TUESDAY AND WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 27TH AND 28TH – ANNUAL NEW YEAR’S EVE IMPROV COMEDY TOUR TO HONDURAS AND CUBA:
I haven’t posted any “Road Reports” since I was in Japan in mid-October. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been traveling though! I spent Thanksgiving in Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon with Lindsey, Zac and Zoe. Went to DC for several days immediately after that and then to Pasadena, CA for a surprise birthday party for my dear friend Brian the early part of December. And then it was Christmas! Hope everyone had a great Christmas.
On Tuesday, I departed Nashville to Atlanta to meet all the California participants and spend the night there. This year’s tour includes the Improv group of Karri Turner, Michael Hitchcock, Jordan Black, Cedric Yarbrough, Tim Bagley, and Steve Little. They have all toured over New Year’s for the troops for many, many years. Dave Price handles the “stand up” comedy and he has been on this tour since the first one in 2007. Our “newbie” this year is Jordan Bross and he is handling our production. Dave and Jordan were flying in early Wednesday morning to meet the group before we fly to Honduras.
Tim Bagley was the first to arrive. I was distressed to learn earlier in the day that we had put him on a flight from LaCrosse, Wisconsin to Chicago and then to Atlanta but there was a STOP in Charlotte, NC s well! I’m not sure how that slipped by us but it did! I talked to the travel agent and had him a seat held on a direct flight by the time he landed in Chicago. I called him the minute he landed but he said he was fine with taking the flights he had booked. The gate agent had told him that he could stay on the plane when it stopped in Charlotte so he was fine with that.
About a week before our departure, Michael Hitchcock received an email from Delta telling him that Delta had made a mistake and booked two people in the same seat on the 5+ hour flight from Atlanta to LAX on January 4th. Since 1st Class was sold out, they were moving him to a coach seat and giving him a $200 voucher for the “inconvenience”. As most of you have seen from my postings on Facebook and Twitter, I went nuclear. I had paid for full-fare refundable first class seats and Michael was flying with 3 other entertainers. I was shocked that an airline could move a full-fare first class passenger to a coach seat and just say “oops”! Of course, all this hit the fan after everyone had closed for the holidays. I was able to reach my travel agency but did not hear from anyone with Delta until a couple of days ago. Delta’s solution was that they could move all 4 passengers to a later flight which of course was not acceptable. Their response was that “due to legal reasons”, they were not allowed to tell me why it happened!
I was able to secure a printout of the flight history booking and learned that there were several people still in 1st class who had booked their flights AFTER my group were already confirmed as well as several people who paid for a coach fare and were upgraded based on their Elite status free of charge. I informed Delta about that and Michael Hitchcock tweeted the situation to his 53,000 followers. FINALLY, when we landed in Honduras, I had confirmation that Michael was back in his first class seat….as he should have been from the very beginning!
But, I’m getting ahead of myself. When I landed in Atlanta, I took the hotel shuttle to the hotel. I was talking to the driver and told him that I needed to arrange for taxis to take the group of 7 people plus luggage to the airport the next morning. We couldn’t take the hotel shuttle because it only goes to the domestic terminal. “Judge” – the shuttle driver said that he would arrange with “Ramirez” – his replacement the next morning – to take the group to the International Terminal. I asked him if I should tell the front desk and he said to tell “Rose Marie” when I checked in.
So, I asked for Rose Marie and at first, she said it wasn’t possible. Then she told me to wait until 11 pm and she would let me know. It was about 10:00 by that time, so I met up with Tim Bagley and Steve Little for a few minutes and waited for my group to come in from LAX. They didn’t arrive until around 11:30 pm and when I checked with Rose, she still could not give me an answer. I told her that I needed to confirm taxis if we couldn’t take the shuttle and she said she would let me know in a few minutes. I went back to my room and worked and when I still hadn’t heard from her at 1:30 am, I called the front desk. Rose did not talk to me but someone at the Concierge said they would arrange for two taxis – either vans or suburbans – to take us to the airport at 6:30 am. By the time I got in bed, it was 2:30 am and I had to get up at 5 am. Brutal!
