“Somehow I had envisioned Korea as a poor third world country, at least as far as South Korea is concerned. Wow, was I wrong. Bullet Train traveling at 187 mph through numerous tunnels and never once lost cell service. Now that’s 2006! Fifty plus years since the Korean war….still no peace treaty and we still have about 30,000 troops there. The soldiers were so thankful for our visit. It was a very humbling and wonderful experience and I hope to go again” – Gene Johnson
FEBRUARY 14TH – HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!!!! ROLLING OVER INTO FEBRUARY 15TH:
Good suggestion from one of my dear friends on my “road kill list”….put WHERE I AM AND WHO I AM WITH AT THE BEGINNING OF EACH REPORT.
Diamond Rio – heading to Korea to perform 5 shows for the Army and 1 show for my favorite base in the entire world – Kunsan Air Force Base, home of the Wolf Pack. (Yea, Robin, Snort, Burner, Marc, Nubes, Wolf II, Bart…. did I forget anyone???)
My typical “night before I fly routine”. Worked until 1:45 am and had to get up at 3:45 am. I had taken copies of all our passports and the flight information to NW on Sunday so they could have all the information in the computer before we arrived. When I got there, I asked if everything was ready. The agent said that they couldn’t read one of the numbers on the passports, so they had stopped entering the information. I reminded her AND showed her again that I had given her a typed copy of everyone’s information in case they couldn’t read the passport copy. Now, you tell me why they would not continue to enter all the information on the passports that they COULD read??? But, no, they just stopped completely, so most of the information still had to be entered. I have very little patience for that kind of incompetence.
Everyone arrived — a bit sleepy – but in a good mood. I took Diamond Rio on their very first trip out of the country when we were ALL babies back in 1990 or 1991. We went to Brazil for several shows. They had just recorded their first album for Arista Records as “Diamond Rio” but Brazil wanted them to go by their other name….Tennessee River Boys. I remember it being such a fun time. We certainly learned a lot together. Then I took them to Japan for the Country Gold festival in the late 90’s. This is their first show overseas to perform for the U.S. military and I’m hoping it won’t be their last.
I gave the agents and the flight attendants chocolate valentines that I had purchased in Switzerland. Such a simple thing, but it really means a lot to the people flying us. When we landed in Detroit, NW has VIP services waiting for us (yea, Debby!!) to escort us to the World Club. Only we didn’t have time to go to the World Club because our flight was going to board in 20 minutes. I managed to make a few phone calls and answer some emails before we took off. Gave the pilots and flight attendants their valentines for this flight. My back pack is getting lighter, thank goodness.
We are en route to Narita (Tokyo) right now and will land in Seoul at around 9:30 pm tonight. Going to be a short night for me because I will have hundreds of emails to answer when I get there. We get up early tomorrow, check OUT of the hotel that we just checked into, get our ID cards, and then we go to Kunsan. My buddy – the pilot who gave Chely Wright her incentive ride years ago – emailed me that his brother-in-law is stationed at Kunsan. I started emailing him and he has arranged for Jimmy to have an incentive ride while we are there. I have so many friends – military and non-military – in Korea that it’s exciting just to get to go back over again. This time we had tons of pre-publicity on AFN and in Stars and Stripes, so I’m hoping the crowds will be much better.
VIP Services met us in Narita and escorted everyone to the VIP Lounge…nice perk for our coach travelers. Got on internet and caught up on my hundreds of emails while we were there. Flight to Korea is short…only 3 hours. I had fascinating seatmates on all my trips. One man was going to Hong Kong and one man on the last flight was going all over Asia. Gave the flight attendants and pilots chocolates again on the flight from Narita to Seoul. Right after we took off, the pilot went on the intercom and announced that they had a special guest on board. I thought he was going to say Diamond Rio but instead he said Judy Seale! Fortunately, my guys were asleep and didn’t hear it! J
NW VIP services let me down at the most crucial time…they didn’t meet us in Seoul when we landed to escort us through Immigration and Customs. But, I’ve been there so many times, I knew how to handle it. Getting through was a breeze, all our luggage/equipment made it, and our ride was waiting for us. Checked into the Dragon Hill Lodge on base and everyone went to bed except me. I stayed up and talked to my dear friend who is the MWR Director here in Korea. Now I’ve been answering emails for 2 hours. Going to bed soon!
