Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge. A Possible 7000 Miles Long Scam?

It all started before the 1st of the 7000 miles was ridden Sunday morning in Key West, Florida.  Some reported that potential participants, before or after paying their $1000 fee to get a chance to belong to the long distance challenge, decided to withdraw after they realized that that organizer Big Jim (Jim Red Cloud, Jim Durham) was at the last minute changing the rules advertised on the Hoka Hey website.

Only Harley-Davidson were supposed to participate but other brands were registered. GPS were supposed to be prohibited but many participants were equipped with them and are now reporting their postions hour after hour. At a meeting before the challenge, Big Jim was supposedly presenting the Hoka Hey as a race when the event was initially advertised as an endurance challenge because racing on any public streets and highways in America is absolutely prohibited.

Claim was made that a TV crew would film the event for a reality show, but no professional TV crew was reported being seen at the start. Police escort was also supposed to be provided in Key West, but the start on Sunday morning was described as very chaotic with many committing serious and dangerous traffic violations. The number of riders was no more 1000 as described in press releases but less than 300. Some charities described as being involved with the challenge would have been contacted and stated that they don’t know anything about the Hoka Hey.

Some riders and family members deny all these claims, or at least defend the event for the beauty of its challenge, while others are all over the web are stating that the Hoka Hey is a big scam, even doubting that the Grand Prize of $500,000 will ever be given under different pretexts of denial like violating some rules, like getting a traffic ticket or sleeping in an hotel (how the organizer is going to know for sure?) The fact that the prize would not be given at arrival in Homer, Alaska but later in Sturgis after drug tests (one month later?) and a polygraph (administered by who?) given to participants raised more suspicions (polygraphs could fail everybody, are not reliable and often rejected by courts.) Then, a certain John or Ghost (same person?) posted a link in my Blog under my first Hoka Hey article, and later in a Facebook forum, to a journalist story about Big Jim (Jim Durham) being involved in what is sounding to some as former shady deals (the long story is HERE)

After July 4th, maybe it’s the participants who are going to dispute the fairness of the Challenge and its winner (some riders have reported that some road signs were removed by participants to confuse other competitors!) We will all know the truth about all these allegations in just a few days. The only 2 things I am sure of is: 1- that in the city of Homer, Alaska where riders are ending their 7000 miles journey, festivities are in preparation with bands being booked 2-that those who are participating will have 7000 miles of memories lasting a lifetime,  with or without a half million pot of gold at the end of the trip.

63 Responses to “Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge. A Possible 7000 Miles Long Scam?”

  1. 1 sammyd Jun 24th, 2010 at 6:53 am

    A local radio station is in contact with one of the riders and did a phone interview with him, he said he thinks it’s fixed.

  2. 2 Brandon Jun 24th, 2010 at 7:01 am

    Nobody is following each rider. So how do they know about infractions and violations? About the fact that a participant doesn’t have his bike being trailed? Possible scam, make one of your friends win and share the prize money with him.

  3. 3 Julia Jun 24th, 2010 at 7:03 am

    Most bikers want to look bad ass. As a matter of fact most are very naive. Proof is above.

  4. 4 Larry R. Jun 24th, 2010 at 7:07 am

    The ones who are going to be very disappointed are the ones riding for the money. Most, I am convinced. Whatever they say. Escaping foreclosure? Paying off the mortgage? The wifeys are praying for the gold jackpot. Better find a real job.

  5. 5 The Dog Man Jun 24th, 2010 at 7:08 am

    I was there for the start and the final meeting Saturday afternoon. Big Jim got up and addressed the audience and addressed the fact of being a scam because it did not get off the ground last year.

    He is an attorney and stated that proceeds are going to help bring water to a reservation in South Dakota – the prize to be awarded at Sturgis and that Cheryl Crow and others are working to raise money for the same cause.

    When viewing his web site, the promo seemed to be “let’s kick some white boy butt”. There are reasons to be suspicious… the guidlines are rigid. For example,

    No route until you reach a check point. Save your gas receipts to prove your route. No GPS or Radar Detectors. If you get a ticket, you are disqualified. Winner must undergo polygrhaph and drug test (what constitues a drug?). So, no one knows the route, but appears Jim’s cousin is a participant – does he know the route? Perhaps it is on the level – but the jury is still out until they finish.

    The other thing the was mentioned in the meeting and is wrong in my peronal opionion is that they would have no problem crossing the border. Three months ago CBP imposed new regs that you need a passport to enter – doubt any of the riders have one…

    What was previously stated is true regarding no cameras or film crew. I saw one girl who was shooting Big Jim at the final meeting with a mini cam.

    I rode with the pack from Key West to south Miami. The front group was riding crazy stupid and I’m a hard core biker. Later, that Sunday morning there were 4 seperate unrelated accidents and air rescue had to be called – reported in the Naples FL newspaper.

    Hope it’s not a scam – they have to July 4 to reach Homer – Let’s give them the benefit of doubt until it’s over.


