ACTIVE.com: You've talked a lot about how you've seen your career evolving into this more expedition-style of traveling. What do you think is it, internally, that's prompting that shift in your approach?
RR: I've always had it. As a little kid I'd camp in the backyard and want to see what's around the next block. And we'd take camping trips when we were young, and I loved not knowing what the next day was going to hold and being out in the dirt and figuring it out. So I think the exploration has always been there, and all the sports I've done seem to have that theme of exploring.
Maybe that's why I haven't stepped into just one sport because I like doing a lot of different things. But, rock climbing and kayaking, they're all kind of like that. And I had this stint of really serious bike racing, and I feel like that laid the groundwork for what I'm doing now. I already had the expedition and navigation experience and the desire to go for days, and then I honed my bike skills, so it's the perfect evolution. It's never been gone, it's just where my career has evolved to. And this trip to Ho Chi Minh Trail and doing Kilimanjaro last year [in 2016, Rusch and teammate Patrick Sweeney became the third party ever to summit Mount Kiliminjaro on bikes], it's just reinforcing that this is really what I love to do.
I love those hardcore races like Leadville, but once you know what the training is and you know exactly how long the course should take you, you've kind of got it dialed. And I'm glad I did that, but now I'm kind of like, "What's around the next corner?"
ACTIVE.com: So what is around the next corner then?
RR: Yeah, so what's next, I'm super excited about—and this also kind of launched off of the Ho Chi Minh Trail trip—is I'm doing a lot of research on other iconic trails around the world and planning other bike expeditions; trails that have a history and a meaning, and I'll take my bike there and dig into the history. Things like the Lewis and Clark Trail which is like 3,000 miles, Silk Road, the Oregon Trail...
ACTIVE.com: And no oxen to slow you down when you have to ford the river.
RR: [Laughs] Yeah, exactly. The Oregon Trail would probably be pretty fast on a bike. So yeah, I'm really morphing to bike expeditions and exploring, but I want the history aspect and the reason to go on the trail. I could just go do a huge backpacking ride somewhere. But what I really loved about the Ho Chi Minh Trail was learning about the history and the people and kind of immersing in that culture and getting outside of what I know in my little world and instead living in their world.
ACTIVE.com: It really sounds like this experience shifted your perception of the world and how you experience it; what do you hope the audience takes away from the film?
RR: I think the film has something for everyone, whether you're a cyclist or not. It's not a war documentary, either. You don't have to have an attachment to the Vietnam War to connect with it.
People have taken away a lot of different things. Young 15-year-old girls will come up to me and just be like, "It's amazing to see two women doing that kind of riding." And I have Vietnam Vets that come up to me and just say, "Thank you. That was really good for me to heal." So there's something in it for a lot of people, but for me? For me, the overriding themes are just forgiveness and acceptance of our different worlds—or rather, that it's one world with different cultures. And I hope people take that away. Because even though it's an old story, the events and some of the lessons are still extremely relevant and very current right now.
Blood Road is now available on iTunes, Google Play and Amazon. For more information, including upcoming screenings, visit BloodRoadFilm.com.READ THIS NEXT: The Ultimate Training Plan for Any Kind of Ride