The 2020 Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge is set to begin another 10,000-mile test of endurance, patience, and skill. T
his year’s Challenge, with about 160 riders, is starting in Panama City Sunday, Aug. 9. The Challenge will take motorcycle riders to checkpoints in Vermont, Arkansas and New Mexico, and back to Panama City. Among them will be Edgewater resident Dustin “Diesel” Arledge, 33, who will be raising money for the nonprofit Honor Our Veterans.
Mr. Arledge was medically retired from the U.S. Marine Corps after injuries sustained during Operation Azada Wosa, in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan in 2008. Injuries including post traumatic stress disorder and multiple traumatic brain injuries. But none of that will stop him from completing this mission.
He heard about the Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge about five years ago.
“You are given written directions upon departure and travel without the use of GPS,” Mr. Arledge said. “It’s just you, your bike and the open road for as many days as it takes to complete the journey.”
He will be wearing No. 989 signifying he is the 989th person to sign up for the Hoka Hey as long as it has existed, running every other year for 10 years.
The mission of the Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge, operated and presented by Medicine Show LLC, is to provide participants with an opportunity to test their fortitude and determination. By facing and overcoming obstacles along the way, participants are encouraged to journey into a deep and critical examination of their own motives, actions and beliefs, and then to translate newfound strength and confidence into a willingness to act on behalf of others.
As part of the challenge, riders engage in various types of fundraising events to support their chosen nonprofit. Mr. Arledge said he chose to support Honoring Our Veterans because “they have changed my life forever. I won the lottery being chosen to go out there and take their photography clinic. This turned my life around in many ways.”
As with many soldiers, adjusting to life back home was difficult for Diesel.
“When you get back from combat there’s a lot of negativity in your head,” he said. “You don’t associate with other people. They don’t understand where you’ve been and how you are. How you are dealing with PTSD and TBIs.”
The photography class, “made me realize there is still beauty in the world. Even down to the smallest flower,” Mr. Arledge said.
He went on to earn an associate degree in photography from Daytona State College.
His goal is to complete the challenge within 11 to 14 days and raise $25,000, and finish coming out of his shell.
“When I first got back, I suffered from agoraphobia,” Mr. Arledge said. “I didn’t want to leave the house at all. I’m doing (the challenge) for two separate reasons. One, for myself. Life’s too short to not push yourself. The other side of it is to raise awareness, not only for the organization, but for PTSD, TBI, combat- wounded veterans themselves.
He added, “One thing I promised myself when I got injured was, I’m going to live my life for those that can’t. I just lost my best friend in March. A lot of these guys are with me. I wouldn’t be the man I am today if I didn’t go through everything.”
The mission of Honoring Our Veterans is to improve the quality of life for combat-wounded veterans by offering activities that strengthen their physical, cognitive, emotional and social functioning. It is based in Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Mr. Arledge is a member of the worldwide motorcycle club The Booze Fighters and does free-lance photography for fun. He also competed in motorcycle races when younger. He will be driving a Harley Davidson Road Glide Special, complete with camping gear and everything he needs to survive on the trip. No electronic devices will be allowed to be used for navigation. Although not a race, participants will be listed in their order of finish.
To donate, visit dieselshokaheychallenge.com or his GoFundMe account. Donations in his name can also go directly to Honoring Our Veterans. Mr. Arledge will have a return party at The First Turn Restaurant in Port Orange Aug. 29 or 30. Donations will still be accepted after the challenge.