Heads, Carolina Tails, California

I have always been infatuated with the idea of living on the west coast. This fascination started right after college when my friend Nicole and I flew out to visit another one of our besties, Leah, who was living in La Jolla and working as a traveling nurse. As soon as I arrived, I was in love. I felt like I was meant to be there. I loved the people I met, the beaches we visited, and really just the overall vibe. There’s great food, gorgeous weather, fun shopping, and a cool zoo to boot.

la jolla san diego

I have naturally frizzy hair, so maybe it’s the low humidity that has my heart. Or maybe it’s that along with those beautiful beaches there are also cliffs that bump up along the coast. There is something about the combination of mountains and beaches that makes me happy. Also I’m all about signs from above, and this happened when we were vacationing in San Diego back in August….

san diego ca

Also, the fact that I am an avid fan of Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, and 2Pac may have something to do with it. You think I’m kidding? If you know me well, you know I’m dead serious. I never know whether to be super proud or very embarrassed by the accuracy with which I can recite lyrics from 90s rap songs.

I’m from North Carolina- Tarheel born and Tarheel bred- where I’ve spent all but three years of my life. I remember a country song that came out in the mid 90s (yes, I listen to other genres outside of hip hop) called Heads, Carolina Tails, California. Though I wouldn’t truly appreciate the flippant spirit of Jo Dee Messina’s words until decades later, the song resonated with me somehow.

Heads, Carolina Tails, California.
Somewhere greener, somewhere warmer.
Up in the mountains, down by the ocean.
Where? It don’t matter, as long as we’re goin’
Somewhere together. I’ve got a quarter.
Heads, Carolina Tails, California.

When I left Carolina the first time it was to live out our dream of moving to the Caribbean. I won’t call it “the adventure of a lifetime” because that would indicate that the best is behind me, and I just can’t subscribe to that theory. Those three years on St. John were truly a magical exploration of self-reflection and personal development. I got to become an entrepreneur and live out my dream of helping people lead happier, healthier lives. And most importantly, I met some of the most wonderful people I’ll forever consider my island family.

Then, of course, Hurricane Irma struck St. John and forced us to suddenly take a different path, and it totally rocked our world. I refer to it as the time life hit the stop, fast forward, and pause buttons at the same time. We made a quick decision to make Wilmington our home, and moved the little bit of stuff we had into our apartment and tried to be optimistic about starting a brand new life.

I’d love to say we’ve enjoyed living in Wilmington and that we want to make it our home. That would certainly be easier than packing up and moving again. But truthfully, we’ve had a bit of a tough adjustment back to life in the “real world,” and I know we aren’t alone. Suddenly without work, we weren’t sure what types of jobs to look for, and people kept telling us how hard it is to find a job in Wilmington. That fear forced me to make a rash career decision that temporarily created a lot of stress in my life. Luckily, I eventually landed a sales job that helped pay the bills and allowed us to save for our next adventure.

Aside from the job search, last winter was apparently the coldest on record… or something like that. We nearly froze. We had to evacuate in September for what was projected to be a Category 4 hurricane. It felt eerily ironic.

But our time in Wilmington definitely hasn’t exactly been all bad. We’ve met some really amazing friends and even recently celebrated one couple’s wedding.

obx wedding

We’ve taken many late afternoon and sunset bike rides and enjoyed living so close the beach.

wrightsville beach

We celebrated Henry’s 14th birthday when we knew practically NO ONE…

scotch on a rock

And Henry’s 14.5th birthday at Lighthouse with lots of our incredible new friends! What a difference six months makes!

henry party

We’ve gone to lots of festive events- thank you Beehive Blondes!

beedhive blondes

We attended the (world?) famous Azalea Festival. If not world famous, it certainly is one of the things Wilmington is known for.

azalea festival 2018

And we’ve been able to see friends and family a bit more and have some visitors come play with us!


And I was so blessed to find multiple studios to share my love of group fitness. Other than the friends we’ve made, that has by far been my favorite part of my time in Wilmington.

But now, adventure is calling, and although we haven’t been here long, we feel that it’s the right time to move on. People have asked me if we just don’t like Wilmington, and I’ve thought about that a lot. I actually think we could have moved to New York City or Paris or to the moon for that matter, and something wouldn’t have felt right. We were in the heaviest, darkest period of our lives, and it would’ve been hard to find the right spot at such a difficult time.

So I think it’s fair to simply say this- Wilmington, it’s not you, it’s me!

I am excited to share with those of you who have followed our journey from Charlotte to St. John to Wilmington that Shaun, Henry and Logan and I are heading west! We will be moving to San Diego, and this time, we are loading up and driving! The song continues…

We can load what we own in the back of a U-haul van.
Couple modern day Moses’, searchin for the promised land.
We can go four hundred miles before we stop for gas.
We can drive for a day, and then we’ll take a look at the map.

Two humans, two dogs and their (rather large) beds, pillows, snacks, and whatever else we can fit in one Toyota RAV4… this is going to be interesting/ exciting/ stressful/ amazing! And let me tell you something that has surprised me a little- moving across country seems to be harder than moving to a rock in the middle of the ocean! Who’d have thought?

Follow along as our journey continues! I’m creating a new hashtag, because don’t you need a hashtag for everything these days? It’s #crosscountrycates and we’d love to hear from you. Have you ever driven across the country? Where did you stop? What tips and tricks can you share? Who do you know in the San Diego area? We welcome connections, suggestions, and well wishes. Thanks, as always, to everyone who encourages our wild adventures and loves us from afar! It’s so wonderful to have friends all over the world… we’ve learned distance is no match for true friendship! We love you all.


The Cross Country Cates’


del mar racetrack

p.s. Cheers to blooming where you choose to plant yourself in this big crazy world!

  • Rena
    November 4, 2018

    Great post Ashley. Only met you for a minute on STJ, but took and enjoyed your classes. Hey, I paid in advance… hahahaha.
    You’re a wonderful spirit and I wish you and your family fun and safety. I’ve driven across country a couple of times. Or was driven as a youngin and hitch hiked as a crazy young adult. It’s a beautiful country. I’ve done the north 80 route and the south 40-10 route which is preferable in winter. I still have some friends in SD as I lived in LA for 15+ and Las Vegas for 22 when we moved to Stj.
    We’re in Florida now w our granddaughter and the joy she brings to our lives is simply immeasurable. So you can make plans, tho you will end up where you’re supposed to be. Cali living is amazing. Great outdoor living
    Enjoy your adventure and I look forward to meeting up w you sometime.
    PS you owe me nothing. :)
    ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️Rena Moretti

  • Liz Taylor
    November 1, 2018

    So exciting to see you two starting another adventure. My heart broke when I read you guys had to leave St. John. I cant wait to read about your new adventure!

  • CiCi
    October 31, 2018

    Best Wishes from St John! We did a cross country drive before moving here, highly recommend to go as slow as you can. That was our only regret that we didn’t take more time to do it. Keep putting the word out on social media, stopping to see long lost friends was also a highlight. We loved stops in New Orleans, Austin, White Sands and Carlsbad Caverns. If I remember more I send it your way. Look out for the raised boardwalk rest stops, the ones with the beware of snakes signs… not kidding. We miss your energy here but love seeing what new adventures you have in store.

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