ROAD KILL – DAYS 1 AND 2 – JULY 21 AND 22
Flying to Switzerland today for the festival at the top of the Alp. Marty Stuart is performing there and at several other festivals for me in the next couple of weeks. I am not on the same flights with him and his band because we have two different “agendas” over the next few weeks.
Arrived at the Nashville airport in plenty of time to get checked in for my international flight. But, I was standing in the business class check-in line and American only had one person working that line. She was totally involved with a lengthy procedure for several passengers. The other agents would only work the “coach” lines even though many of those passengers had walked up much later than I did. Finally got checked in and headed down to the gate. I went up to the gate agent to ask a question and she informed me that she had been paging me. She needed to put me on an earlier flight to Chicago because the flight I was booked on was going to be delayed. Of course, I never heard the page and the earlier flight had already left by the time I was aware of the problem.
She informed me that I would miss my connection from Chicago to Zurich and that there was not another flight going to Zurich that day. Since I’m only going to be in Switzerland for 2 nights and 1 full day, it didn’t make sense for me to even go if I couldn’t arrive on Thursday. I called my travel agent to see what could be done and she told me that she could route me through Miami. Only, the flight from Nashville to Miami was delayed, too. We went ahead and made the change and they re-tagged my one bag that I had checked so that it would route through Miami instead of Chicago. Then, when she handed me my new ticket, they had me seated in coach! She said that there were no business class seats available.
I made her take me off the Miami flight and put me back on the Chicago flight and “re-tag” my checked luggage again! Decided to take my chances on getting a flight out of Chicago to Zurich. Then, my travel agent called back and said she had me a seat in business class on the Miami flight. It is a Swiss Air flight and they “partner” with American but American can’t “see” the seats that are available on their system. Soooooo….once again, they changed my routing to go through Miami and supposedly changed my checked bag again. I was convinced I would never see my luggage again. Of course, I had checked everything and would have to buy clothes, shoes, make-up, etc., etc., if it didn’t come in when I arrived!
The flight to Miami from Nashville was on a TINY little jet – one seat on one side and 2 seats on the other side. As I was getting on, the pilot was also boarding. He had to have been at least 70 years old and had a piece of kleenix stuck on his face….guess he had cut himself shaving and forgot to remove it. Considering how much I had to fly, I’m starting to believe that God is giving me all these “signs” to tell me NOT to get on the flight.
Everything was fine until it was time to land in Miami. The pilot came on and said that they had “weather” in the area and we had to circle for an hour and a half. I was a wreck thinking we would either be struck by lightning or run out of gas. We landed and I was in the first seat, so I stood up by the cockpit waiting to deplane. The flight attendant handed the co-pilot something to read. He looked at it and said, I can’t see the print and handed it to the pilot! Then the pilot came out of the cockpit but forgot to “reset” the brake. So, he told the co-pilot to reset it. He yelled at him about 3 times and the co-pilot still said he couldn’t hear him. Nice to know we have a co-pilot who can’t see or hear.
We were at a “bus” gate and there was no bus to pick us up. We had to stay on the plane for about 10 minutes waiting for the bus to arrive. It was raining outside and we had to wait for them to unload the items that they made us “gate check” in Nashville. The guy doing the unloading would literally pick up the case and hurl it into the air letting it fall on the conveyor belt. I was sure my computer and printer were going to be toast. Then the luggage handler loaded each bag, one by one, on the little cart to drive it over to us. But for some reason the cart wouldn’t start when he got everything loaded. So, instead of just letting us all walk the few feet to take the pieces ourselves, he insisted on bringing 2 pieces at a time to us! All this time, we’re standing out in the rain.
For some reason, American could not issue my boarding pass on Swiss Air even though they are partners. So, I had to go all the way to the check-in counter to get boarding pass. Finally made it through security and to the check-in gate only to learn that the flight was delayed by 2 hours. Lightning had struck 2 of the 3 runways in Miami! I checked on my bag that I had checked in Nashville and was informed that it had NOT Made it to Miami.
