Adventure only part of what biker seeks

Published 12:18 am Monday, March 29, 2010

NATCHEZ — The open road is what stirs Oscar Seyfarth’s blood. And come summer, he’ll have plenty of open road in front of him.

On June 20, Seyfarth of Natchez will join 999 other Harley Davidson motorcycle riders in a cross-country challenge that will travel through mountains, swamps, deserts and various other terrains between Key West, Fla., and Homer, Alaska, in less than 14 days.

The 7,000-mile Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge is an endurance ride that Seyfarth said will not only challenge him mentally but physically, as well.

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“There are going to be long days on the bike,” Seyfarth said. “It’s going to be hot; its going to be cold; there’s going to be rain and snow, but it is the mental challenge to adapt and overcome that will be the most difficult.”

But none of that makes Seyfarth nervous. Instead, it only makes his heart pump harder.

“It’s exciting,” he said. “This is about pushing myself to do something people always talk about doing, but never make the time to actually do it.”

Seyfarth is fulfilling his dream of riding from the southern tip of the United States to one of the northernmost points in the country, but the ride isn’t just for him. A retired, 20-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, Seyfarth said he will be riding for his brothers who can’t make the ride.

“There are many veterans who paid the ultimate price and will never have the chance to do this,” he said. “I feel like each one of them will be riding with me. I’m doing it for them as much as I’m doing it for me.”

The proceeds from this one-time-only ride will benefit various charities for veterans including Paralyzed Veterans of America; Warrior Weekends, a program that provides weekends of rest and relaxation for soldiers injured in Iraq and Afghanistan; Disabled American Veterans; American Gold Star Mother, Inc., a group of mothers of soldiers killed in service who provide support and assistance to soldiers, and Vietnam Veterans of America.

During the ride, Seyfarth and his bike, a 2006 Ultra Classic touring bike, will be outfitted with a microchip to track their route and guarantee that riders follow the rules of the challenge.

“We have to sleep on the ground with our bikes,” he said. “There are no hotels, no staying with friends.”

Riders must also follow the route outlined by race organizers and check in at various checkpoints during the ride. Before leaving Key West, riders will be given the map for the first 1,000 miles of the ride. At the first check-point they will be given the next set of directions.

The entire route will be on secondary roads only, no interstates, Seyfarth said.

“The only thing we know about the route is that the first checkpoint is somewhere in Mississippi,” he said. “When we get to a checkpoint they will check our mileage and our time to make sure we stayed on the route and obeyed the speed limit.”

The challenge winner, the rider who arrives in Homer in the shortest amount of time, will win a $500,000 cash prize. Seyfarth said he doesn’t expect to bring home the top prize, but will ride the race as if he is the top contender.

“I’m sure there are going to be professional endurance riders from all over the world riding this ride, so I have no illusions of actually winning,” he said. “I will though ride a hard, clean race.

“I’m not focused on winning the prize. For me it is about the journey, and if all you look at is the end, you miss the entire journey.”

Seyfarth has already paid a $1,000 entry fee and is responsible for gas, food, bike upkeep and other expenses that come up on the ride. To help offset those costs, he is looking for sponsors.

“I’ve already had people to want to help sponsor my ride,” he said. “For some of them, helping me make this ride is their way of experiencing it.”

Seyfarth has a variety of sponsorship types available including adopt-a-mile sponsorships, memorial flag sponsorships and cash donations.

Seyfarth said he hopes to collect enough sponsorship money to have a support team accompany him on the ride. The support team would not be able to interact with Seyfarth except at checkpoints, but would be able to carry extra supplies and parts on the journey.

For more information on sponsorships, call Seyfarth at 601-807-1576.