I was in the lobby and checked out by 6:15 am. There was only ONE van waiting for us and when I questioned where the other van was, he said the driver had gone to another hotel to “check it out”. What the heck??? Everyone was ready to go and still no second SUV, so the hotel called for a “taxi van”. We left and then the driver got a call and he said we had left someone at the hotel! We went back and it turned out that Cedric had gone to get a cup of coffee and we left hm. We collected him and as we were driving to the airport, I noticed that the meter was not working. I asked our drive (who had a major attitude!) what the cost would be and he said $40 to each drive plus the tip. Seemed very high for a 7 minute drive to the airport but I gave him the benefit of the doubt. I gave him $80 for the two taxis and another $40 as a $20 tip to each. He insisted that I pay him for BOTH taxis and he would pay the other person. When we arrived at the airport, the other taxi was already there and they told me that they paid the fare of $20 for the trip! I told our driver that the cost was only $20 – not $40 as he had stated. He was trying to rip us off big time!
We got checked in and I went to the Lounge to work and the others went to TGIF for “breakfast”. Dave and Jordan Bross were not landing until around 9:30 am. AND, Jordan had sent me a text that I received first thing this morning saying he had woken up at 2 am this morning with fever and a sore throat! He was going to make the flight, thank God, because without him, we wouldn’t have any sound equipment – which means, no show! I made arrangements to have him go to the Medic as soon as we landed.
Everyone eventually gathered at the Lounge and then we walked to our gate. Once we got on the aircraft, we sat and sat and sat. The pilot finally came on and said that there were 6 bags on the plane but the people owning the bags were not on the plane. I’m not sure how that could happen but we had to wait for them to find the bags and take them off. We departed almost an hour late and I sat with Karri and we watched “Bridget Jones’ Baby”….cute but mostly “fluff”. The flight was also quite turbulent. Half of the group slept most of the way on the 4 hour flight.
We landed and an escort met us and walked us through Immigration. No issues with Immigration and “sick Jordan made it into the country! Steave – our MWR escort – and a couple of his staff met us and waltzed through Customs. They had a big passenger van and a cargo van for the 1 ½ hour drive to Soto Cano Air Base. We were one room short of having everyone in a single room, so I had assigned Dave and Jordan Bross to room together. Since we didn’t want Dave to get sick as well, Jordan took the room as a “single” and Dave roomed with Steve Little. We are in the same DV quarters where I stayed with Darryl Worley in April and these are great – bedroom, living room, kitchen and bathroom. Only negative is “no WiFi”. Steave had secured a USB WIFI stick like I used when I was here with Darryl, but this time it would not connect. Having to use my mobile phone as a hot spot – when it works!
I rode over to the Medic’s office with Jordan and left him there to get checked out and went back to help the others get their international package activated on their cell phones. Thankfully, I have T-Mobile which is the bomb overseas but very poor coverage in the USA. But since I only really travel overseas, it works for me.
Jordan does not have strep (my fear) and they gave him antibiotics to take. We all met at 5 pm and took a “driving tour” of the base then had dinner at the DFAC where the Deputy Commander met us and had dinner with us. VERY nice lady. Karri and “sick” Jordan went back to lodging and to bed. The rest of us went to the exchange to shop. There’s no soap in lodging so we were all shopping for the same thing.
I came back to the room to fight a losing battle with WiFi and the others went to the MWR building to use their WiFi. I have a “date” first thing tomorrow morning to try and get it connected. In the meantime, I’m on T-Mobile’s hotspot with “snail” speed!
Not sure if I can get this “report” out until I have better Wi Fi but will at least give it a try! I’m sure I forgot lots of important details from these past two days, but I’ll add them later. Going to bed very soon because I have to get up at 6 am.
