Cross-country on the Back of a Sporty — It’s TK Versus the Hoka Hey (Part II)

Tristica “TK” Kendall (front row, center)

Editor’s Note: Below is Part II of a two-part series written by Tristica Kendall, also known as “TK,” who signed up for the 2010 Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge last summer. Her story chronicles her adventures on this renown — and grueling — 10,000-mile ride, which began in Key West, Fla., and ended in Homer, Alaska nearly two weeks later.

TK formerly worked with the daughter of Gene Vorwerk, Kuryakyn’s in-house performance expert. It was through Kuryakyn that she was able to finance the trip. She was one of only a handful of women to participate in the race and she did it aboard a Harley-Davidson Sportster 883 — which is like riding a Big Wheel tricycle in the Tour de France. We pick up her adventures alongside the road on Day 8, en route to Tennessee (if you missed the first part of TK’s story, read In This Marathon Challenge, It Was TK Versus the Hoka Hey – Part I before reading the info below).

TK Versus the Hoka Hey (Part II)
By Tristica “TK” Kendall

Day 8 – 6/21/2010: It was morning time but I awoke to total darkness. I’d only slept five hours and was anticipating another long day. I packed out my gear, filled up with gas, ate a granola bar and slammed a cup of coffee. The next checkpoint was in Memphis and I was determined to hit it. I checked my directions and headed out at 5 a.m., figuring that if things went well I should be in Memphis by around 11 that night. Little did I know there were cheaters ahead of the pack. The route took me up through the Ozarks — beautiful yet dangerous if you don’t focus on the road. And riders ahead were removing road signs, making navigation through the mountains even more difficult. The sun began to set and I remember glancing over my back to see 10 other riders right behind me. I slowed down and found a wide enough shoulder to pull over and allow them to pass. No good, they pulled in right behind me and stopped. That’s when I realized they were following me! Okay boys, let’s ride. We painstakingly made our way through the mountains and back to civilization, stopping once to ask for directions. A grueling 26-hour ride through the Ozarks found myself and one other rider named KC at our second checkpoint. Exhausted and hungry, we got some breakfast. KC headed off to his hotel room, and I went back to the checkpoint and rolled out my pack on the curb next to my bike. With the hot sun rising and the humidity setting in like a sauna, I managed to fall asleep, but not for as long as I’d have liked.

Day 9 – 6/22: Nine-thirty a.m. brought the sounds of a city and a new friend — Canada Bob — who rolled into the checkpoint just as I was getting ready to head out. Being from Quebec, he was having trouble navigating, and asked if he could tag along with me. It’s always better to have a riding partner, so I gladly accepted, and finished packing out while Bob ate breakfast and had his bike checked over by his team. He was fortunate enough to have a team traveling with him, including a chef, a mechanic, a writer and another buddy who was tasked with meeting him at every checkpoint and eventually, taking him home in their toy-hauler RV at the end of the challenge. At 10 a.m., we headed out, navigating our way through the Memphis interstates and out onto the open road. We traveled through Arkansas and to the Oklahoma border that day, stopping around 11 p.m. at a rest stop for some much needed shuteye. Bob found a comfy-looking picnic table and I took a cushy spot under a tree. The third checkpoint was still a day away in Wyoming and rest was our best option.

Day 10 – 6/23: Up before the sun again, we were on our way west. We rode through Oklahoma and into New Mexico and I started to get that near-home feeling — thinking about how comfy my bed and a hot shower would feel right about then — but the open road snapped me back to reality. Bob and I pressed on through New Mexico and into Arizona. We’d have gone into Utah that night but my rear tire had other plans. As we stopped for gas in Payson, Ariz., I checked over my gear and noticed a huge bald spot down the center of my rear tire. Knowing I needed a replacement, we rode into Camp Verde and set camp in the McDonald’s parking lot for the night.

Day 11 – 6/24: The next morning we slept in until 6, knowing that the closest dealership wouldn’t be open for at least two more hours. We packed out our bikes and headed northwest, ending up in Flagstaff where we parting ways momentarily — or so we thought. I had to wait for the dealership in Bellemont to open and I told Bob to go on ahead without me, saying I’d catch him up somewhere along the road. After a few quick directions and a hug, Bob continued on while I backtracked to the dealership. Arriving there an hour and a half before the dealership opened, I sat down on the manicured lawn and began to eat my breakfast. Just about then, the service manager pulled up and asked if I wanted to come inside for some coffee. We got to talking, he made some phone calls, and a mechanic showed up early to help get me on my way. A new rear tire, a quick oil change and many thanks later, I was back on the road and headed to Wyoming. I couldn’t find Bob in Tuba City, Ariz., and I’m not sure how that happened, but he later caught up with me in Wyoming. So I spent the day alone, winding my way through the Valley of the Gods and the many canyons of Utah and pulling into the third checkpoint in Flaming Gorge, Wyo., at 1 in the morning. Tired and grateful to have made it so far, I laid my bag down next to my warm engine and nabbed a nap.

Day 12 – 6/25: Morning brought a beautiful mountain sunrise and the return of Bob. Apparently he had been waiting at some cafe in Tuba City and I missed him completely. So while I packed, he ate some food and took a shower — a luxury I didn’t have. We headed east to South Dakota and the Chief’s house, which was Checkpoint 4. I lost Bob about an hour before we reached the Chief’s house because he hadn’t slept in 26 hours and needed a break. I stayed at the checkpoint just long enough to get my picture taken and sign in. I rolled out before a big storm hit and caught up with Dale and Jim, another pair of lost bikers. The rest of the day found us winding through Deadwood and the rolling hills of South Dakota and up into Montana. We made it about 60 miles out of Billings, Mont., when four deer nearly turned us into road kill, an event that had us pulling into the next rest stop and calling it a night.

