TUESDAY, JULY 8TH – PERFORMANCE AT CAMP ARIFJAN, KUWAIT and FLIGHTS FROM KUWAIT TO BERGEN, NORWAY:
Was able to get in a great workout at the gym this morning. Dereck said he went out to run (in about 100 degree temperatures) then remembered he couldn’t drink water outside and came back to the gym. Hard to remember all the “rules” of Ramadan! Had breakfast with some of the guys, showered, and checked out of hotel.
First thing on the agenda after arriving Camp Arifjan was a Commander’s Office Call with Colonel Eubank. I’ve seen a lot of him this past year but it’s almost time for him to leave Kuwait. He gave a great briefing and everyone had lots of questions for him. Took photos in front of their “A” and he presented everyone with a certificate of appreciation and a coin.
We went by the stage to see how they were doing and everything was ready except for the power being turned on. We left and went to the shopping area for last minute purchases. I didn’t need ANYTHING! Went back to the stage for a sound check and then to lodging so everyone could rest for a few minutes and check emails before dinner. We ate at the DFAC, went back to lodging to change clothes and then it was show time. The concert was held in their new “Events Tent” in Zone One. The tent is awesome (especially because it is air conditioned!) but it was the first event there and I’m not sure everyone on base was familiar with where it is located. But, we had a great crowd and the guys gave them a great “last” show.
My friend Wally and his wife Row came in late and brought 3 interns from the Embassy. Wally also brought coins for everyone from General Williams. There were lots of die-hard Filter fans in the audience which made for a really lively performance. The guys managed to take photos and sign autographs for everyone before we went back to lodging to change clothes and depart for the airport. It is usually about an hour drive but we hit some traffic and it took a little longer. We were worried about how long it would take going through security with all the new rules!
I went through with everyone to the United Counter even though I am flying on Lufthansa. Made sure they all got checked in with no problems. Then I went to the Lufthansa counter to check in. That’s when my problems began. The ticket agent said there was a “system error” in my ticket and she couldn’t check me in. I told her I had already checked in the day before on line. I stood there for 40 minutes before she could give me 2 of my 3 boarding passes! Then she sent me to a Lounge that was closed for renovation. The “new” Lounge was really just a cubicle and there was a “smoking” room inside it but no “top” on the room so smoke was everywhere. I couldn’t stay long because of that. There were no toilets and I had tried to go into the Ladies room earlier but it was closed for cleaning. I tried it again before going to the gate. At first I thought it only had the toilet in the floor t but found one stall with an “American style” toilet. A man was cleaning the floor outside the toilets with one of those machines you ride on. He made a quick U-turn and “cleaned” my foot in the process.
I arrived at the gate to find some elderly lady dressed in high high stiletto heels with sequins on them and this huge white bell shaped white lacy skirt and a green jacket that is impossible to describe. It had round swirls that stuck out all around her. She had dark red hair and a hat on. Everyone was staring at her. She was very friendly especially to the kids and they were taking photos with her. I asked the gate agent who she was and she said she had no idea but that she shows up dressed like that all the time to fly “somewhere”. The crazy lady came over and started talking to me and asked me what hotel I am staying at in Frankfurt. I assured her I wasn’t staying in Frankfurt. She kept trying to board the plane before everyone else and they kept bumping her back outside. Thankfully, she was in coach class and I didn’t see her again after we departed. I did sneak a photo and it will be on Facebook and JSI and SFS websites.
The flight attendant offered us a “small snack” once we took off. Mine was smaller than most since it was toast points with different things on top and I couldn’t have the toast. I slept for 5 of the 6 hour fight and think I could have slept 12 more.
Connected in Frankfurt and it was a nightmare. We had a “bus” gate and everyone got soaked with rain walking from the plane to the bus. We arrived in the A gates and had to go through Passport Control and security to get to the B gates where my plane to Copenhagen would depart. Of course, there was no lounge anywhere close to my gate and I thought I would have to go back through security to access. Finally found one back in the A gates where I had landed and a 20 minute walk from my departure gate.
We departed on time and it was an hour and a half flight to Copenhagen. Had the same situation in Copenhagen with the Lounge. Nothing anywhere close to where I was departing. It was another hour and a half flight to Bergen but everything was on time. By the time I landed in Bergen, the U.S. passengers had landed in DC! Long travel day for me.
I’m staying at the Clarion Hotel connected to the Bergen airport. I’ve stayed here before and it’s an “okay” place to stay. Biggest appeal is the fact that it is connected to the airport and I can just walk over. But, I prefer staying down town Bergen when I’m not so “rushed”.
