Tuesday and Wednesday, May 9-10, 2017:

Had a nice “break” after the Bellamy Brothers World Tour ended in February.  My only trip since then was to Disneyland and Legoland in California with my daughter and grandchildren in March.  Unfortunately, my grandson fell at a skating party the week before we left and broke his leg.  So, his vacation was spent seeing the sights from a wheelchair. He was such a Champ as was his twin sister. The only whining came from me and Lindsey. 🙂

He broke his right arm when he was 2, then fractured his left elbow when he was 4 — one week before our Disney Cruise!   Seems to be something about our vacations and breaking bones!

Anyway….today I left Nashville for Munich, Germany to meet up with Frankie Ballard.  This is Frankie’s third tour for the military deployed overseas since March of 2016.  Such a great guy and American Patriot!

Easy flight from Nashville to Atlanta and first stop was the currency exchange in the International Terminal where my departure gate was located. Only they were “out” of Euros! One of the largest International hubs in the USA and they can’t change our money.   People in line were very angry.   The clerk suggested getting back on the train and going to Gate D or E and asking if they had any Euros. No one took her up on that suggestion.

Had about 2 hours in the lounge to work.  Did not come close to completing all the work I needed to do, so knew I wouldn’t be sleeping on the flight. Wi-Fi on the flights is both a blessing and a curse!

For boarding, the gate agent asked for all business class passengers to board first. Over 100 people jumped in line and obviously, there aren’t that many seats in business.  One by one they were turned away by the gate agent.  I finally got on and settled in.  Wasn’t able to work any before they started the meal service, so I watched a movie while I ate.  It is a 9 hour flight, so by the time I ate and worked enough to feel “comfortable” with my workload, I only had about 3 hours of flight time left to try and grab some sleep.

I checked the “toilet” sign to make sure they were vacant and then walked back.  However, there was a line of people waiting and both toilet doors showed “occupied”.   I asked the guy in front of me if he was sure there was someone in the toilet and he said the guy in front of him watched a lady go in.   After watching 2 people go in the toilet on the other side, I told the first guy in our line to knock on the door. He reluctantly did so and there was no answer.  I told him to push on the door which again he did so reluctantly.  Door opened and no one was inside. Suddenly I became the hero instead of the villain in their eyes. LOL

Could not fall asleep and when I finally did, only slept for 1 hour because the guy directly across from me in a window seat opened his window shade and flooded the entire Business Class section with bright light. People scowled at him but he was oblivious.

Breakfast was served and we landed Munich early. Michael met me outside baggage claim and we went to a restaurant where he had breakfast and I had a cappuccino.   I was able to exchange money in the airport but not without going to two different locations!

Since it was only a little after 10 am and we don’t meet Frankie and the band until midnight, Michael suggested that we go to a famous “Spa” nearby. I was apprehensive because it is a “nude” spa – no swimsuits allowed – and I KNEW I was not going nude. We went there anyway and got our robes. I booked a massage and Michael swam naked while I was getting that. It was an incredible massage – exactly the right pressure.

Then he suggest a visit to one of the dozens of differently themed saunas. I picked the one with the lowest temperature. I was able to keep my towel on in there but couldn’t take any water in with me.   The heat was fine but I got so thirsty after only a few minutes, I started getting a headache and had to leave. I went to shower and wash and dry my hair while Michael sat in the sauna for over an hour.   I was checking email on my mobile phone in the bathroom and one of the employees “busted” me. Evidently, cell phones are not allowed anywhere in the Spa. Guess they don’t want anyone else while they are nude!

We had a great meal and some of the best “Spargle” soup ever (white asparagus). Michael swan for about another 30 minutes and then we packed up to leave. One of the towels we had brought with us was missing!   We looked everywhere thinking maybe we left it somewhere but couldn’t find it. Guess someone else needed it more than we did.

We walked back to the bus and Michael hooked up the Wi-Fi before laying down for his 3 hour “nap”.   He has to drive about 7 hours over night tonight to get us from Munich to Ramstein by tomorrow morning. It’s almost 10 pm now and we will leave at 11 pm to go to the Nightclub and pick up Frankie and the band. Will go ahead and send this road report out to everyone before I have to make it for 3 days instead of 2!

Jude

 

FRIDAY, MAY 12TH – RAMSTEIN AB TO SPANGDAHLEM, AB:

What a day….3 hours sleep and up at 6 am. We departed at 8:30 am and it was going to be a 2 hour drive. I really, really wanted to sleep those 2 hours but I had too much coffee and couldn’t.   We arrived earlier than expected and our rooms were ready for us. Andy and Bill met us at the gate and have taken great care of us. This is the same lodging where I stayed a few years ago with LoCash Cowboys….really nice facility….except…my AOL didn’t work back then and it doesn’t work now. I tired everything imaginable to get AOL desktop to open and no luck. I was logged onto Wi-Fi and could open any other websites but not AOL. Just one more reason for me to hurry up and “migrate” everything to Gmail!

