Some might wonder what I was thinking when I accepted the Hoka Hey Challenge; to ride 8000 miles in the shortest amount of time I could manage. Some might think this undertaking to be an oddity. I saw it as an event I could not pass up. I departed Irving, NY on 23 June 2013 and returned to Irving, NY on the 5th of July; a very large circle which took me through 17 States and 2 Canadian Provinces. I was told this ride was not for the weak; an accurate assessment. It was grueling, awesome, painful, spectacular, frustrating, satisfying, mind-numbing, exhilarating, troublesome and expensive; and worth every penny and every ache. The event hit both ends of the spectrum every day. The route took each rider through the most scenic parts of North America.
The Hoka Hey Challenge, although hard to explain, is geared toward raising funds to improve the lives of Native Americans living on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. I could write volumes about the adverse living conditions, but suffice it to say most of us would not survive in such an environment.
Every rider who rode Hoka Hey 2013 did it for their own reasons. Some rode to cross the finish line in record time. Others, like me, meandered down the highway with little regard to time and stopped on occasion to admire the view. Of the 85+ riders who accepted the challenge I feel comfortable in saying there were probably 85+ reasons for riding the grueling 8,000 miles. Riders of Hoka Hey come from the four corners of the US as well as from Europe. They come from all walks of life; young and old, professional and not so professional. This was the fourth year for the annual Challenge. Many riders I met had ridden Hoka Hey every year since its start. For some this was their second or third Hoka Hey; for others, like me, this was their first.
My specific reason for accepting the Hoka Hey Challenge was undertaken for a number of reasons, but most specifically to raise funds for the operational requirements of Caisson Platoon Equine Assisted Program (www.cpeap.org) which is a veteran charity that provides much needed therapy to soldiers who sustained life altering wounds during combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. We owe our veterans a debt we cannot pay, but this was my feeble attempt to try. Every penny I raised before, during and after this ride was provided to CPEAP. To date this effort has provided slightly less than $3,000 to CPEAP, but that total is rising. The option of donating is still open. You can go to their website and donate as much as you want.
When I signed up I did not know what to expect and now that I have finished the ride I am still not sure I can put it into words, but I am going to make an attempt; a thing of this epic proportion cannot be put into words, you would have to experience this event firsthand to appreciate the true nature of it. At the very least you would have to have something to compare it to, like another ride similar to Hoka Hey; but there is nothing similar. I had several questions and very few answers. Having completed the ride I can now call it a trial run, to see what worked and what did not. I have a list of things that were not needed, a list of what I should have taken and a significant collection of lessons learned.
To go out and “find myself” has never been something I felt compelled to do. I have pretty much always known who I am; sometimes that knowledge was a comfort, others times it was a disappointing bit of information. I never doubted my ability to complete the ride but I did have concerns about accident or incident that might bring my ride to an unexpected halt. A small caveat here, whereas I did cross the finish line I must admit I intentionally got off the directed route toward the end. I did this mainly due to time restraints and the necessity to return to Irving in a timely manner and subsequently show up for work when expected. Plus, had I stayed on the prescribed route I would not have gotten back to Irving, NY in time to participate in the memorial service for our fallen rider, John Anderson.
John lost his life in Colorado when he and his ride were thrown off the road by extremely high winds. We all know riding is risky business, but we do it anyway. We can be the best and safest rider of all time, but we are not immune to calamity. My heart goes out to the family of John. This was his second Hoka Hey and I had the opportunity to meet him the day prior to our departure. He was excited about the ride and knew the risks; may our God hold his soul in warm embrace.
The ride started at 6:00AM on the 23rd of June. I have always believed group riding to be riskier than solo riding and my belief was reaffirmed about 20 minutes into the ride. We’ll call it a rocky start and to this day I do not know how I managed to stay vertical while riding across those rocks.