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 29TH – PERFORMANCE AT SOTO CANO AIR BASE, HONDURAS:
The “morning after” is when you start to realize the important things you forgot to pack. J I forgot my hair dryer which is a disaster for me. I just spent an hour trying to dry it under a ceiling fan. Still not dry and trust me, I don’t have thick hair. Means another trip to the Exchange today. We went by last night after having dinner at the DFAC and everyone purchased soap. I didn’t remind anyone to bring soap because we had it in lodging when I was here with Darryl. Not this time.
So, I purposely did not put this in my report last night just in case Karri decided to get on WiFi and read my report. When Cedric got back from dinner and the MWR WiFi visit, there was a SNAKE in his room. Steave had warned us yesterday that there were snakes and they are poisonous. Karri is deathly afraid of snakes and I don’t particularly care for them either. As he was telling me, I had the urge to stand on a chair! He said he just kicked it outside with his foot. I was hoping he had killed it because now I have to worry that it will show up in my room. I slept with most of the lights on last night – as if snakes are afraid of the light? I’ve found myself checking everywhere that they might be able to hide…over and over and over again. Then there’s the fear that one will crawl inside one of my bags and I’ll take it with me to Cuba.
I stole a container of yogurt from the DFAC last night so didn’t go to breakfast with the group at 8 am. We have a full kitchen, just no food items in it. Microwave, refrigerator, coffee maker, big water cooler, and a huge closest with an iron and ironing board. I wonder if I can switch my iron for a hair dryer. Or maybe try using the iron on my hair if the exchange doesn’t have one! Steave picked me up and we went to the “cigar” shop to purchase a WiFi stick for my computer. Unfortunately, the lady I talked to yesterday was not there and the other lady couldn’t get it working properly. She told us to come back at 11 when the other sales clerk would be on duty.
We also learned yesterday that Honduras has the highest “murder” rate second only to New Guinea! Tegucigalpa (where we landed at the airport) has a lot more crime than 1 ½ hours away where we are at Soto Cano Air Base. Reason the crime rate is so high??? Gangs and Cartel. Drugs, drugs, drugs! Needless to say, we “exited” the airport area as quickly as possible and delighted that we don’t have to fly out of there tomorrow!
I thought I was being paranoid about the snake situation until I talked to Tim Bagley. He actually had one of the other guys come into his room and help him move his refrigerator to look under and behind it. Wish I had thought of that! J
So first stop today was a briefing at headquarters by LTC Bryant. As always, this group had a LOT of questions and since he was in uniform, there were quite a few that he could not answer. But, we learned a lot about this base and our purpose here.
Next stop was AFN for a quick interview and to cut some liners for Cuba since we won’t have time to visit AFN there before our performance on New Year’s Eve.
After the interview, we went to visit the 1-228 at the flight line and get a tour of a brand new Chinook! My God….where were these when we were flying over Iraq and Afghanistan. So nice for our troops!
Had a 30 minute break before going to lunch, so the gang went to MWR to check emails and I rushed back to the Cigar Store to purchase the WiFi Stick. The same lady was there but this time, she knew how to activate the WiFi stick. NOW I have internet in my room!
Lunch was really good again today but several of the group decided to walk down to the Taco Hut and pay for their lunch. We all met up again after lunch and split up to go to MWR or lodging or the Exchange. “Sick” Jordan (as we are calling him – Sorry Sandy!) is feeling a little better today. He went to the venue to set up the sound system. I rushed to the exchange to purchase a hair dryer! The power has been off all morning because there is a ‘scheduled’ power outage for some work to be done.
We did a quick “mic” check and checked out the venue. It’s a nightclub called “The Last Resort” and it’s where Darryl Worley performed this past April, only his show was outside.
Next on the agenda was a visit to the 612 Fire Department which is under the control of the Air Force. Several of the guys got to “play” on the trucks and the folks we met there were great as well. Hopefully all these people we visited today will come to the show tonight!
We finished 30 minutes early and everyone wanted to go back to lodging to “chill” until 5:30 when we are scheduled to go to dinner. Only problem is, we were told the “scheduled” power outage ended at 12:30 pm and that was wrong…no power in lodging and won’t have any until at least 4:30 pm.