I didn’t rent a Wi-Fi device to bring with me because I knew if I had any issues, I could just us my iPhone as a T-Mobile Hot Spot and it wouldn’t cost me anything. Only problem was….my computer would not recognize T-Mobile as one of my internet options.

So, Andy took me down to talk to the computer experts but they couldn’t help. They also didn’t understand how just AOL could be blocked and didn’t know how to fix it.   I even managed to reach Greg – my computer tech in Nashville to get his help.   In the meantime, I turned off my iPhone and when I turned it back on, the option to connect via my hotspot came up!

We all went to lunch at the Golden Dragon Chinese Restaurant and then the techs went to the stage.   I spent another hour fighting with my internet! The venue is the Eifel Club and it is right across lodging. And guess what….I can log right on to AOL from there and they use the very same server! Makes no sense.

After sound check, we went to an airfield hanger and the guys got a quick tour of an F-16 and several different types of ammunition….boy stuff that they loved! We only had about one hour before we had to go back over to the venue for the show.

Frankie and the guys performed here last October and had a great show. Tonight was no different. There were lots of little children in attendance and they danced the entire 90 minutes. So cute but I wanted to squeeze every one of them I miss Zac and Zoe so much! I did get to talk to several of them and ask them to come home with me. LOL

The venue was the “ballroom” at the Eifel Club and a terrific place to perform. Autograph line had about 150 people in it, so it ran rather late. Bill and Andy had food catered by the club for us after the show.   It was so late when Frankie finished signing that I only ate a little bit – meatballs but no pasta and some incredible eggplant. I was also able to get some emails answered using the club’s internet before returning to lodging.

We have an 8:30 am departure time tomorrow and I’m going to “try” to get in bed by 1 am. Tomorrow is an Army Garrison – so two Air Bases and two Army Garrisons this tour.   Air Force has done such a stellar job with our visits that Army is going to have to step it up to match them.   😊

Jude

 

SATURDAY, MAY 13th, SPANGDAHLEM AB TO USAG WIESBADEN:

Got 4 hours sleep and feel “revitalized”!  Bus call was 8:30 am.  Several guys went straight to their bunks to sleep and several of us stopped by the club for Breakfast.    It was a 3 hour drive to USAG WIESBADEN and I thought maybe I could sleep for another couple of hours. Nope. Worked instead.

We arrived at lodging and no one met us at lodging.   The show had to be moved into a very small club because of the forecast for rain. I’m sure that has added an extra level of stress and additional work.

It was after 11:30 am and our rooms were supposed to be ready but the front desk clerk said only a couple were ready.  I was not happy but a man working beside her said he would fix it and he did!

We had about an hour before lunch. We ate in the cafe that is located downstairs from the show site. No one met us there but John Howe with the Production Company knew what to do and everyone was able to order.

We had about an hour before sound check so I got a little more work done.

There is no “stage” at this venue and no way to separate the audience from the band. Joe — who I finally met during sound check — was going to rope it off with yellow police tape but Frankie didn’t like that idea.     Joe didn’t have any rope and neither did our production company.   I walked out to the bus to see if I could find come on there and as I was walking down the sidewalk behind the building, I spotted one of those “clear ropes light sets” just lying on the ground.   I snagged it and took it upstairs and it’s perfect! What are the chances???? 😊

Sound check was quicker today. The bummer is, it is beautiful and sunny. I hope it starts raining soon so I’ll feel better about having to move the show indoors.   It’s a real challenge in the space that they have.

I found out that dinner was going to be in the same place where we had lunch because it’s the only place open that late on base.   It’s a bowling alley and they serve bowling alley food….need I say more? I started trying to find somewhere that delivers good German food but wasn’t successful. I tried quizzing our host and the hotel with no luck. Then I talked to John with the Production Company because he used to live here. We found a place but they could only deliver to the front gate. And, they would not take a credit card and wanted to be paid in Euros instead of U.S. Dollars. I spent the entire show trying to line this up and failed.

At exactly 8 pm when the show kicked off, it started raining and thundering. I felt much better about moving the show inside once that happened. The club was absolutely packed and the audience loved Frankie’s show. There were over 100 people in line for autographs and he stayed and signed for everyone.   The guys ate at the Bowling Alley which is located downstairs from the club and I got Frankie and myself a “to go” order.

Bus leaves at 1 am and we should be in Grafenwohr around 7 am or hopefully a little later. Been a GREAT tour and went by so quickly.

