New state, new home, new chapter…
We had one goal today: New Orleans.
Okay, so maybe Indy had a different goal: Not get eaten by alligators. (Bill’s not helping.)
This was our big welcome into Louisiana. Crossing the border from Texas, I had no idea what we were in for when stopping at the state’s welcome center. I did know two things, though, and those were that I was excited to see the South and I really had to pee. I knew we were getting into some different territory just based on stories from others, but I didn’t expect to have to basically swat my way through clouds and clouds of dragonflies to get to the restroom. Or to find myself trying fortheloveofallthatisholy to use the restroom when a pitch black wasp as big as my face kept buzzing down from the ceiling into my stall causing instant pee paralysis. Or to take Indy out to run around only to find that there would be no running for our perfectly lunch-sized dog due to the above “NO SWIMMING” sign complete with terrifying alligator next to the (not pictured) “Beware of Snakes” warning. So we hustled our way through the bug-thickened air and slipped into the car, slamming the doors as quickly as possible to keep out all the creatures and the beasts and the monsters that live in godforsaken Louisiana.
I was no longer excited. And I still had to pee.
As it would turn out, though, Louisiana is quite beautiful from the sanctuary of your car. It was so incredible to drive across the state on bridges over nothing but swampland, and I had never seen anything like the moss-draped trees growing straight out of the murky water. And let me tell you, New Orleans was worth braving the wild, as it had way fewer bugs and gators and nightmarish life-threatening situations and wayyyyy more music and booze and oh-my-goodness FOOD. But first we needed to check into the Olivier House, an adorable boutique hotel one block from Bourbon Street. We had read that every room was decorated differently just like my beloved Madonna Inn from back home in San Luis Obispo, so walking up the stairs with our heavy old key was full of Christmas morning-like anticipation.
It was better than expected.
It came complete with living room, loft, and gorgeous metalwork railings to really hit the unique French Quarter vibe home. The bed was perched high above the rest of the room and surrounded by exposed brick and beams, which Indy quite obviously admired.
Stomachs growling but never a fan of tourist traps, I did some research online to check out the grub scene around us but ultimately asked the woman sitting at the antique wooden desk in the front hallway what she would recommend. I usually try this, as these people LIVE where I am exploring, and if they themselves frequent the place for some real food, then we’re talking. She sent us multiple blocks away from Bourbon Street on the hunt for a small bar called Coop’s at the very edge of the French Quarter, which promised and delivered a local vibe and authentic Louisiana cuisine.
We wanted to try everything, so we ended up with a Coop’s Taste Plate and the Fried Oyster Dinner Plate. It’s a good thing the lighting wasn’t great, because the first dish out? Seafood gumbo. We had no idea it looked like this until we looked at the picture a while later… But oh my, was it good.
Bill wasn’t so sure I could handle it.
That’s only because he’s never seen this food-obsessed tourist in action before. If I can handle haggis in Scotland – enthusiastically and by choice – then gumbo’s got nothing on me. I’ll take your skepticism and raise you a crawdad claw in the teeth.
Also on the menu: shrimp creole, Cajun fried chicken, red beans & rice with sausage, rabbit & sausage jambalaya, fried oysters, french fries and coleslaw. I found heaven in New Orleans.
After dinner, we meandered over to the famous French Market, but with only a few evening hours to spare, we settled for a selfie in the deserted hall. Just one more reason to come back and catch the bustle.
We took in some of the history through statues dotting the city, snapping quick pics of one of the most intriguing women to grace the earth, Joan of Arc.
And what trip wouldn’t be complete without the fried, sugary goodness that is beignets from Cafe du Monde?!?! My mom had instilled a love of beignets in me from an early age (mostly at Disneyland’s New Orleans Square), but I’d always heard there is nothing like the ones in New Orleans. Point taken.
And if you need proof, check out the sugar snob himself diving in full face.
I knew I needed enough willpower to take a poised (and pretending not to be a sticky sweaty mess) picture…
But let’s be real. This is more like how it happened.
Not too enthralled with the smell of vomit wafting through the sidewalks of Bourbon, we chose a more romantic evening stroll along Jackson Square instead of the slop-fest of tourists drinking their faces off. Besides, we may have done a little of that ourselves the night before in Houston, and hey, livers need a break too.
