My Ride in the Hoka Hey Challenge
Thank You for Everything!
I've made it back to Murrieta, CA. It was great to see the kid's faces! William jumped up and gave me a great big hug. It was good to see everyone over the past few days. It is hard to look at many in the eyes but I have to.
There are no excuses. I screwed up. I under-estimated the costs of repairs and the total costs for the event. I had planned over all of about $5300 but the true costs were closer to $10000. I was riding hard and putting a real strain on the bike. Things break and go wrong, but that is what is expected for an event of this magnitude. I guess people all over the world were monitoring the progress of the Challengers. It even crashed the USFT website. Wow what thing to be part of!
Wake up about 330 am in Scottsdale. Take a shower and load the bike. 430 start the trek to the starting point at Chester's Harley Davidson in Mesa. About a 20 mile ride. I get in about 515 and get the ride sheet for the 1st leg 564 miles Mesa to Las Vegas? I planned on 420. I'm in the very back of the line. Mistake 1, didn't get there early enough to pre-map it on a map to see where I will be going. Many of the roads are new to me, but I've been on a few. Get in line. Now was blessing from members of the Lakota Tribe, we are bathed in smoke. I'm not sure what to think, last minute instructions. Helicopters and cameras all over the place. Its 545, bikes start up and wind their way through Mesa. Initially everyone is orderly, then as we pass the last Mesa police car thing start to heat up. Helicopter is swooping all over. I can feel my adrenalin increasing along with my speed. We head through Cave Creek then Carefree. Eight abreast, oh ya, suddenly one rider goes off the road into the sand and dirt be he gets it back on the road. What the heck? Riding harder, I'm sure the locals don't like hearing the roar of hundreds of bike going thru their town. Going WNW now were moving. What the heck is this? Roundabout connected to roundabout? Everyone is going every which way but the right way, ha several of us break away going north. A lot are still going in circles, but some are starting to follow. Crap, I'm in the lead pack. 90 miles down, quick fuel up, 10 bikes fuel up too. Spencer with the video crew slides into the Shell Station filming the fist fuel stop. On my way, now really fast, starting to hit the hills. Oh, this is fun. Real fun. At 160 miles into it were really in a groove. Making a tight right turn, steep incline looking up towards a left hand turn. A cloud of dust? What? Oh no, God please no. This can't happen. No. Maybe when I make the turn I'll see the rider. No one there. The directions signs are bent over, skid marks in the dirt, the dust is gone. Jerry the rider just behind me pulls over too. I hand my cell phone to him to call 911 and request an air ship. But where am I? I don't know. I run to the edge of the cliff/turn I see the red bike about 40 feet from the road upside down, where is the rider? I run to the edge and see him face down 15 feet off the side. Not moving. A few other riders show up. First guy, get the first 10 people to help the rider, he's a big guy. Kelsey is next to me now. The rider is barely breathing. Got to establish his airway. Now we got enough people down, I tell everyone the game plan. We move slowly keeping his spine as straight as possible. Up the hill, rotate him to his back, still stabilizing in C-spine. Got to get his helmet off, He isn't breathing well at all. I stabilize from the front of the face and direct the removal of the helmet. We maintain head stabilization. Time to cut his clothes and check for further injuries. Left shoulder, feels broken up. The right lower thoracic area looks like it swelling. KC a retired Army medic is on scene we look at each other. He points out a few things, not good. Don't die. I look up and it's Spencer, someone is on the phone with 911 operator, they won't launch the helicopter until there is an on scene local official. I see a volunteer ff with an HT. I ask her name and tell the operator that she's on scene and concurs with the request. Spencer hands me his phone with Lat/Long and I read it off. I have no idea where I am. The local volunteer FD arrives, they are first responders. I ask for their O2, BP cuff, C-Spine supplies. Pulse is 144 and thready, respirations about 8, High flow O2 on now. No Pulse Ox, no EKG, no medics. He is starts to moan. Good, the O2 is working, slowly he begins to speak. He's in pain, a lot. Looks real pale and the Right abdomen is swelling. Where's the helo and the ambulance? Got him on the backboard, ambulance shows up. Young EMT girl, I don't think she grasps the situation. She wants to do an assessment, WTF? I hear the helo orbiting. We load the rider on the gurney. Jim Red Cloud asks "medicine man, how's he doing?" I motion not so good 50/50 at best.
