Post by Yuri Hauswald, GU Energy Labs Community Development Manager
Our friendship started with a polyester leisure suit, a few wigs, an Elvis costume and a cup of soup. This may not sound like a recipe for a long lasting relationship, but that’s exactly how I met the Queen of Pain, Rebecca Rusch, nearly a decade ago. It was 2008 and I was in Tennessee for the Dirt Sweat and Gears 12 hour race, which happened to coincide with what may’ve been the first Singlespeed USA. What’s Singlespeed USA you ask? According to Dirt Rag, “Details about the SS race have been few and far between but any race dubbed Singlespeed USA ought to be epic.” Well, having been there as a guest MC along with Nat Ross and Rebecca, I can attest to a pretty epic few days that involved everything from a SS hill climb and serious heckling to a shot gun started sprint race and Nat Ross and I jousting medieval style in a bouncy pit. Did I mention that we were also wearing Mexican wrestling masks and leisure suits? This bicycle debauchery was the back drop for my first encounter(s) with Rebecca, who by the way, did all her emceeing in an Elvis costume.
Fast forward to the race we were actually there to compete in, the Dirt Sweat and Gears 12 Hour, and I found myself in a world of hurt in the closing hours of the event. A sheared derailleur on the first lap saw me run seven mud strewn miles to get my spare bike, the extra effort only compounded by the stifling southern humidity. I definitely burnt more matches than I should’ve that early in a very long day. Things only got worse as I tried to make up places in the ensuing hours. By hour 10 I was feeling the effects of the humidity and by hour 11 I was puking in the woods while trying to complete my last lap, and by hour 12 I was barely moving. I was a sad sight in the pits-nothing would stay down and I’d lost so many fluids that my cheeks were gaunt. And that’s when Queenie came to the rescue. Even though we’d just met that weekend (but I’d been a secret stalker fan for a few years already), she generously brought me a bowl of soup. Warm. Salty. Good. And it stayed down. We would forever be friends after that.
There are people in your life that you would do anything for-out of love, friendship and respect. Queenie, Rebecca Rusch, is one of those people. When my wife and I heard that her movie, Blood Road, which chronicles Rebecca’s 1,200 mile journey along the Ho Chi Minh Trail in search of her father’s Vietnam War crash site, was premiering in her hometown of Ketchum, ID, it wasn’t a question of IF we’d drive out to surprise her, it was WHEN, or how soon, could we leave?! Plans were quickly plotted to pull off the mid-week marathon drive to Idaho.
It’s hard to express how giddy with excitement my wife and I were when we arrived at the Sun Valley Opera House for the premiere. A long line of folks waiting for the doors to open greeted us as we approached the venue, so we kept an eye out for the star of the evening so our cover, and surprise, wouldn’t be blown. We stealthily worked our way to the back of the crowd that was surrounding the back drop photo spot, where Rebecca, the Red Bull Media House crew, and other VIP guests were having their photos taken on this momentous evening. At a break in the action, I shouted my nickname of endearment for Rebecca, “Queenie”, to see if I could get her attention. And boy did I.
Bear hugs, tears, and squeals of excitement, and more hugs and more tears, were the best greeting my wife and I could’ve hoped for. It was the purest form of love and respect between longtime friends, and it was the greatest reward for our 13 hour drive.
And the movie? Well, it’s nothing short of amazing. “Initially our focus of the story was chronicling Rebecca’s intense physical journey on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, but along the way we uncovered a much deeper emotional journey,” said the film’s director Nicholas Schrunk. Blood Road follows Rebecca and her Vietnamese riding partner, Huyen Nguyen, as they pedal 1,200 miles along the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail through the dense jungles of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Their goal: to reach the site where Rebecca’s father, a U.S. Air Force pilot, was shot down in Laos more than 40 years earlier. “The most alarming discovery of the entire journey was learning about the vast amount of unexploded wartime ordnance that still remains and continues to threaten human lives,” said Rusch. “I went there searching for my Dad and pieces of myself, but came home with the understanding that I can use my bike for a bigger purpose than just winning races. I feel a deep responsibility to be part of the solution by using my bike to facilitate change and recovery.”
Why am I sharing this with you? Well, Rebecca Rusch will be in San Francisco on Tuesday, July 18th for a screening of Blood Road, and you should go. Full event details, and tickets, can be found here. So here’s to having more friends in your life that aren’t afraid of polyester leisure suits or wigs or Elvis costumes or HUGE life changing adventures through the jungles of Vietnam. Here’s to celebrating the special people in your life more often. And here’s to picking up the next time friendship calls.