  6. 6 Shifter Jun 24th, 2010 at 7:09 am

    The Indian revenge against the whites?

  7. 7 The Dog Man Jun 24th, 2010 at 7:14 am

    Julia – you’re right. The real story is the people who were there. I met Mike and Jim. Mike was from New Orleans and Jim from West Virginia. Mike is still living in a FEMA trailer post Katrina and the gov is going to take it away from him – he has no money or home and sold everything he has to raise the entrance fee. Jim told me he house was going into foreclosure in 2 days (last Tue) and walked away from the mortgage – same thing – sold his only other transportation, a truck, to pay for the entrance fee….. If this is ligit, then it’s a guy like this that needs to win. God Bless.

  8. 8 The Dog Man Jun 24th, 2010 at 7:16 am

    Shifter – perhaps.

    The meeting was a big spiritual event with Indian song / prayer. Big Jim said the route will take you to where more killings have occured in the US. He mentioned going pass the graves of Indians and having their spirits guide you….. or something like that…

  9. 9 Shifter Jun 24th, 2010 at 7:27 am

    Gas receipts as a proof? Trail your bike between checkpoints. Stop to buy the exact amount of gas your bike would need (put the gas in the truck). Climb on your bike 10 miles before the next check point. Repeat all the way to Homer. It’s a joke.

  10. 10 John Curtis Jun 24th, 2010 at 7:30 am

    Indian spirit will guide you…
    As known as the GPS precursor.

  11. 11 Darin Maltsberger- Instructor@MTI Jun 24th, 2010 at 8:11 am

    That link posted above about the “buffalo” is beyond bizzarre. If that all really happened there has to be a Cheech and Chong movie made about it. (LOL) On the subject of the Endurance Challenge……I hope it isn’t a hoax. It will not only makes the Native American Culture look bad, but people will lose faith in any type of event held for a cause. Hopefully something good will come out of this.

  12. 12 fuji Jun 24th, 2010 at 8:44 am

    Maybe it should have been called
    Hokey , contrived; phoney HEY ! or Hokie Pokie, Remember the right foot out and up your arse that’s what it’s all about. Remember the song ?

    If all is true Big Jim had better head for the Bad Lands to hide for the remainder of his life.

  13. 13 Lance Dickwood Jun 24th, 2010 at 8:57 am

    The way they should have promoted this is, “The only “rule” is there are no rules.” Except they should have staggered the start and adjusted the finish times accordingly. Now riders are seeing Boris & Natasha hiding behind every rock and tree. The “winner” is probably right now sitting in a heated Homer garage sucking on a peace pipe. Drug test? Yeah, way to be an Indian! When this is over ol’ Jim will be sitting back on the reservation immune to everything but internet sour grapes while basking in the biggest win over “whitey” since Sitting Bull . . .

  14. 14 Bobby Jun 24th, 2010 at 9:08 am

    Is this ride legit?, I don’t kow. But Big Jim is responsible for the skepticism around his event. . Nothing clear in the rules and fraud possibilities are enormous. Maybe it’s on purpose to have the possibility to eliminate as many “winners” as possible. I read that people borrowed money to pay registration, gas and assistance. Very sad because it means that these people are in the challenge just in hope of winning money. True long distance riding? Look at the Cannonball.

  15. 15 HokaHeyRick Jun 24th, 2010 at 11:08 am

    First of all, it seems that there are a significant number of riders who have gone “off route” as far as their course for Homer, AK. I’ve heard that some riders have been DQ’ed for going “off route” and I expect there will be more.

    One of the current front-runners is Chris Carr from Atlanta. Harley-Davidson gave him a brand new 2011 XR1200X to run the Hoka Hey Challenge. Looking at Chris’ Spot tracker, it appears that he, too, might have gone “off route” in a couple of places.

    In southern Georgia, his Spot tracker shows him traveling up I-75 from northern Florida for a while. Other contestants Spot trackers show a more circuitous route through Southern Georgia to get to Columbus and then into Alabama.

    After leaving Southern Thunder, Chris’ Spot tracker (see http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=00X726PWZ1GOBvgG5VXqX4RfZeco2Lotk&#160) shows him traveling I-40 west from Memphis to Little Rock, AR and then turning north to join back up with the more northerly route that other contestants are showing through Arkansas.

    This whole thing seems to be a bit messy, if you ask me. If one of the leaders (a potential winner) has possibly gone “off route”, who else has gone “off route”? Are they all DQ’ed for going “off route”? How do we know that a rider without a GPS tracker is truly “on route”? Who is going to “certify” the winner? The organizers? Based upon what evidence of compliance with the “rules”? Big Jim is riding with others along the route. Beth and Annie (and others?) are traveling from checkpoint to checkpoint to manage the processing of riders through each stop. There are no official cameras or observers. Is it going to be one riders word against the others as to who broke which rule(s)?

    I should be out there with these guys slugging my way through this route and the pain and… I paid my registration fee last August and reluctantly pulled out of the Challenge in early May due to unforseen circumstances in my personal life. I have been a big supported of the Challenge and the organizers.

