Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 AFE Tour Blog Day 13: Qatar to Kuwait

Here we go… another day living in luxury. We got dropped off at the airport around 10am for our 1:30pm flight to Kuwait. We have finally discovered the best way to avoid all the hassle of traveling; just fly first class. We checked all our equipment and baggage without a problem (this was definitely the first place that didn’t even seem concerned/overwhelmed that we were there); from there they escorted us to the “first class terminal”. We had our own terminal to hang out in until the plane boarded.

This terminal was unbelievable. Whatever you wanted they had it and it was free. You want to take a nap? No problem, there’s plenty of beds in the “relaxation room”. Hungry? Ok, there’s a full gourmet buffet with beef medallions, sushi, shrimp, etc… Need a massage? That’s no problem either; the spa is over there complete with a hot tub. This whole place was crazy and it was also pretty evident that all of our incomes combined don’t equal the next lowest person’s in there.

We had a blast just soaking it all in and talking with all the people helping us out and waiting on us. They probably don’t see too many bands from America so we signed some CDs and took some pictures with them too.

We didn’t want to leave but since we were flying first class the plane wasn’t even that much worse. They drove us in a private bus from the terminal to the plane where we again got the royal treatment. Unfortunately, again it was a quick 1-hour flight before we landed in Kuwait.

We were met at the airport by Sam and Travis, our MWR Contacts, and a slew of other people including armed security. We got through customs easily and were off to the base. This was our first experience of driving in Kuwait and it sure was an exciting one. We had a convoy of 4 or 5 GMC SUVs all driving real fast and all being just a few feet away from each other. Anytime we turned or merged into traffic a security vehicle would block traffic and then speed up to catch us again. It was quite surreal.

We have seen lots of bad drivers on this trip. Starting in Bahrain where everyone drove hanging outside of their vehicle, to Djibouti where they just drive wherever the hell they want to, Qatar, where they just drive stupid, and finally in Kuwait, put all those other bad habits together and then increase the speed by about 75 mph. This place the drivers are insane. There are cars all over the side of the road and you can’t go 20 feet without seeing a guardrail that’s been destroyed.

At one point on the trip a Cadillac Escalade going 100+ mph tried to merge into our motorcade as we were getting onto an off ramp. The drivers didn’t budge and came within inches of a collision at atleast 100 mph. They made it through the turn before security took off after the other car going at least 120/130mph. We don’t think anything happened to them but we’re pretty sure our security scared the hell out of them.

This is our first experience with armed security, motorcades, and Kuwaiti traffic but so far it is awesome!

We got to the base around 5pm, took a quick tour, checked into our new “hotel” and had the rest of the day off to relax. Some of us went to a movie, some passed out, some called home, etc… it was nice to have a few hours to do whatever we wanted to. That has been extremely rare on this trip.

Loading up the gear again.....
First Class!!!!
This is the first class lounge with free everything...
The restaurant.... 

Amazing food

A fruit tray.... we know there was melon, dragon fruit, and strawberries. Other than that your guess is as good as ours.
What kind of airport has a spa/hot tub in it?

This is one of the many guys that got us anything we asked for. They were very nice and fun to talk to. It seemed like they didn't get too many people in there that looked or acted like us. They thought we were hilarious.

Onboard the private bus taking us from the terminal to the plane.

We'll get more (better) pictures and videos of the "motorcade" up soon but this is a taste. There is no zoom on this picture and we are going very fast. It really is cool.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 AFE Tour Blog Day 12: Qatar - Camp As Sayliaha

7:30am came awful early this morning. We woke up, ate breakfast, packed up all our luggage and equipment before proceeding back through customs/security to leave the base. Just outside of the base Julie and William from Camp As Sayliaha met us. We transferred all of our gear into a van and truck and proceeded to Camp As Sayliaha, about a 30-minute drive away.

We arrived around 9:30 or so, checked into our new “hotel” and unloaded all of our gear and equipment. They had a full day planned for us that would be great on a normal day but the jetlag and lack of sleep from the day before was catching up with us. This was probably the peak of the deliria setting in and it was pretty evident. We pushed on through though with a tour of the base and several meet and greets.

We had another “commander call” at 1pm where we met Colonel Girard. She seemed like an amazing woman that most of us would have loved to just sit down and talk to for a much longer time.  At the end of the commander call she ordered us to go get some sleep. Unfortunately, we only had about two hours before we needed to be at sound check so we all went and laid down just long enough to fall asleep before being woken up and hurried off to sound check.

Walking into the venue was quite the experience. From the outside the building looks like any other airplane hangar or big bulky building you would expect to see on a military base but when you open the door it is a completely different story. Immediately inside the door is an Irish pub, keep walking about 20 yards is a sports bar, and after that you’re at a very nice wine bar. All the way down at the end of this huge building is a giant US Flag with a stage right in front of it. It was a very cool setup.

Again the show went great, we signed CDs, took lots of pictures, watched some football (it was Sunday afternoon in the US), and then headed back to the hotel to get some much-needed sleep.

With Whitney and Jeff before we left the first base in Qatar.

We've never seen a camel in the back of a truck... have you?

With our new "contacts" Julie and Erica

Another "Commanders Call". We make lots of important decisions at these tables...

With Colonel Girard

Is that James Brown or Rev. Al Sharpton in the background???
We were awarded plaques recognizing us for coming to the base. Col. Girard read the first plaque and then called out "Garrett Thielking". 

Garrett looked around the room for atleast a couple seconds before he realized that his name had been called.

This got the whole room laughing and showed everyone how delirious we were. She told our contacts to take us back and put us in bed immediately.

