Daniel Hurd hopes to bicycle as much as 40 miles a day in his cross country effort to raise awareness for suicide prevention.
He hopes to reach more people a day than miles.
Hurd was in Shenandoah earlier this week as Iowa was state number 33 in his effort to bicycle in all the 48 contiguous states.
“You got to be willing to listen,” he said about people who can help those in need.
Hurd, 30, admitted he has attempted suicide three times. His first was at age 17.
“I was molested as a child and was doing drugs at 7,” he said. At a young age, he thought the drugs were to help him with his feelings but eventually learned it was his mother shared her drugs with him as she didn’t want to use them alone.
Growing up in Massachusetts, Hurd entered the foster care system at 12 and was accepted by a family long term when he was 14.
“They gave me my childhood as I played football and did other things,” he said.
But his haunting past crept over him which influenced his first attempt.
“There was a lot of build up,” he said about the decision.
His past bad behaviors returned and the foster family “kicked me out” when he turned 18.
Hurd joined the Navy as he didn’t meet the physical standards to join the Marines, which he preferred.
“I still had a desire to live,” he said.
Not long after joining, Hurd said he received the nickname Lt. Dan, after the character of the same name in the 1994 hit movie “Forrest Gump.”
Others teased him for looking like the character played by Gary Sinise. Hurd’s first name made the
“I wasn’t even a lieutenant,” Hurd smiled. “But the Navy was a blessing in my life. The Navy was a good distraction for what had happened to me at home.”
Hurd was deployed to the Middle East twice. His goal was to serve 20 years but he only lasted four as he said changes in military operations under the Obama administration ended his service.
The distraction the Navy provided him was gone, too.
“I drank a lot after the Navy. I moved back to Massachusetts in 2012,” he said. Time passed and the alcohol was replaced by cocaine and he was in a poor relationship.
“I put myself in paranoia,” he said. “If you struggle, tell somebody. I lacked the somebody.”
Hurd said his experiences in the Navy provide the concept for he thinks how life should be lived.
“Things can change, like how it has been for me on this bike,” he said. “We are meant to explore. The more we travel and get out of our routines; that gives us the happiness we are supposed to have.”
A third suicide attempt was in April 2017.
That summer a friend asked Hurd if he was interested in a bike ride. He was all for it, but under the impression Hurd was to ride his Harley-Davidson motorcycle. He laughed at bicycles.
“I told him ‘I’d meet you wherever you wanted to ride to,’” he said implying how the motorcycle would easily speed by his friend on a bicycle.
But over time and persistence, Hurd said he eventually gave into to ride the bicycle.
Hurd said he started to change, too.
“We did some multi-day rides with others,” he said. “I learned every pedal up is a pedal back,” he said, using the bicycle mechanics as an analogy. When the foot on the pedal as its highest point, as the foot and pedal moves down it means progress is being made.
Using exhaustion as an excuse, his friends quit the ride before reaching the destination.
“It got me through the ride,” he said about the pedal up explanation. “It carried on to my own, daily life. And I got the itch to ride.”
While in counseling, his therapist told him to reduce or end the use of medications he was using, find a productive, healthy activity. He thought of what the bicycle rides had done to him so far and wondered if he could visit his friends from the Navy who were now living in 32 states.
“I want to ride in all 48 states,” he said.
The ride started March 5, 2018.
His route is intentional as he rides where the weather is warm.
“I have about four months of summer to stay warm and avoid the snow,” he said.
His ride is on a German made bicycle designed for marathon rides and loaded with his bare necessities. He has accepted donations from others he tells his story too to pay for food and occasional hotel rooms. When a roof isn’t available, he pitches a tent in a campground.
“I’ve only had one stretch of about 32 hours where I didn’t eat,” he said.
Hurd is headed south and hopes to be in Texas by December and wants to finish his ride in spring 2021.
“Plans change, but that’s OK,” he said.
Media outlets along the way have picked up his story. He has been told his cause have prevented other people from attempting suicide or finding help for their troubles.
“From CEOs to homeless people, this is important. We all deal with it,” he said about how life can cause trouble and depression. He wants to tell people suicide is not the answer.
“That’s how I connect with people.”
To learn more about Hurd, go online to www.ridewithdanusa.com