The year was 2015. We loved L.A. but we were feeling a little tired of some things. It’s a great city for many reasons, but having been here for 20+ years my husband and I were kind of lost. First of all, for those past two years we’d lived in Santa Clarita. We’d lived in West Hollywood and the Hollywood Hills just prior, but it got too expensive to stay. In 2013 we lived in Canyon Country and the property manager we nicknamed “Lucy-fer” harassed us during our one-year lease with a litany of privacy-violating requests that ended in our being told we needed to leave after the lease was up even though we paid our rent on time and took incredible care of the house. The forced move found us getting a house too quickly in Newhall. After signing the lease I quickly realized the whole house leaned from the front to the back. In fact, the entire length of the house dropped over a foot from the front door to the back door. It was dubbed “The Leaning House of Santa Clarita” and when we asked the homeowner about it, he said he didn’t know even though the kitchen was planed to compensate for the lean. My husband worked for a friend of his but the business wasn’t getting where his friend wanted it to go in the time he wanted to get there, so he killed it and left things on a sour note though my husband had nothing to do with it not working. There was a four-year drought that was just being talked about in the media, fracking in our area was concerning, fires had just hit the area where we’d previously lived and on top of everything my father passed away making me really homesick and wanting to be closer to my family in Texas.
“You know, you’d probably like Asheville.” My husband’s friend lived in North Carolina. We looked it up and it looked pretty cool. I’m a wine connoisseur. The prospect of leaving wine country behind was not great, but I thought, ‘Any place dubbed “Beer U.S.A.” should be the equivalent of living near some of the best vineyards in the world!’ We were feeling adventurous and needed a change. We jumped at the move with gusto!
The Blue Ridge Mountains are beautiful. I love the hiking and tubing and mountain biking. DuPont Forest is breathtaking and I have friends for life there now, but Asheville wasn’t what we expected.
“There are no jobs,” was a sentence uttered by a local only after we started laying plans to move there. Sure enough, everyone we knew who moved there from somewhere else either brought their work with them, or had enough money to retire. Everyone we knew who had been there several years or were from there already had established jobs. I had some luck getting work doing computer-related things from home, but my husband who has a long resume that includes the financial industry and sales could not find work like that. The very first job he applied for was perfect for him. The young man interviewing him said he couldn’t have found a person better suited for the job. He had experience in every field the guy wanted and still didn’t hire him. He opted to hire a young woman who had none of the required credentials. It was a slap in the face. No problem. He’d get a job somewhere else. I can’t even go into how horrible the next few jobs were, including a business owner who berated everyone who worked for him. Family, non-family; didn’t matter. He was just angry all the time and enjoyed abusing people.
Then, while working on his Hummer, it took a roll out of the carport and into a tree. It seemed like bad luck was following us as far back as that pesky property manager in Canyon Country. We couldn’t figure it out. And we started missing L.A. pretty soon after we moved. Asheville is awesome, but if you have to work a minimum wage job to survive there, you work all the time and don’t get to enjoy it. Our last year there in 2018 was a record year for precipitation. So even in the off chance I could take a day off and do something fun, it was usually raining. A lot of people like to eat out in Asheville. I’m from Texas, and after Texas and California with their own interpretation of Mexican food (Tex-Mex and Baja, respectively), Asheville food is not very good. And it’s expensive. Even just eating food you buy from the grocery store, because everything is imported from far away.
I was working all the time. All. The. Time. I was so worn I was feeling transparent. He took his tests to get a real estate license, but it costs a lot to get and maintain a license and it seemed everyone there was a real estate agent. In fact, my husband joked that he was the only real estate agent in town without a second part time job. Everyone else had second jobs to compensate for the lack of money in real estate.
And don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about Asheville. I met great people I intend to stay in touch with and I want to visit. It is a gorgeous vacation area. I want to visit and see my friends and go tubing and enjoy the best parts: the people and the outdoors. My husband and I owe so much to our friends there. I seriously love Asheville, North Carolina.
In a last ditch effort to save ourselves and get back to the place we loved where we knew my husband could get a job, we sold my Jeep and put all that money towards securing an apartment, getting a 20-foot U-Haul truck and 6-foot trailer to hitch to the back of his Hummer. We couldn’t do much more after that and paying for gas, but we had to do it or risk losing everything and never being able to leave. By then I’d sold a lot of things to pay bills and was slowly running out of things to sell. We were nuts for even trying, but what did we have to lose? If it all fell apart, at least we’d be in California!