    At this point, there are a lot of stories, accusations and rumors going around. The truth of what has happened, is happening and will happen won’t be known for a while. It will be interesting to see how the Challenge plays out and then what happens with all the Alaskan Gold in the weeks and months after the Challenge.

    If there are a lot of questions now, there will be many more questions before this Challenge is done.

    After we have all the information and sufficient time to ruminate on all the things that have happened here, then we can start to decide for ourselves what was the real value and meaning of the Challenge.

    Those answers will be different for each individual, I think.

    Finally, I pray that there are not more casualties before everyone gets to Homer or wherever there final destination on the Challenge might be.

    Hang in there, Challengers. Do what you know to do. Don’t worry too much about everybody else, but watch out for others riding beyond their ability. That is when the trouble is bound to happen.

  16. 16 Todd8080 Jun 24th, 2010 at 11:43 am

    There are just too many discrepancies about this “challenge”, the most obvious being that far less than 500 people entered, meaning in order to actually pay a legitimate winner half a million dollars (let alone contribute monies to charities), the organizers will have to go into their own pockets, and we all know that’s not going to happen.

    I hate to say it but based on all I’ve read it looks like the biggest challenge will be collecting the prize.

    That thousand-dollar entry fee would have gone a long way toward paying expenses on a non-profit pleasure ride to Alaska if that’s what someone wanted to do.

  17. 17 09 Indian Rider Jun 24th, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    $500,00 grand prize?
    Well some folks better read the fine print.

  18. 18 Jeri Jun 24th, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    I was there and from the beginning this was a joke. I was shocked to hear BJ say “I USED YOU, I LIED TO GET YOU HERE”. He continued to say that in “his religion” it is necessary to go back to the places where these atrocities / mass murders had taken place to collect the souls of the departed warriors. This event was promoted as a benefit for Veterans and televised to bring awareness to the sacrifices they have made and the trials they face today. BJ NEVER spoke of the Vets in that meeting. Beth spoke briefly about the armed forces, less than 2 minutes.

    I am a Christian and so is my husband. He had no right to impose his spiritual position or beliefs on me. We, as Christians don’t go around collecting souls. It is considered witchcraft.

    My prayers for the safety of all the riders that are running the good and honorable challenge. My husband refuses to give up! GO RICKY!

    FYI…he and 4 others were robbed last night as they slept. They lost electronics, rain gear, camelpac….really? No one was hurt.

  19. 19 bigitch Jun 24th, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    the fun part is once they get to homer they have to go back the same way as there is no road out of hommer except back. homer is the end of the highway.

    it costs approximately 1500 dollars to ship your bike out to tacoma (it has to be crated, they charge extra for that). and over 500 dollars to get to seattle by air, then you have to get to tacoma.

    if you ship the bike else where it cost a bit more, airfare is a mixed bag of costs but the plane are generally full as it is tourist season.

    so if the alcan highway didn’t discourage you then one should drive back down.

    it’s only 1500 miles to dawson creelk british columbia from homer.

  20. 20 John White Jun 24th, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    We entered three bikes in the race. I rode one of them. I was in the meeting before the challenge began.

    We were all given a Hoka Hey Coin. Not sure if this coin has a chip in it but we were all required to carry the coin. The speech Big Jim made had a lot of people in tears.

    We started out in the early morning. My front axle locked up in the middle of the Everglades. The axle spun on the fork axle mounts. Our service team picked me up and we headed for the first stop which was Daytona. Our crew worked through the night to replace my forks. In order to compete I would have been forced to return my bike to the point of failure. I made the decision to accept that I was no longer in the race.

    I saw many folks miss the check points. Those in the lead could not possibly have followed the route. There was a toll booth that most of them missed and therefore are not carrying the toll both receipt.

    Three people were injured by the time our team reached Daytona.

    Ed Corbett and I left at 5:00 am on Monday morning and headed for the next check point. The directions were incorrect. By the time we hit the second check point I had gone 20 straight hours on my bike and rode over 1600 miles. I gave up trying to follow the route. Ed Corbett followed the route by back tracking and correcting for errors on the instructions and rode in after riding 25 hours non stop. I called for a pow wow with our team and made a decision to stop. Our two bikes were ready to go. We simply did not want to deal with signs that were missing and all the back tracking that it would have required to finish the challenge. Does that make the race a joke? No it does not. to hell with the cry babies. No one said it was going to be easy. It kicked my ass period.

    I have no ill will towards Jim Red Cloud or the rules or the instructions. Those that have the will to overcome them are powerful men and I wish them all the luck in the world. Many are cheating and there will always be cheaters but they will be exposed.

    A lot of folks said Jim Red Cloud was going to run off with the money. They were proved to by key board talkers. The race did start. JIm stood in front of everyone before the race and answered every question that made sense to answer. I got my Hoka Hey coin and I am proud to have entered the race. I am said that my machine suffered a wheel bearing failure. That is just the way it goes. Better luck next year.

