KRISTIAN BUSH – SUNDAY, MAY 24TH — NASHVILLE TO HONOLULU:
Early morning departure from Nashville to Atlanta and then a direct flight to Honolulu. Kristian Bush from “Sugarland” is going on his first solo tour for the troops overseas. His group departed Baton Rouge very early as well and we meet in Atlanta. Got up at 3:00 am after going to bed at midnight. Bet I will sleep on the long flight. Check in at Delta was breeze even though “my skycap” wasn’t there that early. I went through what I thought was the TSA Pre-Check lane but they had moved the lanes since I flew Delta in January. Actually went through the regular lane and had to remove my laptop and liquids, shoes, etc. A real “Pain” but I should have been paying attention! Then I stopped and purchased water and an orange thinking the Delta Sky Club would not be open. Wrong again. It opened at 4:30 am.
Boarded the plane on time but then we were told that the flight was being delayed due to air traffic in Atlanta. My connection was only 1 ½ hours so I started worrying immediately that I would miss it and everyone would have to go on without me. We finally took off 30 minutes late but landed almost on time. I met everyone in the Lounge and had about 20 minutes to drink a cup of coffee before heading to the gate for the 9 hour flight to Honolulu.
The Delta flight attendants were unbelievably “nice” and the plane was pretty nice as well. There was an “upstairs” where we should have all been seated but I wasn’t aware there was an upstairs until I got on the flight. I watched a really bad movie and then slept for about 1 hour. I was hoping “American Sniper” would be one of the movie choices but no such luck. Maybe it will be on when we return since they change the movies the first of the month. We landed about 20 minutes late and all the luggage and equipment arrived. Only the big pull-up handled on my suitcase was almost bent in half. No way I could use the bag for another 2 weeks. Not sure how the airline managed to damage it since the handle should have been pushed down inside the suitcase. I went to Delta to file a claim and the lady offered to replace it with a new suitcase – right then and there! It was a fairly nice suitcase she was offering, so I agreed. Then she told me to take all my things out of the damaged suitcase and put them in the new suitcase. That’s the first time I’ve ever been offered a replacement bag on the spot!
Lara and Cat and some other staff members met us and got us to the hotel and checked in. It’s a nice hotel and at the far end of Waikiki which I’m sure is much quieter. I made sure my internet was working in my room and then went for a very long walk along Waikiki. The hotel had suggested a good restaurant for “fish” so I stopped in there for dinner. I had offered to buy the group dinner but everyone was tired after having a 3 am wake up call today as well so we postponed until another time. The restaurant was not what I expected. The waiter said all the food is brought out “fresh” and we had to grill it ourselves. There was only one “fish” on the menu – Mahi Mahi – which was okay but I did not want to see my fish before I ate it. I told the waiter that and he agreed to have their chef cook mine for me. He indicated there was an “all you can eat” salad bar as well. There was, but trust me, there wasn’t a lot you “wanted” to eat. The fish was okay but nothing spectacular.
I had to go to the lobby and use the Business Center which consisted of 2 computers. I needed to print 13 pages and was told it would print at the front desk. I sent the document to print but only one page printed. Had to go back to the computer and start over. This time NOTHING printed and there was a red warning light flashing. Of course just as I walked up to the desk to check the progress, there were 33 military men and women who walked in just ahead of me to check in….and only ONE desk clerk. I had to wait for him to check everyone in and then get him to fix the printer. But, I finally got my documents.
It’s almost 10 pm here which means it’s almost 3 am in Nashville. I’m going to “try” and get in bed in the next hour. Tomorrow is a tour of a ship, sound check, tour of the USS Arizona, VIP Meet and Greet, performance and autograph session. Very busy day but so excited to be at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam on Memorial Day with the troops!
MEMORIAL DAY – MONDAY, MAY 25, 2015 – KRISTIAN BUSH PERFORMS AT JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR HICKAM:
A time to honor not only our Fallen Heroes but all those who have served and are still serving!
Woke up at 2:30 am but went back to sleep until 4 am. Finally gave up at 5 am and got up. Went for a fantastic jog along Waikiki Beach in beautiful weather. Lots of surfers were already out enjoying the waves but very little traffic and most shops were closed at that hour. Grabbed a shower and began answering emails which thankfully are “light” since it is a holiday in Europe as well.
Leaving the hotel at 10:15 am and won’t be back until around midnight. Just learned that the “Annual Lantern Lighting Ceremony” (which apparently is a huge deal) takes place at exactly the same time as Kristian’s concert tonight. Hope that doesn’t negatively impact the attendance. Of course, his concert is on the base and limited to military and military ID holders.
