Rebecca Rusch, affectionately known as “The Queen of Pain”, is among the greatest female ultra-endurance mountain bikers in the world. Although she’s used to pushing her body to its limit, nothing could prepare her for the emotional journey she took in 2015 when she pedaled 1,200 miles of the Ho Chi Minh Trail in search of the site where her father, a US Air Force pilot’s, plane crashed during the Vietnam War. Blood Road is a journey of hope and discovery—a way for Rusch to begin a fresh relationship with the father she lost so long ago. Joined by Vietnamese competitive biking champion Huyen Nguyen, Rusch travels through the dense jungles of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. While Nguyen helps Rusch understand the cultural context of her quest, the women forge a deep bond triggered by a shared experience of war and loss. As the pair tests the boundaries of their athletic abilities, occasionally reaching their breaking points, they learn how conflict connected their cultures, even as it tore their families apart. They also glean the tragic history of the “Blood Road,” which leads them through the heart of darkness and into the light of local villages and Buddhist monasteries still marked by the painful relics of war, and populated by generous townspeople who share their stories. These experiences create a rich backdrop leading to the poignant moment when Rusch and Nguyen finally arrive at the crash site, marking the end of one story and the beginning of another. Throughout her journey, Rusch continues to synthesize how her family’s story flows into the river of history that continues to define the lives of generations of Southeast Asian people.
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