Man checks item off bucket list
What's on your bucket list?
For Dale Miller of Northampton it was traveling west on his old, reliable friend – his Harley-Davidson.
Miller participated in the 2014 Hokey Hey Motorcycle Challenge July 20-Aug. 2. The event is a long-distance motorcycle endurance run that took him from Key West, Fla., to Homer, Alaska.
Riders were required to stop at three check points during the trip – in Lawton, Ohio; Great Falls, Mont.; and Prince George, B.C., Canada. The riders were tracked via GPS.
Miller was gone for 35 days and traveled a total of 15,626 miles on his bike.
Participants left Key West as a group and, as they progressed through the first day or so, dispersed.
The ride, Miller said, consisted of only secondary roads. During the majority of the trip, he said he was riding alone.
Miller, owner of Miller Supply Ace Hardware in Northampton, is no stranger to long-distance motorcycle trips. Last year, he traveled on the bike to Glacier National Park, Mont., in 2011 he traveled to Sturgis, S.D., and in 2012 he rode to Daytona Beach, Fla.
Although his Harley had a number of miles on it and was aging, Miller felt before he could ultimately retire the bike, he had to travel west with it.
"I felt I owed it to the motorcycle," he said. "I never took it out west with me."
Also, in the back of Miller's mind was fulfilling that lingering item on his personal, need to do list, before it was too late.
"One of the things on my bucket list was to ride to Alaska," he said. "It just seemed pretty exciting to do."
What made the Hokey Hey Motorcycle trip even more of a challenge was that participants were required to camp out with their motorcycles each night.
"We slept outside on the ground a few times, in parks and behind gas stations," he said. "We were really roughing it."
During the trip Miller experienced some mechanical problems with his motorcycle, but was able to get the bike back on the road within a reasonable period of time.
"I did have a couple of breakdowns," he said. "In Nashville, Tenn., I lost a belt, but I managed to get it [bike] up and going in two days."
Miller's wife, Barbara, said while she was concerned, she encouraged him to take the trip.
"I told him it was time. He should probably do it," he said.
Barbara said it was reassuring to be able to watch her husband's progress on the Hokey Hey website at www.hokaheychallenge.com/index. html.
A number of memories stand out for Miller during the trip. For instance, he saw a black bear, moose and buffalo. Also, during one stretch of riding, a deer ran alongside of his bike for 30 to 40 feet.
"So many different things stand out," he said. "Just the different scenery was unbelievable."
Reaching the finish line was bitter sweet for Miller. After two weeks of virtual nonstop riding and a few mechanical issues, the trip was complete.
Miller reached his final destination – Homer, Alaska.
"I was really glad to get to the finish line and into the hotel and shower and rest," Miller said.
According to Miller the trip cost him roughly $6,000, which came out of his own pocket. While he was gone, he said his managers and employees did a great job of running the shop.
The old Harley is now retired, but a newer bike sits in Miller's garage.
Will he and the new bike take a long trip together on the road?
"I figured it [Hokey Hey] would be once and done," Miller said. "But once you do it, it gets in your blood."
He said in two years, the Hokey Hey Motorcycle Challenge will take participants from San Diego, Calif. to Maine.
In the meantime, Miller is happy he took the trip this past summer and grateful he returned safely.
"I'm definitely glad I went and took the old motorcycle," he said. "My guardian angel was taking care of me and watching over me.