    John L. White
    CEO, Hoka Hey Motor Company

  21. 21 Cathy Jun 24th, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    I think what needs to happen is for anyone that is a rider that feels they are being scammed is to contact the FBI, to start investigating now. Before Big Jim or his real name Jim Durham can take the money and run. Too all the riders continue to ride for your own reason and stay safe. Everyone that finishes this is a winner.

  22. 22 John White Jun 24th, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    Posted on the Hoka Hey Challenge website:

    There is a group of Challengers that have been sorely affected by the unscrupulous individuals who have stolen, destroyed or moved street signs in order to impede the progress of our riders. When we validated the route, all of the signs were present, the roads do exist and our test driver progressed through the route as expected. However, a number of riders who would otherwise have a shot at the prize, have now been stuck searching hours on end for a street sign that no longer exists.

    As for how the Challenge itself is progressing, we are getting mixed reviews. Several participants forgot (or never fully understood) that “we won’t be giving that half million dollars away – they are going to have to earn it!” This was never meant to be a joy ride. It was never supposed to be easy. It was intended to be a Challenge of navigation, wit and perseverence. And now, through the outbursts, anger and the tears people have expressed their disappointment at realizing it is everything we said it would be… A “challenge” in every sense of the word.

    On the other hand, in spite of the missing street signs we have had people thanking us for putting this ride together. One man told me that he has crisscrossed Alabama a hundred times but he has never been in a place like he had been that day. Early on, I had said that there were two schools of thought as it regards the Challenge – those that are in it for the prize money and those that are in it for the ride. The ones racing for the gold are absolutely MISERABLE while the ones that are taking the time to really search for the roads and who are willing to back track 100 miles in order to pick the route up again, are the ones who seem to be enjoying themselves the most. They are glad they decided to join the Challenge and have been the majority of the people I’ve talked to.

    These men & women understand something that they never even considered before. These are the ones who get it. End

    Jim Durham is an adopted son of Oliver Red Cloud. He carries the name Jim Red Cloud because he has the legal right to do so.

    John White

  23. 23 Nance Jun 24th, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    Being a motorcycle event coordinator myself it does not surprise me all the negetivity I am reading here, Everyone that just sits back, does not volunteer, or offer help are the first to start running their mouth. This is the first event of this kind and no matter how you try to make sure it is gonna run smooth something or someone is gonna screw up. Believe me they are standing back watching very close the goods and the bads of their planning, so they don’t make the same mistake again.

    Through life we are tought to learn from our mistakes and event coordinating is no different except you have more than mom & dad telling you that you screwed up or should have done this and should have done that. I always want to look at the person and say where were you a year ago when all the planning started or the first meeting for next years event is before leaving this venue at 2pm. They don’t have time but they can sure be the biggest complainers.

    How bout instead of worrying what the organizers are doing or didn’t do let’s think about the Rider’s! I am friends with 2 of the riders and they did this ride for them, not anybody else. They are riding hard and staying on route, it is a challenge to them and they are getting to see parts of our great country that alot of us will not ever see.

    I am a very spiritual person and I can see how this ride would change your life and make you stronger, more spiritual and put you at peace.

    To all the Riders, I have respect for all of you and honor you in prayer and thought whether you are DQ’d, made the choice not to go on, have had unfortunate circumstances or still riding, you are the hero’s of this challenge not the ones sitting back trying to dig dirt up or judging, You are riding the ride of your life and will come back a changed person.

    $500,000 ALASKAN GOLD -OK or 7,000+miles of the journey of a life time-PRICELESS!!!!


  24. 24 J Jun 24th, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    Ummmmm, yeah……..

    Sad that there are people who thought this thing was legitimate…. Little tip? When a fast-talking “lawyer” shows up with his gf as the “film crew”, maybe it’s not a smart idea to hand him $1000…..

    LOVE the guy still in the FEMA trailer story- hey dude, here’s an idea- how about getting your butt out of the trailer that OUR taxes paid for as TEMPORARY HOUSING and find a place to live? That flood was how many YEARS ago now? And yet you still have your bike to tool around on? Anything else we can do for you?

    Can wait to see how Big Jim ‘spains the money trail to the Feds- sorry dude, not gonna be able to hide on the res when the FBI, Treasury and IRS come a’knocking…….

  25. 25 Shannan Jun 24th, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    A family friend is competing in the challange. He reports he is having the time of his life!

    Go Doug! Ride safe.

  26. 26 sit-last-row-be-silent Jun 24th, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    This should have been a fun ride and all the money to be donated to charity… Beginning to sound like the $1,000,000.00 biker build off……………….. member that ? LOL

    Really sad, for the people that gave this any real credence of getting a “prize”…. Yea, RIGHT !

    In the rules, I read the fine print, where in the fine print it said read the finer print… I pulled out my microscope……. where is said Goooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooood luck !!!!

    To all the riders, be safe have fun out there !

