MONDAY, AUGUST 9TH – DAY 13 – SWEDEN:
Was able to run this morning although it looked like it might begin pouring rain at any minute. Temperature outside was perfect though. Had my last nice breakfast and NONE of Pam’s people were anywhere to be seen. Of course, it was only 8 am and we don’t leave until 10 am.
I had packed last night, so I showered and headed downtown to shop. First place I saw had the greatest baby clothes and I ended up staying in there almost my entire time. Got the Z’s some really cute clothes.
Arrived back at the hotel and the bus was 30 minutes early. He thought we were leaving at 12:30 pm instead of 1:00 pm. I called Matt to see if he had heard anything on the bags and he had just work up. He was able to reach someone right before we left and they said some of the missing items would arrive in Stockholm when we did. I was “skeptical”! David’s bag is another matter. They had listed it as “picked up by passenger yesterday”. He assured them he had not picked it up. They have no idea where it is and have to start the tracing process all over again!
The Aarhus airport is even smaller than Billund, I think. Got checked in pretty quickly and went to the gate. It’s not a prop plane but it is a small jet and it’s cloudy. It actually wasn’t too bumpy and was only a 40 minute flight. The walk between terminals to our gate was long than that in Copenhagen. This was a huge plane to Stockholm and they started boarding by rows. Only they wouldn’t let rows 31-36 board the plane and that’s where Pam’s people were sitting. Someone said they were boarding a stretcher in the back.
Flight was smooth and we arrived Stockholm about 20 minutes late. The rest of the missing equipment actually showed up and now all we are missing are 3 personal suitcases. Just going to be much harder to find them now that we are in a different country.
A nice big bus met us and what was supposed to be a 45 minute drive turned into about 90 minute due to a wreck on the highway. Hotel is really nice. I went to eat Pizza with the group and have been working non-stop since then. It’s almost 4 am and I have GOT to get some sleep now. No show tomorrow so everyone is going sightseeing. I may sleep and work since I’ve seen all the sites many times. J
TUESDAY, AUG. 10TH – STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN:
After getting in bed at almost 5 am, I didn’t get up until 8:30 am. Went down for breakfast and there was a line to get into the restaurant! Several of Pam’s guys showed up and I was already in line, so I had them stand with me. Still waited about 20 minutes just to get a table. Pam and the group is going sightseeing but I’m going to work out, work, and shop.
Got a “pass” and directions from the front desk to go to the gym at another Scandic Hotel that was supposedly a 5 minute walk. Believe it or not, I didn’t get lost! Of course, it was only one block away and down to the right. The other Scandic is MUCH nicer than the one we are staying in. Not that ours is “bad” but this one is awesome. The gym was small but had everything I needed. I ended up working out for 2 hours and worked every muscle group. I’ll run tomorrow and let my muscles recover!
After showering and answering some emails, headed out to the shopping street. Did really good going down to it but got lost 4 times trying to come back to the hotel. The handle of my brush snapped off last night, so I was on a mission to find another hair brush. There is a huge music festival in town so the streets were absolutely packed.
As I was coming back into the hotel, Matt was walking in too. They had taken the bus tour and seen all the sights. We did have messages that the last two missing bags had been found and would be delivered either to this hotel or the one we go to tomorrow. Got word that David’s bag finally arrived (his has been lost the longest – since last Friday!) but Keith’s still hasn’t made it.
I walked over to Vapiano to get Italian takeout food so I could continue to work. I thought I got in line and ordered a caprese salad but realized about 10 minutes later that I had ordered a caprese pizza! Ah well..it was good at least.
Have been working nonstop since dinner. Need to stop, pack my clothes since we have to check out tomorrow, and try to get at least 3 hours sleep.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 11TH – FURUVIK, SWEDEN – DAY 15:
Weather was beautiful again this morning and even with only 3 hours sleep, I had a great run. There was a small park across from the hotel that I ran through and then went down to the water and ran along the walkway.
Billy Block’s group’s flights were on time and the bus picked us up at 11:30 am for the 2 hour drive to Furuvik. The Billy Block group consists of The Bum Steers as the band that will back the contest winners who are Mark Fosson, Lance Miller, Wendy Newcomer, Melissa Paige, David St. Romain, and Morgan Tobias. I’ll NEVER remember all the names! But, they have all been really sweet and excited to be in Sweden. They had a short “bus” tour before arriving at our hotel. My dear friends – Harri and Thomas, who have been our “drivers” for as long as I’ve worked with Furuvik – met our bus and rode with us. They take excellent care of us.