FEBRUARY 16TH – KOREA WITH DIAMOND RIO:
Got up at 6 am after 3 hours of sleep. No time to work out this morning. Went downstairs for a banana smoothie and then met the gang in the lobby to go get our ID cards. The ID card section was nice enough to open up for us since they are normally closed for a half day. Got ID cards and ration cards very quickly and then went to the base exchange to return our phones. It was a very lengthy process. But you can rent a phone for a month for $30 and buy a calling card with 130 minutes for $10. It’s great.
Then, the day fell apart. The bus showed up from Kunsan right on time but without any of the sandwiches or food they had promised. Since no one had eaten, we had to go to subway and get food to go. This made our departure more than 30 minutes late. The bus didn’t even have water or any beverages on it to drink. It’s a 3 ½ hour ride, so that was unacceptable. All this made our departure more than 30 minutes late and we have a show tonight. So, I was NOT in a good mood. Plus it was depressing to know that the Air Force is always the most organized and they were the ones who dropped the ball on this.
The bus driver is the worst I have ever had in Korea. All the drivers push on the gas pedal and then immediately take their foot off which causes constant “lurching”. This guy puts the pedal all the way to the floor at every opportunity. Then, when a car a quarter of a mile in front of him puts on their brake lights, he slams on the brakes. We literally had to strap in and pray for our lives. And my family worries about my safety when I’m in Iraq. They should worry more when I’m on a bus in Korea.
We ran really late with our sound check. The spotlight operators don’t understand English and with 4 spots, by the time the cues are called and the information is translated, the “solo” has passed. So, we couldn’t use them. We finally finished about a half hour late and rushed to lodging to change clothes. The “DV” suites for the artists leave a LOT to be desired as they all have to SHARE a bathroom. Definitely not an ideal situation when we have so little time to prepare for the show.
We met the winners of the Stars and Stripes contest just prior to the performance, managed to get in a tv interview with AFN, AND met the Command – the Wolf Pack. The Wolf (Brian Bishop) is totally awesome as are all his men/women – Falcon, Viper, Wolf II, Deputy Wolf, Phoenix….
The Loring Club was packed and the guys put on an awesome show. About 15 minutes before the show ended, Falcon got a message that the Fire Department was shutting down the generator used to power our stage. The generator belongs to our production company and evidently a hose had sprang a leak and diesel fuel was spewing out onto the sidewalk. Falcon managed to keep the generator on until the guys finished the show. Now the production company has to get it repaired before our show tomorrow at Camp Walker.
The guys signed autographs for everyone in line and took photos with them. Then we had a really quick dinner and everyone went to bed. Definitely not the “party” crowd. We have a base tour tomorrow and Jimmy gets his F-16 ride. I met the pilot who set this up for him tonight and he is a sweetheart. However, he won’t be the one flying Jimmy. Jimmy’s pilot looks like he is about 12 years old! They gave Jimmy a list of what he could and could not eat. Bananas and Granola bars were high on the list because they taste the same coming back up as they did going down! J
So much happened today that I am sure I left out a lot. Will think of it and include in tomorrow’s report.
FEBRUARY 17TH – DIAMOND RIO IN KOREA
Went to all the trouble of packing 2 separate bags at home so that I could store one suitcase and only take clothes for 2 days to Kunsan and Camp Walker. Got up and stored the bag yesterday morning and then a few hours later, we loaded the bus for Kunsan. SOMEONE went to the trouble of finding my bag that was supposed to be in storage and loading it on the bus! I could not believe they rolled my suitcase in when we got to lodging at Kunsan. Now I have a huge, heavy suitcase – no elevator – and a room on the 2nd floor. Very nice! Glad I spent all that time packing appropriately.
Managed to get a full 4 hours sleep (woo-hoo!) and went to the gym at 5:30 am. Jimmy was already in there working out and pumped up about his incentive ride today. He is even more obsessive about exercise than I am! Hopefully the weather will warm up and we’ll get in a run (or jog in my case) together. I’ve warned him how “slow” I am compared to his speed.