2009 AFE Tour Blog Day 11: Qatar – Al Udeid Airbase

Our contact, Whitney Oliver, picked us up from the airport about 7:30am or so. We cleared customs easily and went to the base. This base was by far the hardest to get onto. We had to go through checkpoint after checkpoint before finally having to take all of our gear out one by one in order for security to inspect it. This is a pain in the ass anytime but imagine doing this at 8am after a night of no sleep. At this point we were delirious enough to think that the whole thing was just hilarious.

We checked into our housing (basically a hotel) and all of us passed out immediately.

Most of us woke up around 3pm in order to get to our 4pm sound check. Overall, the setup was great but they were lacking some of the sound equipment. We had pretty much everything we needed minus a few microphones and microphone clips. We got creative and made it work (see pictures below).

After sound check we met with quickly with the Commander of the Base. He thanked us for coming, offered to buy us a round of drinks, and explained to us that there was a 3 drink “minimum” on the base. We all wondered if we heard what we thought we heard before Whitney stepped in and corrected him. He obviously meant “maximum” but for a minute we thought we had all hit the jackpot.

The show went great. Once again we got to hang out with lots of great people from all over the country before heading back to the “hotel” around 2 or 3am and went to bed for our 7:30 am wake up call.

Meeting with the Commander

the look of deliria

We used alot of tape that night...

2009 AFE Tour Blog Day 10: Christmas Travel

Merry Christmas! We woke up early again today and hit the pool/beach at the Resort for a few hours. It’s our last day in Djibouti and we are definitely sad to go.


A few things about Djibouti:
1) We have all gained about 10 pounds. The food here is amazing and FREE! We are definitely not skipping any meals.

2) It has been great to play 3 shows at one base because we have gotten to know these guys more so than at other bases where we only play one night. We recognize people night after night and have had the chance to really hang out and talk to a lot of people while we’ve been here.

3) Mr. James Hawkins is by far one of the best MWR/AFE Contacts we have ever had. We have had the time of our lives in Djibouti and most of it can be directly attributed to him. He has done everything we’ve asked of him plus about a million other things. We’ve also got about a million quotes from him that we’ll try to post soon (unfortunately, many of them cannot be posted).  Anyways, we need to give a HUGE thank you to James and we definitely hope our paths cross again soon.


James dropped us off at the airport around 4pm on Christmas Day to catch a 6pm flight out of Djibouti. Just like our troubles getting into the country leaving was way too hard. After about an hour and 45 minutes of customs/baggage checks/etc…. we all reached the gate. We weren’t happy to leave the base and James but we were thrilled to be out of the Djibouti airport.

Our first flight landed at Addis Ababa airport in Ethiopia where we had a short layover. Approximately 11pm we got on a 4-hour flight to Dubai. We arrived in Dubai around 3am, had to deal with some baggage issues that the Djibouti airport screwed up, and then tried to get a little sleep before our 5:45am flight to Qatar.

It is definitely safe to say that at this point in the tour we all hate airports, airplanes, and just about anything that has to do with flying. These feelings are only intensified by all of our flights being over night.

We did get some good news though; our seats to and from Qatar were going to be in First Class. This was exactly what we needed to prevent us from killing ourselves at this point (maybe being a little dramatic here but not much).

The flight from Dubai to Qatar was the easiest flight any of us have ever been on. Full reclining seats, personal TVs, gourmet breakfast, etc… this was the first flight none of us wanted to get off of. Unfortunately, we were only on the plane for about an hour and a half before we landed in Qatar. This was a great end to a hectic day where we visited 4 airports in 4 different countries.

This is a picture of a gallows right outside the base that is said to still be in use.

This is the sign you see when leaving the base.

Pictures of us eating.... we did this alot.

One last photo with James before we left.

This must be taking off or landing because otherwise we were laying down flat


This is definitely the way to fly!

Monday, December 28, 2009

2009 AFE Tour Blog Day 9: Camp Lemonaire Day 3

Our 3rd day at Camp Lemonaire was Christmas Eve. It sure didn’t feel like it because it was about 85 degrees and sunny all day but we aren’t complaining.

We woke up early and went to the venue to deal with some “sound” issues we were having. When we are playing we don’t hear what the crowd hears, it sounds completely different to us. Each of us wants to hear different things while we play… for example Mike wants to hear the kick drum, bass guitar, lead guitar and vocals. Someone else might only want to hear their instrument or the vocals, etc… This is called the “monitor mix” and is very important to a band. If we can’t hear what we are playing it’s not much fun. Anyways at this base we had struggled with it the first two shows. One minute the monitor mix was great and the next it sounded like we were playing in a tin can several miles away.

Long story short, their was a problem with the generator and once we got a new generator we all rejoiced. Around noon or so we left the base and went to the Kempinski Resort in Djibouti. We ended up spending most of Christmas Eve poolside and beachside just soaking up the sun.

In the evening we went back to the base for our 3rd and final show. It was by far the best show while we were in Djibouti and probably one of the most fun shows we’ve ever played.

Driving through Djibouti on the way to the hotel. It's kind of hard to tell but people are just hanging out of the vans.

Djibouti Palace Kempinski


The Brothers Schminke

KP relaxing

Not a bad view

This was the softest bed any of us have ever been on.

On the beach

Mike and John looking for treasure...

A peaceful sunset Christmas Eve in Djibouti.

This is more accurate....

Christmas Eve show

This is Brooks from the Ammo Unit. We got him up on stage to sing "The General" by Dispatch.

These two guys were the real rock stars of the night. They might be the best two dancers we've ever seen. Ever. Frey called them up on stage and is "presenting" them with CDs because we had to stop playing because we were laughing so hard.

This just shows a tiny, tiny glimpse of their energy. The one on the left did "the worm" across the stage frontwards......... and backwards. We all definitely learned some new dance moves.

Group Photo..... Thank You to Everyone that made that night sooooo much fun!!!

Go Hawks!!!