Almost a year and he still steals me heart with those GD baby blue eyes.
We eventually did watch some shenanigans from the sidelines, although somebody does look like he himself was caught red-handed up to no good.
But the wildest we got was finding our first gator among the beads and tchotchkes.
We promised we would be back.
Goodnight, New Orleans. You must think we’re so innocent.
Next time you may not be so lucky.
The herd was up and moving early on Saturday. We raided the continental breakfast, repacked the car, and hopped in, knowing we were in for the long haul today. Starting in El Paso, where we had splurged on a nice hotel room with wi-fi only to spend about 8 hours in it, we wanted to make it to Houston in time to see Bill’s childhood friend Jim and finally meet his girlfriend Sanja. Even though we had a long way to go, I made sure Bill knew I wanted to see Texas along the way. The main goals: eat some real Texas BBQ and stretch our legs in San Antonio.
As it turns out, the spontaneous stops along the way were exactly what we didn’t know we were looking for as well. We found an old crumbling schoolhouse on a random exit we took with the intention of a bathroom break for Indy (and maybe Bill… oops).
Having just seen the movie Chef, in which we had no idea they were going to be taking our exact same road trip in the opposite direction – cue baffled looks at one another here – we HAD to get ourselves some brisket. So thanks to the help of Yelp!, we found Wagon Wheel BBQ in Ozona, TX. We missed it the first time we drove past, and when we walked in, it turns out it’s pretty much an old gas station converted into a restaurant (sort of) in the front and a house in the back. They served us out of crock pots that had been simmering all day, and I filled up my own sweet tea from a drink dispenser by the door.
The (very) young woman inside took us to a wooden picnic table to the left of the building, shooing her pouty son away so the “nice people” could sit down. And even though we were doing some shooing ourselves (ugh, the FLIES), it was well worth it in the end.
And even more worth it at the very end, when I devoured the homemade peach cobbler. So much for my gluten-free and low-glycemic eating habits, but I was not about to pass THIS up.
From the moment we started talking about our trip, we knew we wanted to stop in San Antonio, but I’m not sure we knew why. Everyone kept insisting we visit the Riverwalk, but with all the chaos before the move and shotty internet after the trip started, I never got the chance to research our itinerary. This lead to exciting spontaneity and slight anxiety over worrying we would miss something, but it also delivered some amazing surprises, like one of my new favorite places in the U.S. Despite only having about 40 minutes to spare to walk around, the Riverwalk was gorgeous.
I was in heaven with the sights, the restaurants, the music, the people… and the escape from the heat. Oh lord, it was HOT in San Antonio, but down there? Beautifully cooler and un-sticky.
You can’t visit San Antonio without visiting the Alamo, so we ventured up to street level on the hunt for the landmark. The architecture along the way was so intriguing, I forgot about the humidity for a second in order to try to capture the energy of the town.
And we found the Alamo. Obviously.
Take a look at Indy in that last photo… That’s how we all felt, poor little thing.
We finally rolled into Houston at about 8:30 p.m., and we were beyond excited to get out of the car and see Jim and finally meet his girlfriend Sanja. The plan had originally been to go out and “raise some hell” as Bill calls it, but Sanja had just broken her foot doing box jumps at the gym, making it very difficult for her to get up and down the two flights of stairs to their apartment. So while Bill and I showered (separately… out of the gutter, please), Jim whipped up some Strawberry Margaritas under Sanja’s scrutinizing seasoned-bartender eye. As you can see below, it was a pretty casual affair. And Indy looks possessed.
But ultimately it ended up being a great night with great friends, and we were appreciative of a cozy place to sleep after a longggg day. Some of us took advantage while the party was still underway, but I won’t name names.
This is what pooped looks like.
We woke up this morning to a warm and cozy Macauley house, complete with hot showers and turkey egg cups and apple oatmeal homemade by the beautiful JJ. Home cooked meals = hot commodity in the Halter household.
Upon learning we hadn’t had time to plan out too much of our day, she promptly headed into her bedroom and came back with a stack of Shnsrt magazines full of articles on roadtripping, the best views, and a food lover’s guide to the West Coast.
