Hitting the Road

A two-week music tour starts tomorrow morning. I don’t tour all that often, but every now and then I will. For the most part, I stay local and teach during the school year and tour more in the summer. But it’s nice to hit the road for a stretch in the fall. Of course, the road presents a whole set of challenges for people with diabetes. I thought this week I’d share some more of my road experiences with you (I think this is actually installment two of the “road stories” entries on this blog) and how I’ve dealt with some of the unique challenges of it.

The good
Let me start with what’s great about living on the road. It’s fun! It’s great to spend two weeks doing nothing but playing music and traveling. Sure, the van rides get a little long, and the combination of gas-station food and comped food from music venues (which usually includes the sandwiches and appetizers sections of the menu but not the entrées) and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches gets old, but it’s a lot of fun.


As odd as this may sound, it’s a chance to slip into a predictable routine, too. The bass player on this particular trip and I were talking about what it’s like to go from life back home to living on the road for a while, and we both talked about appreciating the stable routine of it. You see, the life of a musician is one of multiple roles. In any given week, I will teach four days of lessons through a community music school that I have been with for over five years (and which has been very good to me), I’ll teach a few private students, probably rehearse with at least one band, and then play anywhere from one to four shows with anywhere from one to four bands (in anywhere from one to four towns somewhere between 30 minutes and 2 hours from home).

On the road, I play with ONE band, one show a night, no lessons, no rehearsals, nothing but one task each day and soothing rides down the road. While the location is changing, the daily routine for the musicians is not. And traveling for music isn’t like traveling for pleasure. You don’t exactly experience much of the cities you play in. You’re only there for a night, and you’re working. Sure, you might catch a dinner before you play, or go out and about if you happen to have a day off after a show, but really it’s not like a vacation where you’re constantly taking in new things. To quote my fellow musician again, “going on tour is a way to figure out where you want to actually visit. It’s like a scouting mission, but it’s not really like fully BEING there”.

The bad
So here’s the bad. First off, the food can be a bit tricky. I bring along some food with me so that I can avoid eating out constantly. I usually have a loaf of bread, some peanut butter, and some jelly. You can probably figure out what I make with those ingredients. I also bring granola bars and Pop-Tarts (the Pop-Tarts actually make for good breakfast on the road for me AND my blood sugar — weird, I know, but true). Other than that, it’s food from restaurants, gas stations, and the hospitality tents at festival gigs or comped menu items from clubs. In all cases, the list of highly nutritious food isn’t high. It’s a lot of refined starch and processed foods and it’s low on veggies.

I’ve found that the best bet is to eat smaller portions and treat all that restaurant food as if it’s food in your own kitchen — in other words, don’t think like you’re at a restaurant searching for the tastiest entrée, think like you’re at home and just need real sustenance. That way you can avoid always getting the cheeseburger, and instead maybe opt for the healthier salmon and rice pilaf. Of course, if all they’ve got is a burger and fries, that’s what you’ll get. But you can still manage the portion a little.

The other major obstacle, and one that I haven’t really figure out yet, is getting exercise. This isn’t one that concerns me too much. I’m only out on the road like this every three to four months, and usually for no more than a few weeks. I have a friend who is on the road constantly, and he’s had to really figure this out. Still, even for me, it’s an issue. I’ve been biking really consistently lately, and now I’ll stop cold for two weeks. I can’t bike while I’m on tour. Logistically it makes no sense to throw the bike in our trailer, and even if I had it, I’d need a GPS and some maps to even figure out WHERE to bike in each new city.

Some people run (the friend I just mentioned is a runner), but for me running is tough on the knees. So I’ll take a break. What is a challenge for me is getting BACK into the swing of regular biking after getting back from the road. That’s a time when it’s very, very easy to slip into being lazy and NOT getting back to the exercise routine!

The awkward
I’ll end by sharing the “awkward”: Giving my bandmates the usual speech about “what to do if I’m low” before we leave, making sure everyone really knows where the glucagon is, what the signs of hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) are, and what to do if I’m showing signs. And this trip will introduce one more “awkward.” My morning blood sugars have been low — too low. The other morning my wife had to pour apple juice into my mouth because I was having a hard time actually waking up — scary! That means I’m in the midst of doing a fair amount of overnight monitoring and lowering of my long-acting insulin. But for the next two weeks, it means my alarm gets to go off at 4 AM everyday, and we ALL get to hear it. My bandmates are gonna love that!

So, wish me luck on the road. I’ll tell you all about it when I get back!