SUNDAY, JULY 10TH – NORWAY TO ITALY:
Got my 2 hours of sleep at the hotel, breakfast with the group and a 4 hour bus ride (where I slept almost the entire way) to the Oslo Airport with Mark’s band and Darryl’s group. Everyone got checked in easily and no one got charged any excess. I have no idea how that happened because they all had 2 bags and anything over 1 bag gets charged excess. Crazy….but very happy about that.
We have a “wait” for our flights, both of which depart at 2:20 pm – Darryl and myself to Frankfurt then Milan and Mark’s group to Amsterdam and then to Nashville. Really worried that they will make the connection in Amsterdam. Their flights were booked on Expedia and they only have a 50 minute connection in Amsterdam. Takes longer than that to clear passport control and security even if they land on time. There isn’t another flight out to Nashville from Amsterdam tonight.
Everyone got boarding passes all the way through to Milan except me – the ONLY “Global” member on United. Figures, huh? I came up to the Lounge to see if they could assist but no luck. Sat up my computer to work for an hour but I HAVE to leave or move. This Chinese guy sat at the desk facing me with a plate of food. I’m sure everyone knows, but the Chinese think the louder they smack, slurp, and chew with their mouths open spraying food everywhere, the more it is a sign that they are enjoying their meal! I was ready to throw something at him when he finally finished his food. But 2 minutes later, he got another plate of food and the “enjoyment” has begun again. I really have to leave or there will be an international incident.
Well, things certainly got interesting for the remainder of the trip to Italy. Flight departed late and there was only ONE row in business class. The way the airlines does it on KLM, Lufthansa, SAS, etc., is the pick a few of the first rows and mark those business class. Then there is a sign that says Economy Extra. Finally, there is a sign that says Economy Plus and last of all just Economy. ALL THE SEATS ARE EXACTLY THE SAME. So basically, you are paying for the front part of the plane and a different meal! I hate bulkhead but since I was business class, it was my only option. I was on the aisle and had the entire row to myself. Darryl, Kimberly and the band were in Economy Extra right behind me. Darryl was in a window seat with Kimberly beside him and I knew he had to be crammed in his seat. I waited until we took off and then tried to sweet talk the flight attendant into letting me move to the window seat, Kimberly to the middle seat and Darryl to the aisle seat so he could stretch out those 8 foot legs. The flight attendant was super nice and said it was fine but he could not offer them the business class meal. I knew I wasn’t going to eat mine anyway, so when the meals were served, I gave Darryl mine. The difference was mine was hot salmon and theirs was ham and cheese (cold).
We took off late and only had 50 minutes to make our connection when we landed. The airlines had a bus waiting for everyone going to Milan and drove us to our gate. But when the bus parked and let us out, some security guards refused to let us go in the building! There was other bus parked in front of the door with a sign saying “San Francisco” on it. There was a lot of arguing back and forth with the clock ticking and FINALLY we were allowed to go inside to the gate. I still had to get my boarding pass, so when the gate agent issued it, he also scanned my baggage claim tags. I asked him if the luggage would make it and he gave me an evil laugh, like “are you kidding me”? Not a good sign. L
As we were standing in line, this group of Italian men were arguing with the gate agents about having to check their large carry on pieces. One very short, “squared off” little man went over and put his bag in the container that tells if it is too big. He literally had to jump on it to get it to fit into the container. Then he turns around and throws his hands up and says “Wah-Lah”! The gate agents said “No”! When he tried to pull it out of the container it was stuck tight. He started arguing and swatting at the gate agents. If that happened in America, he would have been arrested. He lost the battle and they checked the bag. Then he jumped in line in front of everyone waiting to board. One of the guys with him cut between two nuns. One of our guys tapped him on the shoulder and indicated that the nuns were together and he should let the one behind in go first. He refused. We all looked at each other like, “Wow he’s a brave man to treat a nun like that”! When he scanned his boarding pass, it didn’t work. He had to get out of line and go to the counter. KARMA! LOL
On this flight, they actually “blocked” the middle seat in business class so that there were only Aisle and Window seats available with a middle seat between that was blocked. The meal was not something I wanted to eat. Beets with a green mayonnaise on top and a salad of octopus tentacles! I ate the roll and called it quits! The coffee was great.
