Traveling solo: Local woman takes cross-country journey
Published in The Banner
It isn't out of the ordinary to hear about someone taking a cross-country road trip and even deciding to get their first tattoo along the way.
Unless that someone is a 60-year-old widowed grandmother.
Susan Rezuke, a Boylston school bus driver and former competitive body builder, recently returned from a solo trip around the country on her motorcycle. It wasn't the first time she'd traveled on her motorcycle, but this trip was different.
Rezuke's husband died two years ago while they were on a motorcycle trip through West Virginia.
She said it's hard to be home without him and, since she's a school bus driver, she's home most days.
She took a few trips last summer, but she and her husband had wanted to travel out west together.
"I remember we argued about taking the trailer or motorcycle," she said.
Rezuke decided over the winter to take the trip by herself.
She said her three children and father were "very supportive" of her taking the trip.
"My mother, on the other hand, wasn't, which is understandable. Most people thought it was really great and my grief counselor told me it was the best thing to do."
School ended in Boylston on June 25. Rezuke had her bike packed and hit the road on the morning of June 26, sans GPS, preferring to bring along an atlas. She wouldn't return home until Aug. 17 ... with 11,215 miles under her belt and some incredible memories.
She headed from Massachusetts to North Carolina.
"I have friends here and there and I stayed with some in Wake Forest for two days," she said.
Her first ultimate destination was New Mexico.
It was on her way there that she had her first experience with some rough weather.
"I knew the weather would get tough at times, but driving through Tennessee and Arkansas was the worst. I rode through black sky thunderstorms with torrential downpours and even some hail."
When she made it to New Mexico, she saw the Rio Grande, where she snapped countless pictures.
From there, she went to Arizona.
"I saw the south rim of the Grand Canyon, rode the south rim highway and visited the Vermilion Cliffs," Rezuke said.
Because she made plans to visit someone at Zion National Park in Utah the next day, she admits her Arizona sightseeing was a bit rushed.
From Zion, she rode to Las Vegas and stayed with some friends. Rather than hitting the strip, she explored the desert and enjoyed the scenery.
"In Vegas, it was very hot, no humidity - just dry heat, which sort of feels like sitting in front of a fire," she said.
She then rode across the desert to Los Angeles, where she stayed with her uncle for a week.
Rezuke then drove part of the California coast, across the Golden Gate Bridge, into the Redwood Forest and up to Crater Lake National Park, in Oregon.
"In Oregon, it was really cold, and I went to the top of these extremely high cliffs to capture the best views."
After making it as far west as she could, she turned back around, and began making the trek back home along a different route.
She cut through Washington State - "There was a lot of desert and blowing wind there" - and crossed Idaho and entered Montana. She visited Glacier National Park while she was there, but she was only able to see the west end because of forest fire closings.
After heading more east into Shelby, then Livingston, she was able to visit Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons.
She then met up with friends in South Dakota, for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. That was also where she got her first tattoo.
Although she had planned to head back to Massachusetts from there, she decided she didn't want to go home. Instead, she headed to Pensacola, Fla., where her daughter and grandchild live.
She said the trip was something she wanted and needed to do for herself, but she felt like her husband was with her the whole time - like her very own guardian angel.
Rezuke said she thinks being a former competitive body builder helped her on the trip, because she had been used to having a strict schedule, which helped her prepare for the rigor of the trip.
Even though she planned out her trip ahead of time, she said her route wasn't set in stone.
"I kind of roughed it out. I certainly didn't want to over plan in case anything changed. I took a lot of suggestions from people I met along the way," she said.
When she returned from her trip, she said "Forrest Gump" came to mind.
"You know when he runs across the country? I felt like I could relate, like I knew what he was thinking. He just wanted to get away from it all and keep things in perspective. I felt that I had finally achieved that," she said.
Rezuke said she's been to Italy, but always wanted to see "my own country.
"I realized that I could ride wherever I wanted to go. Weirdly, it made it seem smaller, because I could get there on my own. It never felt like I left home.," she said. "If you ever have something in your life that you are trying to heal from, then doing this is honestly the best remedy."
Rezuke is already planning her trip out west for next summer. She wants to see Colorado, more of Utah and Lake Tahoe.
It's clear that she's looking forward to it.
"Going on a motorcycle is even better - it doesn't block your view. You feel as if you are a part of your surroundings. Like a bird, you can fly."