What an AMAZING day it was. We departed the hotel at 10:15 am and the band went straight to the stage for sound check. Kristian, Whitney, Shannon and her husband “Harold” went to the USS Halsey for a tour. Shannon is Kristian’s agent at CAA and she and her husband have been on vacation in Hawaii for the past week and was very happy when Kristian’s first performance was scheduled to Honolulu. Our “host” for the Halsey tour was Lt (JG) Buggy and he was awesome. There were also several female officers from various divisions escorting us. I think we walked the entire length of the destroyer on every deck. It was so interesting to learn about the duties of each division. They were just recently deployed for 7 months throughout the Pacific, our visit was most welcomed. They work a 24 hour shift so unfortunately they won’t be able to attend the concert tonight.
After the visit to the ship, we went to the stage for a quick lunch and a sound check. The food was delicious. Lara, Cat and the entire MWR staff have been so great to work with. They really have the visit well-coordinated….just the way I like it! The Captain of the base stopped by to say hello and said he would be at the concert tonight. Sound check went quickly and we hustled to get to the USS Arizona for our tour. When I was here on 9/11/2012, we had a “private tour”. Today we did not have time for the private tour but it was still an amazing visit. The first thing on the tour is a 20 minute video explaining what happened. When I was here in 2012, you could purchase a flag and have it flown and receive a certificate stating when it was flown. Unfortunately, they were not offering that today.
As I have said many times, something “memorable” happens on every tour. Kristian’s bass player – Ann – learned only a few days ago that her Grandmother was in Pearl Harbor when the attack occurred. She made a very heartfelt post today on Instagram and I’m going to get a copy of that to post as well. It’s an amazing account of what her Grandmother witnessed.
I didn’t realize that when one of the Sailors or Marines who survived the attack passes away, they have the option of having their ashes placed inside the Arizona so that their final resting place is with their crew mates. It was a very moving experience to have that explained to us.
After the Arizona tour, Kristian had a short VIP Meet and Greet with radio station winners and then did some liners for the awesome country music station who has supported the concert in Honolulu. Frank – the AFE Coordinator – and his daughter Taylor arrived. His daughter has been selected as Hawaii’s “poster child” for Children’s Miracle Network. She is such a beautiful young lady.
Kent was having some pretty severe neck pain, so one of Lara’s staff arranged to have a massage therapist stop by the stage with his “table” and work on Kent. Kristian and Whitney also took advantage of his services.
The show started right on time and we had a big audience. Kristian is an “entertainer”…not just a singer. He has some of the best musicians I’ve ever met working within him as well. It was a great show and the perfect start to the tour. The audience was made up of a lot of families with children and everyone was up dancing. Lara had arranged to not have Taps played tonight so it wouldn’t interrupt the show. Unfortunately, someone didn’t get the “memo”. But Kristian had finished his show and left the stage before an encore when it started playing.
The musicians left for the hotel when Kristian went out front to sign autographs for a very long line of fans. We arrived back at the hotel and as I was walking out the door, the van that was bringing the guys back to the hotel pulled up. Evidently the driver had taken the “wrong roads” back to the hotel and gotten stuck in horrible traffic. Felt very sorry for the musicians but they took it all in stride. Really a great group to work with!
I went to the lobby and printed boarding passes for everyone and then walked down Waikiki Beach to find something to eat for dinner. Found a “food court” in a mall that had Korean BBQ and it was really good.
We leave at 10:30 am tomorrow to drive to the airport. Then a 10 hour flight to Fukuoka…landing at 7 pm on Wednesday!
I knew it would be a great Memorial Day but it was even better than I imagined. I’m sure I left out some wonderful stories but I’ll think of them and add tomorrow. God Bless our fallen heroes and past and present military personnel for their sacrifices. I am so blessed to be able to share this day with them.
TUESDAY, MAY 26TH – HONOLULU TO SASEBO NAVAL BASE:
Yep, forgot to include a story about a really cool part of the day yesterday! MWR had arranged for “drones” to fly around during the concert and film. They were teeny-tiny compared to the real military drones I’ve seen and just the cutest things. I think Whitney was trying to figure out a “swap” so she could take one with her. J
Also forgot to mention that the Commander of the USS Halsey is a female – their first female Commander – and several of the officers we met on the tour were also females.
I got up earlier than expected again today but had a wonderful “last jog” along Waikiki Beach. Weather was still good but already hotter than it was yesterday. The first day, I spent a lot of time trying to find the “International Marketplace” where I always shop on Waikiki. I haven’t been here since 2012 and I could not find it. Good reason. It is under “renovation”!
Showered, ate my cup of fresh fruit and spent a couple of hours answering emails. Lobby call was 10:30 am and MWR arrived at 10 am. I went down at 10:15 am to make sure there were no incidentals pending. All was good. I mean – what can you charge to your room when there’s no restaurant or room service. It was a GREAT hotel though and really good for families as the rooms are huge and have a full kitchen. There is also a laundry facility on the first floor.
