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After The Death Of Her Friend, Nancy Marino Took Their Dream Road Trip With His Ashes

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Many Americans are hitting the road this summer, including Nancy Marino. She's a middle school teacher from Yorktown, Va., and wants to get to all 50 states. She shared that goal with her friend, Bob Folstad.

NANCY MARINO: Who loved, you know, just getting in the car, you know, discovering things, listening to music and just going.

SIMON: The couple would create playlists for their road trips through the Outer Banks of North Carolina and Bob's home state of Minnesota.

MARINO: We were both big Springsteen fans. We had "Cadillac Ranch"...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CADILLAC RANCH")

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: (Singing) Well, there she sits buddy just a gleaming in the sun.

MARINO: ...So that when we visited Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas, we could play that - John Denver for the Rocky Mountains.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH")

JOHN DENVER: (Singing) Rocky Mountain high in Colorado.

MARINO: And another one was "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" by Elton John during Kansas.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GOODBYE YELLOW BRICK ROAD")

ELTON JOHN: (Singing) I should have stayed on the farm. I should have listened to my old man.

MARINO: So, yeah, we tried to coordinate different kinds of music to where we were going.

SIMON: Bob Folstad and Nancy Marino planned to drive from Virginia to California to visit her son and his fiancee, but the pandemic put those cross-country dreams on hold. And Bob got sick - liver disease. He died last January. Nancy Marino says her grief was so great, she got depressed and had to be hospitalized.

MARINO: And when I got out, one of the things I realized was I still wanted to partake in this. You know, I didn't want to just sit around and, you know, feel bad. I wanted to continue with what our plans had been.

SIMON: So first chance she got right after the school year ended, Nancy packed her bags, grabbed the keys to Bob's Subaru, cued up the playlist they'd made together...

(SOUNDBITE OF BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN SONG, "BORN TO RUN")

SIMON: ...And put Yorktown in the rear view mirror.

(SOUNDBITE OF BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN SONG, "BORN TO RUN")

MARINO: Well, originally, I took 64 out of Virginia, down to 81, picked up Route 40 - I believe it was in Tennessee, drove through Tennessee, drove through the Great Smoky Mountains, listened to Dolly Parton because Dollywood is right there...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TENNESSEE HOMESICK BLUES")

DOLLY PARTON: (Vocalizing).

MARINO: ...Continued on to Memphis, stopped at Memphis, went to Graceland. And then I went into Arkansas from there and then Texas to New Mexico into Arizona. And while in Arizona, of course...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TAKE IT EASY")

EAGLES: (Singing) Well, I'm standing on a corner in Winslow, Ariz., such a fine sight to see.

MARINO: Driving through Winslow, Ariz., I had to go stand on the corner in reference to the Eagles song. And then I continued on into California from there. And then from San Diego, I had to, you know, go to Minnesota first and then continue on to Virginia.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TAKE IT EASY")

EAGLES: (Singing) I gotta know if your sweet love is gonna save me.

MARINO: As I was driving, I had the ashes of my friend Bob with me. We weren't able to do a memorial in January when he originally passed because of COVID restrictions, so I was bringing him home, so to speak, for the service.

(SOUNDBITE OF EAGLES SONG, "TAKE IT EASY")

MARINO: Sometimes, I would speak to him as I was driving and sharing different thoughts. And, you know, I would talk about maybe the traffic or where we were going or things like that. You know, it kind of made me feel, like, a connection to him there as I was driving. Riding with him through the whole trip, it felt like closure. I revisited a lot of the places that we had seen together, and then I saw a lot of the places that we had wanted to see together.

(SOUNDBITE OF EAGLES SONG, "TAKE IT EASY")

MARINO: In Badlands, S.D., my last stop before continuing on to Minnesota, you know, I found one of our spots where those - you know, vistas where you can see the landscape, basically sat down on that rock and was able to say goodbye since that was, like, our last stop.

(SOUNDBITE OF BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN SONG, "BADLANDS")

MARINO: I got home this week, and it felt kind of sad - I mean, sad to know that the adventure had ended. One of the things that the trip taught me in coping and loss is it's OK to grieve. It's OK to take that time to remember, hang on to the strong memories of that person. I know that deep down, Bob would have wanted me to have continued on this trip. And so that's what I did.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BADLANDS")

SPRINGSTEEN: (Singing) I wanna find one place.

SIMON: Nancy Marino of Yorktown, Va., who tells us there are more road trips in her future. She still has seven states left to see. Happy trails.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BADLANDS")

SPRINGSTEEN: (Singing) Keep moving till it's understood and these badlands start treating us good. Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, badlands. Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, badlands. Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, badlands. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.