Article By: JJ Phipps
Photos By: JJ Phipps & Chris Callen
Originally Published In The March 2011 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
Let me start off this final part of my Hoka Hey experience by telling you that the Alaska Highway suck’s ass! It should be called the “Alaska Hellway.” This is the worst road I have ever been on in my entire life and it sure wasn’t made for a Harley-Davidson to ride on. Loose gravel, giant potholes, and concrete with tar snaked ruts made for a horrible ride. I did manage to have one good experience on the highway though. I had stopped 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 the Denny’s. He took 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 on the ALCAN because of the road, and you had to be watching for moose. Once the sun started going down, the moose came out and these things were huge. When 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 put on some serious miles today. I put 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. It was here that 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 arrived at 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 at myself in the mirror to not finish the ride, especially with it coming to an end. I rode on to Fairbanks to the checkpoint at H-D Farthest North Outpost: Checkpoint 6 – 2339.8 miles. I was finally in the home stretch! While in 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 more 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 really wearing on me and it seemed the miles were going by at a snail’s pace. At one point, I came upon another rider who had dropped his Road Glide in the middle of the road due to fatigue. After helping to get 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 could 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 4th 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 the end, 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 that there was no prize money. For a first time event of this magnitude, I felt the organizers did 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 it’s 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 into 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, followed the route to the best of my ability, made the entire journey with an open-faced helmet and no windshield, and 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 it and now I know that to be true. It has truly been an honor to be part of the 2010 Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge.