Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge Part 2.

When we got our next map I was not happy. The organizers had added an additional fifteen hundred miles to our route. I had paced myself to arrive a few days early in Homer because my wife was flying in on July 2 and I wanted to sightsee before leaving Alaska. My pace was for seven thousand to seventy five hundred miles, not eighty five hundred miles plus. Oh well, shit happens so shut up and ride I told myself. Heading north toward Canada the beauty of Montana continued till we reached the border. Canada let us in with no problems although we had heard they were turning people away just for being in the Hoka Hey. One guy got turned back for having a DUI nineteen years ago. Once in the Canada we spent the night in the Harley-Davidson of the Kootenays parking lot outside of the Canadian Rockies in British Columbia. In the morning Greg found out he had a major problem with his bike that involved replacing the pistons. He didn't know when he would get on the road or if he would be able to even finish. I decided at this time that I was ready to head in to Alaska so Greg showed me the shortest route to Homer and off I went alone. However, when it was time to take the shortcut I couldn't do it, I had to hit all of the checkpoints and finish this. My Dad and Mom taught me when I was a kid that when you start it, you finish it, you don't quit ever and this is something I have passed on to my children so I'd be dammed if I wasn't going to finish this thing the right way. The next part of the route took me into the Canadian Rockies which were nothing short of breathtaking. I've never seen such great scenery. They were also nothing short of freezing. It was a great experience to ride up into the snow capped mountains in June even though I was rained and snowed on. It was up here I finally got to see some bears, one black and two grizzlies. Grizzlies are quite intimidating. Once I got off the mountain at a gas stop I asked one of the local Canadians where to get something to eat since it seems everything shuts down early in Canada. I told him I was headed to Alaska and he said he would be traveling the Alaska Highway as well tomorrow. He gave me directions to Dennys. After a cold nights sleep in a community college parking lot I saddled up and took on the Alaska Highway. Let me say this right away, The Alaska Highway sucks ass!!! It should be called the Alaska Hellway. This is the worst road I have ever been on in my entire life and is sure wasn't made for a Harley-Davidson to ride on. Loose gravel, giant potholes, and concrete with tarsnaked ruts made for a horrible ride. I did have one good experience on the highway though. I had pulled over to put on my cold weather gloves when someone pulled over in a white Nissan truck in front of me. It turned out to be the guy who gave me directions to Dennys. He got a gas can out and filled up my tank but refused to let me pay him. Great people! As beautiful as the mountains were in B.C. and the Yukon you couldn't enjoy any of the scenery or the area because of the road and you better be watching for moose. Once the sun started going down the moose came out and these things were huge. Once it got dark I wheeled into a campground and had my coldest night's sleep of all, not to mention when I woke up the next morning it was raining. The rain could not have come at a worse time as it was July 1st and I needed to do some serious miles today. I had on every bit of gear I had but could not get warm and the freezing rain made it almost impossible to ride. Between the road and the weather I was making very little progress. Thankfully it quit raining once in the Yukon so I was able to do a little better even though the road seemed to get worse. I made it to Alaska around 1 a.m. and crossed the border. Canada was cool but I was glad to be back in the U.S.A. I had intended to keep riding to Fairbanks where the next checkpoint was but the closest open gas station was 90 miles away and I probably had 60 miles of gas at best. I slept on the front porch of the first gas station I came to and gassed up the next morning when they opened. At this time I decided I was going to skip Fairbanks and head for Anchorage and on to Homer because it was Friday July 2nd and my wife was coming in today. Once I got rolling and got to the Anchorage/ Fairbanks intersection I headed to Fairbanks and the checkpoint. As bad as I wanted to see my wife I would have had a hard time looking myself in the mirror to not finish the ride, especially with it coming to an end. I headed on to Fairbanks to the checkpoint at H-D Farthest North Outpost. Checkpoint 6- 2339.8 miles.

Home stretch. While at Fairbanks my wife called and said her flight wasn't getting in till 10:30 p.m. Alaska time. This should put us both in Homer around the same time. The problem was I had already ridden several hundred miles and had close to six hundred miles to go. Mother Nature didn't make things any easier with very cold crosswinds through Denali National Park all the way to Anchorage. At Anchorage she decided to add rain to the mix which put me at a very slow pace. It was two hundred and twenty miles to Homer from Anchorage which I figured would be a piece of cake. The rain and cold was wearing on me and it seemed the miles were going by at a snails pace. At one point I came upon another rider who had dropped his Road Glide in the middle of the road due to fatigue so after getting him going we rode together the rest of the way. Fourteen miles out I decided I was going to wait for my wife at a gas station and we go in together but the guy riding with me talked me into going on in and crossing the finish line so I could get warm and rest. So on Saturday, July 3rd after twelve days and two hours of sleeping by my bike every night, going without a shower, too many wrong turns to mention, and seven checkpoints I crossed the finish line and completed the Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge! Checkpoint 7- 575.9 miles.

The July 4 party was pretty laid back while I was there. It was good to see people I had met along the road again and it was fantastic to see that my buddy Greg had made it. You could definitely feel a sense of pride in everyone there. I stayed for a group photo then headed out to spend some quality time with my wife.

In conclusion, the mileage of this ride turned out to be 8542.5 miles not counting the numerous wrong turns and backtracking that had to be done. Once the ride was over there was some complaining about this being a poorly organized event and there were accusations of it being a scam and there being no prize money. For a first time event of this magnitude I felt the organizers done very well getting a ride together that went across this entire country as well as Canada on all back roads. As far as the prize money that is between the organizers and the first place finisher. I am neither so is it not my concern. I have absolutely no complaints with any part of this ride and I consider it to be an experience of a lifetime. This challenge has given me a sense of accomplishment and has given me memories that will stay with me forever. You got out of this ride what you put in to it. If you looked at it negatively it was probably an unpleasant experience, if you embraced the challenge you came away with great pride and satisfaction. My greatest satisfaction was that I went to all the checkpoints following the route to the best of my ability and that I made the entire journey without using a windshield and having an open faced helmet and that I did it in twelve days and two hours. I've always told myself that I can do anything I want as long as I set my mind to do it and now I know that to be true. It has truly been an honor to be part of the Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge.

JJ Phipps

Hoka Hey Competitor #111

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