We departed on time in the mini-bus with the van following. There was a bit of a traffic jam and we got separated from the van following us with our luggage. Fortunately, it arrived about 10 minutes after we did and since we were early, no worries. We were able to check in curbside, too, which really helped. I think there is WiFi on the flight to Japan – a 10 hour flight. At least I’m counting on that. It will be “tomorrow night” when we land. That’s more what I am accustomed too. Been hard for me to accept the fact that I flew for 9 hours from Atlanta to Honolulu and I’m NOT in a foreign country.
Well, the plane from Honolulu to Fukuoka had the tiniest seats I’ve ever seen in Business Class. We knew there were several empty seats in business and were hopeful we could upgrade at least Whitney and maybe one of the Elite members. I took Kristian into the cockpit and gave the pilots goodies. They let him sit in the pilot’s seat and take photos wearing the pilot’s hat. When we left the cockpit, he told them that his band was sitting in coach and sure would love to be upgraded if there was anything that could be done. They said they weren’t allowed to do that (which I knew wasn’t true!). Whitney and Brandon had also been working on the flight attendant who also told them it wasn’t possible. Then right before we took off, they let Whitney and Brandon move into business class.
The flight attendants were great on this flight as well but it was still “strange”. We didn’t get menus…the flight attendant has “one” but didn’t let us read it….just said, “You can have the Japanese meal, salmon or beef”! The tray came with a little plate for bread and already had butter on the plate but they never brought around any bread. Good thing, I guess, because I can’t eat bread anyway. Dessert was vanilla ice cream – no fruit or cheese option. When we landed, they served some kind of chicken with rice. I watched a Kevin Costner movie that was really good and then slept for 2 hours.
We landed early and Immigration and Customs was a breeze. Our bus driver was named “Shu” (nickname for his long Japanese name). We talked him into stopping at a “rest area” so some of the group could have a Japanese meal. I realized while I was in the Delta Lounge in Honolulu that my camera wasn’t in my back pack. I was hoping I had packed it.
Our MRW rep – Efrian – was waiting at lodging for us. Got everyone checked in and some of them went across the street to a club. I got set up in my room and found out my camera was not in my suitcase. I called the hotel in Honolulu and they found it where I had left it in my room. This has not been a good 2 years for me with cameras. I am going to either have the hotel mail to me or have someone from MWR or AFE pick up and mail to me. Will just use my cell phone until I get it back.
Speaking of cell phones….my T-Mobile will not automatically switch to the carrier. I have to manually select a carrier in order to have any service at all. I got on a “chat” with T-Mobile and they couldn’t help me, so I called them. Their answer was to do a “hard reset” which is their answer for everything. Not going to do that while I’m out of the country!
Have an earlier call time tomorrow – Lobby call at 9:20 am to go with Kristain to a radio interview with AFN. Then everyone gets a tour of a ship (Amphibious), lunch, sound check, and show. Efrian said we should have a good crowd at the show tomorrow night because all their ships are in Port.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 27TH – TRAVEL DAY; ARRIVED SASEBO NAVAL BASE, JAPAN. THURSDAY, MAY 28TH – PERFORMANCE AT SASEBO NAVAL BASE, JAPAN:
Forgot that we “lost” a day due to the time change when I posted yesterday’s report.Lodging for the remainder of the tour is all “on base”. This base has great lodging – nice big rooms – and best of all, the wireless internet works in each room.
Got up early to answer a multitude of emails that came in overnight. Then worked out with “elastic bands” in my room since I’m not sure how far the gym is from lodging. Skipped breakfast so that I would have more time to answer emails and get “organized” somewhat for the day. Coffee is the most important thing for me in the mornings anyway.
Kristian, Whitney and I left at 9:20 am for the AFN Radio Interview. The little 22 year old Petty Officer Sarah Villegas (Radio Director, AFN Sasebo) did an outstanding job of interviewing Kristian. Afterwards, we met up with the rest of the group for a tour of the USS Green Bay – the Amphibious Carrier. Everyone truly enjoyed this visit and asked tons of questions. Very interesting “mission” for these carriers. Once again, the “Commander” was a female and our main escort was also a female.
Had a quick lunch at the Harbor View Club and then 1 hour of down time before sound check. I went to the base exchange with Kenny but talked myself out of buying another camera. I’ll just use the iphone until I get home. Frank sent my camera that I left in the hotel via fedex today.
Sound check was a little slower because of the language barrier but they still finished on time. We had about an hour and a half after sound check before show time. Most of the group walked into the Ginza area (shopping area) right outside the base. I am a slave to email, so went to my room to work.
It was really strange landing at the Fukuoka Airport last night and not going to Country Gold. That’s the airport we always fly into each October. I met so many people in Sasebo who know Charlie and Country Gold. Many of them have attended the event for years and years.
Kristian delivered another spectacular show. It was held outside at Nimitz Park. You have to go off-base and then back through security to access it. It was overcast all day so it wasn’t as hot as it could have been. Autographs took approximately an hour and then we headed back to lodging. Think most of the group was going into the little area outside the gate again. But, I’m working.
We have a 4 ½ hour drive to Iwakuni tomorrow and a show tomorrow evening.
