THURSDAY, JUNE 30TH & FRIDAY, JULY 1ST – DAYS 1 AND 2 OF 47 DAYS OF ROAD KILL REPORTS!
Today, I leave on the longest journey of my career. I’ve never been “on the road” for 47 days. Actually, I’m going to sneak back to the U.S. for all of 4 days at the end of July but somehow, I don’t think that counts.
I will be traveling all over Europe, producing festivals with anywhere from one to eight artists at a time that are flying in from the U.S. When I say I will be “hopping” from country-to-country, it’s a significant statement. Last week, I broke my toe. I wish it had been something more “newsworthy” than simply being barefoot and hitting it on the leg of a chair in my office. The doctor said that normally he would just say tape the broken toe to the healthy toe and let it heal. But, since I’ll be walking around all day every day, the bones will be constantly rubbing against each other (it snapped the bone right in half — not a fracture) and they would never heal. So, he gave me this “walking shoe cast” to wear when I’m just sitting around and this big, bulky black leg cast to wear when I have to walk a lot. I haven’t had time all week to “practice” in the big cast, so last night I tried it out. FORGET THAT. I couldn’t even walk up the stairs in it and I knew my first flight was on a little commuter plane. I had planned to wear the large cast and just take the shoe cast. The large cast was too big to pack in my already overstuffed bags, so I left it at home. Probably a big mistake.
I had already given myself 4 migraine headaches last week just trying to prepare for this trip and last night, I worked until 4 am and had to get up at 6 am. Obviously, I can’t jog (and of course I’ll be going to some of my favorite places to jog) so I figured out a way to ride the stationery bike. Going to try and rent a bike in the various countries so I can at least keep in shape.
Was packed and ready to go on time when I realized that I had not copied the files in the “shared documents” to my jump drive. That made me about 20 minutes late in leaving and meeting the Bellamy Brothers at the airport. Because of the length of my journey, I’m not on the same flight as the Bellamys as we were all looking for the lowest fares. My first ticket cost over $10,000 and the second one over $7,000. Amazing! At least with the Bellamy Brothers, I never have to worry about them being able to get checked in without me. This year, both the Bellamy Brothers and two of David’s sons – Jesse and Noah – are performing at the Interlaken Country and Trucker Festival in beautiful Interlaken, Switzerland.
We all arrived in plenty of time to get checked in for our flights. There was a group of people gathered in the business class check in line and it took me about a half hour just to get checked in. I decided to walk on down to the gate even though my flight didn’t leave for a couple of hours (I got there early because the Bellamy’s flight left earlier than mine.) I couldn’t find the flight listed on the departure screen and thought maybe it was because I was so early. But flights departing 4 and 5 hours later were already listed so it definitely threw up a red flag. I went to the counter and the ticket agent calmly announced that my flight had been canceled! No explanation. I asked why I was allowed to check in for it just 10 minutes prior. Again, no explanation. She said she would try to get me on the flight that was boarding and leaving in 5 minutes from that gate! Of course, my first question was “Will I ever see my bags again???” This same thing happened to me last year on American when I was flying to Zurich and I had to route through Miami. She could only promise that they would TRY to get my bags on the flight. I called David Bellamy to let him know my flight had been canceled and then called him back to let him know I would be on an earlier flight and should still arrive at the scheduled time.
It was one of those little commuter planes and instead of the aisle seat that I always insist on, I was crammed into a window seat. But, with no sleep the night before, once we were airborne, I had no problem falling asleep. We landed in Chicago and I had a 4 hour layover. Commuter flights always land in a different terminal and this time, there were no screens that even gave any information about where I would be departing from. So, I’m “hopping” from counter to counter trying to find an American Airlines agent who can tell me where to go. I was finally directed to go “out of security and down to the ticketing area” because I didn’t have a boarding pass. Second big mistake of this trip. I promised myself that no matter how much money I saved on the flight, I would never again fly airlines that didn’t offer boarding passes on connecting flights. It means going to the ticketing area between flights to get the pass issued. Sometimes the connections are just too tight for that and what a hassle it is anyway. I eventually did the “planes, trains, and automobiles” jaunt through the various terminals and accidentally ended up at the Swiss Air counter. Got my boarding pass and headed for the Swiss Air Lounge.