We had a very full day. First stop after breakfast was a tour of “Coyote Hill” where the guys learned a little about the history or Kunsan and Korea and then found out just how prepared we are to defend ourselves. It’s really important for them to know about Korea to better enjoy their tour here. We didn’t get to witness the fake “ambush” this time because it was so darn cold. The wind was strong and it just cut right through us.
Next stop was a tour of an F-16 followed by a ride in a flight simulator. Very full, very fun day for the guys but it’s also a “treat” for the airmen. They love showing off their planes and equipment and it’s especially nice for them to get to chat “one on one” with the celebrities.
The bus was late picking us up and had not picked up our equipment from the stage. Upon boarding the bus with the kamakazi bus driver, I learned that there was nothing to drink –not even water – on the bus. Had to get off and go buy water for everyone. We finally left much later than I anticipated and began our “stop and go” process of making our way on the 2 hour bus ride to Camp Walker. After a little over an hour into the drive, I noticed orange construction cones angling out into our left-hand lane of traffic. The driver was going about 90 and didn’t make any effort to switch lanes until he was right up on the cones. Then it was too late. He ran over about a dozen cones before he could stop. When he was able to slow down, we could hear the cones stuck under the bus. He had to pull over and take a broom (that was already in the bus…go figure..maybe he uses it often!) to remove them from under the bus. All my boys were “spooked” after that. Then he tells us that it is a 4 hour drive to Camp Walker and not 2 hours! Since he also admitted that he had no idea who to get to Camp Walker, I made some calls and found out that the drive really was 4 hours. Not good since we had a 7 pm show. And, we certainly couldn’t encourage this guy to drive any faster!
As we finally neared our destination, we went through a massive “toll” area. There were about 12 lanes of toll booths and we were over towards the left-hand side. The bus driver started conversing in Korean with the person in the toll booth and I hear him say “Camp Walker” and thought, “Oh No!”. The person in the toll booth lost patience with him and angrily pointed him towards the right-hand side of the road. Not only was he blocking traffic for people trying to get through the toll booth but he was evidently asking directions from someone who had no idea how to tell him to get to Camp Walker. Instead of easing out into our lane and gradually making his way over to the right hand shoulder, he pulled out and make a sharp right turn directly into the path of incoming traffic. Horns were blowing and brakes were screaming. It was pretty unbelievable. I got our rep at Camp Walker on the phone with him and he hung up and said they were coming to get us in about 15-20 minutes. Since we were already almost 2 hours late, that was not an option. Called the rep back and he put a policeman on the phone with the driver and talked to him FOREVER giving him directions. Driver hung up and pulled into traffic. We hadn’t gone a mile, when I realized he still had no idea where we were going. I had our escort from Kunsan tell him to pull over and get a taxi to lead us to the base. He managed that with only “one” mishap. Camp Walker has several gates and he forgot to tell him which gate to take us too. But, no problem for the driver. He just got out while we were stopped at a red light and went and had another chat with the taxi driver! Our bus driver also forgot how to shift gears….he could not get the bus into gear and we almost lost our taxi escort!
When we finally arrived at the base 2 hours late, Jimmy admitted that the F-16 ride was NOTHING compared to the bus ride. At the time, the experience was NOT funny and trust me, I was not laughing. Afterwards, the guys were laughing about it and saying it would be the best “road tale” they would have to talk about when they got back to the U.S. Once they knew we would never have to see that driver again, everyone was in a much better mood. J
Jimmy really loved his F-16 ride because they did tactical maneuvers. Their “wingman” (another F-16 which flew only a few feet off their wing) would get in front of them and do loops, dives, etc., to try and lose them. Then they reversed positions and Jimmy’s jet got “chased”. He really had a great experience. The pilots had told me the night before that they had a pretty high rate of having to “eject”, so I was just praying that didn’t happen. Of course, the other guys in the band reminded me that Jimmy has jumped out of airplanes before!
Our reps from Stars and Stripes told a “horror” story about their trip as well. They were traveling down a two-lane road and a car came barreling down the road towards him and didn’t make any effort to move. Evidently the driver must have been drunk. They swerved to avoid a head-on collision and the driver in the wrong lane never slowed down. Thank goodness we didn’t meet him because our bus driver would never have been able to swerve without turning the bus over!
