Tuesday and Wednesday, May 9-10, 2017:
Had a nice “break” after the Bellamy Brothers World Tour ended in February. My only trip since then was to Disneyland and Legoland in California with my daughter and grandchildren in March. Unfortunately, my grandson fell at a skating party the week before we left and broke his leg. So, his vacation was spent seeing the sights from a wheelchair. He was such a Champ as was his twin sister. The only whining came from me and Lindsey. 🙂
He broke his right arm when he was 2, then fractured his left elbow when he was 4 — one week before our Disney Cruise! Seems to be something about our vacations and breaking bones!
Anyway….today I left Nashville for Munich, Germany to meet up with Frankie Ballard. This is Frankie’s third tour for the military deployed overseas since March of 2016. Such a great guy and American Patriot!
Easy flight from Nashville to Atlanta and first stop was the currency exchange in the International Terminal where my departure gate was located. Only they were “out” of Euros! One of the largest International hubs in the USA and they can’t change our money. People in line were very angry. The clerk suggested getting back on the train and going to Gate D or E and asking if they had any Euros. No one took her up on that suggestion.
Had about 2 hours in the lounge to work. Did not come close to completing all the work I needed to do, so knew I wouldn’t be sleeping on the flight. Wi-Fi on the flights is both a blessing and a curse!
For boarding, the gate agent asked for all business class passengers to board first. Over 100 people jumped in line and obviously, there aren’t that many seats in business. One by one they were turned away by the gate agent. I finally got on and settled in. Wasn’t able to work any before they started the meal service, so I watched a movie while I ate. It is a 9 hour flight, so by the time I ate and worked enough to feel “comfortable” with my workload, I only had about 3 hours of flight time left to try and grab some sleep.
I checked the “toilet” sign to make sure they were vacant and then walked back. However, there was a line of people waiting and both toilet doors showed “occupied”. I asked the guy in front of me if he was sure there was someone in the toilet and he said the guy in front of him watched a lady go in. After watching 2 people go in the toilet on the other side, I told the first guy in our line to knock on the door. He reluctantly did so and there was no answer. I told him to push on the door which again he did so reluctantly. Door opened and no one was inside. Suddenly I became the hero instead of the villain in their eyes. LOL
Could not fall asleep and when I finally did, only slept for 1 hour because the guy directly across from me in a window seat opened his window shade and flooded the entire Business Class section with bright light. People scowled at him but he was oblivious.
Breakfast was served and we landed Munich early. Michael met me outside baggage claim and we went to a restaurant where he had breakfast and I had a cappuccino. I was able to exchange money in the airport but not without going to two different locations!
Since it was only a little after 10 am and we don’t meet Frankie and the band until midnight, Michael suggested that we go to a famous “Spa” nearby. I was apprehensive because it is a “nude” spa – no swimsuits allowed – and I KNEW I was not going nude. We went there anyway and got our robes. I booked a massage and Michael swam naked while I was getting that. It was an incredible massage – exactly the right pressure.
Then he suggest a visit to one of the dozens of differently themed saunas. I picked the one with the lowest temperature. I was able to keep my towel on in there but couldn’t take any water in with me. The heat was fine but I got so thirsty after only a few minutes, I started getting a headache and had to leave. I went to shower and wash and dry my hair while Michael sat in the sauna for over an hour. I was checking email on my mobile phone in the bathroom and one of the employees “busted” me. Evidently, cell phones are not allowed anywhere in the Spa. Guess they don’t want anyone else while they are nude!
We had a great meal and some of the best “Spargle” soup ever (white asparagus). Michael swan for about another 30 minutes and then we packed up to leave. One of the towels we had brought with us was missing! We looked everywhere thinking maybe we left it somewhere but couldn’t find it. Guess someone else needed it more than we did.
We walked back to the bus and Michael hooked up the Wi-Fi before laying down for his 3 hour “nap”. He has to drive about 7 hours over night tonight to get us from Munich to Ramstein by tomorrow morning. It’s almost 10 pm now and we will leave at 11 pm to go to the Nightclub and pick up Frankie and the band. Will go ahead and send this road report out to everyone before I have to make it for 3 days instead of 2!
THURSDAY, MAY 11TH – RAMSTEIN AIR FORCE BASE:
“Home of the largest American population” anywhere in the world outside the USA!…a fact I just learned today after coming here all these years. 😊
I went to my bunk at 2:30 am and could not fall asleep until almost 4 am which was strange since I had only slept 2 hours in the past 40 hours! We arrived much earlier than I wanted to – 7:30 am. Was hoping for more like 9:30 am.