The day we drove out of Asheville, it rained for days there. We’d just missed it. We experienced the last few days of sunshine in the dead cold of winter before areas were flooded. That first day of driving was relatively painless except that after thirteen and a half hours of driving, after the sun went down, my eyes wanted to close on their own. We were an hour from my hometown in Texas and I couldn’t keep my eyes hydrated. I had to dip my finger in my bottled water and wipe it across my eyes so I could see clearly. Half an hour before we got to our destination, my right eye developed a tick and I had to physically hold my eye open with my index finger and thumb.
We spent Christmas Day 2018 with my mother, my sister, my nephews. We got to see my son, my aunt and her daughter and grandson, but we didn’t get to see my brother-in-law because he had to stay home with a hurt back. It was a restful day and beautiful outside.
We left early and headed for El Paso, another long day of driving. Not much past Dallas we hit rain storms and wind gusts that were making it hard to drive in one lane. I was driving the 20-foot U-Haul. Then, outside of Abilene, as we passed through a picturesque sky where the sun was just peaking through one area of clouds like something from a Rapture painting, the sky was black. And then it was yellow and black – classic Texas tornado sky. My hands gripped the wheel harder and my breath caught in my throat. I scanned the horizon for funnels. My mind started racing for what to do. My husband was following behind with our pets, so anything I did he would do, too. We had walkie talkies that were not working properly, so in a pinch I’d need to find a bridge and get under it. It was the most tense ten minutes of the drive, even more so than my eyes wanting to close. When it started to rain, I knew we were not going to get taken away by a tornado, but the rain was hard and the wind still whipped us around pretty hard.
Once the sun went down I knew I needed to find a place to sleep, so we stopped outside of El Paso.
The last day of driving was beautiful, but still very windy. My arms and hands hurt, my body ached and my brain felt like mush. When you’re doing this in your twenties or thirties, it’s not so bad. Doing it in your forties and fifties? You feel broken at the end of it. If we’d had money we’d have hired movers, or had our things shipped, or any number of things people do who can afford it. We were going about it like teenagers on an impromptu adventure, except that we really had no choice.
When we got to Santa Clarita, there were no hotels. New Years was looming and apparently everyone was spending it in Santa Clarita. I called a friend who lived nearby and she and her husband graciously took us in for the night. We woke up early the next day to do our walk-thru at the apartment so we could get the keys. My husband’s Hummer wouldn’t start. I was struck instantly by how awful that was, and how lucky! He could have broken down anywhere along our trip. His Hummer stopped working not only after we got to California, but in front of a friend’s house instead of in a hotel parking lot. We left the pets at our friend’s house, went and did the walk-thru, got our keys and went back. After my husband did a few things, the Hummer started, but right after he got it to the complex and parked it on the street, it died for good. That Hummer had been through it. I watched my husband single-highhandedly replace frame parts and repair it after it hit that tree. It took a long time, but he did it. I shot video I will edit and post.
Before it died completely we stopped at the grocery store and I clipped a woman’s car with the U-Haul truck. It wasn’t bad, and the woman and guy were actually pretty cool about it, but it was yet another thing and I was so brain-fried I couldn’t even get properly upset. My husband explained that I’d been driving that thing for days and was tired; could we possibly settle it outside of our insurance companies? Maybe. I’ll take what I can get!
The next day his motorcycle wouldn’t start, either. Without a reliable mode of transportation, we were not going to do well. We had some money left but we needed that to carry us for a bit. We rented a car and took a few days to visit our favorite places and take our friends a lasagna to say thank you for saving our necks.
A few days later we put money down on a used automobile that, the next day at the DMV after taking our tests to renew our old driver’s licenses, wouldn’t start. Of course, after moving the battery connectors, it did start but we just looked at each other at first like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ The day after that, the Check Engine Light came on. But it went off. And it seems to run fine, so far…
New Year’s Eve was spent at a friend’s home in West Hollywood and then dinner at the Rainbow where Lemmy’s statue now stands. New Year’s Day was spent in Malibu after driving down Kanan Dune, which just a month before had been so devastated by fire that many celebrity homes were destroyed. It was a charred mess. Half of Malibu’s Pacific Ocean horizon was mixed with loose dirt in the Santa Ana winds making the scene look apocalyptic. Many more wildfires will come, and the radiation from the Fukushima spill years ago may kills us, or the next big earthquake. Still, it is good to be home.