In This Marathon Challenge, It Was TK Versus the Hoka Hey – Part I

Tristica Kendall and her HD Sportster 883

Editor’s Note: Tristica Kendall, also known as “TK,” used to work with the daughter of Gene Vorwerk, Kuryakyn’s in-house performance expert. Originally from northern Minnesota, TK now lives outside of Phoenix. Last summer, she took on the biggest challenge of her life when she signed up for the 2010 Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge, a 10,000-plus mile road rally pitting Harley riders against the clock in an ordeal that began in Key West, Fla., on June 20 and ended on the Homer Spit in Homer, Alaska nearly two weeks later. A friend of hers got TK a sponsorship from Kuryakyn to compete in the challenge.

What makes TK’s ride somewhat remarkable — in addition to the fact that she’s among only a handful of women to participate in such a grueling, butt-numbing competition — is the fact that she did it on a Harley Davidson Sportster 883. No bagger here. A Sportster! That can pretty much be likened to riding a kid’s Big Wheel tricycle in the Tour de France.

Below is Part I of a two-part series that chronicles TK’s adventures, trials and mishaps on this cross-continent competition.

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

I’m told “Hoka Hey!” is a Lakota phrase that was something legendary Sioux warrior Crazy Horse would shout out to his tribe whenever he headed off to battle. It can be interpreted as meaning, “It’s a good day to die,” and it’s certainly an appropriate name for the Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge.

TK leaving Phoenix for the 2011 Hoka Hey

My adventures with the Hoka Hey began a long time before we got to the starting line in Key West, Fla. For one thing, there was the issue of finding the cash for this month-long endeavor. My friends and family threw a number of fundraising parties at Erin’s Sheppards, a north Phoenix, pub where you have to shout to be heard over the Top 40 tunes blasting from the jukebox. We also designed a Hoka Hey-related website to which family and friends across the country could donate to my cause.

With the help a generous tax return and the vigorous efforts of my friends, I entered the race in February and began making plans. In March, my good friend Carrie asked me if I’d be interested in some sponsorship from a company that her mom and dad worked for — Kuryakyn. I jumped at the opportunity and shortly thereafter, we met to discuss each other’s expectations.

In return for my vocal and physical strengths in representing their products, they would help me outfit my Sportster with everything I needed. That included a great tour pack, tank bag, electrical output, highway bars and the new, lightly smoked windshield — all designed to get me safely to Homer, Alaska. The following is a chronology of my ride and how Kuryakyn’s combined kindness and generosity helped me to travel 9,000 miles in 10 days from Key West to Teslin, Yukon, on a 2008 XL883L.

Day 1 – 6/14/2010: I left my home in Phoenix around 5 a.m., pointing my bike toward Fort Worth, Texas. I spent 16 hours on the interstate that day and arrived at hotel in the middle of a raging storm around 9 p.m. Thanks to the quick connect on the brackets for the windshield, I managed to stay dry, at least from the waist up. I checked in with all family members and proceeded to take a much-needed shower, eat some take out and hit the sack. Tomorrow was going to be another long day.

Tristica Kendall's Sportster Fuel Tank

Day 2 – 6/15: I found myself waking to the alarm at 4 a.m. and packed out the sporty. It was still raining. I left as quietly as possible and made my way to Baton Rouge, La. After another 15-hour stint, and a $120 speeding ticket for doing 80 in an 80 (don’t argue with Texas troopers), I reached Baton Rouge and the welcome face of my friend, Allen, a northern Louisiana resident who met me with a truck and trailer and a ride to Tallahassee, Fla., to finish out the day.

Day 3 – 6/16: A quick five-hour nap and we were loaded up and heading south to the palm trees and the ocean. We laughed as we watched pounding rain pummel the bikes in the bed of the truck. Even though I had my trusty windshield and rain gear, I was thankful to be riding inside a big ol’ truck. We arrived in Key West around noon and found ourselves surrounded by motorcycles, riders, gear and mounting excitement for the event to come.

Day 4 – 6/17: Good morning, Key West!  Since I didn’t have to check in until Friday, we decided to spend the day exploring Key West, including some serious time lying on the beach. I must say I was a little more than delighted to find out that the Hog’s Breath Saloon carried my favorite cold beverage —Pabst Blue Ribbon. I was surrounded by music, the ocean, roaming chickens and a cold PBR in my hand — why on earth was I considering leaving all this? Oh yeah, epic motorcycle ride. But for now, it was get lost in the tropics time.

Day 5 – 6/18: Back to reality — an hour and a half wait in line to get registered for the ride. But I met some really interesting people and got interviewed by Shawna Lacy Wind of KW Radio. Because I was one of only 12 women out of 763 riders, the press was eager to see what made me tick — especially when they found out I was riding a Sportster across the country while everybody else was onboard baggers. After check-in, we wandered down to the historic district and found ourselves at Pirate’s Cove, where another radio interview by Leigha Fox from the US1 104.1 FM radio station awaited. Lunch and second interview finished, we went back to the hostel and got ready for the Hoka Hey dinner and party, an event that was DJ’d by Shawna Lacy Wind with a performance by some fishnet clad burlesque dancers. By 9 p.m., everyone but me, my friend, Diamond and the DJ, had gone to bed. What followed was a Jack’n’Coke-infused performance of Me and Bobby McGee. The evening ended with a stroll down Duval Street followed by a good night’s sleep.

Day 6 – 6/19: Saturday brought a three-hour meeting about the rules and regulations of the ride and final preparation for the long road ahead. Oil changed and gear double-checked, I hit the sack early to be ready to for the kickoff ride in the morning.

TK on the right

Day 7 – 6/20: Sunday morning brought together 763 motorcycles and a beautiful sunrise with the sound of thunder echoing from Key West to the Florida coastline. Rolling up the bridge to the mainland, chaos seemed inevitable as the rules discussed the night before were conveniently forgotten by a large number of the riders. They screamed off into the sunrise, ignoring the posted speed limits and the safety of everyone around them. The route took us up through the heart of Florida, into the Everglades and north towards our first checkpoint in Daytona Beach.

The first half of the day brought warm wind and sun, and as I navigated my way through the Florida backroads, I kept an eye on the sky and watched the rain roll in. About eight hours into my first day, I pulled over, locked my windshield onto the forks, covered my tour pack and tank bag with the included rain covers and settled in for a wet ride the rest of the day. But before I could get underway again, I was forced to sit on the side of the road with about 50 other riders. We were waiting for our route to be cleared after an accident involving two riders — overpacked and riding too fast to make a corner. I rolled past the carnage, seeing the mangled metal that once was a motorcycle and I took a deep breath. I sent some positive energy in the direction of the downed riders and continued on my way.

At around 7 p.m., I found myself leading a pack of six riders up the road and to our day’s destination. Two hours later, we were there. Both physically and emotionally exhausted from the day’s activities, I checked in and then found a place to park my sporty. I uncurled my bag, lay down my tarp, ate a quick dinner of MRE’s and quickly fell asleep. I woke up to find a woman thanking me for helping her husband make the first checkpoint. “He told me that without you, none of us would have found our way.” Nice way to start the day. I found out later that 50 riders quit as soon as they crossed the state line.

Editor’s Note: Next time we’ll meet up again with TK as she embarks on the rest of her Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge. Stay tuned!

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