Got on board and left Miami at about 11 pm. Instead of arriving Zurich at 8 am, I’ll be arriving about 1 pm. Marty and his group come in t 3 pm. The nice man sitting next to me switched places with me so I could have an aisle seat. He then asked the flight attendant for one of the power plugs so he could recharge his battery on his laptop. The flight attendant informed him the adapter was for their “best” customers! He refused to give it to him. Told him to use his computer until the battery ran out and then come ask him for it! I couldn’t believe they only had one power plug for the entire plane. About halfway through the flight my seatmate went up and asked for it again and this time, he was given it.
Landed in Zurich and went to baggage claim just KNOWING I wasn’t going to have a bag. Then, the very last bag that came out was mine. There definitely IS a GOD! My friend – the promoter from Interlaken – was there to meet me. We had a quick lunch then started trying to figure out if Marty’s group had made all their connections. They had a very short connection time in London but the records showed that they were on the flight. They arrived on time but had 7 bags missing!
Marty and all the guys were in a great mood and thrilled to be in Switzerland, if only for a couple of days. Drive from the airport to the hotel was beautiful and now we are in Beckenried. Our hotel is right on Lake Lucerne and the Alps are behind us. Got settled in our rooms and got my email up and running (Wooo-hoooo). Had a really nice dinner at the hotel restaurant and then everyone but the road manager crashed. My friend and I walked down to the little town and had coffee and ice cream. Came back to the hotel and 6 of the 7 missing bags had arrived. Definitely going to bed soon so I can get up and job along the lake early tomorrow morning. Very full day coming up with sound check and the show. Then Marty has to depart for the airport at 4 am on Saturday morning. OUCH! Only “bad” thing about the hotel is the fact that it does not have air conditioning nor do they have any fans and it is HOT here.
ROAD KILL – DAY THREE – JULY 23RD:
Who would ever have thought that a night on beautiful Lake Lucerne would be more miserable than anything I experienced in Iraq or Djibouti! It was so hot in the room. There’s a beautiful ceiling to floor window so that I have a fabulous view of the lake…but the window doesn’t open. So, there’s a glass door leading out onto a balcony that does open. If I left the door all the way open, the room cooled off enough that I could go to sleep without lying in a pool of sweat. But, then the mosquitoes came in! Lots of them. I shut the door, but it was too hot. Opened the door and immediately started getting bitten. I finally decided that since I’m still taking two different types of malaria pills from the Iraq tour, I would just leave the door open and let the mosquitoes feast.
Then about 3 am, a huge thunderstorm hit the lake. You’re supposed to be able to tell how close the lightening strikes are by counting between the flashes and the thunder claps. Well, the thunder and lightening were happening simultaneously and it was louder than anything I’ve ever heard in the states. Maybe because we are in a “bowl” surrounded by the Alps on all sides and it echoes across the lake.
And, hey, how many people can boast of having their own sauna in their room. The little bathroom gets absolutely NO breeze. I dry my hair and it’s wet again after 5 minutes in the bathroom. Makeup – forget it. Sweat it off faster than I can put it on.
Had to delay my morning jog until the rain quit but I did get to run along the lake for about an hour before heading up to the venue for sound check. My favorite mode of transportation – that darn gondola up the mountainside! For the first time since I’ve been working with this event, the sound company was set up and ready for sound check. Only problem was, another band was on the stage since they had been told that they would sound check during our time slot. Quickly remedied that and got Marty on for his sound check. We finished right on time, grabbed some lunch and headed back down the mountain to the hotel.
I had a meeting with a Swiss promoter who I have never met but had heard about and respected for years. He handled a large event in Zug, Switzerland years ago but had not worked for quite some time because of his health. He’s now ready to work on a new festival for 2005 and I’ll be helping him coordinate that one. It rained on and off all day and we thought we might have another huge storm. There was a storm in Lucerne today and there was a hot air balloon with 15 people in it when it hit. The balloon fell to the ground and one lady was killed and the other 14 were injured. Not sure how seriously yet. Lucerne is only an hour drive from here.
