TUESDAY, AUGUST 21ST – CHIHUAHUA, MEXICO:
Today I leave for Chihuahua, Mexico with Tracy Byrd. I am healing slowly. The stitches are out of my lip and the scar is better. My eye is only a little discolored but there is still a lump where the skull was fractured. Rib is still sore but better. Bruises on my leg are now Technicolor and the big strawberry on my shoulder is just a pretty “pink”. Lots of scrapes and bruising all over and can’t get my teeth fixed until next week. About six months of dental work ahead of me. Had surgery on my hand on Thursday and the doctor implanted about a 3 inch permanent rod in it. Was supposed to get the stitches out yesterday but no go. I am in a removable splint that I will be wearing for many, many weeks. But I can type slowly with my right hand and one finger on the left hand.
Only got 3 hours sleep last night just trying to get things in order before leaving. Up at 5:30 am and at the airport by 8 am. Of course, I had to do the special security check because of the splint. I think I may just take it off next time. As I left security, I heard my name being paged. Rushed to the gate to find that my flight was late and was going to misconnect. But the gate agent said they had me on an earlier flight leaving in a few minutes. I begged her to get my bags switched over since I am flying into El Paso to meet Tracy and his group and then the buyer is picking us up to bus us to Chihuahua. She said that the good news was it was a direct flight. I knew that wasn’t possible because I had looked at all the Southwest airlines flight options. Then she said, “Oh it stops in Birmingham and Dallas but you don’t have to get off the plane.” Now I hate flying Southwest because there are no reserved seats and lots of crying children. I always go on the web and print my boarding pass so I can at least board in the “A” group. When she gave me my new pass, she put me in “C” group. I was ready for battle when I realized I could play my “handicapped” card and board first. J
A young girl – 12 years old – sat by me. She had the vocabulary of a college student. She is a dancer and was on her way to visit her grandmother. Her family had just adopted a boy from Russia. She was home schooled 3 days a week. Delightful young lady. A college student sat on the other side of her and slept the entire trip. When he got on, he tried to stuff his huge duffle bag on top of my backpack. That didn’t happen!
It was freezing on the plane and the excuse was that the air conditioning was not working in the first 3 rows so it was much stronger behind that. I was in the 4th row. But I also noticed that a large lady across from me was dressed for snow skiing and had her vent all the way open and pointed at me. When we stopped in Birmingham, a small girl in the front row got up and started trying (and not very well) to sing one line over and over at the top of her lungs. I know you could hear her all the way in the back of the plane. She continued this until all the passengers were on board. Please explain to me why her parents thought this was “cute”. My kids would never have been allowed to act like that. What has happened to discipline?
Landed in Dallas and I got up to let the college student out. He had slept all the way to Dallas, too. His foot somehow snagged the strap on my purse and he was dragging it down the aisle. When he got his bag out of the overhead, he got my pack down and handed it to me, which was really nice except I wasn’t getting off. I thanked him and told him I was going on to El Paso. He says “whatever” and throws it in the seat instead of putting it back in the overhead. Nice young man.
Landed in El Paso and all my luggage made it! I walked over to the Wyndham where Tracy’s bus was parked and where our promoter was supposed to meet us. I called the promoter and he thought he would be there in 10 minutes. I told him to meet me in the restaurant and we would have a quick lunch. Several of Tracy’s guys were in there eating lunch and I introduced myself to them. All really nice guys. Armando, the promoter didn’t show up after an hour so I called him. He was stuck in a long line trying to cross the border. I ordered some cheeseburgers to go for him and his staff and he finally arrived a little after 2 pm.
We left for Chihuahua by 2:30 pm. It was supposed to be a 3 hour drive but turned into a 6 hour drive! At least it is a nice bus with two toilets. Really like the promoter and his two female helpers. But when we first checked on how long it would take, we were told 3 hours. That is 3 hours by car…not in a bus with a governor that beeps every time the driver exceeds the speed limit. Next year I will be flying roundtrip to Chihuahua no matter what the artist does. Not looking forward to the bus ride immediately after the show tomorrow night back to El Paso and then getting on a plane to Phoenix and going straight to a meeting.
Everyone was surprised by how beautiful it is down here. Very green and the architecture is beautiful. I love all the Spanish adobe type houses and little mission-style churches. It is much cleaner than we anticipated, too.
Finally arrived at the hotel and everyone was starving. It is a Holiday Inn but much nicer than any I have stayed in. Has the essentials I require – internet, air conditioning and a coffee maker. We dropped our bags and drove to a restaurant that is a sponsor of the event. Had an incredible Mexican dinner – imagine that. Then we went over to the promoter’s nightclub for a press conference. There were probably 200 people there – all journalists and sponsors. Some of the PBR folks (professional bull riders association) were there. This event is hosted by the city of Chihuahua in conjunction with the PBR event taking place at this time. Press conference was painless as I didn’t have to speak. J Representatives were also there from the City of Chihauhau. Everyone is so friendly but I did notice that there are three separate deadbolts on my hotel room door.
Tracy was really enjoying himself but several of us had gotten up really early and were ready to leave. Armando has some great people working for him so I convinced one of them to give a few of us a ride back to the hotel.
AOL was incredibly slow, so I couldn’t send my Road Report last night. Got in bed by 2 am and now up at 7:00 heading to the health club at the hotel to see what I can do with my cripple hand.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 22ND:
Nice machines in the health club but all they had was 2 treadmills and one elliptical trainer. Did 30 minutes – half forward and half backward – and feel much better. Wish they had free weights so I could so one-armed curls, etc. Maybe in Phoenix.
