Halfway along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, Rebecca Rusch finally learned to slow down. The now 48-year-old endurance mountain biker had come to Southeast Asia in February 2015 to find her father, who had disappeared near the end of the Vietnam War. But what she found in Laos was a deeper connection to any place she’d ever been.
Red Bull had sent her there to ride the 1,144-mile length of a Vietnam War–era supply route. Her journey is chronicled in the documentary Blood Road which will be screened onboard the Intrepid in New York City this Tuesday, and released online and on DVD and BlueRay the same day. (The documentary won the Audience Award at the Sun Valley Film Festival in March, and Best of the Fest at the Bentonville Film Festival last month.) Rusch rode with a picture of her dad, Air Force Captain Stephen Rusch, in her backpack, and took a detour to his crash site in Southern Laos.
The wreckage of her father’s F4-E Phantom II fighter-bomber was long gone, precious metal repurposed by local villagers, but around her lay the unexploded ordnance of the war; her father and his fellow airmen had dropped 2.5 million tons of explosives on this small country half a century ago. For Rusch, that discovery has given her a reason to keep riding her bicycle beyond just winning races: It’s given her the chance to face the past and try to improve the future.