KC, Kelsey, Jerry, and I remain, from the front to the end. What just happened? I've got random thoughts going through my head. We ride, but not as hard as before. Get through Flagstaff, edge of the Grand Canyon, Route 66, Kingman, then to Las Vegas. Good that Kelsey used to live in the area knows the area well. We get to Las Vegas Harley Davidson about 6pm 2 hours behind the leaders, ya, that's about right. Las Vegas has a great spread for the riders. Cool water and fruit. Awesome people. I see a couple of the video guys there; no one has an update on the rider's condition. Time to head out off the 2nd leg 744 miles Las Vegas to Reno through Death Valley, Yosemite, Gold Country, then to Lake Tahoe and Reno. This should be easy. Ha.
Leg two; we leave Las Vegas Harley Davidson just before sunset. It's over a 100 but the refreshments helped a lot. Still thinking about the rider who crashed is still hanging heavy over everyone. But were getting back in the groove. KC's headlight low beam burns out. We hit the gas station in Pahrump and off to Death Valley, a lot cooler in the evening. We ride through the park and the gas stations on the west side of the park are closed. Oops! Can we make it to Lone Pine? Running on fumes 5.2 gallons. Other riders are camped out behind the station. We're picking off positions. Its midnight and gonna get cold on the hill, time to gear up.
Leaving Lone Pine, we head up 395. More riders resting along the side of the road. Oh, more spots! As we head up towards Convict Lake, Kelsey doesn't see us pull off to put on the heavy gloves he continues forward. I don't think I see him again. Just Jerry, KC, and I, time to jam on. We're moving a real good clip Mammoth Lakes Airport on the right side. Road construction ahead KC has the lead, then heavy panic breaking. He's sliding, I'm sliding, and everyone is sliding sideways. A deer is flying over his fairing from right to left seven feet in the air! We all recover from the slide no one crashes. Time to stop at the June Lake rest stop. KC is done for the evening. It's 3am. Time for rest.
5am time to get up and hit the road. Hit the Chevron in Lee Vining. Coffee is good and hot. Ride the east entrance into Yosemite. Most of the visitors are just getting up and not on the road. Perfect! Running in a pack of 10 riders. Speed controlled area, but it gives us a chance to look at the parks splendor. I've spent many visits to this grand old park in my 20's. It's always so beautiful. We round through the Valley and exit the park on the Hwy 41. Oakhurst for a new headlight for KC and food from Jack in the Box. Being familiar with the Gold country, I take the lead. Hwy 49 through so many small little towns and every one of them is having a festival, carnival, or fair. Traffic is at a crawl. At Angles Camp, we turn on Hwy 4. We're in trouble and I know it.
This is great road for a gentle cruise, but not for a competition with 800 lbs bikes, hard turns, hard acceleration, and even harder braking. By the time we get off the road, KC has lost is rear brakes. Mine are glazed but still stopping. Heading towards Lake Tahoe. I read the instructions, but they are wrong and I take a wrong turn for 30 miles. I'm tired, the sun is setting, getting cool, and I'm pissed. Spooner Junction is in Nevada not California! We make it to Reno Harley Davidson at 9pm. More coffee, sandwiches, and water. Still no information on the fallen rider. KC needs work done on his bike. Jerry decides to hang with him. I gotta roll.
3rd leg Reno to Great Falls Mt 1768 miles. A kid on a 1200 Sportster is gearing up; I ask him if he wants to ride along. His name is Brady #688. We're off. It's 11pm and cool out, hit I80 to Truckee then over the north side of the lake. On US 50 near Echo Summit its real cold, we hook up with Raymond, a grizzle bear of a man, but a gentle side. Brady doesn't have any real cold weather gear. He's 6'5", I'm 5'7", and I let him use my leather chaps. Looks funny but he's warmer. We gotta roll. We lost positions on the wrong turn but are picking up a bunch of spots up as we ride past those who are sleeping. At 3am, we find a CALTRANS wide spot. Throw out my pad and I'm sleeping for a couple of hours.
6am, what I've over slept? Heard a couple of bike pass by, I'm not going to let that happen for long. We find a gas station and ask for directions. Ha! I've been here before; it's a real pain but lots of turns and ways to get lost. We're screaming out of there. Except where the CHP is. We travel through the San Joaquin Valley, southern Stockton to Oakland I tell Raymond and Brady to stick close lots of quick turns. We are taking the 580 to the 80 to the 101N. Other riders are in the left lane and totally miss the 101 off ramp, I laugh, but not for long. I get us lost in SF. We're looking for the Golden Gate Bridge. It's big and they couldn't hide it away from me, but it's foggy. Finally, we find Presidio and the Bridge. Oh, I'm the hero again... Just a few miles up the road on the 101, we turned off on bumper-to-bumper hell. CA Hwy 1. 220 miles. Entered about 9:15 am exit about 6:00 pm. Only 1 gas station at $5.79 a gallon. We got back on the 101 around Leggett. Oh the smell of BBQ Tri Tip Sandwiches! Food! Still no word on the fallen biker. We talk and ask if we could have done, anything better anything more. We're pasted by a few bike as we eat, time to get on the road but Brady finds out that his tank is leaking fuel at a back weld. He didn't put in the bushings to absorb the vibrations. Got to find some fuel tank weld along the road. We ride on. It's about 11 when we reach Eureka fuel, no 24 hr Wal-Mart. Brady help a couple a "valley girls" with their car. Time to gear up, heavy fog, and coastal rain ahead. We hit the road going well, not many bikes on the road, just passed a few. Then we hit the fog wall. Wet and cold. 15 mph and we got 60 miles to get to Crescent City to the 24 hr Wal-Mart. After a few miles, we lose Raymond. He is a cautious rider, we're sure he found a place to hide out. We continue on. Four hours hater 4 am we find the Wal-Mart and they have the tank weld. But first, it's time to get some sleep.