Actually, just when my laptop battery was about to die AND my mobile phone battery was almost dead, the power came back on at 3:50 pm. Yea!
We had dinner at 5:30 pm and then arrived at the venue at 6:30 pm. The place was PACKED! Everyone was drinking and having a great time but we had to ask for the bar to quit serving alcohol during the show, since Improv requires a listening audience. After a minor glitch with the sound on the video intro, the show ran smoothly. Sound was really good, Dave did a great job with his 20 minutes of stand-up and the Improv comedians were excellent for another 60 minutes. The group took photos with everyone for about an hour after the show ended.
I left the group at the bar and came back with Jordan and the equipment so I could WORK. We have an 8:30 am breakfast call which I am going to skip and go jogging instead. Then a 9:30 am “shopping” trip (mostly for snacks for the flight!). Bags out and ready to roll to the flight line at 11:45 am. Sad to be leaving here so quickly….
I didn’t realize this was Steave’s first celebrity entertainment at Soto Cano since he arrived here a few months ago. He and his “team” did an excellent job taking care of us…very professionally and truly “fun” to work with! You can tell he has experience in entertainment. Hope we can get him some more celebrity entertainment down this way soon for his men and women serving.
I’ve done 4 “room” checks for snakes today and now it’s time for the final one before going to bed. J
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 30TH – TRAVEL FROM HONDURAS TO CUBA:
Got up at 7 am to go for a jog before our flight to Cuba today. First thing of the day was an email from our MWR rep in Cuba saying out pilots would not be able to land at Soto Cano Air Base as scheduled because the base is closed today for the holidays! Now, these flights have been booked for more than a month and I couldn’t believe no one took that into consideration. I was able to reach Steave before he left and he said everything was under control. Evidently, the air field was going to open “just for us”! Theo at AFE also called me a little later to confirm that all was well.
So, I got in a good long jog and now I have a much better idea of where things are located on the base. Not saying I didn’t get lost a couple of times though. Ran into Cedric on the way back and he was walking to the DFAC. He missed the ride with the group at 8:30 am so I walked with him to make sure he could get in okay. Decided to go ahead and grab an egg white omelet since I was there and took it back to lodging to eat.
Showered and walked back up to the DFAC to grab something to eat on the flight. We thought the DFAC opened at 11 but it actually didn’t open until 11:30, so I had to grab something from Subway since we had “lobby” call at 11:45. When I got back to lodging, Dave was out front waiting for a ride to Subway to grab something as well. I told him no one was coming back until it was time to depart to the airfield at 11:45. I put his bag in my room and he took off to Subway. Then about 5 minutes later, Karri came by and asked how long it would take for her to walk to Subway. I was able to reach one of the girls helping MWR and got her a ride.
We had a cargo van for our luggage/equipment and we all rode on the Easy Go’s to the terminal. It was deserted except for 2 people checking us in, one person handling the immigration, one guy with a truck and one guy with a van to transport us to the planes. We got everything weighed and I was able to talk to the pilots to get some details about the flight. We had to weigh out bags and ourselves and all our carry on items. It is a 3 ½ hour flight and there are NO toilets. There is a funnel with a tube attached that empties outside the aircraft. So the boys can use that but the girls are out of luck. There is a “toilet” similar to one on a tour bus that if there is an emergency, the flight crew will put a plastic bag in it so it can be used. But, whoever uses it, “owns” that bag for the rest of the trip and has to dispose of it after landing. (Reminds me of a joke we played on our flight crew many years ago when the military gave us our own aircraft to fly around in for the tours!) Trust me, none of us had a drop of anything to drink from the time we arrived at the airfield until we landed in Cuba.
We waited so long that I became concerned that we had been forgotten. All the people that had checked us in had left and there wasn’t anyone around that we could ask to get in touch with our pilots. Dave and I decided to walk out onto the flight line to see if we could see the planes. I’m pretty sure that is off-limits to civilians and had anyone been working today, we would have probably been escorted off under armed guard! We couldn’t see any aircraft anywhere on the air strip but when we got back to the terminal, a van was there to pick us up!
