More at home on the back of his Harley than anywhere else, Shady Cove resident Terry Weyers marked his 60th year on Earth with the ride of a lifetime: the Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge, an 8,500-mile trek from Key West, Fla., to Homer, Alaska.
He was one of 600 in the inaugural ride, held for two weeks in summer 2010. Organizers named the event after the Lakota battle cry of legendary Sioux warrior Crazy Horse: "It's a good day to die."
During Terry Weyers' ride in the Hoka Hey in 2010, D & S Harley tracked his bike and blogged about his progress. See the entries online at www.mailtribune.com/weyersride. For more information on the Hoka Hey, see www.hokaheychallenge.com.
The massage therapist, who is known as Santa to Rogue Valley children each Christmas, found the open road his preferred place of refuge after serving overseas during the Vietnam War.
"We weren't accepted too well when we came back," Weyers recalls.
"Everyone was building choppers, spending time on the road. I traveled a couple months when I got out just to try and get my head on straight.
"After three days of riding, you're finally just traveling on this planet in the universe and you can start thinking straight again. Then you start prioritizing the important things of your life."
Longtime friend Jamie Maunu recalls Weyers "hemming and hawing for days" about the Hoka Hey Challenge before deciding he couldn't pass it up.
"He's the sort, if he hears of something that sounds like a challenge, he's in for it," Maunu says.
"We have a riding group and we'll go for a ride for a day or a weekend," Maunu says. "We'll all ride 100 or 200 miles. Terry will end up going 600, or 800 miles. He is just off the hook. He did Route 66. You just never know what he'll come up with next."
Weyers spent a year preparing and planning for the challenge. When he headed out of the Rogue Valley in May 2010, his red 1997 Harley-Davidson Road King already boasted more than 100,000 miles on the odometer. He rode 4,000 miles just to get to Key West to begin the Hoka Hey journey.
Having mourned the loss of his father not long before, he stopped off in his hometown, Emporia, Kan., to have his father's ashes interred in a family plot, and visited friends and family along the way.
During the Hoka Hey, Weyers traveled across numerous mountain ranges, 33 Indian reservations, 25 national forests, eight deserts and six national parks.
Weyers rode from 5 a.m. to nearly midnight each day, sleeping outside at night with his Harley. His bike required two repairs along the way. He was the 181st rider to finish.
The grueling ride had its casualties. Weyers' riding buddy from Florida to the halfway point, Charles C. Lynn, died after he fell asleep riding through Wyoming ahead of Weyers and crashed.
"It was real sad but he was doing what he loved doing more than anything else," Weyers says.
Weyers focuses on the good memories, of meeting a diverse group of people, of the spirituality of riding the open road through little-known countryside, small towns and Indian reservations.
Weyers declined an invitation for the 2011 Hoka Hey, but is planning another journey on his own, sans entry fees, checkpoints and time restraints.
Linda Watson, Weyers' sister, says her brother inspires others to get the most out of life. He organized a dozen-bike trip to the Grand Canyon for her and her husband shortly before the Hoka Hey.
"He's always been a bike rider and he loves to ride and share that with other people," she says.
"He's the kind of person who wants to encourage everyone else to live their life."
Weyers says "hoka hey" sums up the importance of "chasing after your dreams."
"I always tell anyone looking to face a challenge in life or live out one of their dreams to go do it," he says. "You don't know how many days you have left on this planet.
"And if this is going to be your last day on this Earth, then make sure you make it a good one."
Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at email@example.com.