Breakfast was really nice. Everything imaginable and they offered to cook whatever you want. I had an egg white veggie omelet and it was great. But they put refried beans and flour tortilla on the plate, too.
Got a shower and answered emails. Still slow but better than last night.
After we had the incredible dinner last night, when we arrived at the Club one of girls said, “Okay ready to rumble” and I looked back and everyone was half asleep. LOL. But they quickly woke up. Tracy stayed and jammed at the club until 2:30 am this morning. Glad we found alternative transportation back.
The venue is incredible. A huge permanent stage and really nice dressing rooms. Much better than we have in the U.S. usually. They are expecting a huge crowd. I’ve heard lots of different figures on attendance at Mark’s event – from 10,000 to 50,000! They already have the dressing room stocked with everything Tracy’s rider asked for including lots of bottle water.
Sound check finished early and then they took us to another fabulous Mexican restaurant. I am so glad we can’t get good Mexican food in Nashville. I would weigh 400 pounds.
After the incredible meal, we went shopping for western wear at one of the shops that sponsors this event. Had some really cool western shirts there. Then rushed back to the hotel to shower and change clothes. Tracy decided he anted to go to the venue at 6 pm instead of 7:30 pm so he could see some of the opening acts perform.
There were lots of people backstage at various times to meet Tracy. We met the Mayor of Chihuahua who I immediately fell in love with. What a nice, caring intelligent man he is. He has done some brilliant things to bring tourism to the city and to strengthen “family ties” within his country. He also loves country music and the Chihuahua event was his idea. He has been corresponding with the Mayor’s office in Nashville and would like to make Nashville one of Chihuahua’s sister cities. The event tonight is for families and no alcohol is served, can you believe it – in Mexico?? I loved it.
We had advised the promoter that we were really in a time crunch to stay on schedule and depart as soon as the concert was over. We did not get off to a good start. The opening acts ran very late an Trace took the stage over 30 minutes past his scheduled performance time. But, he blew me away. What an incredible voice and all of his songs are so well-written. Got to hear several songs that will be on his new cd.
There were some very strange things going on with the bus Tracy rented to bring us into Mexico. I got a call the night before we arrived El Paso saying the bus company would not accept American Express and we had to scramble to get them a visa credit card number. Then when they were supposed to pick us up on El Paso, the bus company said that there was a “mix-up” and tried to give us an old bus with no toilet. That didn’t happen. When we arrived Chihuahua, the bus we drove down in went away and we were given another bus. Supposedly, that bus was not allowed to cross the border into the U.S., so the bus company was sending another bus for our overnight trip.
I started checking on the bus at 11:00 pm but no one seemed to be able to located it. When 11:30 came and we were ready to go, I told them we were taking the old bus and the new bus could just come find us. We got about 15 minutes from the venue and received a call that the bus was AT the venue. We stayed right where we were – in the far right lane of about 6 lanes of very fast-moving lanes of traffic! We switched everything over into the new bus and began the bus ride from hell. The roads might have well been gravel as rough s they were. The seat reclined about 3 inches and the leg space between the seats was less than a coach seat on a tiny airplane. At one point, the driver got on a personal conversation on his cell phone and was talking so loud he could be heard at the very back of the bus. No worry bout waking anyone up, I suppose because God’s know we couldn’t sleep under those conditions!
My biggest concern was the “time” we would arrive to cross the border. Penny had already warned me that the later in the day we arrived, the longer the line would be. We arrived at the border at 4:45 and SAT in line for 2 hours. At one point, we had to get off the bus, take all our personal bags, and go through a security scanner and get back on the bus on the other side of the building. I was hoping to catch an earlier flight to Phoenix for my meetings but it wasn’t looking good. We finally arrived back at the Wyndham Hotel where Tracy’s bus was parked. I said really quick good-byes and RAN across the street to the airport, arriving at 7:30 and hoping to get on an 8:05 am flight. Believe it or not, I made it. Landed in Phoenix and immediately had to go to a meeting with Taser Corporation. Picked up my rental car but it had body damage and they insisted I take a different one. It was already started when I got in it and I didn’t realize until I drove away that it was a keyless ignition. I had also rented a GPS and had no clue how to use it. Made it to my meeting – no thanks to the GPS which didn’t have the address I needed. After my meeting, went back to the car and it was about 200 degrees in it. And, I couldn’t figure out how to start the darn thing. I was sweating and cussing and calling Lindsey and John to see if they knew how to start it, when it suddenly started! Seems you have to put your foot on the brake pedal at the same time you push the start button. I discovered this totally by accident.
With Lindsey’s help, I found the Four Seasons Resort where I am staying. GPS didn’t have that address either! Beautiful resort but it is being renovated and nothing is “close” to anything. Lots of golf carts being used as shuttles. Tomorrow I will go to Luke AFB to see a Colonel and 2 Generals who are my dear friends that I met many, many years ago at the Wolf Pack in Kunsan, Korea. I am supposed to tour the base and get to try out the F16 simulator – if that’s possible with one hand! We shall see. Back home on Saturday.
I hate that the visit to Mexico ended so badly with the bus problem. Otherwise, it was a fantastic festival – very well-organized, professionally hosted with great people and a state-of-the-art venue and production package.