The 5 guys in the flight crew are super nice. They split us and our bags up according to “weight” so 4 people were in one plane and 5 people in the other. Then they “assign” which seat you sit in. The people who weighed the post sat in the front and the people who weighed the least sat in the back near the luggage. Jordan and I were in the back.
After take-off, the plane with the rest of our group flew right beside us for quite a while. We got some great photos of it. We also hit some pretty severe turbulence and in a plane that small, it was not fun. Just FYI, the C-12 only has 5 “official” seats and one “bench” seat. But, it is a twin engine prop.
A couple of the guys took turns sitting up in the cockpit with one of the pilots. It was a long flight but no more turbulence until we were landing. Ansley was there to meet us and we said good-bye to the great flight crew. A couple of them are scheduled to fly us back to Miami on January 3rd (Only a 2 ½ hour flight).
We had to take a ferry to the other side of the island and we were the only ones on it. We drove the truck and van onto the ferry for the crossing. We stopped at lodging first to drop off our bags. The lodging is the best this group has ever had on a tour on a military base. We all have two bedroom townhomes with 1 ½ baths, kitchen, living room, and washer and dryer! Karri and I are sharing, of course.
Dinner was at the Windjammer and the food was amazing – especially for a military base. I had a salad from the salad bar, seafood soup and grilled salmon with broccoli and carrots. As good as any restaurant in the states. Dinner was a pretty “fun” affair with lots of comedy involved. The talk turned to the banana rats on the island. There are LOTS of them. They don’t bite. When I was here in 1994, I took a photo of one that was the size of a Volkswagen bug! No kidding.
After dinner, we drove by the venue to check out the stage. Both our shows in Cuba will be outdoors which is really “Hard” for Improv. But I have faith this group will pull it off just fine. Last stop for the evening was the Mini-Mart to buy food for breakfast and laundry detergent. We also found the banana rats – stuffed animal versions. I got two for Zac and Zoe.
The group gathered in Jordan’s townhouse to sign some autograph cards and I began unpacking. I hooked up my computer and had already been warned that the Wi-Fi wasn’t working. I had brought my LAN cord but couldn’t get it to connect either. I tried to call the base operator but all our telephones in our rooms are dead. I sent Ansley a text and left her a voice mail, but she did not respond. There’s a “book” in each bedroom that give information on how to use everything in the Townhouse. It says that internet is free and to read the instructions in the book on how to connect. Only there are no instructions in the book! We have the same problem with the TVs. Karri worked on the TV for about 30 minutes and finally got it to turn on and found one channel that works…sort of!
Priority tomorrow is to get a phone number for Ansley where we can reach her at any time … day or night!
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 31ST – FIRST PERFORMANCE AT GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA:
Struggled with the internet until 2:30 am and honestly, my mobile phone T-Mobile HotSpot has great coverage here. Guess it’s because T-Mobile is the cell service used by the military here. And, of course, because it’s T-Mobile, it’s free with my plan!
Did not get up and jog because I forgot to ask Ansley “where” I could run. Plenty of time to do that tomorrow. It’s too far from lodging to walk to the gym so I’d have to take a shuttle and those only run at certain hours.
I skipped breakfast and met everyone at 11 am to go to lunch. While we were waiting for everyone to come out to the vans, we all took photos of a HUGE Iguana that was in the middle of the road. He was just sitting there and at one point started walking towards us. One of many we saw today. I had to go back in the room for a minute and when I opened the glass door, “something” fell on me. I nearly beat myself to death trying to get whatever it was off. I did, but it was a little gray lizard and it ran right inside our rooms! I chased it but it ran up under the sofa. I guess he’s still under there and will probably climb the stairs and get in bed with me tonight.