  27. 27 Steve The Producer Johann Jun 24th, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    Hey we had Chris Callen Pub of Cycle Source on Hog Radio last Friday night (Its available at the site for hearing) He shared with us that he was riding in the race and it was the challenge that drew him into it. He was riding an older H-D while his friend would be riding an older Indian. He also stated they were going to be wearing older style riding gear as a part of the challenge.

    My hats off to anyone who wants to do a race like this. No hotel hoping here just old style riding like people did back in the day.

    Ride safe everyone.

  28. 28 Brett Jun 24th, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    Until “bikers” smarten up, people will be trying to scam them. There are scammers everywhere & it seems many in the bike fad. Maybe it’s the whole brotherhood thing bikers buy into. I dunno.

    It’s time to wake up.

  29. 29 gina woods Jun 24th, 2010 at 6:13 pm


    Open Road Radio did a LIVE broadcast from the Challenge HQ in the Keys on Saturday.

    Chris is actually riding a new H-D and Rob Keller is rding a new Indian Motorcyle too. They claimed

    it to be the “Hundred Year War” between them … I’ve been talking with one or both daily getting

    updates and Robert Shelton who is a part of our Open Road Radio crew. All seem to be at different

    spots and all seem to be sane and riding hard! God speed to all riders…be safe and make it to

    Homer.. the truth will unfold. Many accusations flying around…many stories..who cares, that’s


  30. 30 Patrick Dane Jun 24th, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    Jeri. You wrote that you were at the start meeting and that Big Jim stated front all of the bikers ““I USED YOU, I LIED TO GET YOU HERE”. Don’t you think it is a very smart (or lawyer) way to protect himself from litigation. If he states to all riders I lied (public disclosure) and these riders still participate, don’t you think that all the promises made before (including the $500,000 prize) are void. Is it possible that his girlfriend was filming him to get his statements on record having evidence that nothing was promised to the riders when they went to the starting line. In this case, the only valid claim riders could make would be to get $1000.00 and gas refunded because they registered under false claims? It would require a class action. Any lawyer here to clarify this point?

  31. 31 Ron Jun 24th, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    I hope that Cyril will not have to write very soon a post called “The tale of the 1/2 million prize that got away in Indian smoke”

  32. 32 Jim Jun 24th, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    Why are there so many negative folks posting here? It is just creating a negative frenzy. Let’s wait until the challenge is over before we convict people, organizers or riders.

  33. 33 Sparky Jun 24th, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    The Great Buffalo Caper
    When two Boulder businessmen financed the creation of a one-of-a-kind piece of art—a buffalo skeleton with Native American myths carved over every inch of bone by an artist named “Big Jim”—they thought it was an opportunity to be a part of something important. And, just maybe, they might make some money. But what started as a high-minded project quickly devolved into a surreal mystery.
    By Maximillian Potter

    Inside a run-down house reeking of weed, two dudes in their thirties and a lady who could’ve passed for older or younger anxiously scurried about, each throwing together an overnight bag. One of the men was fat and freckled with receding red hair, the other was thin and bony with a receding blond mullet; both of them were covered in tattoos. The lady was visibly pregnant. Finally packed, but clearly unprepared for much of anything, the three spilled from the house into a late-summer afternoon, piled into a clunker of a minivan, and wheeled off. Before leaving their hometown of Dayton, Ohio, they made a pit stop to score an ounce of pot and some cocaine, and then hit the highway, heading as far north as any of them likely had ever been. It was Monday, August 21, 2000, and the gang was bound for St. Johnsbury, Vermont—more specifically, bound for the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium.

    The freckled fat guy was James Boggs, but everyone called him “Boomer,” short for “Boomer the Beast,” which was ornately inked on his forearm. The house and minivan, a 1985 Chevy Astro, were his. Only a few months earlier Boomer had finished a 10-and-a-half-year prison stretch for drug trafficking, and when he’d gotten out, as he recently told me, “My momma gave me two grand to get me a house and get me on my feet,” and Boomer had applied his momma’s scratch to purchasing the crib and modest ride. The skinny guy was Roger Dale Kinney. At the time, at least, he was Boomer’s best bud, his “dawg,” as Boomer puts it. They’d met on the inside. Kinney had been pinched on an aggravated assault. Doing time, they’d found they had the same interests: tattoos and drugs; and likewise, that they hated the same things: “colored” folk and prison. They’d become so tight that when Kinney got out, Boggs not only let his dawg move in with him, he also welcomed the dawgette, Kinney’s lady, “Tish,” who was due to give birth in four months.

    After they got out of the joint, Boomer and Kinney had managed to land legitimate work, installing cable for the local Time Warner operation. The gig was something they did more to shut up their parole officers than to make money. As far as Boggs and Kinney were concerned, the only real paydays were the tax-free lump sums that came from illegal action. And in those endeavors the ex-cons had made a pact to “hit a lick” as partners. Boomer had been the one who’d met with the contact that hired him for this museum gig, but it was a given that Kinney would be in. Make no mistake, though, Boomer wasn’t crazy about Kinney’s lady tagging along, what with her being a pregnant chick and all. But Kinney had pointed out that Tish could be the getaway driver. Boomer said “fine,” provided “she understands she don’t get a cut.”