Everyone had to get up and show their passports and IDs to gate security. Mitch met us and already had us checked in and all our room keys with him. He also had all our credentials ready for us. We were in our rooms by 8:30 am and everyone crashed…except me. Once again, I could not fall asleep. Oh, and none of our room key cards would work in the elevator. They worked to open our room doors but had to be used in the elevator to access our floors. Everyone had to get new keys.
I love staying at this base lodging because it is connected to a great “shopping mall and food court”. Only problem is, I won’t even get to see any of it this visit since we are only here one night. And all the rooms have an iron and ironing board, a safe, microwave, mini-fridge, coffee maker with complimentary coffee….all the things other hotels either don’t have or charge for.
I was able to get a little work done then showered and met some of the guys for lunch. We ate at the “O” club (Officer’s club). It was a buffet and the food was great! Went back to lodging and had about 30 minutes there before leaving for sound check.
Frankie and his guys are so easy to work with and that sure makes for a nice tour for everyone. Our hosts at Ramstein – Mitch, Bobby and Kara – are amazing and every detail has been pre-planned and so well organized.
John Howe and Public Address had everything set up at the stage and ready for the guys. Since it was the first sound check using this backline, they took the entire 3 hours allocated. Should go faster tomorrow and the following days. The show is in a club where we have held lots of performances in the past.
We only had about an hour to go back to lodging and change into “show clothes”. Frankie and the guys are really “spiffy” dressers – they all looked awesome.
When I left my room for sound check, I had left my key card in the slot so my power would stay on and charge my devices. I left my “Do Not Disturb” sign on so no one would come in my room. When I got back, the key card was out of the slot and my room was dark and of course my devices were not charged. I called the front desk to complain and here’s what the guy told me: “There is a device in each room that alerts the front desk when you leave your room and leave the key card in the slot. We have the right to go in your room to check and see if you are sick or hurt even if the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign is on”. So….I said….if you KNOW I have left my room, why would you need to go in to see if I am sick or hurt? He said, “Um, you need to talk to the manager”. I later found out they went in everyone’s rooms even though the “Do Not Disturb” signs were on. They woke up our bus driver – who NEEDED to get a certain number of hours of sleep and walked in on one of the musicians while he was in his room. Think someone will be having a chat with the housekeeping staff!
The Command Sargent Major of the Air Force came by prior to the show and hung out with everyone until the end of the night. What a great guy! Frankie did a “Facebook Live” interview with the base’s media rep prior to the show.
There were approximately 250 people in the club and a very energetic, enthusiastic audience. That’s a great turn out for a very rainy Thursday night! Frankie and the guys have so much “fun” on stage and their show is amazing. If you haven’t seen him perform – make it a priority to catch a show. He’s not just a great singer – he’s an ENTERTAINER!
He signed autographs and took photos with over 100 people who lined up to meet him. The musicians and techs went in the adjoining room which is a “Chili’s” (the small version) and had dinner while Frankie signed. I stayed with Frankie and we got “to go” food.
It was a fantastic first show – great band and great folks at Ramstein!!!! Lobby call is 8:30 am and it’s after 2 am now, so I am going to sleep for 4 hours. 😊
FRIDAY, MAY 12TH – RAMSTEIN AB TO SPANGDAHLEM, AB:
What a day….3 hours sleep and up at 6 am. We departed at 8:30 am and it was going to be a 2 hour drive. I really, really wanted to sleep those 2 hours but I had too much coffee and couldn’t. We arrived earlier than expected and our rooms were ready for us. Andy and Bill met us at the gate and have taken great care of us. This is the same lodging where I stayed a few years ago with LoCash Cowboys….really nice facility….except…my AOL didn’t work back then and it doesn’t work now. I tired everything imaginable to get AOL desktop to open and no luck. I was logged onto Wi-Fi and could open any other websites but not AOL. Just one more reason for me to hurry up and “migrate” everything to Gmail!
I didn’t rent a Wi-Fi device to bring with me because I knew if I had any issues, I could just us my iPhone as a T-Mobile Hot Spot and it wouldn’t cost me anything. Only problem was….my computer would not recognize T-Mobile as one of my internet options.