The hotel had our room keys waiting for us and Kjell, our promoter was there to meet us. Really good to see him again and I always give him lots of “grief” about one thing or another. After checking in, we had lunch in the hotel restaurant. Food here is excellent. I was able to work for about 2 hours before dressing for the “monkey show” and dinner at the Park. The “monkey show” is our annual backstage visit with the chimpanzees. It doesn’t sound very exciting but I know it will be the highlight of the visit to Sweden.
Santino is the “leader” and largest chimp. He has been “raised” at Furuvik by Ing-Marie. Ing-Marie is the “Jane Goodall” of Sweden. She is the only person besides Jane who can “live with” the chimps. The other chimps that have been here since I’ve been doing this festival are Linda and Penny and the babies that Ing-Marie has “raised” over the past 5 years – first Manda and later Selma, the baby. Santino has the strength of 4 men and he really doesn’t like other men but loves women. Every year, he “cleans my toes” for me. It’s a “sight to see”.
Santino made history last year and was in newspaper worldwide because he proved that chimps can “plan for the future”. This has always been an issue with experts saying they do not have that mental capability. Santino gathered and stockpiled small stones and hid them in mounds near where the visitors come to watch him. When they arrived the next day, he hurled the stones at them. Santino is also an “artist”. He paints beautiful pictures and when he is finished, he dips his finger in the paint and signs them. Google him and read about him. It’s fascinating. Go on my website and look at the photos next week, too.
Tom, who owned the park until a few weeks ago, met us at the Park. He sold the park but is still managing it. Really hope he continues to do so. Next year will be interesting to see what changes are made to the festival with the new “cash influx”.
Dinner at the park is always the best meal of my trip to Europe every year. There is a choice of fish (their specialty because the restaurant is located on the Baltic Sea and the fish are caught fresh each morning) or beef. The first course is a mixture of crab, lobster and shrimp on toast with some fantastic sauces. Main course was salmon, filet of sole, and halibut in a sauce that is to DIE for plus potatoes that sort of look like hash browns only better. The dessert is vanilla ice cream with cloudberry – a berry that is only grown in Scandinavia and is wonderful. So many people commented that it was the best meal they have ever had. Of course, there was the usual round of Schnapps shots but those are licorice and I hate licorice and do NOT participate. I had water and coffee instead. J
We left the park at around 10 pm and I’ve been working nonstop every since. It’s now 2:40 am and I am going to bed. Don’t have to get up as early tomorrow since our first thing on the agenda is a visit to the Gevalia Coffee Factory. Only European artists are performing tomorrow night, so we have the day/night off.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 12TH – FURUVIK, SWEDEN – DAY 16! I RODE A BIKE! FIRST TIME IN 3 YEARS SINCE MY NEAR FATAL CRASH IN DENMARK!!!!
Got 4 hours sleep and then had breakfast with our drivers. We sat outside until a little girl got stung by a bee and I got chased around by one who wanted the honey on my oatmeal! J
I got the key from the front desk for the bike. There were no hand brakes and the seats weren’t adjustable. Mine didn’t even have a kick stand so I could park it. But, I was determined to try. My heart was pounding so hard I’m sure you could see it through my t-shirt. I cautiously left the hotel and cycled toward the city – a path I knew well. Turned around before going all the way into town and went the opposite direction to try and find the mall. I will probably have whiplash from looking back over my left shoulder to make sure no one was going to come up behind me on a bike and hit me. Only real “danger” I ran into was a female riding toward me with earphones on and TEXTING! She was looking down at her phone and weaving across the bike path. I rang my bell several times but she couldn’t hear it with the music in her ears. I finally pulled over and yelled at her. She glanced up at me as if to say, “what’s the big deal”! I should show her the scars from the titanium rod in my hand from the 2007 bike wreck.
I rode for a little over an hour and it was wonderful except I wish I had brought my padded bike shorts that I never could bring myself to give away with me. Really glad I feel like I can cycle again.
