Handshakes and Hugs.

After being airborne for just under eight hours, our captain comes on the intercom and announces a fresh North-Easterly breeze in amongst his routine destination weather report. My immediate thought was “great, we’ll be coming in from the South-West, I wonder if I’ll be able to see the course”.  It wasn’t long before our sleek white Airbus A340 banked steeply on to our final approach into Chicago O’Hare International airport and the bright midday sunlight moved swiftly round the cabin, continuing to shine as it has done over Medinah for the sensational 2012 Ryder Cup events this past weekend. Sure enough, out of the right hand side of the plane, there it is in all it’s glory. The scene of what was surely one of the most thrilling sporting event’s for a long time. With all the grandstands still erected and the well worn spectator areas, it wasn’t difficult to spot at all and from a mere thousand feet up you can see it’s a beautiful, demanding course. Having recently re-discovered ‘the infernal, impossible game’ myself, I was glued to the box in pure awe of the final, almost inconceivable result. Even before the first tee shot on the final day, there was something in the air that suggested something special ‘might’ happen. Maybe it was the sight of Rory McIlroy on the practice green with power bar in hand, the only man to take to the Ryder Cup tee while still eating his breakfast, smiling and hugging team mates..or the look of fury on fellow ‘gooner’ Ian Poulter’s face after his tee shot on the first. Who knows?

Last week it was the clattering and banging of early morning deliveries to the Bishopsgate Tesco store, this week the reassuring rumble of the street sweepers in downtown Chicago, adding to that feeling of ‘arriving’ in America. The glistening, freshly cleaned streets at 5am make you think that it’s been raining and I write this knowing full well that going back to bed with jet-lag is futile. Further inspection reveals that it HAS been raining. Ah well, I guess we bought the weather with us.

As soon as we were checked in to our humble Inn (the Chicago Peninsula, unanimously voted best tour hotel last time out) the mission was on! I had come this time to the U.S. sans-kettle! Shock horror! The thought of even an afternoon without a cup of tea is positively heart-stopping, so as soon as the porter had delivered my bags (which incidentally includes my new Medinah-fever-inspired Callaway golf clubs) and I’d rushed to the 20th floor for my customary post-flight Peninsula swim. Before my hair was dry, I donned my trainers and set off in search of an Electric Tea Kettle as it’s officially known here. It’s a good job I wore the trainers as I ended up walking close to three miles. I started at Macy’s just around the corner and was sweating by the time I’d reached the eighth floor housewares department. They had three kettles, one of which had a staggering $200 price tag attached. I asked the shop assistant who could clearly see I was in some distress, if this was some sort of sick mistake. No, it was a digital model. To be precise, a Breville BKE820XL with variable temperature control. I’m intrigued by the fact that many kettles over here proudly boast the ability to boil the water at varying temperatures. Call me old-fashioned but surely water is either boiling….or not. Needless to say I asked her if she knew where I could find something for tea and not a science lab. and moved on…to Williams-Sonoma. Another few blocks North on Madison Ave., I walked in and thought, yes, here we go – only to be met by a virtually identical selection. On then down State Street, past the Chicago theatre, downtown to the new Target uber-store. An hour and a half later I was back in the room, sweating profusely but pouring myself a relaxing, healing cup of PG. Just enough time to wash and brush up for dinner with the boys to our favourite Chicago restaurant, the Capital Grille. Steaks and smiles all round.

Production rehearsal day – You’re most likely wondering why, where even what, we are doing in Chicago when the first show is in Winnipeg, Canada. It was decided to do a production rehearsal day in an arena in Grand Forks due to its close proximity to the border. Our respective crews are always grateful for the opportunity to do a full load-in and rig set-up in advance. For the band it’s just a couple of days off to acclimatize and a brief run through. Our first travel day within the continent comes with a weather warning and as is evident on the Weather Channel, Grand Forks ND is in the headlines. The first winter storm of the season is taking place today of all days, right where we are heading. Having just returned from a mid-morning walk in search of some winter wear, I can report that it’s easily 70 degrees F. in Uptown Chicago whilst one hour and forty five minutes flying time away in North East North Dakota it’s sub zero…and snowing. This unusual temperature differential has given rise to a weather phenomenon known as a Blue Norther, partly due to the colour of the sky after the front has passed through and partly because your skin turns blue with the sudden cold.

Wielding winter coats, hats and scarves we approached Grand Forks airport amidst a snow ‘event’. Not quite what I would describe as a winter storm but nonetheless, it was snowing; and it was windy.

The arena was only a couple of miles away and our drivers whisked us there in no time where we were re-united with our crew and some of Bob’s PA and lighting boys. Handshakes and hugs. I guess Bob and band were already on the road to Winnipeg having been in town for a few days. Naturally, our crew boys had everything ready for us so we inserted our in-ears and ran through a few tunes. It sounded fantastic and we were on our way back to the airport within an hour and a half for a short hop onward to Winnipeg and into Canada. The weather worsened slightly but the Gulfstream G4 dealt slickly with anything the weather gods could throw our way. Once above 10,000 ft. out came the sushi. Pete and I offered to help our hostess with its serving for this 25 minute hop. Heavy crosswinds didn’t fluster our pilots on approach who managed to put this $15 million bird down without even the slightest of bumps.

Lingering jet lag is now kicking in so I’ll quit while I’m ahead.

First show tomorrow!!….