As the calendar counts down to the start of the Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge on June 20 in Key West, Fla., organizers of the 7,000-mile ride ending in Homer are firming up plans for the event's finish at the end of the road. The biggest change from preparations last fall is the site for a Fourth of July Celebration. The concert and award ceremony will be at Stone Step Lake and Oceanfront Estates, a subdivision near Mile 7 East End Road.
During a visit last September, Hoka Hey organizers Beth Durham of Hot Springs, S.D., and Annie Malloy of San Diego, Calif., met with Kevin Bell Ice Arena and Homer Marine Terminal officials to discuss holding the celebration at the Homer Spit. That idea was scrapped. However, the finish line will be at the Bell Ice Arena from June 25 to July 3, when most of the riders are expected to arrive.
Billed as "the Iditarod of Harley Davidsons," Hoka Hey gets its name from the war cry of Crazy Horse and his warriors and means "it's a good day to die."
Entrants pay a $1,000 entry fee, although some riders are seeking sponsors. The first one in Homer gets $500,000 in Alaska gold. Riders can only use Harley Davidson motorcycles and have to follow rules like sleeping outdoors, obeying all traffic laws and submitting to drug tests.
Other updates on Hoka Hey include:
* Spaces in the challenge are still available. The ride is capped at 1,000 riders. Malloy wouldn't say how many had entered.
At least 14 Alaskans have entered, including Homer residents Gregory Martin, M.B. Cody, Alex Sweeney, Jesus Trejo and Eric Wickre.
* Hoka Hey has applied for or is in the process of applying for permits from the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities and the city of Homer.
* Organizers are working with the Homer Chamber of Commerce to connect riders with locals offering lodging and camping. A Web site is in the works to connect riders with locals and to offer volunteer opportunities with Hoka Hey.
* Sunrise Entertainment and producer Robert Swope will film the entire event with camera crews on helicopters, chase vehicles and even an ultralight airplane.
Some have criticized Hoka Hey as a race in disguise and point out that state and federal laws prohibit using public highways as a racetrack.
Between Key West and Homer are seven checkpoints roughly 1,000 miles apart, with the first checkpoint somewhere in Mississippi. Riders don't get the route to the next leg of the challenge until they arrive at each checkpoint. They won't even know their position in the race, Malloy said.
"It's you and your bike against the ride. It's not you riding against the guy next to you," she said. "We don't want it ever to become for people 'I know his place and I have to catch him.'"
The celebration at Stone Step Lake drew some criticism from environmentalists earlier this year. The Kachemak Bay Conservation Society sent a letter in February to Mayor James Hornaday and the Homer City Council questioning the location and why the celebration wasn't on the Spit. Stone Step Lake is in a wetlands area that includes moose and bird habitat, particularly for the Aleutian tern, Conservation Society President Roberta Highland wrote. She said they were concerned about fire danger from campers and impacts on a trail to the beach.
Stone Step Lake and Oceanfront Estates is a high-end development owned by Stone Step Development with 1.7 to 58-acre lots listed at $250,000 to $850,000. Access is from Brenmark Road near Mile 7 East End Road and through a private, gated road to the development.
Although riders can camp at Stone Step Lake, Malloy said most have found lodging elsewhere. For the July 4 celebration, people will be bused from a parking area in town.
Negotiations are under way with that property owner, Malloy said, and she wasn't ready to announce the site. Riders will be allowed to go to the site on their motorcycles as well as people with handicapped tags on their cars.
The celebration site is on the developed part of the subdivision, Malloy said. Dead trees have already been logged and removed. Hoka Hey organizers have talked with the Alaska Division of Forestry about fire concerns. Alaska's fire season started April 1, with restrictions now in place for open burning. Camping fires would be in pits and a brush truck will be on standby at the site if fire danger is high.
"Living in south California, we're really aware of those issues," Malloy said.
Food vendors and a beer-and-wine tent will be at the celebration. No alcohol will be allowed in. Busing people to the celebration will help keep drunk drivers off the road, Malloy said. The celebration is a private event, but Alaskans and visitors can buy tickets to it. Negotiations are under way to book a nationally known musical group, Malloy said.
The Alaska Bureau of Highway Patrol has also discussed safety issues with Hoka Hey, said Megan Peters, a spokesperson for the Alaska Department of Public Safety.
"Certainly it's going to be a huge influx of people to the Homer area. We're going to be prepared for it," Peters said. "We're accustomed to beefing up patrols in the summer anyhow."
"We have the same goal as they do, and that's to ensure everybody is safe," Malloy said of the highway patrol.
Support from Homer has been generally positive, Malloy said.
"The reception that the Hoka Hey Challenge has received from Homer and all of Alaska has truly been wonderful," she said. "We all thank you for your support and personal assistance in making our challengers feel welcome in Homer."
Malloy said Hoka Hey will be announcing more news later this month, including the name of the musical act performing. For updates visit www.hokaheychallenge.com.
Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong.@homernews.com.
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