Got checked in and internet is free so I worked all afternoon. Ordered room service from their very limited menu (I got a hamburger and threw away the bun!). It’s almost 3 am now and I need to get some sleep. Have to start meeting the various artists at 1:20 pm tomorrow and then it is a 5 hour bus ride from Bergen to Breim!
Vertical Horizon was AWESOME both on and off stage. Hope I can work with them again. And the shows for the troops over the 4th of July were amazing. Made lots of new friends and got lots and lots of hugs from those guys and girls….America’s finest!
THURSDAY, JULY 10TH, BERGEN TO BREIM, NORWAY:
Got up and had a quick breakfast then checked out the “Health Club” at the hotel. Not good. Couple of treadmills and bikes and one machine with weights. Decided I could do a much better job using the “bands” in my room.
Showered and answered some emails and then it was time to meet the groups. The bus driver was already there with the bus and I walked into the airport. The board was showing that Mark Chesnutt and his guys flight had not arrived but I found them at baggage claim! At least I found everyone except Mark and Slim — somehow they were routed on a different flight from Amsterdam to Bergen and arrived about 30 minutes after the other musicians. But at least they arrived as did all the bags. John Jorgensen Bluegrass Band came in about 30 minutes later. They changed money and got some food to eat on the 5 hour bus ride to Breim. Jon Randall realized he didn’t have his suitcase! He was allowed to go back into baggage claim area and it was still sitting there!
We drove for about 2 ½ hours before reaching the ferry crossing. The drive is breathtaking with huge lakes, mountains, and waterfalls. Chris Hillman and 2 of the DRB guys will land at 4:30 pm today and spend the night at the Clarion where I stayed last night. Then they will drive up to Breim tomorrow. Our 5 hour drive seemed more like an hour because of the beautiful scenery.
We arrived at the hotel at 7:15 pm and I started checking everyone in. Gunnar our promoter was there to meet us. The hotel has an “old, historic side” which is lovely and a “new, modern side” which is air-conditioned! I always put in the contract that all my entertainers MUST be on the new side. And, it seems like every year, the hotel doesn’t get the information and then we are scrambling to find rooms on the new side. I sent the guys to eat dinner while I worked on it and it took well over an hour to find a workable solution.
I was able to eat dinner just before they closed down the buffet, too! Have been in my room answering dozens of emails and to get in bed before 1 am!
FRIDAY, JULY 11TH – NORSK COUNTRY TREFF – BREIM, NORWAY:
It was SO hot in my room. It is supposed to be air conditioned but it is controlled from the front desk and has about the same effect of someone blowing softly in your face. L
Showered and had breakfast with the guys before departing to sound check. No time to work out this morning other than in my room with bands. Am hoping to get in a good jog on Sunday morning before we leave for Bergen. Nights are just too late and mornings too early to jog before then.
The weather is fantastic although much hotter than normal here. But after 140 in Qatar in May, 100 in the Philippines, and 120 in Kuwait and Afghanistan last week, you will NOT hear me complaining. The stage was set and ready for the guys and I knew it would not take them the 3 hours allotted for sound check. I actually left them after one hour to go back to the hotel to make sure the rooms were ready for Chris, Jay Dee and Steve’s arrival. All was set.
Next on my schedule was a line check and performance by John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band (J2B2). It was at a smaller outdoor stage next to the large stage where Mark and DRB will perform. I think it was too early (2 pm) and too hot for many of the “still very drunk” campers to come out. But, they did a fantastic show for their small crowd. Such beautiful harmonies and amazing musicianship.
We left the venue at 3 pm and Chris, Jay Dee and Steve had just arrived at the hotel. Check in was smooth and they got the rooms in the new part of the hotel I had requested. Talked to them a few minutes before walking over to the Coop to get water for my room. I always purchase a “fan” when I’m in a hotel that doesn’t have air conditioning. I had purchased one years ago for this hotel. I write my name on it and they keep it for me from year to year. Only this year they lost it! L When I came back from the Coop, they had purchased a new one for me. Sure makes a huge difference in that HOT room.
Had time to eat a quick dinner and then went to another stage with J2B2 for their bluegrass set. It was near the hotel and in an old “barn”. No windows or ventilation in the barn and it was stifling hot. Chris, Jay Dee and Steve went over to listen to their show. We were supposed to have a van pick everyone up at 7:45 pm but no one showed up. Most of the guys just walked but since I had never been there, I figured I would get lost. Most of the musicians did!