Then it was yet another difficult goodbye as we left another best friendship in the rear view mirror.
The day brought the Arizona state line…
Some gorgeous American Southwest landscape…
A lunchtime sushi date with past KSBY friend Danielle Lerner…
Indy’s first experience with the Arizona heat (yes, she had shade and water, the poor little thing…)Crossing the border into New Mexico, the obvious Land of Enchantment, complete with a #WorkHardDreamBig shirt photo opportunity to send back to Cal Poly Career Services…
Spontaneous roadside pitstops to admire the view…
Surprise kisses in front of big rocks…
Bill’s loss of sanity… At one point, he looked over at me and said, “I think I’m going to pull into McDonald’s and get an ice cream”, which caused me to almost crash the car and is now as famous of a Bill Halter quote as “Dessert is for the weak.”
New Mexico sunsets offered moments we will always want to remember… even if we were just at a truck stop (looking for Jesse Pinkman everywhere).
We reached our goal of El Paso, TX, and I preceded to freak out about everything… the lights on the side of the road, the Lone Star lit up on the hillside, and “IS THAT MEXICO?!?! THAT’S MEXICO, ISN’T IT?!?!”
Day 2 in the books, but tomorrow we will still be…
5:30 a.m. is when our alarm went off on moving day, but you can bet your cute butt I had been lying awake staring wide-eyed at the ceiling long before that. My dad had come down to San Luis Obispo to say goodbye and make sure our house was ready for the new renters to move in, but he also surprised us with the generous offering of a hotel room in the same hotel he was staying in the night before the big move. I don’t think we were ever more thankful for a bed in our lives.
The cleaning crew was showing up at 6 a.m., so we rushed home to let them in, get ready, and do any last minute packing (which, of course, ended up being way more than expected). During the chaos, my beautiful friend Danae popped over way before her normal wake-up call to steal me away for a coffee at Black Horse in my neighborhood. It had been both bitter and sweet having so much to do and so much logistical nonsense to take care of that I hadn’t quite had time to remember that I was incredibly heartbroken to be leaving my friends, my job, and my home, but it definitely hit me on the quiet, early morning walk through the houses that had surrounded me for the last 8 years. Saying goodbye to Danae was hard. Harder than I could have imagined. But she said it all when, through tears, she reminded me that gratitude was due for the time we did have together, and we promised to plan a trip for early January. It’s never goodbye – always “see you soon”.
Bill and I pulled away from our first home together, but instead of heading straight out of town, we stopped for one last breakfast with my dad at the Apple Farm, the restaurant he had been taking me to every time he visited for years. I managed to make it about 5 minutes through breakfast before I teared up, and then I utterly and completely lost it when it came to hug my dad goodbye. As I watched him walk across the parking lot and get in his car, I just stood there sobbing until I ran over and pulled him out of the driver’s seat for one more hug. I finally tore myself away, and we were off.
It took awhile for me to get ahold of myself as we got on the road. However, I couldn’t help but laugh when, despite my OBVIOUS dire need for support, I lost both Bill and Indy before we even got to Nipomo, a mere 25 minutes down the road. I was in good company.
The salvation of the day was that we had planned our first two stops, and they were both in places I had been dying to go: Ojai and JJ’s house. Knowing I was going to land in both places gave me something to look forward to and helped me ease into the trip. Visiting Ojai had been a dream for years, and 3 years ago I even bought a Groupon for a hotel with the hopes that if I did so we would HAVE to go. Didn’t happen. But it was as cute as I had thought it would be, and it was worth the wait even for the short time we stopped to walk around the famous Ojai Valley Inn and the quaint downtown. Not too mention how entertaining it was to hear my GPS, whom I lovingly call Daphne, pronounce the name as “Oh, HI”, like she was in the middle of giving us directions when someone she hadn’t expected to see joined our conversation. “Take a slight right onto Highway 33 East toward – oh, HI.” Bill and I laughed a little more than was probably warranted, but I’ll never hear the name Ojai the same way again.
We arrived in Yucaipa at the Macauley residence around 3:30 p.m., just in time for me to take Audrey to meet her mama at swim lessons in Redlands while JJ’s husband Adrian took a business call and Bill parked it on the couch to watch the NBA Draft. Here’s my precious cargo!
