Updated: May 20, 2020
I got the news on Sunday, February 23rd, 2020 that Mike Hughes had died. "Mad Mike" was killed while piloting his latest home-made rocket into the desert skies near Amboy, California; a place in the desert not far from my haunt at Siberia ghost town.
I remember meeting Mike and his friend "Pioneer Pat" a few years back when I stopped to chat with them next to their rocket and rocket-launcher made from an old mobile home. I'd spotted what looked like a rocket out in the desert while riding by on my motorcycle, going east-bound on Route 66 between the desert town of Amboy and the city of Needles.
Mike and Pat were distracted, and determined. And though there was nobody around to appreciate their efforts, they worked fast dismantling the rocket after an aborted launch. Though they had only just met me - I'd walked to their rocket from the side of Route 66 where I left my motorcycle - they had much to say about the negative opinions of so many who doubted their efforts.
Pat talked of a flat earth - though he wasn't a believer. Neither was Mike. They both knew the flat earth idea was bunk. But, it brought in the eyeballs and the sponsors. Neither of them said this to me, though I could tell this was their shared opinion.
A year later, I returned to film another - this time successful - attempt at launch. The videos below were the result of this effort.
And so, now Mike is dead. He didn't die for a lie. He simply died doing something that made him happy. I can't help imagining those final few seconds of his life. I'm sure I'll never forget Mike or Pat or their collective courage in living - and dying - well and in spite of what others might think.
I remember quite clearly, thinking to myself as I watched Mike launch into the sky; “Just don’t die. I can’t take it if you die.” But I didn’t feel or think the same way watching the video of his death. I wonder why?
My name is Kurt Bell.
You can learn more about The Good Life in my book Going Alone.
Be safe... But not too safe.