Mr. Hwang with MWR and Mr. Yi, one of our drivers from MWR, met us at Camp Walker and all my buddies from past tours were still working there. Everything was set up and waiting for us and Planet Sound had done an excellent job getting in our “absence”. It didn’t take the Diamond Rio crew long at all to get everything dialed in and we did a quick sound check. There were no interviews but we had the Stars and Stripes contest winners come backstage for the “meet and greet”. Two young girls won the contest and it was the 21st birthday for one of them so this was REALLY a special treat for her. The Fitness Center was PACKED TO CAPACITY…THANK YOU VERY MUCH! All our prior advertising really paid off. It is the largest crowd I have ever seen in that venue. And, boy were they Diamond Rio fans. The show was really great. The guys signed autographs for everyone afterwards. Then, a 2-Star General that has been at Camp Walker for several years hosted us at a dinner at his home. I met him in the Narita airport many years ago and have stayed in touch with him and seen him on each of our tours. He is a huge supporter of country music and always tries to make the visit special not only for us, but for the men and women stationed at Camp Walker and ALSO for the locals. Our military is allowed to bring their families with them to this Camp and they interact with the local community. He has a really sweet wife and two great boys. He invited about 20 people from the base to join us for dinner and it was really nice. However, everyone was so tired, that we didn’t stay a long time. We have an early call time tomorrow – bags out at at 8:00 am, to be put on the bus and transported to Seoul. We go eat breakfast and then hop on a bullet train to Seoul.
FEBRUARY 18TH – DIAMOND RIO IN KOREA
I got 6 hours of sleep because there was no where open for me to get on email and the gym didn’t open until 8 am when we have to put bags out. Feel so much better.
Today we take the bullet train to Seoul, check back in to the Dragon Hill Lodge where we will be the remainder of the tour, and then take a 1 ½ hour bus ride to Camp Casey for our show tonight.
The guys LOVED the bullet train. We were at a speed of 301 km per hour at times (about 180 mph). A man came through with a cart selling beverages and snacks but he was going so fast that no one could stop him before he had breezed by! Fortunately he came back through about 45 minutes later.
Checked in and was finally able to unpack everything…only to realize that the internet in my room didn’t work. Had to pack everything back up and change rooms!
Since we had 2 vehicles today, we sent the sound crew to Camp Casey at 1 pm and the artists didn’t have to depart until 3 pm. I took 3 of the guys over to Itaewon to introduce them to the tailor and have them measured. I also was showing one of the guys where to buy the copy watches, bags, etc., etc. I couldn’t find the shop and it looked like a lot of construction taking place where the watch shop once was. I went in the bag shop and asked about it and he said that it burned down! But, he had all the guy’s stuff in his shop!
Camp Casey is always very organized and I saw lots of my old friends there. Even thought the gym wasn’t completely packed, there was a large, enthusiastic crowd there. The Commander told us that 2500 of the soldiers were out in the field that night. That’s half the population of the Camp! Guys gave them a really great show and then signed autographs for everyone afterwards. The Stars and Stripes contest winners were brought backstage prior to the show and got to spend quite a bit of time chatting since we were not rushed tonight.
Had dinner at the Warrior Club after the show and then headed back to Seoul for the night. Tomorrow is “golf day” for Jimmy, Danny, Scott and me…going to FREEZE!!!!
FEBRUARY 19TH – DIAMOND RIO IN KOREA:
Wow…what an incredible day. Got up at 6 and ran 5 miles on the treadmill which is agony for me because I would rather be outside “going somewhere” when I run. Took some of my boys over to the tailor for their first fitting and some to order things. We took taxi’s over and our taxi driver says, “Everyone say I look like Jackie Chan”. And he did. J I engaged him in a conversation about country music and asked him if he knew any country songs. He said that he knew the one about the movie with the 7 brides and we did a bit of “pantomime” to figure out that it was “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers”. The he says, you know, country music, “Dun-da-da- dun-da-da-dun-da-da-dun”…..Yee-Haw! It was GREAT. I happened to have a Diamond Rio cd with me and left it with him.
