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Trace Adkins and Darryl Worley are livin' large on their Big Men Of Country tour

Story by David Scarlett - Photos by Tim Campbell

It's a sunny late afternoon in Pennsylvania, and Trace is relaxing in a pair of shorts on his bus. He's just done a show that included a duet with his buddy Darryl Worley, and the appreciative crowd of more than 30,000 won't finish filing out of the outdoor venue for quite a while.

But Trace is in no hurry to leave. It's Sunday and he's got the satellite tuned to an NFL game. "We've probably got sports on at least 60 or 70 percent of the time," he reveals. There's a great spread of food nearby, making it a near perfect environment for a sports-loving guy.

But the bus is pretty tame, as country music tour buses go.

"That's the way I like it," Trace smiles. "I like this bunch of guys in the band. We're all pretty much just responsible, boring married guys."

Trace may think they're boring, but he'll take that and a comfortable bus with a satellite dish any day over the way he traveled in the early days. "When I was doin' the club thing, I'd get there, set the stuff up myself, play the gig and tear it down myself," he recalls. "Then I'd load the trailer, drive the van to the next place and do it again! You just can't survive very long doing that.

"Now? It's a gravy train!"

Life on the road is better for Trace these days, but there's a downside. "I get stressed because I feel I'm always behind with my home chores," he admits. "I just don't have time to do them, and I like to do stuff myself."

Trace just might want to reconsider his do-it-yourself philosophy. Not long after the Pennsylvania concert, he was building a road on his farm near Nashville when the road gave way - and his tractor turned over, pinning him underneath! Fortunately, he was able to reach his cell phone and call for help.

Trace suffered a crush injury to his chest, a rib-sternum separation and bruises to his shoulder and pelvis. But he's tougher than an old boot. After canceling only a couple of shows, he returned to touring - sooner than most people would've been able. That return mirrors the work ethic Trace has embraced at this stage of his career.

"I can look back and say that this year has been a satisfying, gratifying year for me personally because I know I gave 100 percent," he declares. "I worked harder than I've ever worked. I did everything I could to try to get my career back to where it was in 1998." The effort paid off with three hits from his Chrome CD - "I'm Tryin'," "Help Me Understand" and now the title cut, which is moving up the charts.

With shooting the video for "Chrome" in Los Angeles and touring, Trace has been burning the candle at both ends. But he takes the time to enjoy himself while on the road. And for him, that means golf!

"Golf keeps me from sittin' on the bus all day and just veggin'. And I sing better at night after I've played a round."

His voice won't get much rest anytime soon. He's getting ready to go into the studio to record a new album. And he's been asked to go on a USO trip to the Persian Gulf region.

"The only regret I think I'll have at the end of my life is that I didn't join the military right out of high school," he confides quietly. "I spent a lot of years being immature and ignorant, and I think the military would've made a man out of me a lot sooner than I did on my own."

Maybe so. But the fans flocking to see the Big Men Of Country shows think the 6-foot-6-inch Trace turned out just fine. And Trace thinks his shows with Darryl give the fans a double dose of good music. "Darryl's show is a lot more traditional than mine is, but we complement each other. We're both really country. And the fans seem to appreciate that.

"We're having a great time."