I know there’s a bright side of the road—I can see it and sometimes even reach it briefly.  Utilizing the amazing skills of resilience that I learned from my late husband, guitarist Pete Huttlinger, I am working through the grief of losing him.

The Long Drive

The Long Drive

When I visit my home on Martha’s Vineyard, I drive alone for two days to get there and two days to get back to Nashville. When I drive to Montana each summer, it takes three days coming and going.  The first time I did this I was anxious—how will I do this by myself?

When Pete and I drove to gigs around the country it was so easy. For years he drove 75% of the time.  He’s a guy, that’s what they do. After his stroke and heart failure, he got used to me driving a lot more because he either tired more easily, or he had permission to tire more easily. We’ll never know.  Now I do 100% of the driving.

Pete loved to fly.  He once took the controls of a small twin-engine plane.  He was fearless—as we all know now.  I, on the other hand, have flown endless miles for work, but have never felt comfortable. Regardless, we both did it for many years.  About five years ago, we decided that we were just too tired of airports, hours of waiting, delays, bad plane air, overpriced food, bad cocktails, and security checks—which, when you have a bag with blinking lights, electronic beeps, and wires that go from the bag to up under your shirt, is never a pleasant or brief experience.  So we decided that if Pete’s concert was within a certain mileage radius we would drive.

When we were able to do that, it was great.  We could eat healthy food because we packed it ourselves, in a cooler.  We were able to sleep in hotel rooms of our own choosing. Our agreement was that one of us would drive 100 miles, then we’d swap seats and the other would drive for 100 miles, alternating until we arrived at the destination. When I was driving, Pete would pull out his mandolin and play—any minute that he could have an instrument in his hands made him happier than he already was.

You would be amazed though—if I knew my job was to drive 100 miles, I would get sleepy around the 75 mile mark–automatically. It was just a mental block. So needless to say, the first time I had a long, solo, drive in front of me, I was nervous.  I thought, “What if I have to stop every 75 miles and nap. It will take me forever, and many hotel rooms to get anywhere!” However, this was not the case.  I’m a woman on a mission. I would be happiest to have Pete with me, but if I don’t, to heck with it.  Here I come!  

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I have since driven to Martha’s Vineyard and back numerous times and Montana twice.  I really love it. I REALLY love my Toyota 4Runner. (I named it Kirk, ask and I’ll explain.) It’s time to myself, away from my desk. I can bathe in my own loss and thoughts.  I listen to tons of podcasts and try to feed my mind with endless distractions. If I’m going to try and distract myself, it might as well be with some good information that feeds my brain. I’m in my own (car) bubble and I just live there when I’m behind the wheel. It’s space that I need.

I grew up being driven everywhere. My father didn’t fly (and at 81 he still never has). Even if he had been willing, I’m sure that it wasn’t a luxury we could have afforded. On one family vacation we drove from Edinboro, PA to Eugene, OR in a Mercury Comet. The stories from that trip could fill a book. As a third grader, my family drove again from Edinboro this time to Boston and north, up the New England coast in a VW bus. To this day, Boston remains one of my favorite cities.

At age 21 all that changed. I flew for the first time. My editor at Billboard Magazine, where my father was also an editor, told me I had to fly to Myrtle Beach to cover an award show. I believe her actual words were “I know you have never flown, and I know your Dad won’t fly, but you’re gonna’ get your butt on that plane and go!”  I can take a hint. And I thank her. I’ve flown endless miles over the last 34 years. I love getting there. I love waking up in Tennessee and falling asleep in California, but I still don’t like being 35,000 feet off the ground.

So I drive whenever I can. I’ve done all sorts of analysis. Time vs. Money. Cost A vs. Cost B. Likelihood of Death A vs. Likelihood of Death B.

In the end it comes down to this: If it’s less expensive (it usually is) and if I can afford the time and work from the road, I drive.

I drive, but I feel like I’m flying.

How do you feel about traveling solo?



A Wedding Ring

A Wedding Ring