6am up again, we patch Brady's tank and put cardboard over the frame where that tank mounts and wrap the flanges with electrical tape to take in some of the vibrations. Brady don't over tighten this time. The sun feels good, in Oregon. Everyone is driving nuts and I can smell their "prescription" in the air. Lots of traffic along the coast. Fast then slow, a lot of small seaside communities, pretty but I don't have time to look. Brady loses his air cleaner near Dunes City. We spend an hour getting it fixed and lose about 15 positions. We get to Tillamook and start inland towards Portland, getting hot and its 5pm rush hour. Get some gas and head towards WA 14 E, the Columbia River Gorge. About 60 miles in, we find a campground and general store. Sandwiches and chips a real dinner. But Brady has lost his credit card, his only credit card. He takes off back to the gas station to look for it. Raymond from 2 days earlier passes me by and waves. I set up camp. 9pm and he's not back, I go to sleep. 1am, I forgot the 96-hour rule I gotta to go. Brady is a sleep. I wake him up. He didn't find his card but if he can find a credit union, he can get money out in the counter. I ask him if he has enough money, he doesn't have much. I hand him $20. In Walla Walla, there should be a credit union. But I can't wait around. Pack my stuff and I'm down the road. Rather quickly. Near Davies Pass, a sign, next fuel 82 miles, I have less that a 1/2 tank. There's a Shell station at the top of the hill. Fuel up and I'm on my way but the wind is really blowing very hard. Going down a steep grade, wind blowing, 500 foot drop off on the right and I lose all electrical. Only a 1/8 moon out, no lights, I can barely make out the fog line, and a semi that can't see me 1/4 mile behind. Got to get over fast and stop the bike without going over the edge. Now lean the bike away from the road, the semi misses me by 2 feet. He never saw me. My Guardian Bells are ringing like a British Royal wedding. Being a firefighter for 32 years, that was my closest call ever. I reset the electrical, the only lights I have are turn signals and a high beam. I can make it. The sun starts to rise as I pass the Walla Walla Junction, glad to see it. I pull in to Big Sky Harley Davidson in Great Falls, MT. Its 6pm. Time to eat something, fix the bike, a rest for a few hours. They tell me that I'm in the middle, I've made up a bunch of positions. I'm breathing hard but can't slow my breathing down. The bike is fixed but just spent $450.00 on repairs.
It's 9:30pm time to leave on the 4th leg, 555 miles from Great Falls to Idaho Falls. Its dark and I stop at Jakes Corner about 11pm I see another Challenger there. I ask him if he wants to ride along for a while and he says yes. We take off. About 80 miles down the road, he motions to pull over. What's going on? He's out of fuel in the MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. He forgot to get fuel in Jakes Corner. I empty my bottle of water and hand it to him to siphon fuel from my tank. He gets enough to make it to the next town. We've lost 2 hours.
I'm getting tired 4:30am, we park the bike near the UM - Billings. I'll sleep till 5:30. The other guy doesn't wake up. I'm on a mission. I reach Red Lodge, MT about 6:30 time for breakfast. I look at my back tire, it's wearing badly. Gonna keep an eye on it. Back on the road by 7:15, but I'm getting tired again. Why? I cross over the Beartooth, but find myself starting to nod off. This is not the place to be nodding off. I get off the bike and do jumping jacks, Muay Thai Kickboxing, anything to keep from falling asleep. It seems to work. I'm out of Yellowstone by 10am. Got to go harder. I know I must have picked up some more positions, but how many? My kids, friends, and total strangers are sending me text messages to go go go. They say I'm catching up. I get in to Idaho Falls around 4:30pm. It is hot, very hot. I've moved up to 89th place!! I'm doing it! I ask the service manager to look at the tire. It won't make it to Sturgis, the rear brakes are shot, and a wiring harness is fried. Fix it, got to have it hopefully not too expensive. $570 bucks more. 85% of my maintenance/repair budget gone and only 1/3 of the way through. 40% of my fuel budget done. I walk to the backside of the dealership and cry. I've worked so hard for so long. Everyone has been great and supportive. I can't complete the Challenge, I don't have the money. What am I going to say, how am I going to say it? But I have to be honest, the first call is to my family, then friends, then sponsors. I'm out. Physically I'm fine, but it's financial, I can't do it to my family. I way underestimated the costs. By at least $5000. I have been running the bike hard and something's gotta give, it wasn't me so it had to be the bike. I made it do thinks that I never would believe it could do.