So, Andy took me down to talk to the computer experts but they couldn’t help. They also didn’t understand how just AOL could be blocked and didn’t know how to fix it. I even managed to reach Greg – my computer tech in Nashville to get his help. In the meantime, I turned off my iPhone and when I turned it back on, the option to connect via my hotspot came up!
We all went to lunch at the Golden Dragon Chinese Restaurant and then the techs went to the stage. I spent another hour fighting with my internet! The venue is the Eifel Club and it is right across lodging. And guess what….I can log right on to AOL from there and they use the very same server! Makes no sense.
After sound check, we went to an airfield hanger and the guys got a quick tour of an F-16 and several different types of ammunition….boy stuff that they loved! We only had about one hour before we had to go back over to the venue for the show.
Frankie and the guys performed here last October and had a great show. Tonight was no different. There were lots of little children in attendance and they danced the entire 90 minutes. So cute but I wanted to squeeze every one of them I miss Zac and Zoe so much! I did get to talk to several of them and ask them to come home with me. LOL
The venue was the “ballroom” at the Eifel Club and a terrific place to perform. Autograph line had about 150 people in it, so it ran rather late. Bill and Andy had food catered by the club for us after the show. It was so late when Frankie finished signing that I only ate a little bit – meatballs but no pasta and some incredible eggplant. I was also able to get some emails answered using the club’s internet before returning to lodging.
We have an 8:30 am departure time tomorrow and I’m going to “try” to get in bed by 1 am. Tomorrow is an Army Garrison – so two Air Bases and two Army Garrisons this tour. Air Force has done such a stellar job with our visits that Army is going to have to step it up to match them. 😊
SATURDAY, MAY 13th, SPANGDAHLEM AB TO USAG WIESBADEN:
Got 4 hours sleep and feel “revitalized”! Bus call was 8:30 am. Several guys went straight to their bunks to sleep and several of us stopped by the club for Breakfast. It was a 3 hour drive to USAG WIESBADEN and I thought maybe I could sleep for another couple of hours. Nope. Worked instead.
We arrived at lodging and no one met us at lodging. The show had to be moved into a very small club because of the forecast for rain. I’m sure that has added an extra level of stress and additional work.
It was after 11:30 am and our rooms were supposed to be ready but the front desk clerk said only a couple were ready. I was not happy but a man working beside her said he would fix it and he did!
We had about an hour before lunch. We ate in the cafe that is located downstairs from the show site. No one met us there but John Howe with the Production Company knew what to do and everyone was able to order.
We had about an hour before sound check so I got a little more work done.
There is no “stage” at this venue and no way to separate the audience from the band. Joe — who I finally met during sound check — was going to rope it off with yellow police tape but Frankie didn’t like that idea. Joe didn’t have any rope and neither did our production company. I walked out to the bus to see if I could find come on there and as I was walking down the sidewalk behind the building, I spotted one of those “clear ropes light sets” just lying on the ground. I snagged it and took it upstairs and it’s perfect! What are the chances???? 😊
Sound check was quicker today. The bummer is, it is beautiful and sunny. I hope it starts raining soon so I’ll feel better about having to move the show indoors. It’s a real challenge in the space that they have.
I found out that dinner was going to be in the same place where we had lunch because it’s the only place open that late on base. It’s a bowling alley and they serve bowling alley food….need I say more? I started trying to find somewhere that delivers good German food but wasn’t successful. I tried quizzing our host and the hotel with no luck. Then I talked to John with the Production Company because he used to live here. We found a place but they could only deliver to the front gate. And, they would not take a credit card and wanted to be paid in Euros instead of U.S. Dollars. I spent the entire show trying to line this up and failed.
At exactly 8 pm when the show kicked off, it started raining and thundering. I felt much better about moving the show inside once that happened. The club was absolutely packed and the audience loved Frankie’s show. There were over 100 people in line for autographs and he stayed and signed for everyone. The guys ate at the Bowling Alley which is located downstairs from the club and I got Frankie and myself a “to go” order.
Bus leaves at 1 am and we should be in Grafenwohr around 7 am or hopefully a little later. Been a GREAT tour and went by so quickly.
