MONDAY, NOVEMBER 30TH – AARON TIPPIN TO JAPAN TO ENTERTAIN THE TROOPS:
What a day! Delta issued a “Winter Weather Advisory” saying Minneapolis as expected to receive a foot of snow. I was supposed to leave early Tuesday morning to fly with Aaron Tippin’s group to Minneapolis and then on to Japan to entertain the troops. We spent all day trying to flight alternate routing for tomorrow’s flights to Japan but there were not enough seats available on any of the planes. We finally made the decision to fly to LaGuardia at 6:30 tonight, stay in a hotel and fly out of JFK tomorrow morning. Then we had to find a shuttle service and hotel rooms hear the JFK airport. I got virtually nothing done all day except making these changes and then rushing to the airport for departure today instead of tomorrow. God only knows what I forgot to pack!
Everyone arrived at 5 pm and check is was fairly easy, just not very quick. I had time for a few minutes in the Lounge and then we boarded the flight. We left late because they held the plane for a Medallion member who was late checking in. They sure never hold a flight for me because I’m a Medallion member!
It was extremely bumpy on the way to NYC and you know how much I love that. Aaron had talked a guy into changing seats so I could sit by him. I’m sure he still has claw marks on his arm and wishing he had not switched seats!
We landed a few minutes late and had to wait about 20 minutes for our shuttle to pick us up. Then it was a very short – about 15 minute ride – from LaGuardia to the Crown Plaza Hotel near the JFK airport. Our rooms were ready and check in was quick. By then it was 11 pm so we rushed downstairs for a quick dinner. We were the only ones in the restaurant and the food was excellent. I had a grilled chicken breast stuffed with shrimp and served over seasoned veggies. Perfect for the ole diet. I left when the guys started eating cheesecake and pecan pie so I would not be tempted.
We have an 8:20 lobby call tomorrow and it’s 2 am now. Going to sleep for about 4 hours and then head to Japan! Been checking the weather and it appears Minneapolis is not getting nearly as much snow as predicted and there are no flight delays. Since we changed our flights, I’m sure everything will run smoothly tomorrow and all our original flights will be on time. However, if we had not changed our flights, my bet is we would have been stuck at the Nashville airport tomorrow morning and not been able to fly into Minneapolis. Murphy’s Law or better …. Judy’s Law!
TUESDAY AND WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 1ST AND 2ND – NYC TO JAPAN:
I can’t believe it is already December!
Got 4 hours sleep, showered, had room service and met everyone in the lobby. I kept my heat on 76 degrees last night and it was still freezing in my hotel room. Other than that, it was a good hotel.
Drive to airport only took about 5 minutes and I was able to check everyone in through the “Priority Lane”. We were the only ones checking in which made for a very quick check in. Aaron and the boys went to a restaurant for breakfast and I went to the Delta Lounge (which by the way is the nicest one I’ve ever been in – and the internet worked great!) and worked for over an hour. Praying we have Wi-Fi on the flight.
We boarded on time and it is a sold out flight. Aaron wasn’t sitting by me but a nice man who loves country music and flies for FedEx agreed to switch seats with him. I watched a great movie called “Train Wreck” but it was great because the lead actress looks, talks, acts just like my dearest friend – Karri Turner. Kind of freaked me out. My WiFi works. The plug on my armrest works. Turbulence has been mild so far.
Aaron’s new guys are all great to work with. I had worked with a couple of them previously but he has 3 new ones that I just met.
Tried my best to sleep but it just didn’t work out for some reason this trip! I don’t think I slept even 2 hours. We landed on time and fortunately, there was an escort there for us to take us through Immigration, Baggage Claim, Customs and walk us to the terminal where we checked in for the flight to Fukuoka. A young marine from Okinawa was also being escorted so I introduced Aaron to him and told him to come to the Courtney Festival on Saturday or Sunday and see him perform.
All our luggage and gear arrived and thanks to the help of the escort, we made it to the gate in time for the flight to Fukuoka with 6 minutes to spare! There weren’t very many people on that flight and I think everyone crashed out. Except me. Still can’t sleep.