Okay, so I never doubted for one second that a toddler swim class would be in the Top 10 Cutest Things in the World Ever, but holy my goodness. See for yourself.
We made it back to find ourselves amidst some unexpected love affairs. The first being between Audrey and Indy…
And lastly, between Bill and bedtime stories.
Day One fabulously, warmly, heart-breakingly completed. Tomorrow, we leave California as we continue the trek to our new home in Florida.
Well, reality officially hit. I got back home on Saturday night after 8 days out of town – first in San Diego with my best friends Jen and Amanda and then in Long Beach at a conference for work. Immediately upon returning everything became a blur as we rushed to pack as much as possible as quickly as possible to prepare for the actual move.
After the moving company informed of us some logistical problems regarding securing a driver, we inquired about potentially having them come a day or two later than scheduled. This would give us some wiggle room to actually get everything together before they arrived, which we most certainly had not yet accomplished. We hadn’t heard back from them yet, but we both had a feeling that it wouldn’t be a problem, so Bill and I both went to bed on Sunday night at the end of our exhaustion rope, simply unable to do/pack/handle anything more.
Monday morning I woke up in a panic, certain that we had not done nearly enough for the movers that may or may not arrive. Knowing we hadn’t yet received a call informing us what time they would be here, I did my best to calm the eff down and tell myself that I needed to sit down, shut up, and eat a good breakfast to get through the day ahead. So I sat down, I shut my brain up, and I tried to eat. But as soon as I brought my toaster-ovened frozen waffle from my paper plate to my mouth, I heard Bill’s phone ring upstairs. “ASH, THE MOVERS ARE COMING IN 20 MINUTES.” It was 7:30 in the morning. Instant anxiety attack.
After shoving my uneaten breakfast in Bill’s face, obviously so panicked that I lost my appetite, the movers proceeded to arrive in less that the 20 promised minutes, and we were nowhere near ready. But the day happened anyway, and we got it all done with the help of two more sets of hands, a lot of sweat, and a run or two to Home Depot. I went to work, Bill went to work, I came back from work and signed the papers, the movers pulled out… and then I sat in the middle of the floor of our big empty house and stared. Indy sat with me, and she stared too.
This is really happening.
With so little time, we literally just threw anything we thought we might possible want with us into the guest room closet and hoped to goodness that we had everything.
Indy was so nervous we were going to leave her that when Bill and I stepped outside to order lunch, we turned around to find her lying at the base of the ramp into the moving truck. She was determined to go with us, no matter what it took.So then there was nothing in our house, and dinner looked like this: homegrown tomatoes, which I picked out of what was left of my destroyed garden, mixed up with whatever the hell I could find on the counter. That included a little balsamic, a little olive oil, and some shredded parmesan from the fridge for a makeshift caprese. Sort of.
Breakfast looked like a plastic bowl of cereal with the last of a carton of milk and one piece of microwaved bacon, all served up on a cardboard box.
Free time looks like this: so many activities to be done in all that empty space.
Since our bed is on a truck someplace, we are having a regular old campout on the floor to sleep.
And poor little Indy is wondering what on earth is happening to her life.
I guess that makes two of us.
That’s a great question. Whatever it is, I feel it.
Last night was Bill’s last show at his current station. The station where we met. The station where I got to see him shine. And the station that gave him the experience he needed to make it to Fort Myers. So forgive me if I just can’t help myself, but I just had to post this from his last sportscast as KSBY.
So, so proud.
So this is what it feels like.
In a post that went up a little while ago, I wrote that Bill and I were staring down the barrels of two vastly different paths, and each requires some major life changes in the form of a hard, massive, aneurysm-inducing decision. And then I didn’t tell you a thing about what I was talking about, like a big jerk. Well, I finally have permission to announce that we have in fact pulled the trigger, there are some major life changes underway, and I actually am about this close to have an aneurysm.
In five days, Bill and I are moving to Florida.