SUNDAY, MAY 14TH – HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY FROM GRAFENWOHR, GERMANY!!!!:
My overnight bus trip was pretty miserable. My lower back hurt so bad, I never slept. This is a “new” bus that Michael has purchased and the bunks seem to have great mattresses. I guess this particular mattress just doesn’t like my back! I never have back problems. I’ve slept on cots with no padding and cement floors in a sleeping bag in Iraq and Afghanistan, and no problem. None of the mattresses in the lodging where we have stayed this tour has been a issue either! Michael is going to try an extra layer of padding on top of the mattress and see if that helps with the overnight trip tonight.
We arrived at the base at around 8 am and got checked in quickly because Tony had everything ready and waiting for us. I think most of the guys went to sleep. I showered, re-packed, and worked. We’ll leave at 1 am again tonight to drive overnight to the airport.
We went to a Mother’s Day “brunch” at 11:30 am and then to sound check afterwards. This is the last performance and it is outdoor – rain or shine. We actually have to “exit” the base and go onto what is called the W.I.L.D. Boar Recreation Area. It’s a beautiful area and our production company brought in the stage for the performance. There will be lots of other things going on as well – bouncy houses, food booths, etc.
Sound check went quickly and black clouds were rolling in when we left to return to lodging. As I look out my window, it is raining pretty hard. The weather report says it will move out by show time – 1 hour from now. Hope they are right. People were already setting up chairs at the stage area when we left!
My dear friend – Betty Naylor with the USO – called me earlier this week. She is in Italy on tour with Trace Adkins. Two of his musicians were guys I knew and had toured with – one with the Bellamy Brothers and one with Bo Bice. They called me and I got to say hello. Then she emailed me photos of them. So sweet. Just wish we were on the same tour!
While it is much different to perform for the military stationed in a combat area, these visits are still very important to the morale of the people we visit. It’s great that Frankie and his guys take time to say hello to everyone they meet and Frankie spends hours taking photos, signing autographs and just talking to the people in the autograph lines.
We rushed back over to the venue as Frankie had to do an interview at 3:30 pm. There were some really black clouds in the sky and it was sprinkling. Christie did the interview with Craig. I met her and one of the staff – Lisa – when I was here with Craig Morgan and remembered them. The rain held off during the first hour of the show and the weather was actually beautiful. I walked around out front and called Lindsey, Zac and Zoe to wish her “Happy Mother’s Day”.
I was walking around in the crowd when this adorable, tiny girl ran up to me and took my hand! She had to have been less than 3 years old. She started pulling me along a “Mach” speed. She was wearing little flip flops and was running much faster than I could. Her Dad was chasing after us and apologizing and trying to get her to let go of me. I told him it was fine and we continued on our “run”. She finally stopped, bent over, and picked a tiny white flower and gave it to me. My heart melted. But then, she was on the run again, dragging me behind her. She made a huge circle around the outside of the venue and again made a stop. This time she picked up 2 sticks and presented them to me. Wow – 3 great “Mother’s Day Gifts”! Her poor Dad was horrified and I was trying to talk to him while we ran. I did find out that he is from Alabama and will be going back there in a few days.
Then, we both figured out her “ulterior motive”. She was trying to get me to take her to the playground area that was across the street from the stage. I was up for it but Dad said “no”. So I took some photos with them and kissed her good-bye. It was a special “Mother’s Day” to remember since I can’t be with my family.
The rain started pouring down about 30 minutes before the show ended. The front of the stage got wet but the guys managed to stay pretty dry and finished the show. A few people left but most people stayed even though they didn’t have rain jackets or umbrellas. True Frankie Ballard fans!!!!
We moved the autograph session from underneath one of the canopies to our “green room” which was under a permanent covering. We managed to get the people lined up out of the rain. He started signing autographs at 5:30 pm and didn’t finish until 7:30 pm. Even the band hung around and signed. There were so many cute kids in the line and Frankie made each one of them feel “special”. His visit is one that this base will remember forever. What a fantastic “last concert” in Germany – rain and all.
We rushed back to the hotel to change clothes and then drove a couple of miles off base for a wonderful dinner hosted by MWR. We went to the same restaurant that Craig Morgan’s group went to a few years ago and the meal was delicious. We had time to just sit and talk with our hosts and it was the perfect ending to our Germany tour.
Back at the hotel now, showered, and ready to leave in about 1 ½ hours for the drive to Frankfurt Airport and the flights home. I’m on Delta via Atlanta and Frankie and the group are on United through Newark. If all goes as planned, we’ll land within 10 minutes of each other!