    Keeping with Boomer’s plan, the gang drove straight through the night. Making only necessary food and fuel stops, they cracked wise about their incipient job. “We’re on a buffalo hunt,” Boomer said, laughing himself red-faced and adding, in his best TV Tonto voice, “We come to kill the great white buffalo.” The joke got funnier as they got more and more stoned. Boomer and Kinney did the smoke-and-coke on the road trip, and as the minivan rolled into St. Johnsbury about 1 p.m. on Tuesday, August 22, some 20 hours after they’d left Ohio, they were sufficiently out of their minds. Yet they were not so far gone that they couldn’t see that St. Johnsbury was just about the sleepiest scene in the universe. “I’ve never seen nothing like this except for on the TV,” an awestruck Boomer said, gazing out of the minivan at the quaint storefronts and citizenry. “It’s like Mayberry,” he said. Boomer didn’t even see any cops: “Where’s Barney Fife?”

    At last they came upon the Fairbanks Museum. Founded in 1889, the brownstone Victorian building sat atop a hill overlooking the town. Seeing it, Boomer got to thinking that this place might be too quiet for the likes of them to get inside, get to the buffalo, and get out without drawing attention. They parked nearby and Boomer got out alone, reached past his sagging beer belly into the pocket of his drooping pants, pulled out the admission fee, and went inside to case the joint. The Fairbanks was all wooden and musty, a two-floored, gorgeous, churchlike curiosity shop packed with display cases of oddities and artifacts, everything from textiles to taxidermy. Boomer saw the surveillance cameras, which his contact for the job had assured him would not be working. Boomer didn’t see a single security guard. Near as he could figure, there weren’t but maybe 10 people in the whole place. The floorboards creaked under Boomer’s boots as he looked for his mark.

    And then there it was: the skeleton of a massive bison. The bright white bones rendered a creature some 10 feet long and six feet tall, identified as the “Sacred Buffalo.” Even Boomer could see it was a magnificent spectacle. It was positioned with head held high, as if the beast were alive and upon hearing Boomer’s approach had raised its skull and snorted. Boomer moved right up close to the buffalo, eased himself alongside a couple of people who were looking at the thing the way he figured smart people who go to museums look at art. He saw the hundreds of tiny carvings in the bones. It was just like in the picture in that Sacred Buffalo book the contact had shown Boomer. All over every inch of the bones, even the tiniest ones, were etched scenes of tiny Indians doing Indian things.

    Doing his best to be inconspicuous, Boomer surveyed the exhibit space. The best exit option was way in the back. That’s a pretty substantial run, he thought. And what, he wondered, was outside that door? As the contact had described to Boomer, the Sacred Buffalo was in something akin to an open foyer on the first floor. Above, on either side of the display, were the second-floor balconies, also filled with pieces and open to the public. It wouldn’t be a problem getting up there, and Boomer could see there were plenty of chairs. But the chairs appeared to be heavy, and the balcony was a good 20 or so yards removed from the Sacred Buffalo. It wasn’t going to be an easy feat to accurately hurl a chair down on the thing. A dude would have to be pretty lucky to hit the Sacred Buffalo, let alone hit it so good that the chair would smash up the son of a bitch.

    Running his Art Mart in the heart of Boulder, Rick Rippberger had seen all kinds of people walk into his store. Buyers, sellers, artists, browsers, they waltzed in buttoned-down or looking like hippie holdovers, some appearing not all that different than the street performers outside on Pearl Street. But Rippberger had never seen anybody like the man who strode into his place on that day in early 1994. The guy was about six-and-a-half feet tall, 250 pounds, muscular, with some of the broadest shoulders Ripp-berger had ever seen. The man’s tan, weathered face was the face of an Indian, or at least Rippberger’s idea of an Indian: high cheekbones, prominent nose, narrow, piercing eyes, a long ponytail. In between his cowboy boots and white cowboy hat he wore all denim, except for an oval-shaped belt buckle that might have weighed two pounds.

    The man moseyed about the store’s inventory—lots of sculptures and paintings of cowboys and Indians, horses, and more than a few buffalo—and then approached Rippberger. In the voice of an Indian, or at least in the slow cadence and understated tone Rippberger associated with Indians, the man introduced himself as the South Dakota-based artist James Durham. “Big Jim” is what folks called him. Art Mart was selling some buffalo-hide robes Durham had made, and he had come to discuss the pricing, wanted to make sure he was being fairly compensated. With that business handled, Big Jim said he had another piece that might interest Rippberger. Durham clarified: It was not a finished piece; rather, it was still just a “vision.” Durham believed if he were able to complete the work, it would be spiritual and good and might well change the world. Only thing was, to realize the vision he needed financing. Intrigued by Big Jim, Rippberger invited him out for a meal to hear more.