Just FYI, I am posting photos on my personal Facebook page as well as the Stars for Stripes and Judy Seale International websites and Facebook pages.
FRIDAY, MAY 29TH – LONG, SCENIC BUS RIDE FROM SASEBO TO IWAKUNI:
Still trying to figure out why it seems like Memorial Day was yesterday and now it’s Friday. Must be that “day” we lost flying from Hawaii to Japan.
Went to bed at 1 am and set the alarm for 4 am so I could get up and deal with U.S. emails that came in overnight. Was able to knock those out and shower and head for breakfast by 7 am. Kenny was already seated and I sat with him. Was nice to have a few minutes of “down” time to chat with him about something other than business.
It was a long 4 ½ hour bus ride from Sasebo to Iwakuni. I rented the wireless internet device again so I was able to work while we drove. On the drive over, we learned that a volcano has erupted on a tiny island south of Japan and could affect our flight tomorrow as well as our flight to Okinawa depending upon how severe it is.
We stopped at “rest stops” twice and arrived at the Marine Base at 2:30 pm. Room keys were ready and again lodging is great – huge rooms with a full kitchen and wireless internet in each room. We dropped our bags and the band/crew went to the venue to set up while Kristian, Whitney and I went to visit AFN. It was a great visit once again. The Marine interviewing Kristian is a huge country music fan. There were lots of photos of entertainers on the all and I was impressed to see there was one of Chely Wright from our visit here more than a decade ago!
We met the Director of MCCS Iwakuni (like MWR for the Army, Navy, Air Force). He was so nice and told us a lot about the base. The entire base is under construction because a new runway was built on the air field. Evidently they had to “take down” a mountain. He is a big spear fisher and makes his own spears. He had quite the collection in his office. Really nice guy. One very interesting “fact” about all the reconstruction and growth of MCAS Iwakuni is the fact that it is 100% financed by the Japanese government! There are 40 construction companies working simultaneously and at times as many as 50 cranes in place. Iwakuni is a “small” town and their economy is centered around the Marine base.
Sound check was next and they finished that up at 5 pm with a 6:15 lobby call for dinner. The show time was changed from 8 pm to 9 pm which was a “surprise”! Normally, it wouldn’t matter but we have a 7:35 am commercial flight to Haneda tomorrow. I had planned to arrive at the airport by 5:30 pm because we are going to have lots of excess baggage charges. Each person is only allowed to check one bag weight 20 kilos (about 43 pounds). Pretty ridiculous since we were able to check bags weighing 50 pounds each for the trip here. Learned that the airport doesn’t even open until 6 am, so we will depart lodging at 6:00 am since it’s only about a 15 minute drive.
The room where the show will take place is really nice and Luke had the band “sounding good” quickly. We all had a one hour “break” before meeting in the lobby to walk over to the Club for dinner. The food was excellent in the club restaurant. Had another 1 hour break before show time. The audience was so great, Kristian ended up playing almost 2 hours instead of his 90 minute set. Charlie Tameshige – my long time friend from Country Gold – was there and brought a table full of Japense Country Music Fans with him. Kristian signed autographs afterwards for about an hour.
We changed our lobby call from 5:15 am to 6 am tomorrow because the airport is so small. If I go to bed right now (which isn’t going to happen), I could get 3 hours of sleep.
SUNDAY, MAY 31st – DAY OFF TO EXPLORE TOKYO:Five hours of sleep is a “life-saver”! Got in a good workout, too. And, best of all, I had “Facetime” with Zac and Zoe. First thing they told me was it was morning and they were eating breakfast and wanted to know if it was night time for me.Heading into Tokyo with Chris and Alice Crate to “explore” and hopefully eventually catch up with Kristian’s group.
Was able to do a “quick” workout in my room. There are two fitness rooms in our lodging but they only have a few cardio machines – no weights.
Chris and Alice picked me up at 9 am and we drove to the nearest train station. First stop was to buy me a “rail pass” which we accomplished at the local “7-11”. Then it was about an hour train ride into the part of Tokyo where we wanted to go first – the New Otani Hotel. However, we saw a “street” fair and made a detour through there. Then we got lost and couldn’t get out of one of the buildings. There were these really young female dancers at the street market and I wanted to video them but quickly learned that wasn’t allowed. We finally found someone to get us out of the building and made it to the gardens at the New Ontani Hotel. They were so beautiful. Next, visit was sushi for lunch. You sit at a counter and order the sushi or other items you want from an ipad mounted at your table. You could only order 3 pieces at a time and when it was ready, it “shot” out on a conveyor belt and stopped right in front of you. It was incredibly good, too.