Day 13 – 6/26: Today we made it to Checkpoint 5 in northern Montana, and after an hour’s rest, we headed north to the Canadian border. We crossed over around 5 p.m. and were greeted by a cold rain. We continued riding until it was too dark to see and the road became too wet to mess around with. Finding another rest stop, we hunkered down for the night.

Day 14 – 6/27: Leaving the rest stop around 4 a.m., we spent the morning running in rain and thick fog. Our route took us northeast through British Columbia, around Lake Louise. We forged through on this day and followed the map from southern B.C. into Alberta and then back into B.C., where Jim and I decided to stop for the night at around 1 a.m. It was twilight that far north and the rain hadn’t stopped since we left Alberta. Finding a spot that wasn’t as wet as everywhere else, I laid out my tarp and my bag, curled up the best I could under my bike and tried to sleep. When you’re wet and the temperature is a high of 35, sleep doesn’t come easily.

Day 15 – 6/28: Woke up to more rain today. A girl in the gas station said she’d only seen one day of sun in the last two weeks — great. It was gonna be another balmy 36 degrees and the rain wasn’t going to let up, so Jim and I just went for it. Today’s run brought us through the Rocky Mountains, into the green valleys of northern B.C. and face to face with herds of buffalo. We managed to get out of the rain for a while and experience the beauty of the great north woods. The end of our day found us in the Yukon Territory, about 100 miles from the town of Teslin. My body was starting to feel the effects of the cold, damp north and the lack of sleep since Key West. I had to pull over. We got some hot food in Watson Lake and found a park to rest at for a couple of hours. After three unsuccessful hours of attempting to sleep, we packed our gear and continued west. We stopped to fill up at this little station just west of Watson Lake and the never-ending rain became more pronounced. We managed to ride 20 miles in three hours and finally gave up for the night, pulling into a little resort, Soaked, exhausted and still unable to sleep, I curled into my wet sleeping bag and closed my eyes.

Tristica “TK” Kendall at the Hoka Hey Finish

Day 16 – 6/29: Four hours and maybe a total of 30 minutes of sleep later, I got up and found a dryer to use. I threw all of my gear and clothing in the machine and stood in my beater and underwear, drinking hot cocoa until they were dry. While I was waiting for the clothes, I could feel myself giving into exhaustion and fought the urge to give in. I got dressed, packed out the bike and Jim and I hit the road. We ran in the rain for another 100 miles and with the wind ripping through my clothes, it took everything in me to keep my bike on the road. We arrived at Teslin and with the last bit of energy in my body, I rolled into the parking lot and stopped. With tears in my eyes I made the decision to honor my body instead of my head. I said goodbye to Jim and called my girlfriend to come and get me. Jen had already arrived in Homer and she was just two days away from me. I was only 1,100 miles from the finish and I had to give in. But 9,000 hard miles in 10 days on my Sporty was accomplishment enough for me. I got a motel room and after long, long shower, I succumbed to my exhaustion, waking up only once in the two days it took Jen to get to me.

With the help of my family, we were able to make the trek back to Homer and be a part of the closing ceremonies. When Jen called her friends and told them we were on our way back, the whole room erupted with cheers. Little did I know that most of the riders and the townsfolk were rooting for the “girl on the Sportster.”

Once in Homer, I reconnected with my buddies on the road and also met a ton of other great people. We camped out on an organic farm — a hidden oasis in the North. Sunday brought the closing party and all of us who had become so close on the road were now going our separate ways.  When we all gathered for the picture of all the riders who made it to Homer, I found myself welcomed with an explosion of applause and cheers when I walked up to join the ranks.

The next day — July 5th — saw Jen and I saying goodbye to the friends we made, and then we began the trip back south to home and reality. Without the help and encouragement from my family, friends, riders on the road, townsfolk throughout the states, and Kuryakyn, my trip would not have been possible. It’s not only the gear that kept my clothes and food dry and easily accessible, but also the faith that others had in me that kept the chrome side up and the throttle wound. I will forever be grateful for the kind words, the willing help, and the relentless souls I had the privilege to encounter. Thank you Kuryakyn for making one of the best experiences in my life a reality.

Wrap-up: After my return to Phoenix and work, I received a phone call asking if I’d be interested in working as a test rider for Harley-Davidson at its proving grounds in Yucca, Ariz. I later found out that my new supervisor — Mike Martinelli —was also a competitor on the Hoka Hey. Small world. So as an unexpected bonus for riding in the Hoka Hey, I find myself employed by Harley and getting a paycheck for riding motorcycles. That’s right. I’m paid to ride. I’m just not sure how I can top the ending to that story.

Editor’s Note: Kuryakyn Parts used by Tristica “TK” Kendall during her assault of the 2010 Hoka Hey:

  • Light Smoke quick disconnect windshield
  • Electrical output – with quick battery disconnect
  • Highway bars
  • Gran Tour Pack
  • Gran Tank bag
Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook Email

2 Responses to “Cross-country on the Back of a Sporty — It’s TK Versus the Hoka Hey (Part II)”

  1. Sounds like a great run. I’m currently in Salerno Afghanistan anxiously waiting to go home for vacation to pick up my new 2011 Electra glide ultra limited. My wife is a great and understanding person. She’s put up with my endeavors over the years and even with my new harley. While reading your travel story, I really envied anyone that took on what you did. Congrats and know that we, here in Afghanistan, rooted for you all the way. Our country was founded by spirits such as yours. God Bless

  2. Melvin, Thank you for your service. You are going to love tha bike. Picked mine up just over 2800 miles ago. Great machine.