The coach’s wife is at it again – she’s written another book.
Michelle Rusk, the wife of Cleveland High School girls soccer coach Greg Rusk, fondly remembers her family vacations “back in the day,” when her parents and three siblings and she piled into the 1977 Chevy Impala station wagon and headed out of the Chicago suburbs into the eastern half of the U.S.
“We were like a road-trip family,” she said, remembering enjoying each other more exploring Civil War battlefields and other sites.
“In my family, vacations were the happiest memories,” she said while relaxing last week with her dogs and happy to talk about her new book, “Route 66 Dreams.” “I was in every state east of the Mississippi by the time I was out of junior high.”
Most of her new novel takes place west of the Mississippi – a two-week, 2,400-plus mile journey on Route 66 of a similar family set in 1986, traversing Route 66, “The Mother Road.”
The 14-year-old “star” of the book is “discovering herself,” Rusk said, and falls in love with a boy when the family gets to California. “It is totally not my story, just that she and I wanted to be writers.”
Rusk’s late father also would occasionally talk of his single-days adventure out West, along Route 66 for much of the way, headed to Las Vegas, Nev., in his convertible.
The Danielsons, the family in the novel, spend five days in the Duke City, where the Rusks have lived quite a while. In fact, Greg Rusk’s father, David Rusk, was once the mayor of Albuquerque, and the coach graduated from Highland High in 1981.
Michelle, although she’s lived in the Duke City for about 25 years, did some heavy-duty research before completing this book, which she says is her 11th, with about half of them novels.
She came to New Mexico, enrolled at the University of New Mexico, to pursue a master’s degree in health education. She laughingly remembers driving this way for the first time, stopping in Tucumcari and thinking, “If Albuquerque’s like this, I’m in trouble.”
In the book, the Danielsons spent their mornings reading the Albuquerque Journal poolside at the Twilight Sands Motel on Central Avenue. Although it’s a mythical motel, Michelle says, “It’s the layout of the Sundowner,” which was on the 6000 block of Central Avenue NE, near San Pedro.
“Nostalgia is important,” Rusk said.
Thus the activities the Danielsons took in – a visit to Old Town, seeing Taos Pueblo and the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, a trip into the Jemez Mountains and seeing Jemez Pueblo – are what people visiting Albuquerque for the first time did, and still do.
Her expected target market?
“People my age,” Michelle said, which is basically that generation X crowd.
People who want to reminisce about their vacations on Route 66 may also get a kick out of her new book.
It won’t be her last book: “I really believe this is part of what I’m supposed to do – tell stories,” she says.
This story, she said, “was finished four years ago; it was to be released two years ago; the pandemic got in the way.”
Don’t expect a sequel, she affirmed: “I’m not into the sequel thing,” she said. “I’ll leave it where it is.”