Took a quick shower and remembered what happened yesterday at the hotel. The bathtubs have these glass doors as a “shower curtain” but they only go half way down the length of the tub. The shower heads are actually the shower “wands” that mount on the wall. I guess the maid must have loosened mine when she cleaned because when I turned it on, it swung around and sprayed the sink, counter, mirror, all my makeup, towels, clothes – everything in site. This morning I checked the shower wand BEFORE turning on the shower. J
We are going to the Gevalia Coffee factory in a few minutes. I’ve been before and it was a really great visit. And, it was again today. Started out with everyone sitting at tables and being served Gevalia Coffee with little cookies, chocolate that is 80% cocoa and little miniature candy bars that are toffee coated chocolate. All to die for. Britt – the same lady who was our host last time – gave us all the details about the coffee. I think everyone was amazed that they process 400,000 pounds of coffee a DAY. She explained that the coffee that foreigners order from Gevalia is not available for purchase in Sweden. That’s their “quality control” feature and it seems to work for them. We looked at the glass display case that shows some of the objects they have found in bags of coffee coming in from Africa, South America, etc. Anything from watches and rings to big tin platters and something not in the display case – a park bench! Seriously. We also got to tour the actual plant where everything is automated with the exception of just a few employees. It was truly fascinating. We got to go into the “employee’s store” and purchase coffee and chocolate at unbelievable low prices. I got some great candy bars for 1 Kr….that’s about 13 cents! We were supposed to stay for an hour and ended up staying over two hours. Great experience for the group. We all had to wear these red “coats” and hair nets. There’s a great group photo on my Facebook page. Of course, I took the photo so I wouldn’t be in the photo looking like a goof. LOL.
We came back to the hotel to drop our purchases and rush to the mall before they closed. NONE of our room keys worked. I guess there must have been a computer glitch and it shut down all our keys. The elevators were packed, so several of us took the stairs — which are treacherous. They are metal and it’s a spiral staircase. One of the musicians in the Bum Steers fell and slashed his arm. Had to take him to the hospital and he got 4 stitches!
We did make it to the mall and I was on a quest for baby boy clothes so I would have the same amount to give Zac and what I purchased for Zoe. There are hundreds of cute things for girls but certainly not true for boys! I found one little outfit and that was it. Also was trying to find an inexpensive duffle bag to pack my coffee and chocolate in! Finally found one that cost less than $50!
Back to the hotel and had dinner. I ordered the pasta and it wasn’t very good. It had wide egg noodles and way too many vegetables. The sauce was a cream sauce and very heavy. I ate a salad and only a few bites of the pasta. Instead I ordered the crème brulee. J It was excellent and I’m a crème brulee snob. (Texas – it wasn’t as good as what I gave you in Baghdad though! J ).
I’ve been in the room working since dinner. A few of the boys and girls rode over to the festival to watch the Swedish acts perform. It’s a really busy day tomorrow with all the Billy Block artists doing a sound check (6 artists). Won’t have much down time because most of them perform tomorrow night, too.
Keith’s bag is STILL not here. They delivered the guitar that Billy Block’s group had lost yesterday. Keith’s bag has been lost since last Saturday. We’ve been trying to call the Stockholm airport and no one will answer. The computer said yesterday that it was being delivered to the hotel. Now the computer says the same thing again today. It’s ridiculous!
Hope to get in bed soon since I have a really early call tomorrow.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 13TH – DAY 17:
It’s “lucky” Friday the 13th. Certainly didn’t start out “lucky” for me. I didn’t get in bed when I hoped but did get 3 hours of sleep. Had to get up at 6 am for an 8:30 am departure to the venue so I planned to exercise when I got back today. Went to breakfast and sat with a couple of the Bum Steers musicians and that’s when they dropped the news that Billy had changed all the sound check times last night. Seems he decided they really didn’t need as much time as we had allotted. Evidently he sent a text to some of the people involved but their cell phones don’t work overseas. He printed a note to slip under doors but the doors go all the way to the floor and it’s impossible to slip a note under it. I arranged for Harri to take Matt to the Stockholm airport to try and find Keith’s bag for him. They were leaving at about 10 am and just as they were ready to depart, the hotel informed them that the bag had been delivered about 5 minutes prior. Thank God. I’m sure Keith will change clothes 3 or 4 times a day now. LOL. Sound check went pretty smooth but they were not finished by 1 pm. It was closer to 2 pm when we drove back to the hotel. I wanted to take a long bike ride for exercise but all the keys were gone. I had lunch with the group and then made the mistake of checking my email. Worked straight through until time to leave for the show. Wendy is the first perfumer and the show started a few minutes late because 15 minutes prior to show time, the power blew on the stage. The sound crew here is EXCELLENT (as they are at all the festivals) and got things back up and running quickly. Wendy, David and Melissa perform tonight – backed by the Bum Steers. Then the Bum Steers close the show. As I feared there is hardly anyone in the audience. In Sweden, it’s very, very hard to draw a crowd even with a big name entertainer. When you have an entire evening of “new, unknown entertainers” performing, the people just aren’t going to pay to see them perform. It’s a shame because they are all very talented. What has worked in the past if to use a couple of “new” artists with a couple of “established name” artists. I imagine they will go back to that formula for 2011. The audience that was there really liked the entertainment. Each artist sold lots of cds which is an indication that they were well received. Matt changed the departure time to an hour later tomorrow but he did it at 10 pm when everyone was still awake and here at the festival! At least I should be able to get in a jog now before breakfast. Sure won’t get one in on Sunday before leave. Won’t get back to the hotel until around 2 am and then have to leave the hotel at 6 am. Ouch. Pretty typical though unfortunately. I got everyone but the Bum Steers (who were performing) back to the hotel by 1:30 am. I have emails to answer and then bed for me! Jude
SATURDAY, AUGUST 14TH – DAY 18 – LAST PERFORMANCE IN SWEDEN:
Even with only a few hours sleep, I was able to drag myself out of bed and go for a run. Won’t be able to tomorrow since we have to depart at 6:30 am and wanted to take advantage of this gorgeous, perfect weather and fantastic biking trails one last time. Heard it’s about 110 degrees in Nashville with lots of humidity. That’s okay. I’ll be so happy just to be home for a couple of days, it won’t matter.