Nice lounge but absolutely NO internet access – not wireless or dialup. I finally convinced the lady the desk to let me log on through a phone in a little private area. Then I got on the phone with T-mobile for 2 hours trying to fix my email account that they had screwed up the night before. They never were able fix it and gave me a number to call after I arrive Switzerland. Wonderful.
Flight was only delayed but I was anticipating the worst after the problems I had already encountered. Got on the plane and my only requests are an aisle seat that is NOT bulkhead. I have too much “stuff” that I want to put under the seat in front of me during the flight. Of course, I’m in the bulkhead seat. Spent the next 20 minutes before takeoff stuffing my pockets with things I would need during the flight. Then the people sitting across the aisle from me arrived. They had a baby that looked to be about 9 months old and he was screaming. He continued to scream the entire flight until we began the landing. Just a few minutes after takeoff, when the flight attendants first got out of their seats, there was an “explosion” and a flash of silver shot right past my left ear and I felt moisture on my arm. My heart was racing 90 miles an hour and I looked across the aisle at the man with the baby and he was covered with some type of liquid. Evidently, the flight attendant had opened a bottle of champagne with a silver metal cork screw. It had “exploded” and flew right by my head and covered the guy with champagne. THAT was a first. I can just hear the story now –“after all these years of being frightened to fly, Judy was killed on an airplane, but it wasn’t from her biggest fear (crashing) – she was hit in the head by a silver cork screw! J
I was able to sleep for a couple of hours because my choice of movies were “Finding Nemo”, “The Pacifier” and “Constantine”. Landed in Zurich and called the Bellamys. They were also just landing and were fortunately in the same terminal as me. Took a few minutes to locate the bus driver as he was at the wrong terminal. We stopped at a “truck stop” en route and had a great meal.. Arrived at the hotel and had a few problems checking in because we were so early. Once we got everyone “settled”, Opie came to my room to try and help me connect to the internet. I plugged in one adapter that I had and BLEW UP THE ROOM! Had to call the front desk and get them to come turn everything back on. Then we worked for THREE hours trying to figure out the dial up connection. But, after rewiring the room, the telephone, and my laptop, we got it done. I sure didn’t have this much trouble last year. New computer and different internet company at the hotel make a big difference. I never did have time to eat again until dinner. I had to go shopping for “plugs and cables” instead of having lunch.
The Bellamys and Jesse and Noah did our “usual” radio interview tonight. Then we came back to the hotel and were in our rooms by 10 pm. But, it is now 3 am and I’m still in “internet hell”. I was on the phone with T-mobile for 4 hours and they still have to call me back tomorrow. What a mess. At least my laptop and AOL is working in the room.
I’m going to bed now! Got to rent a bike tomorrow so I can get in my cardio.
SATURDAY, JULY 2ND
Only got to sleep for 3 hours because I kept getting telephone calls. Went over to sound check with the boys to make sure everything was okay. Then spent the rest of the day shuttling back and forth for sound checks, press conference and the show. The backstage/VIP area has been moved this year. It’s a tented area on TOP of an old airplane hanger. It’s really nice up there and a beautiful view of the entire festival. Only negative is the artist has to walk through the crowd to get there. We held a press conference up there today and had a big crowd. Only problem was, they forgot to bring any microphones. With a local band playing out on the festival crowds, it was impossible to hear anything!
David’s sons – Jesse and Noah – opened for them. When Howard and David took the stage, you would have thought Elvis entered the building. Crowd was on their feet the entire show. It was a great, great concert and the buyer now wants an “exclusive” to bring them back every year for five years!!!!
We went back up to the VIP area after they Bellamy’s signed autographs. As we were leaving in our mini-bus, the vehicle got stuck in the mud and we could not go forward or backward. The driver left and said he would get a tow truck. About 5 minutes later, this truck pulls up and it is a truck that they use to clean out the portapotties! You should have heard the jokes going around inside the vehicle about that one. The truck pulled and pulled and finally smoke was coming out of it . We were afraid it might ignite and “blow” up but he finally got us out of the mud and on our way.