    Durham talked a bit about himself, said he was mixed-blood Indian and pureblood Vietnam veteran and biker. He spoke of his visions: One day, not so long ago, he and some Vietnam-veteran brothers he’d met in 1988 at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., came together in a lodge back East to join in a sweat, that ancient American Indian ritual of purification, and to pray to the Creator for other veterans. Some of the vets brought their families; Durham’s wife, son, and daughter came along. Reluctantly, Durham allowed his seven-year-old son, Nick, to join the vets in the lodge.

    Midway through the sweat, as Big Jim told Rippberger and would later put in writing, his son passed out. When Nick awoke, he told his father he’d had a vision of his dad in a big green field, wearing buckskin clothes, hair below his belt, with bushy eyebrows. In the boy’s dream, Durham had his chanunpa—a ceremonial pipe—in his left hand. He was standing on a prairie looking at millions of buffalo. The herd approached Durham and split, creating a path for one big bull buffalo that walked right up to Durham and spoke to him. It was another language, but Durham and this buffalo chatted for a while. As Big Jim wrapped up the story of his son’s dream: “Finally, [the buffalo] started to walk away, but then he stopped. He turned his head back and looked at [me]. He said something to [me] and [I] nodded. Then he walked backed into the herd and just disappeared into the millions of them.”

    Rippberger would be the first to admit he’s no expert on American Indian culture. He grew up in Boulder and did well financially as the owner-operator of a service station and Potter’s Restaurant. In time, Rippberger sold off the businesses and invested in real estate and other ventures, including the Art Mart, which he co-owned and operated with his wife. Still, Rippberger knew enough about the Trail of Tears and the White Man’s role in it to feel sympathy, even a smidge of culpability. In American Indian art, he saw mysticism and nobility and suffering. And so, in Boulder, a town of artsy, politically correct progressives, Big Jim couldn’t have found a more receptive audience than Rippberger, who was enthralled as Durham spoke of a second vision.

    Not long after the sweat, Big Jim fell asleep and dreamed he saw a buffalo skeleton standing in the middle of a big room with a high ceiling and a wood floor. He noticed pictures carved onto all of the bones. Then the buffalo skeleton turned and spoke. “Pilamayapelo,” it said, meaning, “Thank you.” When Big Jim awoke, he told Rippberger, he picked up a sketchbook and drew the scenes he had seen on the bones. They were the seven sacred rites of the Lakota people, and a rendering of the Wounded Knee Massacre and the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Suddenly, as Durham put it to Rippberger, the visions made sense: The Creator wanted him to scrimshaw, or carve, all of the pictures he had dreamed onto the skeleton of a buffalo, and to share the buffalo’s teachings, the Lakota tribe’s religion, with the world.

    Durham showed Rippberger the divinely inspired sketches he’d done, and estimated it would cost about $30,000 to get the project going, with a few thousand dollars here and there afterward. Big Jim was confident that the finished piece would be a sought-after museum exhibit, and that the money from such a tour would repay Rippberger his initial investment and likely turn a profit. Rippberger was sold. It sounded like a chance to be a part of something “humanitarian” and maybe make some money. He liked the idea so much that he had an idea of his own. Rippberger wanted Big Jim to meet a friend, Peder Lund. The guy had an office in Boulder, across the street from Rippberger’s old service station. Lund had money and knew a thing or two about promotion, as he was the owner of a unique publishing house, Paladin Press, which published books like Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors and How to Become a Professional Con Artist.

    One morning last fall, Peder Lund walked into the conference room of his Paladin headquarters and plopped a cardboard box on the table in front me. Stuck on the side of the box was a computer-generated shipping label that read: How to Make $100,000 a Year as a Private Detective. It was obviously a box that had once contained copies of that particular title his company had published, but was no longer used for that purpose; as Lund himself had written on it in black marker, the box now contained “Buffalo B.S.” “It’s all yours,” he said, turning to leave, as if the box were a rotting cadaver. “Have at it. I’ll be back in a while to see if you have any questions.” A quick scan of the box’s contents revealed a Buffalo LLC agreement; two art appraisal reports—one from 1997, another from 2000; a thick deposition transcript of James G. Durham in “Sacred Buffalo Inc. vs. Paladin Enterprises Inc.;” and a handful of newspaper clippings with headlines like, “Police try to flesh out attack on buffalo skeleton.”

    Rippberger first came to know Lund at the pump. Before Rippberger bought that gas station, he worked there. As a skinny kid with glasses, he would be manning the station and the handsome, curly haired Lund would drive up in whatever his latest sports car was. Lund and the kid would chat. Rippberger thought Lund had a pretty sweet life. “Some of the time when he’d come in on a Saturday morning,” as Rippberger said to me recently, “it was hard to tell if he was starting his day or ending his Friday night.” They’d pick up their conversation when they bumped into each other around town and became rather friendly. Rippberger’s admiration for the dashing Lund grew as he learned that Mr. Nightlife had been a Green Beret in Vietnam, and had parlayed those interests into Paladin Press, a successful imprint specializing in books about weapons, defense, covert operations, and unusual (and sometimes illegal) professions.

