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  • Writer's pictureZoli Kertesz

The Breezy Bus Blog: A Busy Month on the Road

Written by Zoli Kertesz

Embracing our magical woods-home while at Willow Run Farm, VA


One month on the road - reflections, takeaways, and semi-coherent ramblings


Wherever you go, there you are… Not that I expected all my problems to go away once we hit the road, but I have noticed lingering habits and patterns that have been difficult to address while in motion. The balancing act that we have been navigating is the duality of going and slowing. Up until writing this, we have only spent two nights at the same location, making it difficult to find the grounding energy to unpack, process, and make sense of all that has happened. This is mainly due to us trying to keep to a timeline with scheduled events at the end of May, that will allow for more spaciousness upon “settling” in Colorado for June. Furthermore, the act of writing and journaling is something that has never been a consistent practice of mine, so as I work out the kinks and find my groove as to what amount feels right to share, I ask for patience and acceptance of this ongoing process.


Virginia

After making our way slowly through the mountainous twists and turns of Shenandoah and the Blue Ridge Parkway (which I would love to revisit on a motorcycle someday) we descended into the town of Harrisonburg, where our dear Friends, Erin and Ethan, had connected us to Cornelius and Amelia, a couple that runs Willow Run Farm. The baby-goat filled 40-acre permaculture farm that provides food to the local Mennonite retirement community was a beautiful opportunity for us to volunteer and get our hands dirty, all while having an idyllic “home” tucked away in the woods (which Cornelius happily escorted us to on his Bicycle). From there we were introduced to Tom and his organization Vine and Fig, a nonprofit urban permaculture co-op in downtown Harrisonburg that hosts numerous immigrating individuals and families as well as having room for anyone going through hard times. Tom’s friend Amy, who was visiting from Colorado, was thoroughly impressed by the bus and invited us to her farm in Fort Collins, so we’ll plan to cross paths again when we make it up there.


Willow Run Farm, VA Kali posing at Vine and Fig, VA




North Carolina

Having only visited once before (soon after meeting Bri and Kali in the fall of 2019 on an impromptu road trip) my interest was piqued by this beautiful state and I was excited to be returning. Continuing down the Blue Ridge Parkway, we navigated our way through the seasons, having some frosts in the mountains with newly budding trees and the contrasting full-bloom of spring with forsythia and lilacs a plenty.


Our first destination was the Animal Park, a nonprofit conservation center for big cats that Bri worked at for a couple of years. We were able to have a wonderful guided tour, revisiting some of Bri’s old coworkers, both two-legged and four-legged ones, where I saw (and smelled) my first Binturong (bear-cat) producing it’s buttery aroma, while also getting to experience the mighty power of lion-oofing!


Jerry the Binturong, NC Two of "The boys" - African Serval Cats, NC


After a rare night out for us in Greensboro, we headed off to the quieter Winston-Salem, where we then got to spend the afternoon with Kaylee and her kids, a partner of Bri’s from the past who had recently transitioned. She explained the fears of living in a state that was actively attempting to take away rights from her and her community and the struggle of having to stay due to sharing custody of her kids.


Abby and Wes, friends from Bri’s time working at the climbing gym who were also in Winston-Salem, were super hospitable and happy to share their house with us as we ended up staying an extra day to catch up on logistics and slow down the hurried pace. They gave us plenty of recommendations for Colorado from their time living there, and Wes gifted me a pocket carving set to aid in my pursuit of future spoon carvings.


I had always wanted to check out the Asheville area, so we meandered west into the mountains, stopping in at the Linville Gorge for some beautiful waterfall hikes and ultimately overnighting at a scenic vista that rewarded us with a spectacular sunrise over the gorge. As much as I’m not a morning person, starting the day off with an epic sunrise is definitely something that I enjoy. After briefly checking out the town of Asheville (which ended up being much more of a city than I had imagined), we ended up staying with Chris and Deena, a couple who we had met in Maine last Summer during a grass-roots IFS (Internal Family Systems therapy modality) training. Chris happens to be one of the prominent therapists and trainers in the the IFS community and had a lot of deep wisdom to share when it came to facilitating men’s groups and grief circles, which I’m definitely interested in exploring more of.


Sunrise over Linville Gorge, NC


Tennessee

After already being a week behind our original timeline, we made the decision to head west sooner than later, so we found ourselves leaving Asheville towards the Great Smoky Mountains (originally we had planned to go to Atlanta, the Florida Pan Handle, New Orleans, Austin, and then into New Mexico, but those will have to wait for another time).


As we drove through the Smoky’s to the highest point of the Appalachian Trail, Clingman’s Dome, our tempers were both running high after the intense emotions of last week, resulting in an impromptu parking lot heart-to-heart. It was an important reminder to truly take the time to process what we are both going through, rather than letting it come out in sideways acts, for sharing a small space takes a tremendous amount of communication and emotional tending.