We headed back up the Alp for a 7:30 VIP reception. Only, the promoter gave us the wrong time. The reception was held at 6:30 and we missed the entire thing. Marty did a press conference with about 20 journalists from all over Europe – Germany, Italy, Switzerland, etc. He took the stage right on time and gave an outstanding performance. I haven’t worked with him for a few years and I had forgotten what a “showman” he is. He and his guys were all dressed in black Manuel suits and looked terrific. He only has 3 musicians in his band but the sound that comes out of those guys is HUGE. All three band members are some of the TOP session players in Nashville. This was the largest and most responsive crowd I’ve seen on a Friday night at this event since BR5-49 performed here many years ago. The promoter was very happy and my Interlaken promoter has already agreed to book him for 2005 at that event. A friend and promoter that I know from Holland was at the festival with a great, young artist from Nashville. Also ran into a singer/songwriter performing at the event that had gone on a USO tour with me back in the mid-90’s! Boy, did we have some stories to reminisce about.
The show ended at a little before midnight and then Marty signed autographs for a few minutes. His sound guy was feeling really bad and we needed to get him to a doctor. Got back in the hotel at 1:30 am, took a shower and answered email until 3:30 am then checked out of the hotel and headed for the airport. Never got any sleep today or tonight. See how glamorous this job is??? I actually didn’t need to leave for the airport until 6:00 am but wanted to go get Marty and his group off to France. As we depart for the airport, there’s a huge thunderstorm taking place. Wonder where I’ll be routed through this time to make it home????
ROAD KILL – DAY FOUR – JULY 24th:
It was pouring down rain at 4 am when we departed. The buyer finally provided a bus large enough to accommodate all the luggage, equipment and passengers. The buyer said that he had hired a “professional” driver to take us to the airport. I got in and started to sit on the front row of seats but I stepped on something “soft”. The lady who was with the man driving us (they looked like something straight out of a western movie!) started talking to something in the floor. It was dark but I was able to see that it was a HUGE Dog – vicious looking, too. She wanted him to say “hello” to me! Obviously, the dog had never had a bath and had gotten wet in the rain. The smell was horrible. Can’t believe they brought the dog with them to take us to the airport!
I was going to try and sleep on the 1 ½ hour drive to the airport but that was impossible. The driver drove like a maniac! He was driving really fast, cutting in front of other cars, taking curves on two wheels, running right up on the back of other vehicles and then having to slam on his brakes….it was a nightmare. But the real “topper”…he has obviously NEVER been to the airport to drop off a passenger before. He had no idea where to go. We did our best to direct him but he insisted on driving so fast that we couldn’t read the signs before he passed them. Then he pulled into the lane for the parking lot for Terminal 2. There was a metal bar across the top of the road giving the height limit for the vehicles. Of course, the bus was too tall and he had to slam on the brakes to keep from cutting off the top of the vehicle. So we’re stopped right in the middle of a 4 lane road with traffic flying by us. We just knew someone was going to plow into the back of the vehicle at any minute. His solution to the dilemma was to start backing down the 4-lane highway! Unbelievable. It took him about 20 minutes to back down far enough to get out of the parking lot lanes. Then he pulled over right in front of a car and almost hit them. He made it back around to the Terminal Entrance and this time pulled up and stopped in front of Terminal One. We kept telling him to keep going to Terminal Two. Instead of driving straight forward to Terminal Two, he JUMPED the bus up on the concrete median between the drop-off lanes and the through lanes. He drove on the median as far as he could and then JUMPED the bus back down on the pavement. When he pulled up in front of the terminal, we all jumped out of the bus like rats jumping off a sinking ship! We were “fleeing for our lives” 😉
Marty’s flight to France departed at 6:30 am but I didn’t depart to Chicago until 10:30 am. Then the flight was one hour late departing. Business Class was definitely “sub-standard” on Swiss Air. No individual video players, no foot rests, the seats didn’t recline any farther than a coach seat….it was pretty miserable. I don’t expect the best or to be pampered, but when you spend the extra thousands of dollars for a business class fare, it isn’t unrealistic to expect the business class perks!
Flight was uneventful, Thank God, and we landed Chicago one hour late. Had to pick up my luggage and clear customs and then go all the way to the American Airlines check-in counter to secure a boarding pass. Never again going to fly Swiss Air. I had to run for the gate but made my flight to Nashville in another tiny little jet. Home for 2 days, work night and day, unpack and re-pack, and fly back to Europe on Tuesday!