets were closed in Vilseck for a “festival”. We were amazed that the little village would try to hold a festival the same weekend as the Volksfest which has been taking place for 57 years just a few miles away at the Grafenwoehr Base. Sadly, only a handful of people were attending the Vilseck festival.
Stopped by lodging to pick up Karen and Craig and headed to the festival. I was so happy to find Michael Tietze and spend some time talking with him while Craig was performing. It’s sad that I only get to see him and John every year or so and when we do get together, we are so busy we don’t have time for each other. Michael had promised me a candlelight dinner this trip and of course, that never happened. L
Craig’s performance was spectacular and the venue was packed. The festival had another record day, too, even with the rain. It was the perfect ending to a great tour.
Craig wanted to buy everyone a “festival beer stein” but unfortunately they were sold out. LTC Ponton, Lisa and I went into the festival grounds and got a German beer for everyone. The General at the base came by to thank Craig and one of his staff was with him. He and I were talking and he asked about my accent. When I told him I grew up in Alabama, he asked where. I told him Prattville and he was shocked because that’s where he grew up as well. Prattville is a very small town and we couldn’t believe we both grew up there!
We drove back to lodging in the big sleeper bus and will depart at 7 am tomorrow morning for the airport. Craig and Karen go to Scotland, the guys go home and I go to another town in Germany to begin another week of shows with the Bellamy Brothers!