MONDAY, MAY 15, 2017 – FRANKFURT TO NASHVILLE:
Was very happy that my back didn’t hurt at all in the bunk the few hours that I slept! Michael had folded two down comforters and put them on top of the mattress. He said it reminded him of the fairytale “The Princess and the Pea”. 😊 He did ask the others and they confirmed that they were not fans of the mattresses or the pillows. I think he’s going to switch everything out before our next visit.
I got up a little before 8 am when Michael parked at the airport. Talked to him until around 9 am when the guys began waking up. Michael wanted to walk me on over to Terminal 2 since he had to park at Terminal 1. I said good-bye to everyone and am hoping they don’t have any issues getting their equipment checked in. I had to take the tram to Terminal 2 for my check in. After check in, I walked around for a few minutes trying to find something to take back to the Z’s. Not a lot of shopping options in that terminal. I finally found a gift, bought a bottle of water and then it was time to head to the gate. Didn’t have time to go into the lounge so didn’t eat anything for breakfast.
Our flight was delayed by about 30 minutes but Delta says it will still arrive on time. I had the same seat I had flying over but this time, the USB port doesn’t work! They turned everything off and re-set it but no luck. I watched a bad movie with Ben Affleck and ate a mediocre lunch. I got up to get my computer down from the overhead so I could work and try to re-charge my iPhone using the USB port on the computer. When I opened the overhead, someone had stuffed a backpack a purse, a pillow and a blanket on top of my rolling bag. Now, keep in mind that there are huge overhead bins allocated for each seat, so no reason to have to “share”. I systematically moved everything that wasn’t mine to the back of the bin, retrieved my computer, and put my case back in. I have a feeling it belongs to the man sitting in front of me and the woman across the aisle from him.
I worked for a while and then slept for a couple of hours and worked again. The man in front of me is the only person in the entire cabin who has his window shade up and kept it up almost the entire flight – that is until HE decided to lie down for a while! Very thoughtful guy.
I logged on easily but the internet quit working after about 30 minutes. Just reported the problem to the flight attendant but not sure they are “capable” of fixing the problem. It did come back up but only for the last 30 minutes we were allowed to stay online!
The lady across from the guy in front of me got up and started stuffing her pillow and blanket in my overhead. I said “Excuse me but I’m going to need to access my bags” and she replied that she would “help me”. I asked her if the overhead bin above her seat that was clearly labeled 4C for her seat was full. She had a shocked look on her face, turned around and looked at the bin like she had never seen it, opened it up and of course, it was completely empty. How can this “couple” be Diamond Medallion Flyers on Delta and not know about overhead bins on the planes?
We landed a little early into Atlanta. I have Global Entry and my bags were tagged “priority”, so I was through Immigration and Baggage Claim in about 10 minutes. Then I got to the security check area and the line was the longest I’ve ever seen it! I asked if there was a TSA pre-check or a Priority Lane and she said “no”! One guy told her he only had 20 minutes to make his flight and asked if he could go to the front of the line. She said, “No, they gone give you another flight”! Unreal!!!! It took well over 30 minutes to get through the Security screening. I will never understand why this particular screening is necessary anyway. Before we got on the flight, everyone was subjected to an intense screening and questioning. From the time we de-planed until we reached the security area, we have been in a “secure” area and not in contact with anyone other than the other passengers who have also been screened. There is no way we could have picked up something “illegal” in that area. So, WHY do we have to go through a security scanning prior to going to our next gate. Just does not make sense.
Our flight to Nashville was delayed due to late arrival of our incoming aircraft. Supposedly, the flight attendants had also just arrived at Gate B-23 and were making their way to Gate B-33. Surprisingly enough, it took them well over a half hour to walk those 10 gates! We finally boarded and landed Nashville a few minutes early.
It was another fantastic tour. Sharing a comment from our “host” at USAG Grafenwohr – our last show:
I hope your journey home was smooth and safe and that you and the band get time to relax and recover from the tour. We appreciate your dedication to entertaining Soldiers and military families. Yesterday the band did more than that — they touch many lives and treated fans to an experience they will never forget. It was a privilege to hear and see the excitement from so many members of our community at a time when most are stressed with deployments and other challenges faced as they serve or country.
I must add, Frankie has a special charisma and generous spirit. His interaction with the crowd afterwards will create fans for life. To take time and really engage with each person is beyond remarkable. Everyone walked away not only with a great music experience but their own special story. Thank him again for not only sharing his talent but kindness as well.
Happy to be home for a few weeks!!!!