THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 10TH AND FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 11TH – LONESTAR TO KUWAIT:
Left today on one of 6 tours to Kuwait over the next 3 months. My “holidays” will be spent overseas with the troops as usual…just a lot MORE this year.
Since entertainment in Iraq ceased on July 31st because the troops are leaving, Kuwait has decided to hold concerts for them. The troops will leave in “waves” and stay in Kuwait for several weeks at a time to “out-process”. I have Lonestar this week, Aaron Tippin going to Kuwait and Afghanistan over Thanksgiving, Darryl Worley and Filter to Kuwait in mid-December, my New Year’s Eve Comedy Show to Kuwait over New Year’s and the grand finale – Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band performing in Kuwait at the end of January! Busy, busy, busy!!!
I got a call from one of my skycaps at 10:45 am asking “where I was”!Evidently half the Lonestar guys were already at the airport even though we were not supposed to meet until 11:30 am. I had planned to be there at 11 am before anyone else arrived. That plan didn’t work so well…
We couldn’t check in until everyone arrived because we needed to split up the extra pieces. Last guy arrived about 11:40 am and we all got checked in. Flight to DC was on time and packed full! I thought I had the exit row seat by myself but turns out I was on the side where I had to sit beside someone. There was a lot of turbulence off and on and I nearly ripped the arm of the guy sitting next to me off. Then, we had to circle for almost 45 minutes because of “traffic”. It was not a good way to start the trip.
When we landed, I called my friend who is a pilot and flying us on this trip. You KNOW you travel too much when you have all the skycaps and pilots cell phone numbers! He was working on getting our sound tech upgraded from coach to business. Alex is a sweetheart and been with Lonestar for 18 years! He deserves a “perk”. I rushed into the Lounge to download my emails so I could answer during the flight over. Since we landed late, we only had about 45 minutes before we had to board the flight to Kuwait.
We boarded and I met up with my pilot friend. He said the plane was completely full and he couldn’t do anything for Alex. L However, the Captain of the plane said that he had an “idea”. There were seats in business class for the pilots for their “rest time”. So my friend gave up his seat after we were about 2 hours out of DC and moved Alex into it.So nice of him. The Captain is someone who has flown me before and a lot of the flight attendants recognized me from previous tours.
Had a problem with the guitars because the plane is reconfigured and brilliantly laid out so that there is NO overhead space. Even the small closets were full. My friend managed to move some things and get the guitars stowed. Have to say that the majority of the flight attendants (exception with maybe 2 of them) are typical – NOT VERY NICE AT ALL!Can’t wait to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars with them these next 3 months. L
The first hour and a half of the flight was extremely turbulent. And I do NOT like turbulence. I opened my computer to work only to find that the “N” key has popped off and won’t go back on. Have no idea how that happened but very inconvenient. Not sure when I can have it repaired since I am traveling non-stop for weeks but have to do something. My computer is doing the same thing again that it has done the last 3 trips.If I bump it or type too fast, it goes to black screen and I have to do a hard shutdown. I called Panasonic about this and they don’t have a clue what is happening. My computer guru says it must have something to do with pressurization since it only happens when I fly!!! Crazy….
I watched a Tom Hanks/Julia Roberts movie about him getting fired and going to college. It was “okay” but not one of his most brilliant productions.
Slept for about 4 ½ hours and then read for a while. There was a LOT of turbulence throughout the entire flight, so it was hard to relax.
We landed on time and all our bags made it. Yea! Contee was waiting for us but they had the entire “Welcome Hall” blocked off. We had to go outside and take an elevator to a different level just to load our bags.The hotel had all our keys ready for us when we checked in.
Tammy – the MWR Director who has been working the same hours I have these last few weeks – was at the airport to meet us. Met her and her husband Robert for the first time. Lovely, sweet couple. I got everyone checked in and then met them for a “cola”. J We went over things for upcoming tours and just basically got to know each other on a personal level. Felt like I already knew her we have exchanged so many emails these last 3 weeks. The restaurant in the hotel doesn’t open until 7 pm for dinner so at about 5 pm, we walked over to Chili’s in front of the hotel and had dinner. Four of my guys came in to eat while we were there. Nothing like traveling halfway around the world and having to eat at a Chili’s!