From there we took another train to Harajuka street to “people watch” for a few minutes and then took a short walk to Yogi Park where I purchased Green Tea Ice Cream. It was incredibly HOT outside and we were all fading fast. We did stop and watch these “rockabilly” dancers who were dressed and wearing their hair like Elvis. They were dancing in the direct sunlight and some had on leather jackets! We were so tired and so hot that we decided to go to the top of the Twin Towers to see the view and “rest”. It was a great decision. The view was incredible and they had nice soft chairs where we could sit and talk.
After that, we took the train to the part of town with the Robot Restaurant. Kristian’s brother had read about it online and they made reservations to attend. Chris and Alice said it was something on their list “to do” before they moved back to the U.S. in August. We had been told the show was great but not to eat the bento box. They led us upstairs to a “waiting lobby” and it was WILD. The only thing I’ve see that was a gaudy as the waiting lobby are Saddam’s palaces throughout Iraq! There were revolving bright gold seats shaped like sea shells. A couple of musicians dressed like robots and playing guitar. We expected them to pound out heavy metal music but instead they sounded like the Everly Brothers! Next up was several more musicians with a female violin player! The group yelled, “Yee-Haw” and broke into a blue grass song. They were great. About half-way through the pre-show, Kristian and the group walked in. They said they had a fantastic day as well.
We all walked downstairs to watch the show and Alice, Chris and I were on the front row…which wasn’t great because the stage area was very small and the dancers and props kept hitting us. You need to on Facebook or to my webites and look at the photos and videos. I’ve never seen anything like this show. The only “negative” as the noise level. Think I lost some more hearing at that one. There were dragons, robots, male and female dancers, and lots, lots more. We all really enjoyed this part of our day.
We said good-bye to Kristian’s group and headed in search of a restaurant for dinner. We found one that had a good variety and got had a big bowl of Udon noodles. Then we ended the day in Tokyo with a stop at an ice cream shop. The train ride home was packed and we had to stand almost the entire hour trip. But what a great day with some wonderful friends. Just another example of meeting some of the most amazing men and women in the world through my tours for the troops.
We bus to Yokosuka tomorrow and take a tour of a ship tomorrow afternoon. No performance there until Tuesday evening.
TUESDAY, JUNE 2ND – PERFORMANCE AT YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, JAPAN:
Bed at 2:30 am and up at 6:30 am. Only time for a quick work out in my room because I had so many emails to answer from last night. Didn’t have time for breakfast because there is nothing available at this lodging except for Pop Tarts out of a machine. Now, I love Pop Tarts but they are definitely not on my diet plan. Whitney, Kristian and I left at 9:45 am to go do an AFN Radio interview. I thought we were going to the AFN offices but we actually went to the MWR offices and the interview was handled via a phone call from AFN in Yokota – where we played on Saturday night. Kristian knocked it out pretty quickly and we returned to lodging. I walked to a 7-11 right outside the front gate in search of “fruit” for breakfast tomorrow. They didn’t have any but I did find some yogurt. Back to lodging and we left for lunch at the Officer’s Club. I had the best butternut squash soup ever – made me think of Zoe because it is her favorite, too.
We had another few minutes in lodging and then headed over for sound check. The show takes place in the parking lot in front of the bowling alley. The sound company they use here is excellent. I walked into the NEX (Naval Exchange) and bought some postcards and then into the “Housewares” shop and bought a small pair of bathroom scales because I forgot to pack mine. I was delighted to learn that I haven’t gained a pound on the tour. Haven’t lost any, but I’ll take not gaining any day. I also went to the commissary and purchased a couple of apples and oranges to get me through the next couple of days for breakfast.
Back to lodging after sound check and a 5 pm departure for Mongolian Barbeque at the Officer’s Club. That is one of my favorite meals because I can control the ingredients. And I must say, I did a stellar job with my “sauces” this time. It could not have been any more perfect for me.
Had another few minutes to return to lodging and I was really happy about that because I needed to change into warmer clothes. The temperature had dropped significantly. Tomorrow there is a 90% chance of rain, so I guess that’s why it is cooler now.
At first there were only about 100 people in the audience. But since it was outdoors, once the music started playing the people started coming in. There were lots of families there with small children who were having a ball running around and dancing. Kristian and his musicians gave another stellar performance and it was a special night for everyone who was able to attend. He signed autographs and took photos after the concert for over an hour.
I was back at lodging by around 9:00 pm. The group is going into town again tonight but once again, I get to sit in my room and answer emails. We leave for Atsugi at 9 am tomorrow. Still a 100% chance of heavy rain in Atsugi, so very glad the show has been moved indoors!
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 3RD – YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE TO ATSUGI NAVAL AIR STATION:
Went to bed early (1 am) so I could get up early (5 am) and have time to answer emails before the USA offices close, work out and shower. We bus from Yokosuka to Atsugi today – about a one hour ride.
It is POURING rain today. Loading the bus was LOTS of fun…NOT. It was only a one hour drive to Atsugi. When we arrived, we assumed we were immediately going to visit the HSM 51 Squadron (helicopters) but there was some miscommunication. After checking in, we went to lunch at the Atsugi Convention Center. Again, there was some miscommunication. The only food being served from a “menu” was from the vegetarian menu that had been requested for Kent. Otherwise, there was some veggies and meat that you selected and the chef grilled it and served it over lettuce. Hopefully we have gotten everything straightened out and dinner will run smoothly.