We came back to the Dragon Hill Lodge and I got the group together that was going shopping and sent them off with some friends of mine from the General’s office. Then, Marty, Danny, Scott and I got on the bus to go pick up the General and drive to the golf course. The weather was such a pleasant surprise – much warmer than we anticipated. The General gave us a “briefing” on the ride up which helped tremendously with the proper “protocol” in interacting with the Koreans that we would be golfing with. The 4 “locals” that we met were 3 men and 1 woman. One of the men is the Chairman of a very prestigious corporation, one was “Mr. Louis Vitton” and one was “Mr. Fresh Cosmetics”. The lady was a beautiful Asian who grew up in Boston and moved to Korea when she married her husband. We had lunch in the clubhouse (even though none of us were hungry!) and then went onto the course. I stayed with the General’s group and Scott was in that group as well. The golf course is phenomenal – costs $350,000 U.S. to be a member! Even though the grass was brown and the ground was frozen, it was still beautiful. Scott was so nervous that his heart was about to jump out of his chest. But he did GREAT. It was just a fun day with no pressure. The General had warned us that under no circumstances was anyone supposed to show “anger” on the golf course. Boy, we could never let Vince Gill play over here! The weather was so nice that we eventually had to remove our jackets. Such a nice surprise. This is the first time since I’ve been coming over here (since the late 80’s) that any of our entourage has been allowed to play golf on a Korean course with the local Koreans. Add that one to the list of “firsts”!!!
After the golf game, the rest of my group drove up from Seoul and met us for dinner at the golf course. It was a traditional Korean meal and quite a challenge to figure out what some of the items were. But, it was excellent food. I was on the opposite end of the table from the Korean hosts and the General. They were only drinking beer but I noticed that they were all getting pretty “loose”. Evidently some shoju was added to the beer. Diamond Rio sang a couple of songs acoustically and I gave out some coins and cds to the Chairman so he could take care of the “staff” at the clubhouse. One of the things the General had told us about Korean Protocol was to NEVER blow your nose at the table (which is gross and I don’t know why anyone would do that anywhere – not just Korea!) and to always cover your mouth if you use a toothpick. One of the Diamond Rio guys started to blow his nose and a couple of us almost knocked him out of his chair to stop him. Then, he stuck a toothpick in his mouth. I was a little on “edge” just trying to make sure we didn’t embarrass anyone, but evidently the “shoju” kept the other end of the table from noticing.
We split into two groups with several of the guys going back to the hotel and the rest of us going to the Chairman’s home! That was really an unexpected treat. Of course, we drove for about 45 minutes and I was wondering if we were still in South Korea by the time we finally arrived. And, what a home it was. He gave us a tour of the entire place and kept talking about his father’s home. His house was incredible and I can’t imagine what his father’s home must be like. He brought out the wine and cigars and I managed to drink a couple of glasses of wine and smoke one Cuban cigar. But, this time, the cigar didn’t make me high, thank goodness. He also had some cigars that were signed by Castro. In the room where we were smoking (and, yes, we tried to insist that we go outside to smoke but he wouldn’t hear of it!), there was a ceiling to floor aquarium with some of the most exotic fish I have ever seen. He brought out some “snacks” and the cheese that he served was 35 years old.
We left his home and got back to the Dragon Hill Lodge at close to midnight. It was such a wonderful treat for all of us! They are all coming to our concert at Yongsan on Tuesday night so we’ll try to return a little of the hospitality!
FEBRUARY 20TH – DIAMOND RIO IN KOREA:
Had a “wake-up” call from a buyer in Norway, then went to the gym to work out. Trying to get today’s activities coordinated and got stuck on the phone. My only time to go over to Itaewan and shop a little and I spent the entire time on the phone in my hotel room. Hoping I can run over there tomorrow after the DMZ tour and before the concert. Otherwise, I’ll have to try and shop in Osan on the way to Camp Humphreys on our last day here.
We drove up to Camp Red Cloud for our show and my friend who is the General rode the “commercial bus” up for the concert. I was pretty much horrified that he had to take the bus, but he was fine with it. He’s such a nice man and thinks nothing of doing something like that.
The show was a great one – very enthusiastic, large crowd. Camp Red Cloud even provided buses for the troops deployed to Camp Stanley to come over to see the concert. Our “Stars and Stripes” winners came backstage and met the guys. Then a group of soldiers presented the band and crew with coins and t-shirts. My contacts at this Camp are always “prepared” and everything runs smoothly. After the concert the guys signed autographs at Mitchell’s for about an hour. Then we had dinner backstage and drove back to Seoul. The General and his wife rode back to Seoul with us rather than on the commercial bus, thank goodness! J He’s so great to talk to the guys and give them information on what we’re doing in Korea as well as answer their questions about his time in Iraq.