I got in my room at around 8 pm and started answering the emails. I did talk to Panasonic and got a guy who knows what he’s doing. I had to email him my “flight” problem and he was bumping it up to senior management for a solution. He also gave me the number of their authorized Panasonic repair shop on Camp Arifjan here in Kuwait so they could repair my “N” key on the keyboard. Most of the troops have Panasonic Toughbooks, so Panasonic has “in house” repair shops on a lot of the bases. Have been working nonstop and it’s now 2 am. Time to shut it down until tomorrow morning, I think.
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 12TH – CAMP BUEHRING, KUWAIT:
I slept for 4 ½ hours which is really good for being over here. AND, I jogged outside for the first time in a long time in Kuwait. It’s usually just too hot or we’re too busy. It was perfect running weather. I remember to watch for the crazy drives but had forgotten how closely I have to watch the sidewalk. None of the stones are even or the same height and sewer covers are usually broken and just a big gaping hole in the street. There were concrete poles set in a row on the sidewalk and half of them were pushed over meaning some vehicle hit them at a very high rate of speed. As if that’s not enough to watch for, every so often a metal “hook” will be embedded in the middle of the sidewalk….not sure what the purpose of that might be.
Had a quick breakfast of egg white omelet and really fresh fruit and then showered and dressed for today’s “adventure”. Managed to answer a few emails. We left on time but Dean remembered that he did not have his guitar when were were about 5 minutes away from the hotel.Quick return to the hotel and then a 1 ½ hour drive to Camp Buehring.Buehring is 15 miles from the Iraq border and MAN can you ever tell that there are more troops there now with the troops coming back from Iraq! Long, long lines at the DFAC, BX, and coffee shops.
We were supposed to have a Command office call and briefing but the room where we meet was “in use”. So we went to the video firing range and let the guys play with the guns. They didn’t like that much, right?Boys and toys…they never grow up. J From there we took the techs to the stage and my guys went out to look at the blackhawks. Had a few minutes free and went by the BX to pick up “items left behind in the U.S.”.
Sound check went relatively smoothly with the exception of 4 bad ear packs. Hopefully that will be corrected tomorrow.
The troops at this base who are not from Iraq but actually deployed here for a year are from the Oklahoma National Guard. Then we have a few Louisiana guys as well.
The show was spectacular. Lonestar is “Amazing” (pun!) and put on a hell of a show as usual. The MWR reps were expecting around 1,500 and we had over 2,500. Awesome, awesome evening. Autograph line was long and was moving quickly when we were passing out the 200 pre-signed photos and just taking a personal photo with each person. Then we ran out of photos and they had to sign another 200 for people still in line. We didn’t depart the camp until midnight. At least there was no traffic and we were back at the hotel at 1 am instead of 1:30 am.
The military and MWR staff at Buehring were exceptional….some of the best, most professional, well-organized I have ever worked with.
It’s very strange to know that tomorrow will be a “repeat” of today instead of flying into Iraq at some Godforsaken hour. Easy tour but we’re still getting to the troops.
The camp we go to tomorrow is pretty isolated. I haven’t been there in years and years.
Our lobby call is 12:45 pm tomorrow and I was looking forward to working late and getting caught up on some sleep. Instead I agreed to go to a local computer shop to see if they could repair the key on my keyboard instead of the one on base. Doubt that they can, but I’ll make the “appearance”. So, one out of two – working late but not sleeping late. J
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 13TH – PERFORMANCE AT CAMP VIRGINIA:
Slept 4 ½ hours instead of 3 ½ hours and skipped exercise this morning. Dressed, had my egg white omelet and met Broadie in the lobby to go into Kuwait City to try and get the key put back on my computer. They told me “horror stories” all the way into town about the Kuwaiti drivers!
The guy at the computer shop was able to fix my “key” but had to go get a part. He said “30 minutes” but I KNOW their 30 minutes. I told him 30 minutes but no longer or I would leave. So, we walked around and looked at the Haji Shops with all the “knock off” bags, sunglasses, watches, etc. Then walked right across the street to a very expensive High End Mall. I was trying to find something for the Z’s but the items were all just like we have in America – Mickey and Minnie, Dora, Thomas the Train, etc. And all in English. Good news is he was able to fix the key so now I don’t have to type on a “nub” J
I walked over to Starbucks for a coffee and chicken salad wrap but there was a communication problem. Even though I pointed to the wrap, she put a “salad” in my bag. Finally got that cleared up and off we went to Camp Virginia. This is a really small camp and I honestly can’t ever remember coming here more than once in my 37 tours and that was YEARS ago. This camp has a few as 100 people in it in normal circumstances but has surged to over 1,000 now…as evidenced by the long lines at Green Beans again. We received a great briefing and certificates for everyone. This is the camp where the troops in Iraq come to “turn in their equipment” meaning vehicles and humvees, etc.So they are usually only here about 10 days to 2 weeks but sometimes due to MilAir flight availability, it can take longer. The Commander kept saying “if there are no more questions, we have some certificates for you” and every time, I had another question. Surprised he didn’t have me “removed”.