I’m back at the hotel and it’s 2 am. I AM going to bed NOW.
SUNDAY, JULY 3RD:
We (Susan, David, Jesse, Noah, and I) were going up to Schilthorn today for lunch. That is where the James Bond Movie was filmed and is one beautiful area of Switzerland that I have not visited. I got up and dressed for “COLD” weather because it is way up at the top of an Alp. Then Susan knocked on my door and said David had decided he just wanted to go to Grindelwald for lunch. Fine by me, but I had to “undress” because it’s warm in Grindelwald.
We took the train up and that’s always a beautiful trip. I’ve been there many, many times and we have some dear friends that own a beautiful hotel where I will be spending one night in a couple of weeks. We walked around the town (I hopped/limped) and then had coffee with our friend at his hotel. Then Susan and I decided it would be such a shame for Noah NOT to see Jungfrau (the highest point accessible in all of Europe). Jesse doesn’t like heights, so he and David rode the train as far as Kleine Scheidegg with us and then they got off and had lunch. We continued up the Alp on a COG railway train. I can’t even remember how many times I’ve been up to Jungraujoch or how many different groups I’ve taken up there. We had a limited window of time to see the sights because we had waited so late in the day to get started.
The train up wasn’t crowded at all because most of the tourists were already at the top. We jumped off and started sightseeing in a dead run (okay, mine was a “dead” hop!) I took them into the Ice Caves first. The inside of the glacier has been hollowed out and you actually walk around inside a tunnel that is completely ice – walls, ceiling, and floor. I was a bit apprehensive about walking on the ice in my “cast” but actually found it easier because I could just slide my feet along and never had to pick them up. Looked pretty stupid but I’m sure everyone in the tunnel already thought I was stupid for being in there in a cast in the first place. The one thing we had forgotten is how COLD it is up there. Since we only dressed for Grindelwald, we were freezing. Susan had taken David’s fleece vest and thankfully she let me wear that. After the Ice Caves, we went out onto the snow covered glacier. Now, last year, this is where Jolie and I were when it was struck by lightening! This year, there was a helicopter on the glacier and it was blowing snow everywhere. Turns out it was a Medivac chopper and they were rushing someone off the mountain. After about 10 steps in the snow and hanging onto the rope for dear life, I figured out it wasn’t a smart move for me to go any farther in a cast. So, I waited inside (where it was WARM) while Susan and Noah ventured out.
After the Glacier Walk, we had lunch at the restaurant and I got the same thing I ALWAYS get up there – Bratwurst! Then we rushed through another tunnel (only not made of ice this time) to a tower on the other side of the Alp. There is an observation deck on the very top and it’s awesome. There were some clouds covering the view but they moved out and we were able to see most of the scenery.
We headed back down the mountain on the next to the last train of the day. Decided to go down the opposite side of the Alp through Lauterbrunnen instead of back through Grindelwald. This route is much steeper but the scenery is just as breathtaking – but much more rugged than the greenery of the Grindelwald side. We were sitting on the train waiting to depart the first station when the train next to us pulled out and I noticed that it said “Lauterbrunnen” on it! Had a panic attack that we were on the wrong train. But, we were on the right train and we didn’t have any problems.
We had to change trains in Lauterbrunnen and Susan and I had to go to the restroom during the brief stop. There were hundred of Japanese tourists (always is) everywhere and we had to wait a long time for the bathroom. Susan went to buy some water and when I came out of the restroom, there was a Japanese girl running to the train. I thought we were about to miss it and grabbed Susan and made her get on without buying the water. Then was SAT there for about 15 minutes before the train pulled out!
This strange little man who had obviously been hiking and was on most of the trip down with us sat across from us. He did almost miss the train and seemed to be very stressed once he got in his seat. His arm started jumping up and down and when he finally got that under control, his face started doing these wild contortions. I didn’t know whether to control my laughter or try to help him. But, he stopped before I could make a decision. He looked exactly like Mr. Bean when he makes his faces.
We all had dinner one last time in the hotel restaurant and now I’ve been working on email for 4 hours. My mobile phone is still messed up and I still can’t get my email. So frustrating. I’m going to be visiting “T-Mobile” when I get home.
