In his first time as an entrant, Edgewater resident Dustin “Diesel” Arledge came in first ahead of 136 riders from around the country in the 2020 Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge.
It’s a big deal. Not all who started, finished. Some crashed and had to withdraw due to injuries and there was one fatality. As of this writing some are still returning. The Challenge is a 10,000-mile test of endurance, patience and skill. At least once Mr. Arledge wanted to quit, but driven by the spirit of his best friend, Jason Edward Dell, the quest to test his own resolve, and the veterans he was riding for, he kept going.
This year’s challenge started in Panama City Sunday, Aug. 9. It sent motorcycle riders to checkpoints in Vermont, Arkansas and New Mexico, and back to Panama City. Mr. Arledge participated to raise money for the nonprofit Honor Our Veterans.
A veteran, he is medically retired from the U.S. Marine Corps due to injuries sustained during Operation Azada Wosa in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan in 2008.
He heard about the Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge about five years ago. Although not a race, order of finish is recognized. He arrived back in Panama City at 6:04 a.m. Aug. 19. His Welcome Home Party was at The First Turn Restaurant in Port Orange Aug. 30.
“For the most part, I was doing two-hour sleep/naps and riding for 22 hours,” Mr. Arledge said. “I wanted to do well for my organization and I wanted to do well for myself. It was tough. Day Three I hit a breaking point. I laid on the concrete, fell asleep and had some really weird dreams. The most challenging part is you’re lost with yourself. It was an emotional roller coaster. Things from the past come up”.
Yet, he recommitted to continuing and went full force ahead. He got inspirational text messages from friends throughout. Mainly, he said, “I dedicated this ride to (my best friend) Jason Edward Dell. He died March 13 this year. He had my back. I knew he was with me.”
Mr. Arledge added, “My stars lined up just right. Some nights I sacrificed my sleep. I had quite a few close calls. Luckily I know how to ride. There’s almost not a day that doesn’t go by that I don’t have some kind of close call on a motorcycle. A kid, a dog, a grandma or whatever just aren’t paying attention. They are texting and driving and stuff like that. Any time you are on the road (on a motorcycle) it’s serious stuff.
“I’m very proud to bring the trophy back to Volusia County,” he said. “I’m still in awe about everything. We had riders from pretty much every state. I wanted to finish. I had to finish. No matter if I had to walk across in crutches like a couple of people did. I’m very thankful for what everyone has contributed. I’m amazed at what we’ve done. The way I look at it, this is just the beginning.”
So far, he has raised enough money for two combat veterans to get assistance from Honoring Our Veterans.
JoJo Tobias, a longtime friend of Mr. Arledge, also from Edgewater, coordinated the marketing and details of the event for him. She kept his social media updated as to his progress and kept in constant contact with him.
“We’re doing this for the veterans. Since he’s been out to Jackson Hole, Wyo., (visiting Honoring Our Veterans) the past couple of years, big transformation,” Ms. Tobias said. “He’s had a lot of ups and downs, but I think he’s really overcome so much. (The ride) turned into such a self-reflection for him. Going back and forth to where life has brought him. I think this was more a self-ride that it came to be rather than just a 10,000-mile challenge. I’m very proud of him. He’s overcome a lot.”
Riders were given written directions upon departure and had to travel without using GPS for the challenge, which runs every other year. Mr. Arledge rode a Harley Davidson Road Glide and had to replace tires, front brakes and other parts throughout the challenge.
The mission of Hoka Hey, operated and presented by the 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.
Riders engage in various types of fundraising events to support their chosen nonprofit. Mr. Arledge chose Honoring Our Veterans because the organization so significantly impacted his own life, spending time at the Wyoming facility and learning about photography. He returned from that trip and obtained an associate degree from Daytona State College in photography.
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.
Mr. Arledge is planning on riding in the Challenge again in 2022. Meanwhile he is planning other rides and fundraisers to support veteran causes.
To donate, visit dieselshokaheychallenge.com or his GoFundMe account. Donations in his name can also go directly to Honoring Our Veterans.