Homer Alaska - Hokey Hey

Story last updated at 7:21 PM on Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Hoka Hey winner gets $500,000

Staff Writer


Photo by Michael Armstrong

Frank Kelly, left, of Prosperity, S.C., and Will Barclay, of Highland, Fla., ride under the Hoka Hey finish banner June 28.

As he'd promised all along, last week in Sturgis, S.D., Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge organizer Jim Red Cloud Durham presented a celebratory $500,000 check last week to the officially recognized winner, Will Barclay. Hoka Hey had earlier announced Barclay, 50, of Highland, Fla., as the winner, and transferred funds into Barclay's bank account.

Barclay said he would share some of the money with people who had helped him.

"I'm going to try to do some good with it," Barclay said in a phone interview from Steamboat Springs, Colo. "I have some people I'm indebted to I want to do some good things for."

Barclay and Frank Kelly, 34, of Prosperity, S.C., arrived in Homer together about 4:20 a.m. June 28, 190 hours and 20 minutes after leaving Key West, Fla., on June 20. The two men kept meeting at fuel stops in Canada and Alaska.

Somewhere south of the last checkpoint in Fairbanks, the men made a pact: they'd finish together and split the pot.

"It was really the only way to do it," Kelly said. "The roads were bad. It was dark. Somebody was going to get hurt."

Even though Hoka Hey named him the winner, Barclay said he'd stick by his word.

"Frank and I have a deal and I will honor that with pleasure," Barclay said.

Reached in South Carolina, Kelly said he'd spoken to Barclay this week. Kelly also attended the ceremony in Sturgis.

"The deal between me and him is still good," Kelly said. "You don't find many people like that in the world left. I feel Will is an extremely honorable person."

Hoka Hey officials still have not said why Kelly was not named a co-winner. Kelly said that when he and Barclay decided to finish together as co-winners, they called Beth Durham, the east coast organizer, to see if that was possible. Kelly said she told them they could finish together.

Later, Kelly said Jim Durham told him there could be only one finisher. Photos showed Barclay's front tire crossing ahead of him, Kelly said Durham told him. The finish line was a banner strung between two U-Haul trucks at the entrance to the Kevin Bell Ice Arena on the Homer Spit. Homer filmmaker Travis Lind videotaped the finish.

"I would think it's hard to have a legitimate photo finish without a real finish line," Kelly said.

Phone and e-mail messages were left with Annie Malloy, west coast organizer for Hoka Hey, seeking clarification on why Kelly was not named a cofinisher, but Malloy did not return calls by press time.

Barclay credited his sailing and motorcycle experience with giving him the skills to win the 8,500-mile challenge. At age 8 Barclay started navigating with a chart and a compass, and he became skilled in orienteering the old fashioned way. He also has raced in offshore sailing events.

He knew from sailing he could go one night without sleep. Barclay didn't know how much longer he could go beyond that. After a second night without sleep in Arkansas, he hit the limit and took his first nap. He got by on two-hour naps after that.

A corporate jet pilot, Barclay recently has lived in India, Dubai and Saudi Arabia, with an official U.S. residence in Florida. In India he rode classic British Royal Enfield motorcycles in the Himalayas, including one he built himself. Riding on rough roads at high altitude with little facilities proved to be good training.

"I was inadvertently training for the Hoka Hey for the last three years in the best possible way," Barclay said.

With gas stations in Canada spread far apart and closed at night, Barclay said he had to calculate gas stops carefully. On his 2008 96-cubic-inch Electraglide he averaged about 200 miles a tank.

"Once I got lucky and once I planned well," Barclay said.

His Harley's gas gauge gave him a rough calculation of range. Coming into Fort Nelson, B.C., he saw he had gone 275 miles — about the bike's maximum range. He slowed down to increase his gas mileage, and then coming down a hill shut the Harley off and coasted. He made it to the gas station with .03 gallons to spare. At another gas station in Canada he asked the owner to call ahead to the next station four hours away to ask the owner to open up if he knocked on the door.

"By golly he did," Barclay said. "At 2 a.m. at just the right place I got another fill-up."

Barclay said he would run a future Hoka Hey challenge. Kelly said he's considering it.

"If the race looks like it's going to be a little better run than the last one, yes," Kelly said.

Kelly praised Homer for its welcome.

"The town's what made the trip for me," he said. "It was an awesome place to come. Beautiful place. The people there just opened up their homes and hearts."

Many Hoka Hey riders and families complained about aspects of the race that were poorly run — confusing directions, poor communication and general disorganization. Barclay said in a way that was part of the event's charm.

"I find the event to be really refreshing at a time when the world is rushing by so quickly with everything so over processed, over regimented, over organized and overly predictable," he said. "The fact that things were imperfect added to the perfection of the event."

According to video at the award ceremony on Aug. 11 at the Broken Spoke Saloon in Sturgis taken by Lake Weir Living, a Florida "toy friendly" community that has a blog, Durham also announced another Hoka Hey challenge would start Aug. 20, 2011, in San Diego, ending in Nova Scotia.

"We're going to do it again," Durham said. "We're running 10,000 miles from San Diego to Nova Scotia, and we're putting up one million dollars."

Details will be posted on the Hoka Hey Web site at www.hokaheychallenge.com, Durham said, but as of Tuesday the old site had been shut down and the new site was under construction.

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