FEBRUARY 21ST – DIAMOND RIO IN KOREA:
Went to the gym and spent 30 minutes on the Elliptical trainer –-which was all the time I had. Then we departed for the DMZ tour. Had a “surprise”. Our marine escort brought his entire family – wife and 4 children. Thankfully they were teenagers but it sure made for a crowded ride for my guys as the General and his wife were escorting us. My problem with it was that no one asked me if this was okay. Then when I found out that his family had all toured the DMZ before, I became suspicious as to why they were going with us. All was revealed when they pulled out musical instruments and announced that they were a bluegrass band! J
The General gave everyone a “briefing” on the ride up but the bus windows were fogged over and there was a lot of fog on the ground outside. It was difficult to see a lot of the things he was pointing out but the talk was extremely interesting nonetheless. Our first stop at the DMZ was for a briefing. The General interjected a lot of information that we normally do not get on these briefings. Then we went to the building right on the line of demarcation and my guys got to go stand in North Korea with the ROK soldiers. Always a special treat for the groups I bring over. We stopped at several more points of interest including the “Bridge of No Return” and took lots of photos. There is normally a “ban” on photography in a lot of these areas but the General “lifted” the ban because he can do that! LOL.
We were supposed to sign autographs and sing a couple of songs for the guys at the DMZ but there was a miscommunication and only a couple of soldiers were there. The family that rode up with us had gotten their instruments off the bus and I guess they assumed they were going to perform as well, which I knew was not going to happen. Probably best that we didn’t perform because I would not have wanted to have to tell them that they could not participate. Our time was just too limited and the soldiers would have wanted to hear Diamond Rio, not a local family, if we had performed.
Took the guys to hit one ball at the World’s Most Dangerous Golf Hole right on the DMZ. When we walked up, we heard gunfire which completely freaked my guys out and even the General showed “concern”. But, he found out quickly enough what was going on. Things like that no longer catch my attention after all my time in Iraq and Afghanistan. Just seems like standard background noise. Guess I’d better learn to be more perceptive!
The Gift Shop was closed, so we went to an alternative gift shop that was open. But, they didn’t have the things the guys wanted to purchase, so guess it will be Osan shopping for them tomorrow.
Dana got sick while we were at the DMZ and was throwing up. We made it back to the Dragon Hill Lodge just in time for the crew to go to sound check. Dana went to bed and I wasn’t at all sure he would make it to the show. Danny and I ran over to Itaewon to purchase a couple of watches since I get a better deal from my friend there than I can in Osan. Bolted back to the hotel just in time to go over to the show.
The tailor arrived backstage with all the clothes for the guys at the same time I was trying to get interviews and meet and greets taken care of. It was pretty hectic there for a few minutes. All my “buddies” were there – John Downie and his wife Jong Kyun, Mario, John, Ron, etc., etc. who have all been so helpful. The Koreans that we met at the golf course showed up as well. Chairman Lee didn’t come as he was out of town but his wife attended. They took photos with everyone backstage and then Marty recognized them from the stage. The Stars and Stripes winners met the guys, got autographs, and took photos as well.
The fitness center had the largest crowd I have ever seen. Obviously, the advertising “worked”. I was bummed because the General and the 4 Star General could not attend the show. The Minister of Defense (Korea) scheduled a dinner in the 4 Stars honor at the same time as our performance and the entire Command had to attend that.
The guys signed autographs and took photos but it only took about an hour. They really know how to move the line along but still make everyone feel like they have “met” them. The General and his wife came by the venue and sat with us while we had dinner. So nice of them to come say good-bye to all of us. Our show tomorrow is at Camp Humphreys and then we fly home on Thursday.
I answered a few emails but was just so tired, I decided to go to bed and get up early to finish answering. J
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 22ND – DIAMOND RIO IN KOREA:
Last show today. Went to the gym and worked “legs”. Then rushed over to Itaewan with Danny because he can’t figure out how to set his rolex! J
Going to Camp Humphreys today but stopping through Osan for a couple of hours for some last minute shopping.