Yes, you read that right. FLORIDA. Just about as far as you can get from my lifelong home – my beautiful Golden State of California – without leaving the United States. It is exactly 2846 miles – or a 42-hour drive (39 with no traffic) from our home in San Luis Obispo, CA, to the front door of our new townhouse in Fort Myers, FL. That is so ridiculously far that I simply cannot handle it.
It has been a long while since I’ve posted something on this little heart-of-my-heart blog of mine, and that is because the process has been overwhelming, exciting, stressful, and exhausting. It has been so hard for me to sit down and gather my thoughts enough to write anything coherent, and I’m pretty sure that I still can’t so bear with me. We also made the decision not to share until contracts were signed and everything was officially official, which was excruciating for me. There is nothing I wanted more than to fill you in, but I couldn’t. So here we are now, and I’m probably smacking you in the face with this news in exactly the same way I was smacked in the face two months ago.
When I chose to marry Bill, I knew that I was choosing more than just a partner in life, but a specific lifestyle as well, and one that was very different from anything and everything I’d ever known. The lifestyle of someone working in news has its glamorous side, which most of you probably recognize. Being a “local celebrity” as people often put it, people saying “hi” on the street, never having a dull day at work, the perks that come with it, and the like. These are all great, and Bill handles each of these so humbly and kindly that my face nearly falls off just watching him sometimes. However, there is a side of the business that not many realize, and that is the nomadic nature of moving up and being successful as a journalist. When Bill and I first met, I wasn’t too aware of this commitment to this imminent upheaval. I was, however, committed to him from the start, and I soon found out that he was to me as well. Going way back to one of our first dates, I divulged a secret. I told him that even though I had just started my job at the station where we both worked, I had recently been accepted to grad school and had made the decision to go. I was so nervous about telling him, mostly because I worried for the security of my paycheck for the rest of the summer and the possibility of severely disappointing my new boss, who took me under her wing and called me her little protege. What I didn’t realize until he told me later in our relationship was that my committing to a two-year grad program could have also meant I might lose Bill, squashing any dreams of marrying the hunk of a man sitting across from me. That was because the end of his first two-year contract was fast approaching, and he had just recently gotten his reel and his resume together to fly off to the next opportunity. Luckily, I didn’t lose him, and he chose to quit his job search and re-sign a new contract for another two years, allowing us to date and eventually get engaged while I finish my grad program.
Within three months of meeting, Bill took me home to Minnesota to meet his family and attend a college teammate’s wedding. It was an incredible whirlwind of a trip, but I will always remember a specific conversation we had while he drove me to the airport to catch my flight back to California. (I was leaving a few days earlier than he was for work.) After such a crazy weekend, we finally had a moment to ourselves, and Bill took the chance to address a giant elephant in the backseat of the car on that Minneapolis freeway. He explained that his business came with interesting circumstances: the promise of relocating with no promise of where. Basically, an agent, if you are lucky enough to have one, manages the job search, blasting out feelers and resume tapes all across the country, incessantly checking openings and communicating with potential landing pads. If the materials catch a station’s eye, the correspondence begins, the journalist is flown out, negotiations get underway, and – BOOM – new station, new city, new life.
As a career counselor currently working in the liberal arts, I knew this, and I explain this process to many, many students in the journalism department at my university. “It’s a difficult business. You have to work your way up from station to station. You may have to take a job in an obscure market and live in a small town for awhile to build up your experience.” It’s a fact of life. I lay it out, no fluff. In fact, Bill and I have always joked about Bangor-freaking-Maine, as the place we could end up, settle down, and live forever until we died in our sleep of old age in that god-forsaken New England town. (I apologize to anyone in Bangor, Maine. I have never been there nor known when to take my foot out of my mouth.) However, despite all this unemotional real talk, it is another beast entirely to live it. Enter into our lives Fort Myers, which I had no idea existed until about two months ago.