Jude

 

SUNDAY, MAY 14TH – HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY FROM GRAFENWOHR, GERMANY!!!!:

My overnight bus trip was pretty miserable.   My lower back hurt so bad, I never slept. This is a “new” bus that Michael has purchased and the bunks seem to have great mattresses.   I guess this particular mattress just doesn’t like my back! I never have back problems.   I’ve slept on cots with no padding and cement floors in a sleeping bag in Iraq and Afghanistan, and no problem.   None of the mattresses in the lodging where we have stayed this tour has been a issue either! Michael is going to try an extra layer of padding on top of the mattress and see if that helps with the overnight trip tonight.

We arrived at the base at around 8 am and got checked in quickly because Tony had everything ready and waiting for us. I think most of the guys went to sleep. I showered, re-packed, and worked.   We’ll leave at 1 am again tonight to drive overnight to the airport.

We went to a Mother’s Day “brunch” at 11:30 am and then to sound check afterwards.   This is the last performance and it is outdoor – rain or shine. We actually have to “exit” the base and go onto what is called the W.I.L.D. Boar Recreation Area. It’s a beautiful area and our production company brought in the stage for the performance. There will be lots of other things going on as well – bouncy houses, food booths, etc.

Sound check went quickly and black clouds were rolling in when we left to return to lodging. As I look out my window, it is raining pretty hard. The weather report says it will move out by show time – 1 hour from now. Hope they are right. People were already setting up chairs at the stage area when we left!

My dear friend – Betty Naylor with the USO – called me earlier this week. She is in Italy on tour with Trace Adkins. Two of his musicians were guys I knew and had toured with – one with the Bellamy Brothers and one with Bo Bice. They called me and I got to say hello. Then she emailed me photos of them.   So sweet. Just wish we were on the same tour!

While it is much different to perform for the military stationed in a combat area, these visits are still very important to the morale of the people we visit. It’s great that Frankie and his guys take time to say hello to everyone they meet and Frankie spends hours taking photos, signing autographs and just talking to the people in the autograph lines.

We rushed back over to the venue as Frankie had to do an interview at 3:30 pm. There were some really black clouds in the sky and it was sprinkling. Christie did the interview with Craig. I met her and one of the staff – Lisa – when I was here with Craig Morgan and remembered them. The rain held off during the first hour of the show and the weather was actually beautiful. I walked around out front and called Lindsey, Zac and Zoe to wish her “Happy Mother’s Day”.

I was walking around in the crowd when this adorable, tiny girl ran up to me and took my hand! She had to have been less than 3 years old. She started pulling me along a “Mach” speed. She was wearing little flip flops and was running much faster than I could.   Her Dad was chasing after us and apologizing and trying to get her to let go of me. I told him it was fine and we continued on our “run”.   She finally stopped, bent over, and picked a tiny white flower and gave it to me.   My heart melted. But then, she was on the run again, dragging me behind her. She made a huge circle around the outside of the venue and again made a stop.   This time she picked up 2 sticks and presented them to me. Wow – 3 great “Mother’s Day Gifts”!   Her poor Dad was horrified and I was trying to talk to him while we ran. I did find out that he is from Alabama and will be going back there in a few days.

Then, we both figured out her “ulterior motive”.     She was trying to get me to take her to the playground area that was across the street from the stage.   I was up for it but Dad said “no”. So I took some photos with them and kissed her good-bye.     It was a special “Mother’s Day” to remember since I can’t be with my family.

The rain started pouring down about 30 minutes before the show ended. The front of the stage got wet but the guys managed to stay pretty dry and finished the show.   A few people left but most people stayed even though they didn’t have rain jackets or umbrellas. True Frankie Ballard fans!!!!

We moved the autograph session from underneath one of the canopies to our “green room” which was under a permanent covering. We managed to get the people lined up out of the rain.   He started signing autographs at 5:30 pm and didn’t finish until 7:30 pm. Even the band hung around and signed. There were so many cute kids in the line and Frankie made each one of them feel “special”. His visit is one that this base will remember forever. What a fantastic “last concert” in Germany – rain and all.

We rushed back to the hotel to change clothes and then drove a couple of miles off base for a wonderful dinner hosted by MWR. We went to the same restaurant that Craig Morgan’s group went to a few years ago and the meal was delicious. We had time to just sit and talk with our hosts and it was the perfect ending to our Germany tour.

Back at the hotel now, showered, and ready to leave in about 1 ½ hours for the drive to Frankfurt Airport and the flights home. I’m on Delta via Atlanta and Frankie and the group are on United through Newark. If all goes as planned, we’ll land within 10 minutes of each other!

Jude