KC comes into the shop about an hour later, his clutch is shot. He's running an open primary, dry clutch. No parts for it around here. He's out too. I sleep on the back parking lot.
KC and I talk. We can make it to Sturgis a day. Instead of taking the "Route", we can go direct, only about 500 miles. 8am and were on the road, through Yellowstone, Cody WY and the Big Horn. We stop for fuel near Ranchester and who do we find? Brady! He and his bike are covered in deer parts. Just outside of town, he hit a deer at 70 mph. He didn't fall down, but it did bend his right fork about 3/8". He's laughing, but it's a scared laugh. I take off one of my Guardian Bells and hand it to him. He needs it. We rename him "Deer Killer". We chat for 30 minutes and he's off. He still has another 500 miles to go. Sturgis is about 150 miles, but the clouds and lighting are building. We reach Gillette and KC says he's getting a motel room, I have friends in Sturgis, and they are waiting for me. We'll meet tomorrow at the Spoke. In an hour, I pull into Sturgis. It's not the same, not as fun. But I have a soft couch to sleep on.
My sponsor the Law Tigers are getting the crew together to man their displays in downtown Sturgis. I park the bike at a display and talk to people who have questions about the Hoka Hey Challenge and my experiences. Around 1pm, I travel to the Broken Spoke and meet up with several riders. We trade stories, make bold statements and general BS. It's good to see them. Someone says that the rider who crashed near Phoenix is still in a coma. We all say a lil prayer. Brady shows up.
Everyone looks tired, dirty, but determined. Everyone hugs each other. Be safe. They are headed to Grand Junction CO. Tomorrow, I'm going to Wisconsin.
Early rise. 7am and off on I90. It's Saturday and a lot of bikes are headed home to the east coast. It is a long road. By 9pm near Albert Lea, I see what looks like an entire herd of deer killed on the highway. Time for me to find somewhere to sleep, Ahhh a KOA. A shower sounds nice.
· Little slower getting up but I'm on the road by 8am. The road hasn't changed but I've slowed down a lot. I make it to Wisconsin Harley Davidson about 5 pm. They say I'm 49th, but I tell them I DQ'd myself. We swap some stories and I tell them about Brady and his problems and determination. I mentioned that I gave him my bell. An hour later, Joe Rice and Donna Bykowski give me a new fire Guardian Bell. I start to cry, again. Wade the owner and everyone around are so nice. I will be back sometime. I try to cheer on other Challengers as they check in. Time to sleep on the picnic table outside.
I see Joe and Donna in the morning. They say they will keep an eye out on Brady. I head out. But where am I going? Nova Scotia, no that wouldn't be right. Home, maybe, Phoenix to check on the rider. That's where I'm going. But my GPS is acting up. It wants to go home to Garmin factory near Kansas City, KS. OK , that's where I'm headed. I get in about 1pm and leave about 3:30pm. They even upgraded the unit. A bed would be real nice! Olathe KS is where I spend the night.
It's raining hard, but I have the gear. Saddle up. The rain ends around Meade. The air is sticky and getting warm. Riding through Oklahoma, Texas, and now New Mexico. Really hot in Tucumcari. Clouds are forming towards Albuquerque. 30 miles away from Albuquerque it starts to rain hard, strong winds and lighting. Time to find a place to hide for the evening. Comfort Inn sounds good.
Can I make it to Flagstaff? Phoenix? Southern California? Beth Durham from the Hoka Hey Challenge sends me a text that the rider is at John Lincoln Hospital in Phoenix. That's where I'm going. When I arrive, it's 117 outside. But the good news is that the rider was just moved from the ICU to the 5th floor. I find his room. "Mr. Shafer, my name is Bill Aviles. I was behind you.." we talked about the accident. I told him that I was happy to see him. I know we saved his life. All of us that helped out on day 1. Did it cost me a chance? I don't know and really - I don't care. Hell it's only money. Maybe only, a few of us will remember what happened or even care. But I know that there are two people that will remember it for the rest of our lives.