Nils our promoter was thrilled with their performance. As was the audience. They kept asking for encore after encore.
Back to the hotel and less than an hour before leaving for Mark’s show. He did a little meet and greet and couple of interviews when we arrived. The way this venue is set up, there’s no alcohol allowed on the huge dance floor right in front of the stage. But on the side of the stage, there are picnic table where the fans can sit and drink and still see the show. There was only a handful of dancers in front of the stage when Mark began. But by 2 – 3 songs into his set , the dance floor was packed.
One really interesting thing we saw as we drove in today were 3 flags flying over the festival area – U.S.; Norway; and Confederate!
Mark just aced his performance tonight – as I knew he would. Norwegians are starved for REAL country music. You forget how many hits he has had until he begins singing and then you recognize every song.
Left the venue and arrived back at the hotel by 2 am. I was so tired, I was in bed by 3 am.
SATURDAY, JULY 12TH – LAST SHOW IN NORWAY (UNTIL THE END OF THE MONTH!)
Another beautiful morning but still no time to jog. Bands again in the room. Then shower and breakfast and over to sound check with Desert Rose Band. They did a 3 hour rehearsal from 11 am until 2 pm and sound as fantastic as ever. The time went by so quickly because it was wonderful listening to them rehearse.
We were supposed to leave at 2 and go by this fantastic waterfall but the guys opted out and we went straight to the church. Of course, we arrived too early and had to sit on the bus for an hour. It was much too hot to sit backstage at the church.
DRB sang 2 songs acoustically, J2B2 sang two songs acoustically and Mark sang 2 songs acoustically. It was “magic”. If you get a chance, check out my websites or Facebook for photos next week.
Next stop was at the hotel. I walked to the market again and then worked until time for dinner. I found out why our driver didn’t pick up up yesterday for the performance at the museum. Apparently, he thought he was having a heart attack and had to be airlifted to Bergen! I feel so badly for him. His name is Erik and he took the Bellamy’s musician to the emergency room with me last year. We sat and talked about how much we love Desert Rose Band and he was instrumental in helping get them booked at this event. He was so looking forward to meeting the guys. Herb and I were going to go to the Bergen hospital tomorrow and see him but we found out he is being released tomorrow. I hate so much that he missed the show and missed meeting the guys, but am very happy that he is okay!
It started raining at around 7 pm and I was afraid it would continue through show time. But it stopped and actually the rain helped cool off things. I put on a long sleeve shirt and jeans because I figured it would get even cooler later tonight. I was right.
The guys took the stage at 11 pm and it was amazing. The dance floor filled in quickly and the audience loved them. I have lots of friends here that I have known for 10 years and one by one they came by to tell me it’s the best concert they have ever seen. I agree!
They played until around 12:45 am and we were back at the hotel by around 1:15 am. Everyone went in the bar for a nightcap and pizza and now it’s 4 am! I had big plans to jog tomorrow morning but that’s not going to happen. We leave for Bergen at 11 am.
What a great weekend this has been. The promoter was very happy with Mark, J2B2 and DRB. We already have Rhonda Vincent booked for 2015 and I’m trying to talk him into booking Dailey and Vincent, too.
Good night, all!
SUNDAY, JULY 13TH – BREIM TO BERGEN:
Grabbed a few hours sleep and still disappointed that I didn’t get to jog in Breim this year! And it was perfect weather for it, too!
Had a very light breakfast and everyone boarded the bus at 11 am for the 5 hour ride to Bergen. We had a bus driver that we had once last year and he is not very good. Jerks and stops quickly and basically makes everyone nauseous on the curvy roads. We had another ferry ride en route but still arrived at the hotel at 3:30 pm. Of course, the driver went into the wrong entrance and ended up “stuck” in a parking lot at the airport. He turned the bus around and was able to deliver us to the front door.
I asked the driver 3 times to please wait for about 10 minutes so he could give some of the guys a ride into Bergen. He said he would. Then, it took 30 minutes to get everyone checked into the hotel! At first they thought our rooms weren’t cleaned yet – hello, it was 4 pm by that time! They managed to find everyone’s room but actually had me booked in two rooms. I gave one back and headed to the 4th floor to drop my bags. The room key wouldn’t work and I tried several times. On the 3rd attempt, the door opened with the man standing there who was booked in that room. Back to the front desk to get another room then back upstairs to the 4th floor. This time the room key didn’t work again. Back downstairs to get a new key. When I arrived there, the guys waiting to go into town said the driver left! He was driving off as I walked up. I had to call his boss and make him come back! Was really disappointed that I couldn’t go with the group, but I needed to get everyone checked in. I love Bergen! I gave Mark cash to pay for his shuttle bus ride back and asked John to please “take care of the group”!