Tomorrow we really ARE going up to Schilthorn for lunch. I am still disappointed that we won’t be performing anywhere for the troops on the 4th of July but we just couldn’t work it out this year.
MONDAY, JULY 4TH
Woke up to learn that severe thunderstorms and rain was predicted from noon through the rest of the day. Since it takes 2 hours just to reach Schilthorn, we decided not to risk being trapped up there because of the weather. Susan and I were so disappointed. That’s one place I really want to see!
So, Susan, Jesse, Noah and I rented bikes and rode around Interlaken. I rode for about an hour and a half – down by the river, out by the festival site, to the outskirts of town both ways – wherever I could go. HAD to get in the only “cardio” I’m allowed and I managed to do all of this without breaking anything else! J
Several of us took the Funicular (train on a cable that is pulled STRAIGHT up the mountain) up one of the mountains behind the hotel and had lunch at the top. What a spectacular view we had of Interlaken. Even saw the tent where the festival was held! Jesse went and never looked out. But I was proud of him for overcoming his fear and at least going up with us. We both got a little nervous before we boarded the train for the trip up because this guy was “welding” something in the station. I asked my usually dozen questions before boarding (How many accidents have there been on this thing? How long have you worked here? Does the weather have anything to do with the operation?, etc., etc.)
It started storming right after we made it to the top. With my past history of lightning strikes (once at Jungfrau last August and once on the flight from Japan last April), no one wanted to get in the funicular with me. But w made it down without any problems.
Worked on the internet for several hours while we waited for it to quit raining so we could take the bikes back. Finally had to ride back over to the train station in the POURING rain to turn them in. I rode extremely fast – right out in the middle of traffic – but still got soaked.
Had dinner tonight with the promoter who is such a dear friend. We had a great meal at a little country restaurant and lots of GIRL TALK. She’s an amazing woman and we have a lot in common as we are both “workaholics”!
Tomorrow several of us are going into Zurich to have lunch and shop. It will be our last day in Switzerland for this “leg” of the tour. Off to Norway on Wednesday.
TUESDAY, JULY 5th:
David, Susan, Jesse, Noah and I had to get up early to take the train into Zurich. It’s a beautiful 2-3 hour ride depending upon the number of stops. We made sure we got in a non-smoking car but about 5 minutes later realized we were in First Class. So we walked back through the car until we found the 2nd class section. I don’t like to ride backwards, so I found a row that allowed me to face forward and we departed the station. Since I had only slept about 3 hours the night before, I fell asleep almost immediately. I woke up an hour later and the compartment was filled with cigarette smoke and I was riding backwards! Evidently in our “scramble” to get out of first class, we sat in the smoking section and the train also changed directions when it stopped in Bern. There weren’t any seats left elsewhere, so I just suffered through the smoke.
We had lunch at David’s favorite restaurant in Zurich – Contra Punto. It’s an Italian restaurant and the food is fabulous. We had homemade pasta with fresh truffles. Then we walked around for a few minutes and went to the Spruegli Candy Shop – the best in Switzerland. I had the “truffle du jour”. It’s a truffle that is made with fresh cream each day and you have to eat it within 24 hours because of its freshness. It is to die for!
This is the year of the “bear” in Switzerland and the entire city is covered with “bears” from every nation and every concept you can think of. There was a “sushi bear” that was covered in rice and wrapped around the waist with seaweed. There was a “gummy” bear that was covered with real gummy bears. The “teddy” bear actually had on a “teddy”. I wish I had taken photos of everyone of them. Will get some photos when I come be in a couple of weeks.
Took the train back to Interlaken and had a wonderful “fondue” dinner with our promoters. They were extremely pleased with the Bellamys show and the attendance at the festival was an all-time record. They have now asked for an “exclusive” with the Bellamys for the next 5 years which means they could not perform anywhere else in Switzerland for 5 years except at the Interlaken Festival. We’re “negotiating”. The meal was incredible – steak with various dipping sauces and bread cubes with their famous cheese. Didn’t get back to the hotel until late and had to pack and answer about 300 emails (really!). Stayed up until 3 am and then had to get up at 5 am to take the bus to the Zurich airport.