After lunch we went to visit the HSM 51 Squadron (helicopters – “Warlords”). The guys there were so great. The group asked a lot of questions and got to sit in the seats on the flight deck and take photos. They gave us great caps with the name of their Squadron on them. We stayed longer than we had planned but really appreciated them taking time to visit with us.
Next was sound check at the theatre. The base had made the decision a couple of days ago to move the event inside because of the 90% chance of rain today. Good move!
It’s a nice theatre – seats about 450 people – but doesn’t have any air conditioning. It was hot in there when empty. I can only imagine how hot it will be tonight with people in the seats! I walked across the street to the base exchange and the post office while the guys were sound checking. They finished sound check early and we had several hours “down time”. Our escort said there really isn’t any great shops or restaurants right outside the base gates. I think several people want to go into town to eat tonight instead of eating at the Convention Center again. However, they are being told it’s too far to walk and our MWR escort can only accommodate 7 people in his Explorer.
The show starts at 6 pm and dinner is supposed to be prime rib at the Convention Center again. I tried to check everyone in for our flight from Haneda to Okinawa tomorrow on Japan Airlines but failed because the website says I need a “password” from my travel agency! Was working on emails and then rushed to the lobby thinking it was 5:30 pm. When no one showed up in the lobby, I realized it was only 4:30 pm.
There were more children in the audience when we arrived than there were adults. Kristian was great – he went on stage with just his guitar and talked to the audience and sang one song before bringing his band on stage. He had quickly revised his set list so that he didn’t sing a lot of “drinking” songs. He really played to the children and they loved it. They were up dancing the entire show. He took lots of time with the kids afterwards in the autograph line as well. Several of the Squadron we visited attended the show with their families.
The Convention Center redeemed itself with a great dinner which included Prime Rib. Finished up and was back at the room at around 9:15 pm. Very early for me. Going to answer emails and then sleep for a few hours and get up early to answer more emails.
THURSDAY, JUNE 4TH – TOKYO TO OKINAWA:
Got up really early and answered all the emails that came in overnight. Showered and met everyone in the lobby for a 9 am departure. We based our departure time on a 2 hours drive to Haneda Airport because there is no way to predict Tokyo traffic. We actually made it in one hour.
Check in was relatively painless with only minor negotiation taking place regarding checking in as a group and our excess baggage. I gave the 8+ agents who worked on our check autographed photos of Kristian and they were so excited. We had HOURS to kill before our departure. Finished check in by 10:30 am and we don’t depart until 1 pm. Thankfully everyone in the group is so nice and just don’t complain about situations like this.
Originally, we were scheduled to go to Guam instead of Okinawa but had a problem with “backline”. When we changed our flights, the cost of business class was the same as coach. I was thinking what a nice little “perk” that was for the guys/girls until we got on the flight! I didn’t eat anything when we arrived at the airport like everyone else did. I “thought” it was a meal flight and I would just eat on the plane. WRONG. We had a beverage and then they had little cups of ice cream that you could purchase for 300 Yen each. I’ve never heard of having to pay for a snack when flying in business class but All Nippon makes you. I was so hungry by that time, I would have paid $300 for it! Did not care at all that ice cream is not on my diet, either!
Our MWR escorts – Payal and Bilgen – met us and it was about a one hour bus ride to the base. We are staying at the Shogun Inn – where I stayed decades ago. Not much has been done as far as “updating” it either. The lodging at Atsugi also needed a complete renovation, especially the carpets. But, at least the rooms are “big” and there is a coffee maker in every room. Payal and Bilgen already had our room keys for us, so we were able to go straight to our rooms. My wireless internet wouldn’t work and Benji came to my room and “reset” it. It worked but would not allow me to connect to AOL! Fortunately, I rented a wireless device that I have been using on the long bus rides and at airports and it works great here as well.
Colonel Weatherspoon (former Director of AFE) is still here and she’s going to try and meet me for lunch tomorrow. Will be so great to see her. She was a great Director when she was at AFE!
We all met Payal again about 45 minutes later and went to the HUGE base exchange….like a WalMart! I got the twins a couple of gifts and another Lee Childs book for myself. Went back to lodging and we all met 15 minutes later to walk into the town outside Gate 2. What a disappointment! It was a “ghost” town. Everything was closed and we don’t know if it was a “permanent” closing or if everything just closed early. We ran into Whitney and Kristian and they suggested a Yakatori Restaurant nearby. We went there and the food was good.
Kenny and I walked back to lodging and the rest of the group stayed behind for a drink. Was back in lodging by 9 pm. Going to call it a “day” very soon and get up early to answer my emails.