Descending the twists and turns of Great Smokey NP, TN


Coming into Nashville, we hoped to avoid the chaos of crowds from graduation and Taylor Swift fans (we were told half a million travelers would be in the city for the weekend), so we found a park outside the city to meet up with my friend and house mate from Vietnam, Julie. She was exuberantly joyous as always and the shared time allowed for us to reflect on traveling internationally and the idea of pursuing that again in the future.




Julie & Kali, Nashville, TN


Continuing the theme of seeking out various forms of animal conservation (part of Bri’s larger vision in life), we found ourselves at the Nashville Zoo the next morning, which was a great experience with mixed emotions. Some unique animals I had never seen before, such as the Rhinoceros Hornbill and Red Panda, left a lasting impression with me. However, the sour taste was witnessing the emphasis on the human-experience with unique architectural exhibits and themed rides, rather than the extra care and resources directed towards the animals themselves.


Rhinoceros Hornbills feeding each other, TN

Arkansas

Similar to Tennessee, this was not in the original route that we had planned, but the state’s natural beauty and ease of overnighting truly blew me away! As the heat of early summer in the south set in, we questioned our sanity without any form of A/C and the noise of passing trucks with the windows down, but had to check our privilege in the grand scheme of things. We ended up traveling with midday shady siestas that featured our outdoor shower to cool off and time to reflect on the trip thus far. Although we were trying to make up time by sticking to a more direct route along i40, we ended up deviating a bit north to check out the Ozark’s, which I’m so glad that we did. The crystalline turquoise flowing rivers and mushroom shaped rock formations, along side natural arches and caves were truly awe-inspiring.


Natural Arch in the Ozarks, AR Glad to be using our outdoor shower finally, AR


Turtles ended up deviating our route further to the north, this time an injured box turtle who had been hit (as well as many more healthy ones that we helped cross the winding mountainous roads) led us just outside of Eureka Falls searching for a turtle rehabilitator, but ultimately was told that it’s injuries were too severe, so we gave it a little ceremony and let nature take it’s course in the wild. We happen to be near a similar big cat sanctuary to the Conservator’s Center in North Carolina, so we decided to check them out in the morning. After my frustrations of not knowing how to properly use the manual focus on the mirrorless Sony camera back at the Animal Park, I let my curious self delve into the World Wide Web of useful information and after some helpful manuals and programming, a whole new avenue of photography was unlocked for me. A helpful reminder to pursue learning something new every day!


Luna the Liger, Turpentine Creek Refuge, AR


In accordance with our midday heat avoidance, we sought out a place to swim, mainly for Kali who had patiently waited in the bus during our tour through the center. Relying on the satellite view on Google Maps has more often than not led me to some amazing off the beaten path places throughout my travels, and even when the doubt set in as we bounced our way down a dirt road with shear cliffs leading to the lake below, I held faith that my random pin would get us to a swimmable location. The road deteriorated to the point of not wanting to take the bus any further, so we parked at an overlook, named lover’s leap (with an impressive 80+ ft drop to the water below) and continued on foot to the hopeful pin. Sure enough, we saw a sign labeled “Public lake access” and we descended to the respite of the cool teal waters of Beaver Lake.


Lover's Leap at Beaver Lake, AR


Oklahoma and Texas

The two states that I was least eager to drive through, mainly due to my semi-rational fear of heavy wind and tornadoes. We ended up staying an extra day outside of Oklahoma City to avoid the worst of the wind in the Texas Panhandle, but left in time to dodge the multiple tornadoes that formed in Oklahoma that day. The driving was inevitably hot and windy as we watched the foliage dissipate into flattened desert inhabited by countless wind turbines.


Cadillac Ranch, RT 66. Texas


A core memory that I’ll definitely keep was stopping in at Cadillac Ranch off Rt 66, not for the painted cars stuck in the ground vertically, but for letting Kali get her racing zoomies out across the barren expanse, chasing after some invisible entity that only she could identify while leaving a cloud of dust in her path. I swear I’ve never seen her run so fast and far in a single line. She eventually returned with a floppy tongue and tired legs that would take her to a deep sleep for the next few hours of driving.


Kali Pondering Life in the Blue Ridge Mountains, NC


Over 3,000 miles, two time zones, and 13 states later, this first month has been anything but boring. I’m feeling ever grateful for the wonderful new and re-kindled connections and this growing spider-web of community both near and far. I know none of this would have been possible without the support from our friends, family, and beloved community surrounding us, so I offer my sincere gratitude to you all. There is obviously much more to share, but I fear this is already too long, so if you’re curious, please feel free to reach out to me directly and I’d love the chance to chat!


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