Homer Alaska - News

Over 110 Hoka Hey riders in town



A group of Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge riders arrive in Homer Friday afternoon.

Photo by Michael Armstrong, Homer News

Whether from Australia or Anchorage, as of Friday afternoon, over 110 Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge riders have arrived in Homer at the end of the 8,500-mile event that started in Key West, Fla.. Now in its 13th, riders have been coming steadily at the official finish line at the Kevin Bell Ice Arena on the Homer Spit.

The first woman to finish, Lyn Lees of Rochhampton, Australia, arrived July 1 about 8:30 a.m. Texas riders Shaggy and Pokey Scott of Cuero said they believe they were the first husband-and-wife couple to finish. They pulled in about 1:50 p.m. Friday. More women have arrived, including Sherie Newell of Anchorage, also arriving Friday afternoon, who got a hug from her grandson at the finish line.

When asked the worst part, John Blount of Jupiter, Fla., said there was no worst part — and then admitted the gravel roads in the Yukon Territory, Canada, had been pretty bad. He saw another challenger spin out in loose gravel and almost lost control himself.

"It was definitely a challenge," Blount said. "That's what I was looking for when I got into this."

Many riders complained of tricky routes and directions. Blount said his strategy was that right after getting a map at a checkpoint he'd fill up at the nearest gas station and grab a state map, taking time to plot out the route.

Rider Mac "Cowboy Mac Burrell," a police officer from Cordova, ended his ride in British Columbia after a crash put him in the hospital. On Thursday, Burrell crossed the finish line to the cheers of other riders and fans — in a wheelchair. That spirit prevailed among other riders, like C.W. Smith of Wingate, N.C., a Vietnam War veteran who crashed his bike about a month before the start of the Hoka Hey. Burrell hobbled around using a cane. He finished Thursday afternoon.

A lot of riders wore jackets and patches or had stickers on their bikes honoring veterans, especially men and women lost in war. Robert Carlo, a Fire Department New York firefighter from Long Beach, N.Y., rode for the Fire Riders of New York City. On his red Harley are painted some simple words and numbers: FDNY, 9-11-2001.

The winner of the Hoka Hay Challenge will be announced Sunday, July 4, at the celebration starting at 3 p.m. at Stone Steps Lake. A full list of riders who finished will be released next week.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.

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