We landed on time and collected our bags for the 2 hour bus ride to Sasebo. Only, it was a “mini-bus” and there was no where to place luggage underneath. We had to carry the heavy suitcases and equipment to the inside of the bus and use the majority of the seats. I wasn’t very happy about that. Turned out to be miscommunication because the base had all our “requirements” for transportation. I guess they thought there would be room underneath the bus or that it wasn’t a problem to lug 50 pound cases into the bus seats. I believe we have that “fixed” before we depart on Friday to Okinawa.
Efrain met us at the hotel and we got everyone checked in. Nothing was open in the hotel because it was “late” on a Wednesday night for them (11 pm). Aaron realized that he left his backpack “somewhere” so I have to start that search with the airlines and bus company tomorrow.
After some coaxing, the WiFi works great in the room. I stayed up and worked until 3 am. It’s a nice hotel and located in the Ginza (shopping area). Not that I will have any time to check that out! L
Show tomorrow at the Galaxies Club on Sasebo Naval Base.
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 3RD (I THINK!) IN SASEBO, JAPAN:
STILL had trouble sleeping but this time it was because the room is freezing. There is a control on the wall for air conditioning but nothing for heat. Need to ask about that tomorrow.
Went to bed at 3 am and got up at 7 am. Answered a lot of emails that came in overnight and then showered and ran downstairs for some coffee. My first “call” was to the Fukuoka Airport to check on Aaron’s bag. They informed me that they did not have it and I would have to call the Police! I called our MWR rep first and he said they found the bag on the bus early this morning. Whew!
We departed at 11:30 am for the short drive to the base. Usually, we are lodged on the base but all the ships are in Port and lodging is full.
We had lunch at Brodie’s which is downstairs from where the show will be tonight – Gallaxie’s. I had rotisserie chicken and it was great. We had a few minutes to go to the Base Exchange and then back to the club for sound check. I’ve been on email all morning with Charlie Nagatani trying to figure out how to get him on base tonight. Think we finally have it worked out and he should arrive here with his friend at around 6 pm. Aaron is going to bring him up to sing one song at the end of the show.
Sound check was painless as the Japanese production company is great. Finished a few minutes early and headed back to the hotel for a couple of hours.
Dinner was provided at “Chop’s” tonight and the food was really good. I had red snapper and veggies and salad. We arrived at the venue a few minutes after 6 pm and Charlie and his friends – Billy and B. T. – were already there. So excited to see him and have him attend the concert.
Aaron took the stage at 7:15 pm and gave his usual fantastic, high energy performance. His musicians are excellent, too! He brought Charlie up right before the encore and Charlie sang “Rocky Top”. Everyone was up dancing and singing along with him, too. Charlie and his friends really enjoyed the show. Appreciate him making the 3 hour drive to see us, too!
I still get choked up when Aaron brings out his red, white and blue guitar and sings “Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagles Fly”. Brings back so many memories of our trips to Iraq and Afghanistan during those conflicts. Makes me remember the wonderful men and women we met who were risking everything for our freedom – so many that we still keep in touch with and so many that we lost on the battlefield. Watching the guys and girls in the audience singing along and pumping their fists in the air makes me so proud of our military.
Got Aaron a pizza for his “supper” and we headed back to the hotel. Was back in my room by 10:30 pm. Going to answer some emails and sleep for a while then get up EARLY and answer the emails that come in overnight. We have a 9 am lobby call for our flight to Okinawa.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 4TH – TRAVELING FROM SASEBO NAVAL BASE TO OKINAWA, JAPAN – HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO LEE!!!:
Went to bed at 12:30 am and set the alarm for 5:00 am. Woke up at 2:30 am and thought I had slept all night. Went back to sleep and slept until 4:50 am and was mad that I cheated myself out of that last 10 minutes of sleep. Had several hours to answer emails, shower, check out and be in the lobby for 9 am bus call. Only the bus didn’t come. I called and was told the bus was supposed to be there at 9 am for a 9:30 am departure…..which was not what we had agreed upon. Bus arrived at 9:15 am and this time it was a large tour bus with plenty of space for luggage and equipment underneath.
The ANA flight we were taking had an equipment change a few weeks ago and they took Aaron and I out of business class and put us in middle seats in coach! After weeks of fighting with them, I was able to get us moved to aisle and window seats. But, they didn’t refund the money paid for business class versus coach class seats. That’s a battle to fight next week. Of course, it was an almost full flight, too. Thankfully it was only about an hour and 45 minute flight and I slept most of it.
