Rhett Berry unabashedly wears his heart on his sleeve for the world to see how much she loves his wife, Susan.
“I’ve got to be the luckiest guy in the world. I don’t know how I won her heart. She’s so attractive and so smart. I’m still madly in love with her. I love my wife so much,” he said, his voice filled with emotion.
Susan is just as smitten with her ruggedly handsome and outdoorsy husband, and just as vocal about her feelings for him.
“He’s just a good man – hardworking, good family guy, and loves the outdoors,” she said, adding with a teasing laugh, “He was very handsome when he had hair.”
Newlyweds? Not by a long shot. Susan and Rhett have been married 30 years. But when they talk about their family and what they mean to each other, they sound like two people who just exchanged vows at St. Isidore Catholic Church in Danville, where Susan grew up.
Susan still remembers vividly the first time they met. One of her co-workers at a company in San Ramon that worked with Department of Defense contracts at Sandia Lab was retiring. The retirement party was being held at a local bar in the evening. Because of her natural artistic talents, she was asked to set things up for the party, “so I had to go down and set tables that day,” she recalled.
Rhett was there too, bartending. He was also part-owner of the business with a friend. The bar was located right next to the BrassDoor Restaurant along San Ramon Valley Boulevard which is still there today.
After Susan got done setting up and as she was leaving, Rhett asked if she was coming back that evening.
“I said yes, and he said he’d be there,” Susan said, her voice smiling at the memory.
Sure enough, when she arrived, he was there waiting with a flower for her.
“We started dating, got married, had children and moved out to Manteca. He was kind of my mountain man,” said Susan, now the office manager at Joseph Widmer, Jr. Elementary School in Lathrop.
“We do a lot of traveling. That’s part of our fun,” Rhett said about keeping their marriage alive and strong.
Their version of traveling is via their motorcycle. When they’re out riding, by themselves or with other couples who are their longtime close friends, “We’re just having a ball,” he said.
But it was not always that way.
“My wife is not the adventurer like I am,” Rhett said. In fact, after they sold their boat and he went and bought the motorcycle, “she wouldn’t talk to me for a week. She was so angry.”
But once Susan warmed up to it, she became just as enthusiastic as her husband about traveling on two wheels and enjoying the open air. It was like taking baby steps at first, however. For starters, “we did little day trips,” Rhett explained.
“Now, she’s the organizer and planner of our trips, so that’s what’s funny about it,” he said with a laugh.
“We go out with a group of friends that we’ve had our entire marriage. They’re actually family,” he added. In fact, they and two other couples in the group raised their kids together and have been with each other “through thick and thin,” Rhett said.
Some days, they simply go sightseeing. Other days, they just kick back and relax. They usually avoid traveling through the big cities, preferring to take the back road – “the beautiful scenic roads,” as Rhett puts it.
Sometimes, they cover just 50 to 100 miles a day. Other times, it’s 400 to 500 miles. And the best way to travel is at nighttime, Rhett said. “It’s phenomenal.”
Their days of camping are over, though. These days, after long hours on the road, they’d prefer to spend the night at a four-star or five-star hotel to relax and enjoy creature comforts away from home.
Each year, for two weeks during the summer, Susan and Rhett log in 3,000 to 4,000 miles on their motorcycle. They have visited practically all the states in the contiguous United States west of the Mississippi and up to Canada. A frequent stop-over is Sturgis in South Dakota where Rhett’s mother grew up and where his family has property. This scenic spot on earth is three miles from Crazy Horse and 11 miles from Mount Rushmore, two of the most popular tourist spots in the world.
Sturgis is a place they go to for a day or two every year. It’s also a meeting point with relatives they haven’t seen in a while. It was there where he met a cousin he hasn’t seen in 30 to 35 years. Another reason they like visiting the area is the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally which just celebrated its 73rd year.
When they’re not on the road, Susan and Rhett are spending quality time and spoiling their grandsons – Wyatt, two-and-a-half years old, and brother Dalton, one-and-a-half – the children of their daughter Angela and Joshua.
Angela, who worked at a salon, is currently a stay-at-home mom. Son Nick has just gotten over his “motorcycle bug” and has just returned to Manteca from San Diego where he went to a technical school and later got a job. A history buff and gifted with a natural artistic talent like his mother, he is planning on going to college and pursue a teaching career.
While the Berrys love being on the road on their bike, Rhett says, “We’re just homebodies. We just spend a lot of time at home with each other and with our grandkids which is so special. We’re so blessed with a good family.”