We landed and NONE of our bags made it. Not one piece! We got in line to fill out the forms and it took a half hour for the agent to process the person in line in front of us. I knew this was not going to go well. When I finally got up there, I told the agent that we were all together and everyone had lost their luggage. There was definitely a language barrier. He finally filled out claims on me and Joe but it took him about 20 minutes. He told us that another flight from Frankfurt would be in at 10:15 pm and that we should stay and pick up our bags (2 hours away) because the airline would NOT deliver them tonight. We decided to fill out the claims and have someone from the event stay and pick them up. Mitch – the promoter – managed to sneak in to the area where we were but the security guard bounced him pretty quickly!
The agent got the claims filled out for Darryl and Kimberly and was about to start on Scott — but it was time for him to go off duty!!!! He told the man taking his place what had happened and told Scott to stand in front of him lane and he would help us. Instead the new agent went to the back for 10 minutes. When he came back out, he ignored our long line and took the next Italian! I was fuming!!! I had to go get Mitch and get permission for him to come inside and help us. The agent could not figure out how to “save” the basic information (flight #, hotel, etc.) and it was taking 20 minutes or more per person. This short little Italian guy kept trying to cut in front of us. Finally Scott looked at him and says “Hey buddy, what do you think you’re doing”. The guy backed off pretty quickly.
TWO HOURS later, we left the airport for the restaurant where we had dinner reservations. When we exited Customs there was a welcoming committee with a sign for Darryl. Blew him away. Originally there were 20 people but it was down to about 8 by the time we came out.
The restaurant was great. They brought bread and antipasti first. Then risotto, pasta and paella. Finished it off with a “fruit” cake and some more amazing coffee. Oh yes, then there was Lemoncello for everyone. Boy, did that bring back memories of previous visits to Italy years ago!
We left the restaurant and got checked into the hotel. Mitch had checked the internet in the rooms by taking his laptop in the room itself. Said everything was working great. When they gave me my key, I was the only one in a room where there was no elevator. I made him move me. The internet connected and then went out. Couldn’t open any emails either. So, it was a hike back to the lobby for a new room. Same thing in that room! Finally, he moved me to a room on the lobby level and I have a better connection. It still kicks me off, just not as often!
The bags made it in but all the guitars except the one I had checked for Darryl were still missing plus 6 personal bags. Not good. Supposedly they will be on the first flight in from Frankfurt tomorrow am. We shall see…..
It is almost 3 am and after the “travel day from hell”, I am going to bed and try to forget about most of what transpired. Darryl, Kimberly and the guys were so patient and understanding. And, they did not have to be! After changing rooms 3 times at the hotel, I figured I’d better sequester myself for the remainder of the evening!
MONDAY, JULY 11TH – PERFORMANCE IN ITALY:
What I forgot to mention is that the hotel is really beautiful…would be perfect except for the internet problem. The rooms are huge which is not normal in Europe and there is AIR CONDITIONING!
I slept 4 hours and got up and worked out to my DVD. The front desk said there is a great place to jog down by the river. But, since I’m not familiar with the area, didn’t want to spend a lot of time “getting lost” trying to figure out my path. Plus, they don’t usually have lease laws for their pets in Italy and the dogs run free – which means they are available to chase me around!
Was ready to go to lunch at noon with everyone. Mitch took us to a great restaurant and I reminded him to tell the manager when we walked in that we needed “separate” bills. He did and we had a wonderful meal. I had buffalo mozzarella cheese that was to die for. Then when we asked for our checks, they brought one check. Mitch was trying to have one of his volunteers figure out each person’s costs and I knew we’d be there until show time if that happened. I paid the bill for lunch and was happy to do so. What really made me angry was the fact that the manager insisted that it is impossible to give us separate checks. I told him if he had told us when we arrived that this was not possible, we would have gone somewhere else and he would have lost a lot of customers. Regardless of how good the food was, I won’t be taking my groups back there ever again.
We came back to the hotel and grabbed our things to go to sound check. The club is great. It’s called “Live”. I think everything was in place as far as production and we got the dressing rooms squared away. I went back to the hotel for a few minutes and then at 5:30 pm we went to the club for dinner. The club has a bar/restaurant upstairs and they served us a fantastic meal. It was “typically Italian” in that every time I thought the meal was over, there was another course.