We landed on time, got all our luggage and equipment, made sure Aaron had all his items and met our escorts – Rebecca and Mika. It was a short 45 minute drive to the lodging on base. We are lodged on Camp Foster and the performance is on Camp Courtney (Marine bases). Took quite a while to check everyone in because I had to move some rooms around to get Doug next to Aaron. There was a super nice lady helping us check in though.
I made the fatal mistake of unpacking several of my items before checking the internet connection. No WiFi. I walked back over to the lobby which is in a separate building and asked the nice lady for help. She came to my room and looked around and at one point, pushed on the router. Wireless popped right up. I’m not going to turn off my computer while I’m here for fear I’ll lose the connection.
We walked next door to Macaroni Grill for dinner. I had a bad experience there a couple of times so it’s not one of my favorite places to eat. I got a caprice salad with tomatoes that were partially “green”, salmon that was over-cooked and dry, and broccoli that was hard. And we have lunch provided there tomorrow and Sunday. Good news is, these meals are provided for everyone even if they aren’t that “great”. Today is Lee’s birthday but his back was hurting and he didn’t come to dinner with us. I was going to have them bring him dessert and sing “Happy Birthday” to him.
At dinner I remembered something that happened on the flight over that I forgot to put in the road report. When we took off at JFK, there was this really loud “chirping” sound and Aaron said it was chickens on the plane! It was located somewhere around the window by the seat across from me. It got louder and louder until it was really annoying. It stopped when the plane leveled off but came back every time we hit turbulence – which was quite often. Then it was really loud when we landed in Tokyo. No idea what it was other than chickens like Aaron suspected. J
After dinner we walked over to the base exchange and I found all the Pokeman toys the Z’s asked for. Now I just have to find out which “ones” they want! Was back at the hotel by around 9 pm and I’ve been working since then. Except for calling the front desk and asking why the air conditioning can’t be turned off. It is blowing full blast and my room is freezing. The other guys said there is the same way. They told me that it is centrally controlled (like in Korea) and they know there is a problem and will call about it tomorrow. Now it’s the first of December and they have air conditioning blasting? Go figure. U.S. Government. We are all going to be sick, I’m afraid. I never travel anywhere without a roll of duck tape. I took all my extra hand towels and stuffed them in the “round” vent where the air is blowing. Then I covered the vent with a towel and taped it in place. When I get ready to go to bed, I’m taking the seat cushion out of my desk chair and taping it over it, too. It won’t stop all the air and loud noise but it will help!
We have a 10 am lobby call, so going to bed very soon and getting up early again.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 5TH – FIRST SHOW AT CAMP COURTNEY, OKINAWA, JAPAN:
Even with my makeshift “cover”, it was freezing all night long. Woke up with a sore throat and I’m sure it’s because of the air conditioning. Got up at 5 am to answer emails, shower and meet the group to depart to sound check at 10 am. It’s about a 30 minute drive from Camp Foster to Camp Courtney where the festival is being held.
Stage was set up and ready and Aaron and I walked over to the Exchange while the guys got ready for him to sound check. I stopped by the Commissary and got some fruit to have for breakfast tomorrow, too. Sound check was quick and easy and we finished early. Stopped by lodging and dropped off our bags and then headed to Macaroni Grill for lunch. I had Caesar salad and eggplant parmesan and it was really good. Walked over to the Exchange Mall to buy the Pokeman stuffed animals for the Z’s. The one Zac wanted had been sold overnight, so I have to go back tomorrow after I get his second choice from him.
Had a couple of hours to work before leaving for dinner at the Taiyo Golf Course. What an incredible meal! This restaurant just opened in July and they wanted to have beef that is as good as the U.S. They succeeded. I had lobster bisque which was amazing and some of the guys had crab cakes which were almost totally crab meat. Most of us ordered a steak and I got the filet. It was about 3 inches thick, cooked to perfection and so tender it could almost be cut with a fork.