Jog was awesome and after a shower and answering a couple of emails, I had a quick breakfast. Matt and Rodney went to the venue to get things set up for Pam’s performance and I rode over with the band and Pam at 10:30 am. They were able to finish sound check a few minutes after 1 pm and Pam decided not to go visit the orangutans because she needed to rest before the show tonight.
I skipped lunch and rode the bike into town for some last minute shopping. Still trying to find clothes for Zac (as if they need any!) so I have the same number for him that I do for Zoe. Got confused when I started to leave the center of town and it took me longer to get back to the hotel than it should have. I had to take another shower because I was sweating so much from riding the bike too fast. Had dinner and left for the show. Morgan Tobias and Lance Miller perform tonight and then Pam closes the show. Bum Steers will also perform again tonight.
Last night Wendy was stung by a bee while she was asleep. She said it was about 4 am. She called the front desk to ask for ice but there isn’t a lot of ice in Europe. They brought her up a glass of cold water! We got her to the medic once we arrived at the venue and they gave her some cream and motrin and bandaids. I had Neosporin and Cortozone cream with me that I gave her and that helped a little.
The performances were amazing again tonight – such talented young men and women. The audience was small for their performances which is such a shame. Not embarrassingly small, but lighter than normal for the festival.
Thankfully the crowd showed up when Pam did. She did another amazing show and the promoters and audience were very happy. She had all the other artists come on stage and sing a final song with her. But, she changed the lyrics a little. One line said, “I saw Judy steaming while Billy was scheming”. LOL.
Pam signed every autograph and took photos with everyone in line. She was so gracious to everyone. It was the perfect ending to the festival.
Next year is the 30th Anniversary so I hope we can make that one extra special. Time to go to bed for TWO hours and then leave for the airport. Brutal!
SUNDAY, AUGUST 15TH – DAY 19TH – HOMEWARD BOUND!
Ouch, 2 hours of sleep is not good. Made it downstairs 15 minutes before we had to depart and did not want to drink any coffee since I wanted to sleep on the 1 hour bus ride to the airport. I’m not a very nice person in the mornings until I can have a cup of coffee. Everyone but one person – who shall remain nameless – was ready on time. It’s amazing how quickly the group can turn on its “own” at the end of a tour. In the beginning, everyone is a little tolerant but when it means missing the flight to get home, especially after some of them had NO sleep, then it’s “leave them. They can take a $400 taxi to the airport when they come down”. We called the room and supposedly the person was “on the way down”. I said we give them 5 more minutes and then we leave. Really didn’t want 12 people to miss their flights because one person overslept and we had not built in any extra time for mishaps. When they finally came down – 20 minutes late – the explanation was that their alarm didn’t go off. It happens. But if you are a seasoned traveler like me, you have TWO alarm clocks and a wake-up call from the front desk! It took almost 90 minutes for the drive and I was hoping to make it in 60. Because we arrived 30 minutes later than anticipated, the line was really long for check-in. That’s when I realized that there was only ONE agent working the entire line for coach passengers. I checked in with business class – where there was also one agent – pretty quickly. The agent was not friendly and argued with me on a couple of things. When there was no one in her line, she wouldn’t take one of the coach passengers. I had to wait for everyone else because I was paying the excess baggage for two of the Billy Block group. It took FOREVER. When I checked in, she would only take my suitcase and told me I had to take the two small duffle bags to “Special Handling”. Now NEVER have small duffle bags needed “special handling”. The only thing we ever take there is the musical equipment. When I finally got the two in Billy’s group checked in, we were 30 minutes from departure and we still had to pay for the excess, then take it to special handling, and then go through security. Pam’s group wasn’t even that far along as they were still trying to get checked in! The lady at the counter for excess was “overly helpful”. She was taking boarding passes out and shuffling them and at one point I wanted to just scream! We literally ran through security and straight on the plane. Pam’s group was the last ones on board but at least everyone made it. When we were taxiing for take-off, the flight attendant came on with an announcement apologizing for the “nightmare situation” at the check-in counter. She said that KLM was filing a complaint with the Stockholm Airport Authority because they did not provide adequate staff to work the flight today. She also said that the baggage belt was “broken” in the basement where the bags were loaded and passengers would probably not