WASHINGTON – He travels with a green duffel bag stuffed with nonfiction books about military campaigns and political affairs. He has an iPod and noise-canceling earphones to listen to oldies and some country-western.
Oh, and he has two planes, including a C-17 military transport with a 40-foot silver trailer in its belly for his privacy and comfort, and round-the-clock bodyguards and medical staff
Vice President Dick Cheney is not your regular road warrior.
He doesn't wait in airport security lines or take off his shoes to walk through metal detectors. But then, most people do not go to war zones, hobnob with Saudi royalty or dine with prime ministers.
Cheney returned Wednesday from a 10-day trip to Iraq, Oman, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Israel, the Palestinian territory and Turkey. The rigors of travel and ever-present security concerns make sightseeing difficult. Still, he squeezed in a little on his final stop in Istanbul.
The vice president, his wife, Lynne, and daughter Liz saw Topkapi Palace, seat of the Ottoman sultans for almost 400 years. For all his globe-trotting, Cheney had never been to Istanbul, home of the Bosphorus Bridge that links Europe and Asia.
More often, Cheney's days on the road are spent holed up on planes, helicopters, hotel rooms and stuffy government buildings. They are long, grueling days. His staffers say they have to run fast to keep up with a schedule that seems especially rigorous for a 67-year-old man who has had four heart attacks. Like the gadget inside his chest that makes sure his heart is beating in sync, Cheney paces himself.
"Because he's been doing it for so long, he has a pretty good sense of what's important and what's not important," said Liz Cheney, a former administration official and mother of five. "He keeps his perspective, doesn't let the little things get to him, you know. They sort of roll off, and he keeps his sense of humor," she said in Saudi Arabia.
Cheney traveled extensively when he was in Congress. As vice president, he has gone to 30-some countries — some more than once — and there probably will be more trips abroad before he leaves office in January.
Pack the Diet Sprite — a Cheney favorite. Keep the decaffeinated lattes flowing and tune the tube to Fox News.
Sometimes his granddaughters travel with him, but there are hazards to traveling with little ones.
Once, during a trip to his home in Wyoming, his granddaughter, then age 3, became fascinated with the secure, split-screened video conferencing system set up in an upstairs bedroom. The toddler, clad in her pink, horsey nightgown, could see Iraqi men on one side of the screen, but was more interested in watching herself perform on the other.
Before a Cheney aide could stop her, she had unwittingly given the Iraqis a show, jumping up and down, making faces and sticking her tongue out for fun.
"I understand you've met my granddaughter," Cheney told the Iraqis when he joined the videoconference, according to a former senior administration official.
On overseas trips, including this one in the Middle East, Cheney spends a lot of time on a noisy C-17, a gray military airplane that is not as conspicuous as the blue-and-white Air Force Two, a much smaller Air Force One look-alike.
Inside the C-17, Cheney spends hour after hour in his trailer in the middle of the cavernous plane. Known as the "silver bullet," it has a bathroom and a couple of sleeping and sitting areas where Cheney likes to read books, briefing papers and newspapers, listen to music and spend time with his wife.
On this trip, he was reading Rick Atkinson's "The Day of Battle," about the U.S. Army's campaign to capture Sicily and mainland Italy during World War II. He also a collection of essays about that way and a book about the Revolutionary War.
Lynne Cheney spent time working on a new book proposal and editing a children's book coming out in the fall about the Constitution.
His wife gave him a wireless reading device called a Kindle on which he could download hundreds of books; he was not seen using it on the Mideast trip.
Cheney spends the bulk of his flight time getting intelligence briefings from a CIA employee who travels with him and poring over his briefing books. There typically is one white, three-ring binder for each country on his schedule. He scribbles on note cards he uses to organize his thoughts before heading into meetings. Cheney brings an exercise bike on the road, but he uses it more when his wife is along.
He is careful to get up and walk around regularly to maintain proper circulation. The Navy stewards responsible for feeding the vice president, serve him carrot and celery sticks instead of potato chips. He eats no-yolk eggs and fake sausage for breakfast most days, and snacks on 100-calorie-a-bag pretzels and popcorn zapped in the microwave on the plane.
Just like at home, Cheney is known to unwind with a scotch, and he and Lynne Cheney sometimes sip white wine with dinner. If he is done with work, the Cheneys often relax in the trailer or on Air Force Two and perhaps watch a movie. On this trip, Lynne Cheney brought along the medieval miniseries "The Tudors" and a review copy she obtained of the new HBO special about John Adams, the second U.S. president.
Cheney, with his iPod earphones on, was busy reading paperwork when Air Force Two stopped in Shannon, Ireland, to refuel for the last leg of the trip. When the plane touched down at Andrews Air Force Base, Cheney boarded a helicopter that disappeared into the dark sky for the short hop to the vice president's home.