We arrived at the show at 7 pm for the 7:30 pm performance. The Base Commander and his staff came backstage to meet Aaron and we grabbed some photos with them. Aaron took the stage at 7:30 pm to a really large crowd of country music fans. It was another great, high energy show. He really has some excellent musicians playing with him now. The autograph line was long with lots of young children in it. I talked to some airline mechanics who now fly for Delta and United. They are big country music fans and plan to attend tomorrow night’s show as well.
We left the venue at around 10 pm and stopped by the Ocean Breeze to pick up Aaron’s “dinner”. Tomorrow the decision has to be made whether to hold the event outside at the same location or move it inside to a club at the Ocean Breeze because of the weather. Right now, the prediction is for 100% chance of rain from 5:00 pm on. Hope the weather forecast is wrong! Nice to not have to stay up all night answering emails. Going to bed!
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 6TH – LAST DAY IN OKINAWA, JAPAN:
Got a record 6 hours of sleep and got up for a wonderful jog (except for the gale force wind that kept blowing me backwards!). Had intended to run about 3 miles but got lost and ran at least 4 miles. Felt great though.
Showered and me Lee for lunch at Macaroni Grill. These guys are all so great and really enjoy spending time with them. Aaron has a terrific band to match his amazing live performance and I’m glad we’re here to spend some time with the military in this area.
The decision was made NOT to move the show inside. It’s been raining off and on all afternoon but the wind has died down a lot. Hope the worst of it is past us.
Well, at 4:30 pm today, they decided to cancel the even entirely. It was too late to move the production inside. A noticed was posted on the internet about the festival cancellation and announced that Aaron would be signing autographs at the Ocean Breeze from 6:30-7:30 pm.
We left for dinner at 5:00 and ate at the Ocean Breeze. Afterwards, Aaron signed autographs for the people who saw the notice and stopped by.
Vince is now getting a cold so we stopped by the Shopette to try and get him some medicine. Going to be a miserable flight for a lot of us.
Couldn’t check us in for the ANA flight from Okinawa to Tokyo but was able to finally after several attempts, print boarding passes from Tokyo to Atlanta and Atlanta to Nashville.
Will be going to bed at a decent hour tonight and have lobby call at 8:45 am tomorrow.
MONDAY, DECEMBER 7TH – OKINAWA TO NASHVILLE:
It’s always a huge letdown when we aren’t able to perform for the troops. I think everyone was a little bit “depressed” last night plus we all seem to be coming down with a cold from sleeping under that air conditioning that could not be turned off in the building.
I showered and walked over to the office to talk to them about check-out. The bus and Rebecca arrived right on time to take us to the Okinawa airport. Took about 40 minutes as there was no traffic. The most excitement we had was a female bus driver who wasn’t familiar with a stick shift. It was a fairly “jerky” ride. J
Got checked in and everyone had plenty of time to have breakfast. The guys were delighted to find an “A & W Root beer” in the airport. I had an omelet at a “coffee shop”. LOL. Flight to Narita was about 2 hours and when we landed, the sign for International Connections led us one way but another sign stated that Delta flights were another way. We ended up going through baggage claim (but did not have to pick up luggage) and to another terminal to the Delta ticket counter to have our boarding passes reissued. Then through Immigration and Security. I had looked in Fukuoka and Okinawa for Green Tea Kit Kat bars (the Z’s LOVE them) but couldn’t find them. Finally found them at the Narita airport and bought a lot for their stockings.
Had time to go to the Delta Lounge and work on emails for a while. Hopefully the internet will work on the flight to Atlanta!
Flight from Narita to Atlanta seemed to be full. Flight attendants are really nice on this flight. I watched a movie (not memorable) and worked for most of the flight. Got about 2 hours sleep though. We should be landing in Atlanta on time and be back in Nashville by 7:30 pm tonight. Then I’m through traveling until December 26th.
Aaron and his guys have been great to tour with and brought a lot of smiles to the people they met and performed for in Japan. It was strange not being in Afghanistan or Iraq over Thanksgiving but I have a feeling we might get that opportunity again next year!
We landed early in Atlanta, cleared Immigration, Customs, picked up all our luggage/equipment, went through security and still had over an hour to wait for our flight to Nashville. That flight departed on time and we landed Nashville at around 7:15 pm…early again. All our luggage and equipment made it back as well which is always good.
It was a short tour but very worthwhile! Time to get ready for Christmas and then off to Iraq for the first time since 2011!