I left out the best part of the day yesterday. We got to visit the Swiss and Swedes at the DMZ like we did with Trick Pony last time. That was the first time an entertainer had been to see them and have dinner with them. This time they cooked us lunch. The Major General for the Swiss was still the same one and he is a real sweetheart. There were 8 people in all and one Swede was “missing”. The meal was the best we’ve had in Korea, just like last time. It was fun talking to them about my festivals in Switzerland and Sweden and I’ve made them promise to come to one when they get back to their countries. Gave them all cds, coins, calendars, cigars, etc.! Great group of people. I don’t think they have a lot to do up there other than have a “presence” and show their support of the U.S. which is very important!
We left for Osan and shopped for about 3 hours and had lunch at a great Italian Restaurant that we found over Christmas of 2004 with the Bellamy Brothers. I could not find the purses that several people had asked me to pick up for them. Just weren’t there! Will try again in October. Dana rode over with the Stars and Stripes rep since they didn’t have to leave until 3:00 pm.
Arrived at Camp Humphreys and went over to the Base Exchange to purchase some cds so I can burn copies of the photos I took for everyone on the flight tomorrow. We have another “full house” tonight. Osan Air Force Base even bussed in lots of their airmen and women. We had the Stars and Stripes winners backstage but also had two people who won the contest here at Camp Humpreys. Also, the local country bars downtown advertised for us and they sent two reps over with t-shirts and caps for the guys. It was a great way to end our tour of Korea! Dana was feeling good enough to do the show, just very weak.
I think that this tour has shown that with “advertising”, the venues will be packed and that there is a “country music fan base” in the military stationed in Korea. Even with the huge contingency of troops in the field at Camp Casey, we managed to almost fill the gym.
We had dinner at a restaurant on base that used to be “Nightwatch” but is now named Alaska Mining Company. Lots of new decorations and the same menu they have always had! Drove back to Seoul and arrived in about 1 hour 15 minutes, so everyone was in their rooms a little after midnight.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 23RD – DIAMOND RIO DEPARTING KOREA:
Didn’t have time to go to the gym, so I used the “rubber bands” in my room. Got a migraine this morning but I have been having one every week – just like clockwork. I went 10 days without one this time, so maybe I’m getting them under control again.
Everyone was on time and we got all our “shipping” taken care of with the General’s aide. He also took care of returning our cell phones for us. What a sweetheart!
Got checked in with NWA and at first they wanted to charge us a lot of excess. But, once we convinced them to check everything as a “group”, we didn’t have to pay. Flight from Seoul to Tokyo was uneventful. Had a few minutes to go in the lounge and check email in Tokyo and planned to answer it all on the flight to Detroit. Dana switched seats with someone and was sitting by me. He was still feeling pretty weak from the stomach virus and we were all still thinking we’d get it, too. They brought around the beverages and nuts and I decided I was not hungry. Then I decided I really didn’t feel that good. Within an hour, I was in the toilet throwing up. I spent the entire flight running back and forth to the toilet with the most VIOLENT heaving I’ve ever experienced. At one time, I was in there for 4 hours without coming out. The flight attendants were so nice. They showed me how to lock the lavatory door from the outside so that it looked like someone was in there. Then I didn’t have to worry about not being able to get in quick enough. I have this “thing” where I pass out every time I throw up, so I was really struggling NOT to faint. Didn’t make it the entire time though. Passed out but either I fell into the Attendant Call Button on the way down or I realized I was passing out, and managed to push it before I fainted. The flight attendant was banging on the door and it brought me back to consciousness. I kept thinking I was never going to be able to get off the plane in Detroit. But about an hour before we landed, I stopped feeling nauseous. Then I was just extremely sore and weak. It was the worst. Hope I never have to experience that again. So, I paid the high cost of a business class ticket only to spend the entire flight in the toilet! J
VIP services met us in Detroit and helped us get through Immigration and Customs. Our sky cap disappeared for the entire time we were pulling our luggage and then showed up, ready to load the cart and collect his tip.
We were a little bit late taking off in Detroit and landed in Nashville a little later than planned. But, it was so GOOD to be home. All our luggage and equipment made it with us. Haven’t had anything but some Gatorade and don’t know if I’ll ever want “food” again at this point! Just hope everyone else in the group doesn’t get it, but it seems to be really contagious!