receive their bags with their flights. I figured all our guys bags would probably be the ones left behind. If we had missed that flight, I have a feeling the person who made us late this morning would have been “flogged” by the others in the group! I was in business class which the only difference is a lot of money and money, hot food instead of a sandwich, and a “curtain” separating the rows. Same size seats – 3 across – and packed. Fortunately the man sitting in the middle of my row had something to do with the airline. He had a bag to put under his seat but the people in the row in front of him in bulkhead had stuffed their bags under the seat – which isn’t allowed. At least they never allow me to do it. I’m always the one who has to put everything in the overhead if I even try to sneak a bag under my feet! Anyway, the flight attendant called him up to sit in the cockpit for the flight. He left his bag lying in the floor in front of his seat and she didn’t say a word. The flight was smooth but very bumpy when landing because of the wind. As we were getting ready to de-plane, this “muscular” female in the front row was pushing past the passengers towards the bag to retrieve her bags in the overhead. She and her traveling companion had 3 huge rolling bags that must have weighed 50 pounds each. She yanked it out of the overhead and it fell right on my shoulder. I said, “That HURT”. She mumbled, “Oh did my bag hit you? So Sorry!”. With all the new fees for checked bags, everyone is trying to carry on more and more. My question is – how do other people get away with it and I – with my millions of miles – get bounced EVERY time? We had a long line for passport control to get to our gate in Amsterdam but I was able to get in the Platinum Elite line. There was a lady behind me and she saw that the line next to us was smaller. It was clearly labeled “EU Passports” only and I suspected she did not have a EU passport. After about 10 minutes, she noticed the sign and asked someone what it meant. Then she tried to get back in our line where she had been. She looked at me and said I was in front of you. As I said, I’m not good first thing in the morning without coffee. This is the FIRST time I’ve ever had to take an international flight and not had time for coffee and something to eat before flying. We did have food on the KLM flight from Stockholm to Amsterdam but I only had one tiny cup of coffee – not enough to sooth my nerves and the lack of sleep. I corrected her and told her that “no, she was behind me”. So she got back in line behind me which I’m sure made that person behind me very happy. As we were standing there, people kept pushing past us saying “My flight is boarding”. Well, in Amsterdam, flights show on the board that they are boarding 2-3 hours prior to departure. My flight also showed “boarding”. After about 4 of these pushy people, I had enough. The next one who tried to push past me, I stopped and said, “My flight is boarding, too, and you’re not getting in front of me”! Guess I sounded like I meant it because they backed off. The lady behind me said, “I’m with her and you’re not getting in front of me either”. LOL. I finally made it through and bought a bottle of water…only to have them take it away from me because I had to go through another security screening and my bags had to be screened again to get to the gate area. Once you are in the gate area, there is NOTHING there except toilets. So, no water for my flight except the tiny amount the airline will allocate. We were able to check on our bags and all of them had scanned as having been loaded on the aircraft. Really amazing. As I got settled in my seat, I got a text message from Billy Block. He said that “Lucas Leigh doesn’t have a seat on the flight home. Help him”. As if I can do ANYTHING from Amsterdam. When we checked in this morning, the inept gate agent told one of our group the same thing. However, Matt knew not to back down and she finally found her record. I’m sure that’s what happened with Lucas as well. I did call our travel agent so he could look it up. Also called Harri our driver to see what had happened. Their flight had already departed and I assume Lucas was not allowed to get on it. The “kid” has never been out of the country as far as I know and now he’s stuck in Stockholm with no one to help him. Nothing I can do from the “air”. Flight to Memphis landed a little early and as we guessed, a couple of the bags were not on the flight. Can’t do anything until we arrive in Nashville and file claims there. I had a little time to go into the Crown Room and check my email. I found out that Billy Block’s group had departed the hotel a few minutes late and as we knew from this morning, that can be a disaster. Lucas didn’t check in online the night before but the other guys did. The flight was oversold and they were late arriving, so Delta gave his seat away. Lindsey did talk to him and the airline put him up the at the Radisson in the airport and gave him meal vouchers. He’ll fly home at 9 am tomorrow. We departed Memphis on time and arrived Nashville on time and my Z-pack was waiting for me! SOOOOOO glad to see them. Jude