After lunch, we stopped by the huge base exchange. I bought K-Cups for our coffee maker, real cream and some t-shirts for my family. We dropped everything off at lodging, changed clothes and headed to the beach. There’s 4 beaches that the military are allowed to use and we went to the “nicest” one. Right on the bluff above the beach was a Detention Center (which we are not allowed to photograph) but this one was for the “children”. Evidently there were numerous kids 12 years old and younger being detained there. They could not be put into the general population because the other prisoners would have raped them!
It was beautiful but there was no “sand” like we are accustomed to in Florida and Hawaii. There were small pebbles leading up to the water and then there were big rocks everywhere—including in the water. I touched the water with my foot but didn’t go in because the waves were rough and I didn’t want to fall on the rocks. “Sick Jordan” and Tim ventured in and Tim got knocked down and his prescription sunglasses were swept away immediately. Tim, “Sick Jordan” and the other Jordan donned snorkeling gear to look for them…as if! No luck.
There was no sun out and the wind was pretty strong, so “Sick Jordan” and I came back to lodging to work and left the others there. They only stayed about another 30 minutes and came back as well.
We had lunch at the “Jerk House” and sat outside to eat. Weather was perfect. Had about an hour to dress for the show. As we suspected, this was a challenge because it was outdoor and alcohol was being served. Usually we are in countries where alcohol is prohibited, so we have more of a “listening” audience. But, it was a great show and people in the autograph line were thanking us for coming over and giving them a reason to laugh!
The show ended at 10:30 pm and DJ John played music until time for the countdown. All the entertainers went back up on the stage to count down to midnight. By that time, it was a pretty rowdy, inebriated crowd and they started jumping up on the stage with the entertainers. Our MWR escorts – Ansley and Michelle were literally pushing them off the stage. Trust me, these are two “small” females but they did a great job of doubling as “security”!
There was a massive fireworks display – maybe bigger than at Disneyworld – that went on for 15 minutes. Nice ending for 2016 and spectacular beginning for 2017.
Happy New Year, Everyone!
SUNDAY, JANUARY 1, 2017 – PERFORMANCE AT CAMP AMERICA, CUBA:
Got up at 7 am so I could get in a jog before it got so hot. But, that didn’t work out so well. It was already brutally hot. Ran for what I think was around 3 miles and there were lots of “hills” along the way. Showered and met the group for lunch at 11 am. The menu at the restaurant is definitely better than some of the places we have eaten on this tour but when you’re trying to eat “healthy”, it’s a challenge to find something different to eat each meal. I had a couple of grilled chicken breasts and they were okay.
First thing on today’s agenda was a “base tour”. We went up a big hill where all the windmills are located and there was a spectacular view from there. We weren’t allowed to take photos from the side where the Detention Center is located. On the way back down the hill, there was a windmill and Dave asked if we could stop and take a photo. Turns out it is the Windmill Museum and is only open the 3rd weekend of every month. But because that was Christmas, it was open today. It was really interesting but also we were excited to see a photo of Johnny Cash from his visit in 1987 and a collage of photos from Bob Hope’s tour to GITMO in 1971! Charley Pride was on that tour and I took a picture of his photo to email to him.
Last stop on the tour was The Glass Beach and yes there were pieces of glass everywhere. The beach area was really small compared to yesterday but there weren’t any big rocks like yesterday. Instead we walked on pebbles and glass! The water was also much calmer. Part of the group decided to stay and swim and several of us came back – some to take a nap and me to work!
Dinner was at 5:30 pm and I had the chicken fajitas without the tortillas. Several people had been talking about how good they were and I was not disappointed. We left from there to go straight to our “shuttle” ride to Camp America. Since that is where the Detention Center is located, we had to be escorted in by “Security”. One of the ladies escorting us was from Birmingham, Alabama and I told her I grew up in Prattville, Alabama!
The venue tonight was an outdoor amphitheater with permanent seats. The trailer that we used for our Green Room last night had been brought over for our use tonight. Right before the show started, someone from the base press office came by for an interview.