FRIDAY, JUNE 5TH – PERFORMANCE AT KADENA AIR BASE, OKINAWA:
Same routine today…up at 5 am to answer emails, work out, shower and depart for first day’s activity. First on the agenda today was a visit with the Air Force Security Officer’s K-9 Unit. The group really enjoyed that. After the demonstration, anyone who wanted to was allowed to “suit up” and have the dog attack them. They only had the “jacket” for this group, not the pants as well.
Benji was the first to try it with Brandon following afterwards. They both had “bite marks” on their arms afterwards which began to swell! Whitney also tried it and got taken down immediately by the dog. She did a very lady-like roll though.
We had lunch at the “tee-house” at the golf course and Colonel Weatherspoon was able to join us. She’s been here a couple of years as Commander of the Services Division. I met her when she was Director of Armed Forces Entertainment and she did a fantastic job in that position. She recently had surgery on her elbow so is off work and has her arm bandaged. Was sad to learn she will be retiring next month.
There is a 100% chance of rain today and the skies are very cloudy. Fingers crossed that the rain holds off until after show time.
Sound check was next on the agenda. I walked over to the Exchange to check on having Annie’s “umbrella/sword” shipped back to the U.S. and to guy a couple of t-shirts. Also stopped in the Commissary and got some fruit and yogurt for breakfast the next 2 mornings. I never have time to go eat breakfast.
Sound check was quick because the production company is great. Aaron – the stage manager for Kadena – realized he had met me years and years ago with Danni Leigh! Small world over here.
After sound check, I went to the Exchange again with Annie and Kent. Annie got the umbrella packaged and Kent picked up his laptop. He was thrilled to know that replacing the hard drive fixed his problem. Rode with Annie to the Post Office to mail her package and then back to lodging for a couple of hours of “work”.
We had dinner early at 5 pm at a place called T-bones. The food was excellent but the portions were HUGE with a lot of side items. They even had Cheesecake Factory desserts…which I forced myself to forego. When we came out of the restaurant, it was pouring rain. And it didn’t show any signs of letting up. By that time, it was much too late to try to move the show indoors. We held the start by 30 minutes and all the equipment was moved back from the front of the stage. The stage techs got as much water off the stage as possible. There were about 15 people standing there in the pouring rain when the show kicked off. I noticed one little boy standing with his father and he didn’t even have an umbrella. Just broke my heart so I went inside and got one of the staff’s umbrellas and took it to him. He seemed shocked when I gave it to him but immediately opened it up and started using it.
About an hour into the show, the rain slowed and more people started showing up. Probably had about 100 but would have been much more if not for the weather. The Colonel who is the Wing Commander and a Major who works for Colonel Weatherspoon attended the concert. They met with Kristian prior to the show and the Colonel actually introduced him.
Everyone in the audience stayed for an autograph and photo with Kristian after the show. I was getting the autograph cards ready and going back and forth between the green room inside a building and the stage outside. On one of those trips, I noticed the “Godzilla” of earth worms crawling toward the door. Now, my biggest fear in life is that a worm might somehow actually come in contact with my body. Comes from being traumatized as a child by another child chasing me with Catawba worms and trying to put them on my back and watching me scream and run around trying to get it off. Google them and you’ll see why I was terrorized by them. Anyway, I was keeping my eye on the worm making sure I didn’t get anywhere near it. It was at least 7 inches long and would make its way into the crack in the bricks so that I couldn’t see it. Right before the autograph session started, it was heading in the right direction to get back on the grass but inevitably kept turning around. Then I noticed during the autograph session that someone had stepped on it. By the end of the line, it was in several pieces. Can’t say that I’m sorry about that. Really hate worms.
Major kudos to Kristian and his musicians/crew tonight for a fantastic show in less than perfect conditions. Such pros! And to the MWR staff for taking such great care of us – Payal, Bilgen, Maria, Christina, and Tanaka – thank you so much! I’m coming back here in December with Aaron Tippin for the Tinsel Town Festival and looking forward to working with everyone again.
PERFORMANCE AT MARINE CORPS AIR STATION FUTENMA, OKINAWA:
Up early to talk to office and answer emails before they closed for the weekend. Woke up to “problems” that took place during the 4 short hours I was sleeping! Had a really quick shower and then met the group for departure for a 20 minute ride to Camp Foster for “brunch”. We had a nice bus and a young Marine driving us – Tyler. Right after we exited the base, two of our group realized they didn’t have the correct “gate passes” with them so we had to turn around and go back. Then, of course, the guard didn’t even check the passes when we arrive at the gate.
The brunch was a big buffet and they were also making omelets…although not very quickly. I got tired of waiting and just had scrambled eggs instead. After lunch we had another 20 minute drive to Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. The event today is one of many huge festivals that this base hosts. The Marines are doing such a great job here. Unfortunately, it is raining again and we’re not sure how many people will show up. There are booths set up all around the perimeter and lots of rides for everyone. Sound check was very quick since they are using most of the same equipment used last night. I finally met Duriel (our MWR coordinator) and one of his really nice bosses – Tommy. We have Rich helping us as well as a young “intern” who is moving to Nashville soon.
