UPDATED 6 P.M. JUNE 28; First two Hoka Hey challengers finish in Homer; Homer man finishes unofficially
BY MICHAEL ARMSTRONG
Frank Kelly, left, of Prosperity, S.C., and Will Barclay, of Highland, Fla., stand under the finish banner on the Homer Spit after finishing the Hoka Hey Challenge at 4:20 a.m. Monday morning.
Photo by Michael Armstrong, Homer News
After 8,482 miles from Key West, Fla., to Homer for the Hoka Hey Challenge, two men who'd only met on the road made a pact in Fairbanks when they left the last checkpoint about 3:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon: they'd finish first together. At 4:20 a.m. Monday morning, 190 hours and 20 minutes after leaving on June 20, Frank Kelly of Prosperity, S.C., and Will Barclay of Highland, Fla., did just that, crossing at the same time under the finish banner at the Kevin Bell Ice Arena on the Homer Spit and becoming the first of 500 riders to end the grueling trip.
"Hoka Hey! Hoka Hey!" screamed Kelly's wife Shevonne, who'd waited since 11 p.m. Sunday to greet her husband.
About 3:30 p.m. Monday afternoon, a third Hoka Hey challenger, Eric Wickre of Homer, was the third rider to arrive in Homer. Wickre, however, had deviated from the route earlier and was disqualified.
Under Hoka Hey race rules, Kelly and Barclay must first pass a drug test, an inspection of their Harley-Davidson motorcycles and verification of log books and records to be declared the official winners. If their finish is declared legitimate, they'll split a $500,000 pot, although Hoka Hey organizers weren't sure yet if splitting a pot and finishing together was allowable. The winner will be officially announced at the Hoka Hey celebration starting at 3 p.m. July 4 at Stone Step Lake Estates.
"We thought we'd never get here," Kelly said.
"We literally were dragging ourselves down the road," Barclay said.
The last 590 miles from Fairbanks to Homer was the most grueling leg, Kelly said.
"We'd get 5 miles and stop," he said. "It was the longest trip ever."
Kelly and Barclay got a hot meal of Kenai River king salmon that Stone Step Lake Estates co-owner Brian Kelly had just put on the grill minutes before they arrived.
Barclay said he had a brief fright just outside of Anchorage when an Alaska State Trooper pulled him over. One traffic ticket could mean disqualification.
"We drove slow, well, just because," Kelly said. "Better safe than sorry."
Troopers pulled him and Kelly over to check that they weren't fatigued and unsafe to ride. Assured the men were safe, the trooper let them continue. Both men seemed alert if not excited at the finish line.
Kelly, 34, works for AT&T and Barclay, 50, flies corporate jets. Kelly rode a 2009 Harley-Davidson Road King Classic and Barclay a 2008 Electroglide Classic he bought three weeks before the race his first Harley ever. Barclay mostly rides classic British Royal Enfields and has put a lot of miles riding through India in the Himalayas.
"When we were going up the Yukon and the roads were rough, I thought, 'I'm right at home,'" Barclay said.
Barclay and Kelly had been in the head pack since the second checkpoint in Mississippi. Somewhere outside of Missoula, Mont., the two men pulled ahead of the pack.
"They were all with us, and then we kept going," Barclay said.
Annie Malloy, west coast coordinator for Hoka Hey, said the next batch of riders was at least a day behind.
Barclay said he and Kelly decided if either made the dash to take the whole prize, the challenge would turn into a road duel with potentially fatal consequences to themselves or other motorists. Instead they decided to finish together.
"We both sacrificed a quarter-million to do it," Barclay said. "I'm just happy."
A handful of well-wishers greeted Barclay and Kelly at their arrival.
Michael Armstrong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.