GOWANDA - Gowan-da Harley-Davidson Master Technician Jamie Wilson has returned from one of the most intense motorcycle challenges in the United States: Hoka Hey.
"It was by far one of the hardest thing I had ever done in my life," Wilson, of Gowanda Harley, said. "Every part of my being was challenged, both mentally and physically. We would ride over twenty hours a day most days, all on secondary roads. It took me 11 days, and I rode over 8,300 miles. We rode from Gowanda to Vermont, up through the Arctic Watershed, down through the Dakotas, into Texas and back up to Gowanda."
The Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge brought almost 80 of the most dedicated and enduring riders in the world to the Gowanda area, including the host site of Wolf's Run on the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation. One rider came from Norway to take the challenge.
Jamie Wilson being followed by members of the Zoar Valley Harley Owners Group as he prepares to cross the finish line after 11 days and over 8,300 miles on his motorcycle.
Wilson shares on his most memorable parts: "One of the best parts of the ride was the relationships I had the privilege of making. These folks were from all over, every different walk of life, some blue collar, and some white collar, all sharing the passion of the Hoka Hey Motorcycle Chall-enge." Wilson said it took him almost two weeks to catch up on his sleep. "I still don't feel completely caught up, but I must press on. It's taking me to a new place and an appreciation for the road and motorcycling. There is nothing like being on the road, especially when supporting an organization like the Hoka Hey. But I couldn't have done it without the generous support of my sponsors, friends and family. I'd really like to let them know how much I appreciate them."
The riders of the challenge were not allowed to stay in formal lodging without disqualifying themselves from the prizes at stake. "We slept on average of two to three hours a day, mostly on the side of the road alongside the bike. On the first night of the trip, I had zipped myself up inside my sleeping bag as we were being bombarded with mosquitoes, when all of a sudden I heard a scratching outside the top of my sleeping bag. I slowly unzipped it to find a skunk sniffing around. I just zipped it back up slowly and hoped for the best, which I received, thankfully," Wilson said.
There's no doubt that this motorcycle event brought challenges to all, as there were a few accidents reported, including the death of John W. Anderson of Pensacola, Fla., a retired U.S. Air Force member of 23 years. Anderson passed away while riding in Greeley, Colo.
"Losing John hit all the riders hard, but it hit home for us, too," shared Tim McKeever, marketing manager at Gowanda Harley-Davidson. "We have a personal relationship with these riders, both men and women. We shook their hands, we welcomed them into our community, we went out to lunch with them, we saw pictures of their families, we became connected with them, and they to us. Losing John hit home, and hit hard. Our deepest sympathies are with John's wife Paula, son John, his mother Margret and their families."
Gowanda Harley-David-son organized a memorial service for Anderson the day of his funeral, which was held in Chang-Hu Park and attended by about 70 Hoka Hey Riders and friends.
The event could not have happened without the generosity of folks like Gowanda Harley-Davidson and Willy and Sally Parry of Wolf's Run. The Parrys made several donations including fueling the almost 80 bikes before they left, opened their location to the riders and their families for lodging prior, during and after the ride, helped organize several events throughout the week the riders returned, hosted the reception party at Wolf's Run which featured Artimus Pyle, Hall-of-Fame drummer from Lynyrd Skynyrd and even gave away, for free, a 2013 Harley-David-son Super Glide Custom.
The Hoka Hey will continue its motorcycle challenge next year. At the closing ceremonies, Beth Durham, director of the Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge, announced that the challenge will head back to its roots for next year's challenge, which will begin in Key West, Fla., and end in Homer, Alaska.
You can learn more about the Hoka Hey by logging on to www.hokaheymotorcyclechallenge.com.