Several months ago, I reconnected with an old friend from high school. Mike Hurd and I weren’t terribly close in school, but a couple decades later, this glorious thing called the interweb and the great Facebook machine brought us back together. It started with just some “Hey. what’s up?!?!”s and some “You’re nuts!!!”s. After a bit of banter back and forth, I learned a little bit about how Mike has been and how I unknowingly had made an impact on his life. I feel guilty for saying this, but I was honored and completely STOKED!!!! He went on about how my words and images had…. Well, I’ll let him tell you.
From Mike Hurd. Quite possibly the world’s raddest husband, dad and mountain bike ringleader:
Zach and I graduated in 1995 from College Park High. We weren’t super close so we didn’t stay in contact after. As the years went by, the large overlapping circles of friends distilled into ever tightening sub sets, until finally there are a few best buds, and then everybody else you might hope to either bump into around town or maybe at the reunion. If we were going to meet again in this life, it would have been at a reunion. Then, in 2008 I joined the masses flocking to Facebook and subsequently reached out in buckshot fashion, “friending” anyone and everyone whose name I recognized from my entire 29 years of life. Like everyone who signed up for FB then, I got to peek into all of these peoples lives to see what they’d been up to. Zach had been busy living. I could see that he had been an Army Ranger, an elite soldier and therefore a hero in my book. It seemed that chapter was over, and now he was jumping out of and off of things, sometimes with a chute, and sometimes in a rave costume called a squirrel suit. Sometimes the suit comes off. You do not need NSA clearance to find a pic of Zach in his underwear standing on a mountain with his big smiley stoke face on, fists raised to the sky.
I could see he was happily married and sweetly devoted to a beautiful woman, also a veteran of the armed forces and quite the badass in her own right, they were raising a son. And two giant dogs, or maybe they are small horses, IDK. From the posts, we know the little horses are ALWAYS sleeping, and seem to prefer the master bed but the living room couch will do. It’s a odd pairing they have there. These must be the laziest dogs owned by the least lazy people. Rhodesians or something, I think they have antlers. Anyway, the pictures they post on social media detail the family’s adventures in every mountain activity from skiing to archery to those inflatable surfboards that people paddle around on. Though they seem too humorously slow to me and nobody has made a cool video paddling around on one, I gather they are quite some exercise and therefore to be respected. Fine, but they look like you are hoping to go someplace on them. Anywho, there are times when Zach and crew have so much gear flying around and twelve different camera angles, skis are popping off and chutes are opening, boulders are whizzing past, it’s hard to keep up. Look, I ride bikes down rocky hiking trails, but that squirrel suit stuff is terrifying to me. Zach, he’s got whoohoo grin on his face the whole way. As he was, and is, still fond of playfully telling the internet, they live in the PNW where they enjoy an active outdoor life that makes adventurers from other states jealous. I believe his exact words were, “my state is awesomer than yours, nah nah nah,” then he’s in his underwear again and something blows up. The antics are endless.
Brevity was never my strong suit, clearly, and especially here it’s hard not to say too much, but Zach was inspiring all over the place. Firstly, though I have never discussed his service in the military with him, it doesn’t take an expert to guess that as a Ranger, Zach would have endured some harrowing experiences. I have some friends that are vets and I’ve read that many were coming home from the with PTSD. Then there’s the issue of veteran suicide. But not Zach, at least not outwardly. He seemed to be living life with a rare gusto, and having a ton of fun in the process, possibly thriving because of it. My sense was that maybe this was a kind of thrill therapy after being at war. I never asked but it seemed to fit. This was coming at a time when I very much needed inspiration, so I was real open and looking.
Besides the Carbos, other friends were getting serious about their fun, and getting healthy and fit in the process. I was ready to challenge myself and do some healing of my own. But first, I needed to get in shape. 10 years after herniated discs and selling my mountain bike, I had grown soft. I needed to kick my own ass. Halloween 2012 I quit smoking cigs, and the following January I started running, lifting and going hard at flexibility. I owned a treadmill at the YMCA, trying to pack as many miles as I could into the max 35 minute sessions allowed by the gym. Sometime in the spring I made it to 4.71 miles in 35 min. Then they replaced the old treadmills and I found out that my times were off, LOL. Whatever. The point is that by the fall I was in shape, even sorta flexible. I’d lost 20 lbs. and people thought that I was eating steroids for breakfast, but I was bored to tears. I had stretched, ran, rowed and shredded my core. Now I needed adrenalin. I’d read that a lot of people with bulgy discs were just learning to ignore the pain and regain full athleticism. Sounds nuts, but it’s real. So I bought a used beast of a mountain bike, started riding with my neighbor, then more people joined our band of merry shredders—people serious about their fitness. We all joined Strava, and started posting our rides and times. We were racing, though indirectly, but we were having a blast. This was my new addiction. We all started taking days off work to ride. We planned trips to bike parks.
A friend suggested I get a GoPro camera, so they could ride along with me
but I was still grappling with the cost of the bike and its maintenance—all mountain riding is brutal on the bike and the wallet. One day, out of nowhere Zach announced that he would be sending a camera to me to borrow indefinitely. It was just a Hero3+ with all the fixins. Surely people who barely knew each other 20 years ago in high school, and haven’t spoken a word face-to-face since, are out there on social media just loaning out high end gear to each other like this? No, this was a rare trust and kindness between virtual friends and it inspired me once again. Bringing awesomness and stoke to people by encouraging their adventures seems to be Zach’s mission now. I took that camera and have made a couple dozen edits, and there is a mountain of unedited stuff on hard drives just waiting for me to have some downtime after the season. My kids love the videos. My daughter even called me her hero one day after watching a cut of me bomb down Cinderella. I’ve created a YouTube channel with a modest following. The stills on Instagram are well liked and along with Strava and Facebook, our riding group has grown into a network of riders all over the world. I’m stoked every day on this. My kids want to learn to ride mountains and everyone is getting fit. Friends from social media and IRL are telling me they are getting on the bike, or finding that activity they’re passionate about. They too have caught the buzz. All this comes from a spark, one person chooses to be a positive light for other people. Not a “hey look at me, I’m the shit,” but a “there’s plenty of fun to be had, now let’s all go get some.” Dude is a riot too, I can’t wait to see what he does next. I hear Zach is going to school to become a teacher. Put my kid in that man’s class. Mr Stokeface, your class is in session. Now ring the bell. -Mike Hurd
If that doesn’t get you fired up to go out and live life, I don’t know what will! I can’t tell you how good it feels to know that I made an impact on not only one person’s life, but that same impact had second and third order effects on his wife, children and his friends. Even other people whom he met through the mountain bike community.
I now challenge you to do something that you’ve either always wanted to do or have been meaning to do for a long time. Maybe even help someone else in their journey to do the same. I guarantee you that the reward will have a profound impact on you and others. I know it has for me. Keep pedaling, keep pushing, keep smiling, keep up the stoke and keep Living the High Life!