It’s such a strange thing, to have someone else take control of the job search, if you can even call it that, as it really should be called more of a “job wait”. Once Bill got his reel and his resume together (with a little help from his personal career counselor), he simply sent them off to his agent in Chicago. After a few edits, he continued to chug along at his current gig, sometimes going weeks without talking to the big man in Chi-Town. Then all of a sudden, things changed. Quickly. Too quickly. So quickly that almost two months later, I’m still not sure what’s happening. It was as if Bill was a fish, swimming through silent water filled with fishing lines and hooks ominously hanging still all around him. Every once in a while, one would twitch slightly, causing panic but ultimately being dubbed a false alarm. Then, in the eerie quiet while Bill and I were looking left at the hook at the end of the line from, say, Minneapolis or Las Vegas, one snapped into his gills from the right and shot us both up and out of the water into a strange foreign world, where the sun was too bright and we didn’t know how to breathe the air and the noises were deafening compared to peace below the surface.
“Where in the hell is Fort Myers, Florida?” was likely my verbatim answer, the only possible deviation being the choice of expletive I used.
So fast forward a few weeks, and here we are. Bill flew out on his own and spent two quick nights there, mostly with the station. These days were agonizing for me, as his “interview” and “orientation”, for lack of better words, lasted 13 hours without a chance to call and update his poor little bird of a wife at home. Drawing up an offer seemed to take weeks, but when it landed in Bill’s hands it was all happening way to fast. We deliberated and anguished and lamented and marinated in this crazy idea, letting our imaginations run wild with the infinite possibilities (him) and the imminent crumblings of all that is good and holy in this world (me). We talked about our life plans for careers and a family. We hashed out logistics for three grueling hours at a time. We created pros and cons lists and talked to our parents and lost sleep. I rattled on about alligators and hurricanes and humidity and nile monitor lizards eating our dog and giant-ass bugs flying into my newly frizzy and unmanageable mess of hair. We almost made a decision, and then we didn’t. We got close to saying the words, but they got stuck in our throats. One day we knew we had to go, and the next we were sure we couldn’t. And then one morning before Bill went to work, he addressed what we had discussed so many times before: that the news business can be inconducive to having a family and a home and a steady and secure life. We knew this. While some of his colleagues had made it work through the flexibility and willingness of their spouses and others simply love their careers too much to be anything but truly happy, many of our other journalist friends had faced the difficult music in this area, and we had heard their regrets firsthand. Bill confessed that he saw his soon-to-be-expiring contract as an opportunity to get out of the business, to settle in San Luis Obispo, and to allow me to shine in my dream job, and honestly, a HUGE part of me wanted that more than anything. However, part of my very nature – and one of the reasons I love my job so much – is that I can fully see the light in someone’s eyes and feel the heat radiating from the fire in their bones when their work and their passions are one in the same. It was clear that one of the most vibrant examples of this was staring me in the face with his big, beautiful blue eyes. Bill had wanted this career since the day he came out of the womb, and I knew what I had to do. “You’re right, this might be a great opportunity to get out of the business. But look at us. I have my master’s degree, you’re done with your job, we don’t have kids. There’s nothing holding us back. Maybe this is the time to lean in, to really give this business a shot, and to take this opportunity. This doesn’t happen every day, and maybe we can’t let this slip away.” I didn’t want Bill to spend the rest of his life wondering “what if?” and regretting his decision or resenting me. The next morning I sat on the edge of the bed just after Bill had woken up, swallowed hard, and said, “Let’s go to Florida.” And then we cried.
So here we are, five days from moving day. Our house is utter chaos, and our belongings have been reduced to brown boxes. Goodbye parties have happened (with a few more on the horizon), and I’ve seen some people that I love nearly and dearly for the last time for what could potentially be a very long time. I have two days left at work before I leave a job and an office that have felt more like a dream and a family than work. We have a site unseen townhouse waiting for us in a gated community we don’t know in a city I’ve never been to. I have panicked and sobbed and grieved in sadness, and I have laughed and squealed and hugged in hope.
I do have pictures and tips and ridiculous anecdotes from the journey so far, but for some reason, this doesn’t seem like the time to include those. Thank you for letting me share this with you, and I hope you know that writing this and sharing this has helped me immensely, knowing that some of you are in this with me. Please know that you are invited to follow along on our adventure of a lifetime, from the roadtrip across the southern United States to the new house to the amazing new friends and opportunities we are about to find in our tropical paradise. And even though I waver between wondering what the hell we have gotten ourselves into and feeling the thrill of an uncertain future, one thing is for sure: we’re doing this.
This is the life of a news wife.