It was a small crowd tonight – around 75 people, mostly Army and mostly MP’s. Lots of people had to work and those that weren’t working had to get up really early tomorrow to work. Size of the crowd doesn’t matter. We like to get to the people who rarely get entertainment and that was definitely Camp America! It was a really great show with good audience participation.
I was using my iphone flashlight to walk from the seats to the trailer and just as I was about to step off the concrete walkway, I noticed something strange on the ground. It looked like a huge snake had crawled halfway under the concrete and its long tail was sticking out. It took all my will power not to scream and interrupt the show! After I calmed down, I took a photo of it and showed it to the reporter who had interviewed them earlier. He informed me that it was an Iguana’s tail! Sure looked like an Anaconda to me!
As Dave was going back up on the stage for the closing “thank you’s”, several Banana Rats ran right in front of him!
I shared the photo with the group after the autograph session and several of them took the long way around to the trailer. I’m still not 100% convinced it was an Iguana Tail!
Tomorrow is our last day here. We have a couple of “meet and greets” scheduled and a sunset boat cruise. The trip seems to have just flown by!
MONDAY, JANUARY 2ND – LAST DAY IN GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA:
Got up earlier today and got in my jog. It was hot but not nearly as bad as yesterday. Showered, worked, and met the group at 10:15 am to go to the North East Gate for a tour. We had an excellent “host” (Marine) and the things he told us were fascinating. There were certain things we couldn’t photograph but also lots we could. He gave us a great “briefing” on that area as well as policies and procedures at GITMO. Fascinating.
After that, we went to the “Galley” (Navy name for DFAC) for lunch and the food was really good. Was a nice break from O’Kelley’s and Windjammer where we have eaten almost every meal (same menu at both). Food was good at those two restaurants, too.
We had about an hour to gather our “beach wear” after lunch and then had a “formal meet and greet” for about 45 minutes with the Navy. People just wandered in and out so it gave the group some quality time to chat with everyone.
Next stop was the dock for a pontoon boat ride. Had a super nice guy driving the boat and he was also very informative. We spent about two hours out on the water and some of the guys got in to snorkel. Karri also took a quick swim. The weather was perfect and it was beautiful out on the water. Not a bad place for our military to be deployed if they have to be deployed!
We headed back to lodging and right after we arrived, Michael came over and said he thought we had left Tim at the Marina. I knew he was helping load the ice chest from the boat back onto the van, so not sure how we left him, but we did! I called Ansley and she said the Marina had just called her and they were on their way back to pick him up. Evidently, he saw a T-shirt he wanted to buy and asked Michelle if it was okay for him to go inside and purchase it. Then in the process of loading the two vans, no one noticed that he wasn’t with us! First tour I’ve LEFT two of our guys behind – Cedric in Atlanta and now Tim. Losing my touch. L
We had about 30 minutes to change and then had dinner at the Galley (only thing open today). I’m working and packing and the others are having “fellowship” next door. I’m going to try and get this posted and join them but I have to get up at 5 am so it will be a short visit.
It’s been such a wonderful tour and a very “different” experience for these amazing entertainers who give so generously of their time. Steave in Honduras and Ansley and Michelle at GITMO have been exceptional hosts!
TUESDAY, JANUARY 3RD, 2017 – CUBA TO MIAMI:
Up at 5 am for a 6:45 am departure to the Ferry. Everyone was ready on time and it was a quick ride across the island. Our flight crew was on the same ferry with us. Arrived at the terminal and had to wait for quite a while because the flight crew had to manifest us. We learned that there were 3 other people with bags who were going to be flying with us. I was worried because we had been instructed to keep our bags at a certain weight or we would not be able to get everyone on our flights.
We were able to get the 3 extra passengers on the flight but departed an hour late and arrived an hour late into Miami. Miami had just had a thunderstorm so it was a turbulent landing….just the thing I love most in this world. Since we had to fly around Cuba instead of over Cuba, we were able to see Honduras out the window of the plane. Our van and trailer was waiting for us and Immigration and Customs was a breeze. It was only a breeze because we flew into the private terminal. Yesterday, Immigration and Customs was closed because of a computer outage at the Miami International Airport. Glad we dodged that bullet!