After dinner, we went back to the hotel for a press conference. Mitch was supposed to have someone go to the airport to check on Darryl’s bag but he didn’t have anyone he could send. I asked the front desk how much a taxi would cost and told them to order one for me. I asked how long it would take and the clerk said, “it’s on the way”. Ten minutes, then 20 minutes, then 30 minutes later – no taxi. I knew at that point I would not be able to go because I had guys coming in from the Military Bases and I did not want to miss the show. I told the front desk to cancel the taxi. Fifteen minutes later – a total or 45 minutes since I requested the taxi and then cancelled it, it pulled up out front. The desk clerk said that I had to pay a “penalty” and I refused.
We left for the show and a “meet and greet” outside the venue. About 30 people took photos and had Darryl sign autographs. I met the men and women who were attending from the military bases and thanked them for coming. They drove 4 hours one way to be there.
Darryl had another amazing show. He had an interpreter explain to the audience that his bag was lost and he didn’t have any clothes or shoes to wear. Mitch’s sister had gone to the airport to check on his bag and a few minutes into the show, she called to say she had it! His wife took it out on stage to him and that was one happy man! I know how he felt. He had some things in there from Iraq and Afghanistan that were irreplaceable. So glad he got it before we left Italy.
Darryl performed for over 2 hours tonight! Audience loved him. Then he signed autographs for about 45 minutes.
Lindsey got home yesterday and Zac had complaining about his arm hurting. She took him to the doctor today and it is fractured! And, Zoe has hives. Just breaks my heart. Cant’ stand for them to be hurt.
It’s 2:30 am and I have to get up at 5:30 am. Sure I left out stuff in this report, but I’ll catch it up tomorrow. J
TUESDAY, JULY 12TH – ITALY TO NASHVILLE FOR A FEW MINUTES:
Got my time all mixed up and realized I needed to get up at 4:30 am – not 5:30 am. So I never went to bed. Going to be a hard trip home.
Everyone was downstairs on time and we departed for the airport. We hit a little traffic and I was very thankful we changed our departure time to earlier even if it meant no sleep. We were the first ones in line for check in at American and my counter at Delta had not even opened when I arrived. I went to get a cup of coffee and by the time I returned, was able to check in. We were all in the same gate area and I went up into the lounge to answer some emails that I was just too tired to deal with last night.
Darryl’s group left an hour before me but if all goes on schedule, I’ll arrive back a couple of hours before them. They left on time for JFK and so did my flight to Atlanta. My “luck” with the airlines seemed to be holding as the toilet in business class broken. Notice I said “toilet” as in ONE for the entire business class section of 30 people. Now we have to share with the hundreds of coach passengers. Going to be an interesting flight. I will definitely be cutting back on my normal water consumption.
Yesterday we purchased some bottled water for our rooms and it was the best water I’ve ever had. I love Evian and this was even better. All the water has “minerals” in it and I guess that’s the difference. Only side effect was a trip to the restroom after every third sip!
The food on Delta was once again restaurant quality. The plane was really, really OLD though. I finally watched “Country Strong” and it was “okay”. Very, very predictable and “cute”. We weren’t able to land in Atlanta due to a thunderstorm in the area and had to circle for about an hour. At least there wasn’t any turbulence. When I landed, I had a message from Tripit saying my flight to Nashville was also delayed and I would have 2 hours to make my connection – instead of the 30 minutes I would have had otherwise. I LOVE TRIPIT. If you’ve never used it, check it out on the web at www.tripit.com. It’s FREE, too.
Landed and breezed through Immigration with my “Global Access Pass”. Then it took forever for the luggage to arrive. Once I breezed through Customs with my pass, I was shocked to see how much luggage was sitting around on the floor waiting to be re-routed for the connecting flights. Didn’t look like a good sign to me that the luggage would make the connection and I have things in mine that I need for my flight to DC tomorrow.
We boarded flight to Nashville about an hour and a half late. It was a short flight though and Lindsey surprised me by bringing Zac and Zoe in to meet me. Zac’s tiny little arm is in a blue cast from shoulder to wrist. She found out that he actually broke one of the bones and fractured another on. Just breaks my heart. He goes back in 3 weeks for a “re-check” but will probably have to wear it for 6 weeks. At least it’s water proof and it doesn’t seem to bother him except he can’t use that arm for much…especially eating.
Almost 2 am and I have to pack for the DC trip before I can go to bed. Even with the lack of sleep, flight delays, luggage hassles, everyone agrees it was a great trip. Darryl and Mark both loved it and are ready to go again. Both of their groups, by the way, made all their connections and arrived right on time! J