After sound check, we returned to lodging with a quick stop at an Ice Cream Shop that sells this product that is made out of a special sweet potato. It was delicious!
Kent had left his t-shirt in the van last night and we were having MWR look for it. Whitney left her jacket at the O Club and we have MWR on the search for it as well. By the time we arrived back at lodging, Tanaka had found the t-shirt and brought it to him. Whitney walked over the O Club and they had her jacket at the front desk.
Had about 2 hours that I could work on emails and then it was time to go to dinner at Camp Foster and then the concert on the Futenma Flight Line. The stage they have there is incredible! Michelle Branch performs here tomorrow night. Again, it was pouring rain throughout most of the concert but Kristian and his band had another great performance. No one left and several people walked up and joined the crowd once the music started. I met Duriel’s and Tommy’s boss Ed as well as the base commander and his daughters.
Rich ran a very efficient autograph line and we were finished in about 30 minutes instead of hours. We mistakenly thought our bus driver was waiting for us throughout the concert to take us back to lodging. He wasn’t and had left the area. It took him 30 minutes to come pick us up and by then we were all fried and a little short tempered.
We dropped the group off at lodging and I went with Kenny and Luke to store the equipment at the office for our lodging. Was in my room by around 11 pm and have an 8:30 am lobby call tomorrow. Going to be another short night and a LONG plane ride from Okinawa to Narita, Narita to Atlanta and Atlanta home.
SUNDAY, JUNE 7TH – OKINAWA TO NASHVILLE:
Hard to believe the tour is over. This is the longest I have ever been out on a tour for the troops. In a way it seems like the time just flew by but in another way, it seems like I have been gone for months.
Got up early again to answer emails, shower, finish packing and be ready for an 8:30 am departure. The bus driver – Crystal – was there promptly at 8:15 am and everyone in Kristian’s group was on time. We stopped by the main lodging and turned in keys and picked up the musical instruments that we had stored there overnight. Arrived at the airport exactly one hour later.
The line for check in was really long and the agents at the counter spoke and understood very little English. We got in line with everyone else because we couldn’t convince them that we needed to check in as a group. While standing in the long line, I noticed a Business/Elite class line so Kenny and I moved to that line which was very short. Once we got up to the counter, we were able to convince those agents to let everyone check in behind us. There was a bit of an argument (on my part, of course) about checking our bags all the way through to our final destination and getting our boarding passes. Our travel agent had booked the flights as “through tickets” between ANA and Delta so we could check our bags all the way. We won that battle but ANA had no way of printing Delta boarding passes.
The flight from Okinawa to Narita was about 2 hours and we landed on time thankfully. We had to change terminals which mean leaving security and hiking quite a ways to the adjoining terminal. Once there, we secured our boarding passes quickly and then had to go through Immigration and another security scan before heading to the gate. Our layover time was only about 1 hour and 30 minutes but everyone cleared quickly and we had a few minutes to spare at the gate.
The flight home is full. It’s a strange configuration in business class with absolutely no storage area for anything. The seat is hard and “lumpy”. I had read some reviews about this aircraft and everyone was complaining about the same thing.
I watched a movie “Still Alice” about a 50 year old lady with Alzheimer’s. I should NOT have watched that but it was a really great movie. Slept for 4 hours and now logged on to the internet catching up on my work. Want to have the rest of my Sunday and Sunday night to spend with Zac and Zoe instead of working tonight. Next week is CMA week and going to be crazy busy. L
We landed on time in Atlanta. The kiosk for Global Entry would not work for me and Annie. An attendant finally came by and typed in all my info and I was able to print out a receipt. We waited longer for our luggage than I have ever waited in Atlanta. To make is even slower, the bags were coming out on two separate belts so we had to try and watch both at the same time. Then there were attendants pulling the bags off and putting them on the floor before they ever came around on the belt. As we were waiting, I learned that Whitney could not find her passport. She had gone back to the plane to try and find it. Evidently when she got on the plane, she placed her things including her passport in her aisle seat while she went to the restroom. When she returned, a Japanese couple had moved all her things to the window seat and were sitting in her aisle seat. She had to ask them to move as she did not want a window seat. I guess when they handed all the items to her from the window seat, they did not return her passport. Fortunately, she found it on the plane and all was good.
Annie’s bass did not make it to Atlanta but she couldn’t file a claim until we arrived Nashville. The lady at the Delta Customer Service counter seemed to want to sleep more than help customers. She made Annie wait until all the bags came in on the belt before she would accept the fact that the bass did not make it to Atlanta. Hopefully it will come in on a later flight tonight.
It was a fantastic tour for the military and their families. Kristian and his band/crew were great to work with and I hope to work with them again in 2016. Glad to be home!