Story last updated at 4:43 PM on Friday, September 25, 2009

Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge organizers visit Homer

Group here to work out details of 2010 event

By Michael Armstrong
Staff Writer

One-thousand crazed bikers roaring down the Homer Spit in a mad dash for a $500,000 prize in gold?

Four-thousand fans, family members and supporters squatting around town wherever they can find a camping spot?

Those are some of the misconceptions organizers of the Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge want to dispel as they meet this week with the Homer Chamber of Commerce, the Homer City Council, city officials and others to start working out the details of a celebration planned for July 4, 2010, when up to 1,000 Harley Davidson motorcycle riders arrive in Homer at the end of a 7,000-mile ride starting June 20, 2010, in Key West, Fla.


Photographer: Michael Armstrong, Homer News

Hoka Hey organizers Beth Durham, of Hot Springs, S.D., and Annie Malloy, of San Diego, Calif., arrived in Homer on Wednesday to talk with locals about what has come to be called "the Iditarod of Harley Davidsons."

Organizers Beth Durham, of Hot Springs, S.D., and Annie Malloy, of San Diego, Calif., arrived in Homer on Wednesday to talk with locals about what has come to be called "the Iditarod of Harley Davidsons." On Friday they met at the Kevin Bell Ice Arena with representatives of the Homer Hockey Association and Homer Marine Terminal about possibly using that space as Hoka Hey headquarters. They also met with Homer Police Chief Mark Robl and Homer Volunteer Fire Department Chief Bob Painter to discuss public safety concerns.

Monday they talk to the Homer City Council.

"We're here to deliver to the city that everything we're doing is to make everything seamless," Malloy said.

Hoka Hey gets its the name from the war cry of Crazy Horse and his warriors and means "it's a good day to die." The race is not for the swift but for the savvy, which is why the organizers call it a challenge. Entrants have to pay a $1,000 entry fee, although some riders are seeking sponsors. The first one in Homer gets $500,000 in Alaska gold.

It's not a full-throttle hell-for-metal race; it's more like a road rally. Between Key West and Homer are seven checkpoints roughly 1,000 miles apart, with the first checkpoint somewhere in Mississippi. Beyond that, Malloy and Durham are being coy.

Riders could go west. They could go north. At each checkpoint riders receive directions to the next checkpoint, mostly along secondary paved roads. They have to follow traffic regulations, including speed limits, and will be monitored electronically and by "ghosts" - spies along the way - to make sure they don't deviate from set routes.

Those race rules shoot down the first myth: not everyone will arrive at once, and some - because of breakdowns or other mishaps - might not arrive at all. They have 14 days to arrive in Homer to finish officially.

The number of 5,000 anticipated visitors that alarmed some city council members is on the high side, Malloy said. Most riders will travel alone.

"We have no way of knowing how many," she said. "We have to anticipate 1,000 riders and their families."

Hoka Hey has a cap of 1,000 entrants. Durham wouldn't say how close they are to signing up that number, but expects to reach 1,000 entries within 60 days.

Hoka Hey has been talking this week with the chamber about finding accommodations for the riders and others.

"They'll do everything in their power to make this work," Durham said of chamber officials.

Already, Homer people have offered places to stay, Malloy said.

"We've had private citizens offer land, offer meadows, offer free lodging," she said.

At the other end of the road in Key West, the city of 25,000 will have to accommodate riders and fans - and hold a mass start. Hoka Hey has already talked to Key West about setting up the event there, Durham said.

Key West is used to handling events like Hoka Hey, said Key West City Manager Jim Scholl. Key West has a city code for special events - one that Homer is looking at to develop its own special events ordinance, under consideration Monday by the council.

In Key West, a special events coordinator helps organizers go through the process, with fee schedules for all the things needed, like trash pickup, recycling, Port-a-potties and extra police.

A 1,000-mass start motorcycle ride and all the guests staying there is no problem, Scholl said.

"That's something we do quite frequently down here," he said.

Last weekend, Key West had about 8,000 motorcycle riders come to town for a Rotary Club-sponsored poker run from Miami to Key West.

"We closed down six or seven blocks of our main business street," Scholl said. "Duvall Street had motorcycles parked along the curb. We can do that. It's just a normal, routine special event."

The riders entering the Hoka Hey include a lot of Vietnam War and other veterans for whom the event is as much about the experience as it is the challenge.

"We have lawyers, we have doctors, we have miners, we have college administrators," Malloy said. "About every walk of life, really."

Except for some council members who expressed skepticism earlier this summer about the event, most everyone has been supportive, Malloy said.

"I haven't talked to anyone in Homer or the peninsula who hasn't been willing to offer support in some way," she said.

For more information on visit the Hoka Hey Challenge website.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at