Herb, Chris, Delaney and I walked over to the airport to try and get everyone checked in. No problem on Chris and Herb but Delaney and I struck out completely. We are all on Delta/KLM but the website didn’t like us. I was only able to check in and print my boarding pass from Bergen to Amsterdam. Delaney didn’t even get that far with his group!
We left the airport and tried to check in on the computers at the hotel. No luck. I went upstairs and tried to check everyone in on my computer. No luck. Just gave up and decided I would arrive at the airport earlier and check in then.
Went downstairs and had dinner with a lot of the guys. The salmon was actually excellent tonight. Mark and the guys are still not back from Bergen. They must be really enjoying themselves.
Re-packed everything and been sending “thank you” emails to everyone. Have to get up at 3:30 am to walk DRB over to the airport for their departure. Then I have to be back over there at 8 am. Am sure I will sleep the entire flights.
Leaving here very happy that we had such a successful weekend. Could not have asked for better entertainment than Mark Chesnutt, Desert Rose Band and John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band. Absolutely STELLAR!
MONDAY, JULY 14TH – LEAVING NORWAY
Was up at 3:30 am to walk over to the airport with Chris, Herb and Steve. I wasn’t able to check Steve in yesterday and wanted to make sure he didn’t have any problems. Was able to get him checked in on the airport kiosk. Walked back to the hotel and had breakfast before finishing packing and going back to the airport for my flight. Mark’s group doesn’t depart until noon but J2B2 and I depart at 10 am.
I decided to walk over to the airport at 7:30 am instead of 8 am because of the problems I was having checking in online. That is never a good sign.
Arrived at the check in counter to be told that I could not check in until 2 hours prior. Asked her why their website says we have to check in 3 hours prior due to heightened security. She informed me that this is Bergen and they have their own rules. I told her I could not print my boarding passes for the flights to Detroit and Nashville and asked if I should try to check in again at the kiosk. She assured me she would be able to print.
So I waited 20 minutes and tried again. She informed me that I do not have flights to Detroit and Nashville — only to Amsterdam! I gave her the printout of my reservation. She tried again and said she could force the Detroit flight but I would have to pick up my bag there and re-check. With only a little over an hour to make the connection, I knew that wouldn’t work. So she sent me to the service desk who told me the same thing. At one point the agent there told me the last trip on my itinerary was by TRAIN!!!! Can you believe it??
I ended up calling Delta in the US and they walked them through how to check me all the way through. This process took an hour.
Went through to the gate area and signs to right said Gates 20-27 and to the right were 28-32. My gate was #25 so I went to the right. There was a door to the gate area but it was locked. I walked back and found John, Jon and Mark just coming through Security. They had experiences the same delays I had because of different airlines and excess baggage. Jon said they arrived at the gate and walked up to the counter. The agent told them they must take a number. They were the only people in line! Jon walked back and got the number and stood in line. She pushed a button and his number popped up accompanied by a “ding”. He stepped up and she told him to drop his number in a container. Then she checked him in.
We all walked back to the gate area. The doors were still locked but there were people inside. We finally walked all the way around to the gates labeled 28 and higher and found a way to our gate! Sure hope I am finished with challenges!!
Landed on time but had less than 2 hours to make the connection. It was a “bus” gate and when we arrived at the terminal, there were two huge sets of revolving doors, one almost connected to the other. They were packed full and the person in front of me just quit walking. My rolling bag got caught in the doors and almost pulled me down! I went straight to the gate and we boarded after 5 minutes later. There was a couple standing in line in front of me and they were arguing loudly. She was berating her husband very loudly. As we walked down the jetway, I was praying they were in coach class. No such luck. The sat across the aisle from me and continued to argue loudly until after the meal was served. I actually felt sorry for her husband. Then she read National Enquirer and Star and other trash magazines the rest of the flight!
I watched a terrible Robert Redford movie and then slept for a couple of hours. We landed on time and I was thankful the baggage came out quickly because I had less than 1 hour to make the connection. The flight to Nashville was full and we had turbulence all the way. But, we landed on time and my bag made it. Only thing disappointing is that the “Z’s” are gone until tomorrow night. I’m home for one week and then go back to Norway and Sweden with Dwight Yoakam and William Clark Green.