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.

Travel Log: Day One

Travel Log: Day One


The first day is the longest leg of the three day drive. I left Nashville at 7AM––final destination Livingston, Montana. I’m headed back for the Pete Huttlinger Guitar & Fly Fishing Camp. It will be the second year of hosting this without Pete as the centerpiece and without him as my travelmate. I had to make it as far as Omaha, Nebraska before I could call it a night. In 2013 Pete and I bought our second Toyota 4-Runner and named it “Kirk.” When we pulled it into the driveway and parked it next to our 2002 4-Runner, it dwarfed the older car. I commented that it was as big as the Starship Enterprise. Hence the name Kirk, after the Captain of that ship.

Kirk and I headed north through Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, then west at St. Louis. Over the past few years I had developed a fear of bridges. What was a minor fear early on, eventually morphed into a paralyzing fear. Based on zero authentic knowledge of phobias or psychology, I blame the fear on the high level of adrenaline induced stress that had built up in me over the years following Pete’s stroke and heart failure. So much adrenaline, so little time! Realizing I’d be completely landlocked if I could never cross a bridge (previously I would have just turned the driving over to Pete) I reached out to the only non-drug cure that I could think of. Hypnosis. And it worked!

So, after easily crossing the Ohio and the Mississippi rivers, I headed toward Kansas City. My goal was to make Omaha before the hotel’s restaurant and bar closed. This is very important. Spending so many years on the road, something like a hot meal and a glass of wine can take on gargantuan significance.  I was running late. so I called ahead to have food waiting. I’ve learned a lot from some of the best tour managers in the business. Almost any challenge can be fixed by these masters, and late night food acquisition is something at which they excel.

The last two hours of the drive between Kansas City and Omaha looks like a wall of fields of various crops that stretches out in every direction. It’s beautiful, yet treacherous. So, at 10:30PM, with my vision seriously impaired by the hundreds of fresh grasshoppers smeared across my windshield, I pulled up to the lobby of one of my regular hotel stops. It’s a remodeled, but older hotel in downtown Omaha. I had to offload virtually everything I’d packed into Kirk, and it was a lot––guitars, computers, fly rods, suitcases––absolutely anything that I couldn’t risk being stolen.

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I was tired and hungry and anxious about the work hours I still had to put in that night. NONE of the doors were automatic. The luggage carts were so small, I’m still not clear on why the hotel even offered them. I could foresee three trips between the car and my sixth floor room. Meanwhile, my pre-ordered food was getting cold.

I know that these are minor problems in the big picture, but it is just this type of minor stress built up that can push me over the edge and “grief anger” kicks into high gear.

“Why did I come on this trip?”
“Why did I agree to do this camp?”

“Why isn’t Pete here to help me?”

“I shouldn’t have to do all this by myself.”

“This was doable with both of us, but sucks alone.”

“These types of problems used to be humorous and we’d laugh about them. I’m not laughing now.”

I’m on the city streets, late at night, trying to unload. The cart is overflowing and difficult to push. I’m looking left and right to make sure I’m safe. I pull the front lobby door open with one hand and try to shove the cart over the lip of the door with the other. Halfway through, the door drops and slams into me as I try to rush through. As I get through, the cart hits a bump and half the load falls off. I’m blocking the entrance––feeling old and clumsy. And I’m getting madder and madder. I’ve got two more loads to go. Bar closes in 5 minutes. And so it goes. And grief anger grows.



I look forward, as always, to reading your comments below.

Travel Log: Day Two

Travel Log: Day Two

The Apology

The Apology