When we were ready to depart Cuba today, I called the Van Company to give them our tail number for the planes as they had requested so they could track our flight. They asked if we were still landing at 12:13 pm and I told them no, because we were leaving an hour late. He said he would change the pickup time to an hour later but I told him that wouldn’t work because we weren’t sure what time we would land. He said, “Don’t worry. We’ll just be there waiting”. I assumed they would track the flight with the tail number as they had indicated previously. When I got ready to pay the bill for the van pickup, they had added $84 to the price for “waiting an hour”. I went nuclear, of course! The poor driving couldn’t do anything and the manager was out until tomorrow. I’m calling him first thing tomorrow!
We said good-bye to Dave who was going to visit his parents in Ft. Lauderdale and left for the Embassy Suites by the airport. Rooms were ready and we had several hours to rest before going to dinner. I wanted to go to Joe’s Stone Crab House but one person didn’t eat shellfish and we were also worried about traffic and having a long drive. Cedric recommended Prime 112 but it was an even longer drive. We finally took a chance and went to Trulucks and it was amazing food!
We had a wonderful “last” evening together with lots of laughs! Seems like this tour just flew by except for missing Zac and Zoe so much.
Have a 7:30 am Lobby Call tomorrow and everyone connects through Atlanta. “Sick Jordan” leaves earlier than us and Tim is going to stay over and visit his brother for a few days so 6 of us will be on the Atlanta flight.
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 4TH – FLIGHTS HOME:
Well, that wonderful meal at the restaurant last night either gave me food poisoning or my body just wasn’t accustomed to “rich food”. Strange because what I ate was only fish and nothing “fried”. Wasn’t sure I would be able to get on the flights today. Was scared to take a Phenergan for nausea because it knocks me out and I didn’t want to sleep past my wake-up call. It got so bad, that I took one at 5:30 am and was pretty much a walking zombie all day – but the nausea passed.
Sick Jordan departed earlier than us and took the hotel shuttle. I checked in with him and he said everything ran smoothly – even down to not having to pay excess on the equipment since we are on military orders. Tim was going to sleep in and depart later in the day to spend time with his brother and then fly home on Monday, January 9th.
The rest of us met in the lobby and took our reserved van and trailer to the airport. Check in was quick and easy and we had about an hour to grab some breakfast. I worked in the lounge and was finally able to get a little food down. We boarded the flight on time and someone was sitting in Michael’s seat. The flight attendant checked and both passengers had the same seat number. But, when she looked at the lady’s boarding pass with the same seat number, it had Michael Hitchcock’s name on it. I know when we were boarding the gate agent said that Michael was showing that he had already boarded. No idea how that happened, but Michael got his seat. Delta had moved everyone around so I wasn’t sitting with Karri. Had a “stranger” next to me. Didn’t matter, I slept almost the entire 2 ½ hour flight from Miami to Atlanta. After we boarded, we sat on the tarmac for over 45 minutes. Supposedly “weather” was the issue. I was worried that the group would be able to make their connection in Atlanta and it was very tight. The good news was, they landed in Terminal A and departed from Terminal A, and their flight was already boarding when we landed.
I had about an hour in the Lounge and then my flight to Nashville boarded on time and landed a few minutes early. Had text messages and emails from the California passengers saying they were home and their bags made the flight as well.
This was a fantastic visit with the men and women serving in Honduras and Cuba. We had amazing “escorts” – Steave, Ansley, and Michelle – and sweet, funny, entertainers – Karri, Michael, Jordan, Tim, Cedric, Steve, and Dave and a great production manager – “Sick Jordan”. Theo at AFE in DC was on the ball for us even over the holidays and ensured that our tour ran smoothly.
Seems I typed up the Road Report for December 30th but forgot to email it. It’s below if you are feeling unloved from not hearing from me that day!
Here’s to a wonderful 2017 for EVERYONE.