Had some free time after the Command visit and went to the BX and some of the little “shops” around the area. They were having “camel rides” right in front of the stage but there was a long line. I really wanted my photo on the camel – definitely NOT the ride – but knew I’d never have time with the line that long. So I had this brilliant idea to give a cd and coin to a “young” soldier in line and ask him to let me sit on the camel with him. Our escort at this Camp helped out with the situation. She held the camel’s head while the camel herder held his tail and I got on. But as I got on, the camel BIT into the lady escort’s hand!She didn’t scream, just said “He won’t let go of my hand”. I had no idea what to do and the herder couldn’t see what was happening. I knew if I hit the camel, it would take off running with me on it and I sure didn’t want that. The camel finally released her hand from his mouth and she said he bit her all the way to the bone. I was ready to get off the beast at that point and did so. My little soldier jumped on and I got back on for the photo opp. In the meantime, our escort had 6 stitches in her hand! I felt so bad!!! Contee assure me that if the camel had taken off running across the camp with me, he’d be holding on to his tail and dragging behind….what a visual that is! J I talked to her about it afterwards and she said she is the one who always feeds “Clyde” apples when he comes by to pick up a new rider. Evidently her hand smelled like apples and he was expecting another one. There was a Vet coming to draw blood from Clyde to make sure there was no rabies. Goodness…never a dull moment.
We walked over to the DFAC for dinner and it was really good food…probably because they had a pasta bar which is my favorite meal of choice in a DFAC.
Show started right on time and think we have a record crowd again…probably 1,000 people and they were predicting 500. It was a great audience and another fantastic show. Biggest audience they have had, too. Even the young kids know all the words to the songs. Keep in mind that 2012 will be Lonestar’s 20th Anniversary.
I walked over to Green Beans because it was right in front of the stage and I could still see and hear the show. Talked to a young soldier from Washington State who was transiting through en route back to Ft. Hood.He had been at Balad – my favorite base in Iraq.
From the crowd size, I estimated 250 autographs and finish at 10:30 pm. We actually did 230 autographs and ended at 10:22! A young soldier was in line and said “remember me”? I remembered his face and he reminded me that his interpreter wanted his photo taken with me in 2009 in Kirkut when I was there with Chely Wright!
Everyone at Buehring and Virginia have been so “organized” and great to work with. Such an easy, easy tour so far.
Tomorrow will be the Big One…Arifjan! Moved our departure time to 11:30 am instead of 12:30 pm.
FINAL PERFORMANCE IN KUWAIT – CAMP ARIFJAN:
Yesterday I purchased a “sheet” at the BX because the only thing on the bed at the hotel is a huge down comforter. I spend all my 4 hours of sleep time “fighting it”. Go to bed and it’s “cool” so I hop under the comforter only to wake up about 30 minutes later because it’s too hot. First it’s one foot out, then one arm, then the other foot, then the other arm, then throw the whole thing off and finally start over again because it’s too cool. So, a sheet would fix that problem. Only when I opened the package, it was pillow cases. L I took the huge terry cloth bathrobe and used it as my “cover” last night and that definitely worked better than the comforter.
Went to the gym this morning for a good workout then had breakfast with some of the guys.Showered and answered a few emails and then tried to pack some of my things in preparation for our check out tomorrow night.
We left for the 30 minute drive to Camp Arifjan at 11:30 am. First stop was the Commander’s Office Call and briefing. All “new” folks out there and it was great. Took lots of photos and then went to visit the staff and couple of patients at the hospital (no combat injuries). Again, lots of photos and autographs with the hospital staff. Afterwards we went to visit another “Unit” for a meet and greet. Most of those troops were from Tennessee so it was a great visit.
Sound check went quickly and then we walked over to the DFAC for dinner. You’d think that the biggest Camp in Kuwait would have the best food…not so. Really nothing I wanted to eat.
