Finishing up the passport tour I started a bit ago.
2004 brought a trip to Italy, via The Azores. The Azores, which I'd never heard of, until I was told to set up lodging for 45 people there, are a tiny bit of islands 900 miles off the coast of Portugal. It is a common overnight and refueling stop for the military, hence, our stopping there. When you travel via military cargo turbo-prop plane, you can't go nearly as far on one tank of gas as you can in a jet plane. Our route on that particular trip was Minneapolis, MN to St John's Bay, NF to the Azores (overnight), then on to Rota, Spain and finally landing in Rome. 20 some hours of flight time, sitting on webbing and cargo, and either dying of heat (if you were near the bulk head) or freezing to death (the rest of the plane) we won't even mention the bucket on a nail that served as the "facilities". After making sure that everyone was situated in their rooms, I went to mine and crashed, for about 5 hours, and then I woke up. Wide awake at 330am. Unheard of for me, but who knows what time my body thought it was. Rather than wake my roommates, I got dressed, grabbed a book and decided to explore this tiny cone-shaped island paradise. I wandered slowly down the terraced roads, admiring garden after garden of tropical flowers, and found a lovely little park, facing the eastern horizon, which was just starting to show the coming dawn. I watched the most spectacular sunrise I've ever seen (not that I've seen all that many, but I digress) and then I saw the dolphins. There were dozens of them, frolicking in the water just off the beach, leaping and jumping in the sunrise-washed waters. I must have watched them for half and hour or more, before they headed off to places unknown. Then it was time to head back and get ready for another long day of flying.
Rome was interesting. We were fortunate enough to play at the embassy twice, once for a ceremony honoring the US, Canadian and British WWII soldiers, sailors and airmen with whom we were traveling (it was a tour celebrating and commemorating the liberation of Italy), and then again for the President a few days later. The grounds of the embassy are breathtaking - wandering paths and garden after garden. We also played at two of the large American Cemeteries, which are also very beautiful. Then it was down to Anzio, the landing point for the multi-national forces that liberated Italy, and consequently divided the Axis powers by forcing them to divide their troops between west-central Europe and Italy. This was critical, because it weakened the forces in western Europe, and helped to turn the tide with the Normandy landing which was to take place a few weeks later. The most interesting part of the whole trip was talking with the service men and women and listening to the incredible stories they had to tell.
2008 brought another trip to Heidelberg, Germany, to once again replace the US Army Band of Europe, while they went on block leave. Very little free time on that trip, and so very few memories that don't take place on one military base or another.
And that's it. The only other stamp of interest is the one for the trip that fizzled. I have a China Visa in that Passport. My girlfriend and I were going to take a 72 hour trip to Beijing to go to the pearl markets and do a bunch of sightseeing (the things you can do when you work for a major airline!) I don't remember what happened, I think it was the outbreak of Bird Flu, and all of the flights got cut, and the remaining flights were at full capacity, and so it would have been insanity to try and make the trip.
Future trip? My son wants to go to a music festival in Donington Park this June, which is somewhere in central England, those of you in the UK can probably tell me more. Then he'd like to hang out for a month and finish with a concert at Knebworth House, which is more to the south west, I believe. While I think it would be an absolute blast, I have to question where he thinks the money would come from. The flights are no problem (thank you former job with the airlines, my pension may be shit, but I can still fly for peanuts!) it is more the living for a month between the 2 events. Oh, well. We have a while to dream before I dash the thought on the shoals of reality.