The show started on time and think we set another record. J It was an awesome high energy show and our “hosts” were very pleased. Had a little re-arranging to do in the autograph session as they had reconfigured the gym since I was last here in May. But everything worked out and they signed over 400 autographs in 3 hours. There was this wooden partition behind Lonestar to block the gym equipment. Every so often, the guys would hide behind it and have the next person brought in for a photo. We’d put that fan in front of their photo on the partition and take their picture. We assumed they were thinking “I waited in line for 3 hours to have my photo taken with a POSTER!” . But not one person complained!!! It was pretty funny. The guys would pop out from behind the wall and take a photo with them after the joke was over. Tomorrow is a Meet and Greet only…no performance…since we depart to the airport at 9 pm and fly home….so I can fly back over here next Monday with Aaron Tippin!
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 15TH – MEET AND GREET AT KNB (KUWAIT NAVAL BASE) AND WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 16TH – HOME!:
Plans did not go as expected. I knew I didn’t feel very well when I went to bed at 3:30 am but thought I was just tired. I had chills when I first got into bed but fell asleep pretty quickly. Then at 4:30 am, woke up terribly nauseous. Spent the next 7 hours “hugging porcelain” in the bathroom. Don’t know if it was a virus or food poisoning but whatever it was, it was ugly. I called Lonestar’s tour manager and told him to come by and pick up the autograph sheets so he could handle the Meet and Greet. Gave Contee my camera and some cds to make sure everything else I normally do would be covered. First time I can remember ever missing an “activity” on one of these tours due to illness. I OD’ed on Phenagren and finally felt better at 11:30 am. By 1:30 pm I was able to get in the shower and try to get my things packed for the flight home….which I did not want to miss!
Meanwhile, the guys had a great visit at Kuwait Naval Base. That base doesn’t get a lot of celebrity visits because it is so small. They gave the guys a tour of one of the ships and had lunch with them. As a really special treat, someone brought out a couple of acoustic guitars and Lonestar sang a couple of songs for them. The drummer played a water bottle filled with rocks – reminds me of Charlie Daniels’ drummer!
The “dinner” was still on but I just “observed”. Tammy and her husband Robert and Tina joined us. Captain Hall from AFE was also at the hotel with her comedy group and we got to chat for a minute. She was just heading into Afghanistan but will be leaving there the day we arrive.
I learned a couple of more things about Kuwaiti drivers. With all the crazy drivers, there are lots of fatal accidents. When someone is injured, no one is allowed to administer lifesaving techniques until after 20 minutes. The Muslims believe that if you die within the first 20 minutes, then it is “God’s” will. If you make if for 20 minutes, then they can try to save you. The ambulances don’t have any type of life-saving equipment in them…just a gurney. Doesn’t’ make me feel to safe riding around on their roads!
When we arrived at the airport, the line was out the door and backed up down the street. Contee just pushed his way through to the front and some airport personnel waived all the “Americans” inside. We all got checked in fairly quickly and did a little shopping. I didn’t find anything for the twins though! Could be because they already have everything?Will try to pick up something in DC if we have time!
When we checked in, the guys were told that their seats were changed because of an aircraft change. It’s now the “old” version where the seats don’t lay flat in business class. I watched a movie that was a “no brainer” titled Monte Carlo. Since it was the old aircraft, you couldn’t pick which movie you wanted to watch and then switch if you didn’t like it because they all started and ended at the same time. I slept (with phenagren) most of the flight.
Flight has been relatively smooth most of the way but when it was turbulent, it was very turbulent. My entire cup of coffee sloshed out during the breakfast service. I was able to eat a couple of pieces of fruit and a croissant.
We landed very early which mean we beat the crowd at Immigration and Customs. All our bags made it and I had about an hour to search for “toys” for the twins and answer emails. Would not be good for me to take my luggage home and there not be toys inside. J Not sure how I’ll find something different with 5 more trips to Kuwait between now and end of January. Will have to get “creative”!
We boarded the flight on time. Weather was rainy and ugly and supposed to be the same in Nashville. When we didn’t depart immediately and I saw a couple of guys standing in the galley, I knew “something” was wrong. The flight attendant finally announced that the water supply to the coffee makers wasn’t working and they were trying to fix it. No lie, we sat for 45 minutes waiting for them to fix it. Several people missed their connecting flights in Nashville. I wanted to stand up and say “Let’s take a vote. How many of you can live without coffee on this flight so we can depart?”! Unbelievable.
So, we landed almost an hour late. But I’m home. Until Monday. When I go back over the Aaron Tippin to Afghanistan. I have Penny with the Bellamy Brothers in Germany this weekend and Lindsey with Aaron Tippin at the Thunderbirds Reunion in Las Vegas. I’m staying HOME, repacking, and spending every second with the twins. J