    Just as Rippberger had predicted, when he and Durham met with Lund, Lund indeed thought the scrimshawed buffalo sounded like a grand idea. Of course, as Rippberger had also figured, if not counted on, Lund had some ideas of his own for what was quickly becoming the Sacred Buffalo project. Paladin has published hundreds of titles, covering everything from jewelry to jihads. Regardless of the subject, virtually all of the books have had two things in common: a tantalizing subject and a pretty incredible story line. That’s not to say the books were always well written. Being the shrewd former commando he was, it seemed Lund tried to find book material that was interesting on its face, at least to his audience, along with a paint-by-numbers plot, precisely so he wouldn’t have to worry much about the writer lousing up Paladin’s investment.

    And so Lund liked the Sacred Buffalo project. There was this Durham character and his story, evidently intertwined with the legends of the American Indian, and—and!—soon there’d be the buffalo skeleton piece to behold. The three men agreed to Lund’s plan of embedding a Boulder-based writer and a photographer with Durham to record the story of the project. The book, which would be entitled Sacred Buffalo: The Lakota Way for a New Beginning, would wrap up as the Sacred Buffalo masterpiece was completed, and would be sold concurrent with the buffalo’s tour. Of course there would be a tour: museums, universities, wherever. The book would provide a revenue stream all on its own. At the very least, Paladin would sell some copies and generate buzz about Durham and the piece, which might enhance the lure and value of the Sacred Buffalo. After all, the people want to see something that’s aesthetically striking, but they also want a story to go along with it.

    Rippberger, Lund, and Big Jim formed the Buffalo LLC. Per the terms of the agreement, each had a 33 1/3 percent share in any profits to be made from the buffalo. Meanwhile, the three struck a gentleman’s operating agreement: Paladin would cover the cost of the book; Rippberger and Lund would fund Durham’s construction of the Sacred Buffalo; and Durham would create the mystical work of art. And, as the artist and American Indian character he was, Big Jim would tour with the buffalo, sharing his visions with the public. All that was left was to get the scrimshawed buffalo built and get the magical, rolling bones show on the road.

    In my dream about the Sacred Buffalo,” so goes the first sentence of the introduction to the Sacred Buffalo book coauthored by Durham, “I simply walked away at the end without saying a word.” And it appears that after many years of talking to all kinds of lawyers and investigators about his buffalo, Big Jim indeed aims to walk away from it and say no more. Last fall, I reached Durham by phone. He suggested that if we were going to talk that we do it in person at his home in South Dakota, but my subsequent calls and e-mails to him in the hopes of scheduling the visit went unreturned. There is, however, the record Big Jim left behind in that 187-page book, chockablock with photographs, fabled history, visions, and dreams.

    Once in business with his Boulder-based partners and patrons, Durham returned home to South Dakota and in the summer of 1994 set about his work. First things first: He needed a bison skeleton. Big Jim wrote in the book about his quest to find a worthy buffalo. Evidently, he lay in the middle of a herd of charging bison; he went into a cave and prayed over a rock that reminded him of a “human embryo,” only to discover the rock “had been in the stomach of a dinosaur;” he had a staring contest with a buffalo he would have killed with his knife if his wife hadn’t been with him. Finally, though, he simply bought a bull buffalo from a rancher. The buffalo was killed in an undisclosed manner. A buddy of his named Les Lutz skinned it, and Durham shipped the bones off to the Ohio State University veterinary school, known for assembling skeletons for museums. The faculty and students were so impressed by the story of Big Jim’s visions that they agreed to spend some 780 hours on the process of preparing the bones free of charge.

    It should be noted that scrimshawing is not a Native American tradition. It is a nautical art that began with whalers in the early 19th century. Initially, it was not considered art as much as it was a hobby. With time to kill at night, the men aboard ship would whittle designs on the ample supply of whalebones and teeth scattered about their vessels. In time, the handiwork became more sophisticated and a desired folk art. In Moby-Dick, Herman Melville refers to “lively sketches of whales and whaling-scenes, graven by the fishermen themselves on sperm whale-teeth….” Big Jim had it in his mind to be the first to apply the tradition to bison bones and represent it as Native American.

    A bull buffalo skeleton is comprised of some 180 bones. Even with orbital sanders and X-acto knives, realizing Big Jim’s vision, which amounted to etching more than a thousand scenes on the bones, would be an undertaking. He needed a place to work; he needed help. Durham wrote that he searched high and low, traveling to Wyoming and Colorado, hoping for a studio like the one he’d seen in his dream. He ended up renting a dilapidated schoolhouse in the town of Whitewood, South Dakota. As far as Big Jim finding the chosen ones who would assist him in bringing the sacred piece to life, the Creator worked in mysterious ways. Down in Florida, where Big Jim had attended biker week in Daytona Beach, he recruited Harry Lindsay, a fellow Vietnam veteran. Lindsay claimed the boots on his feet were the same ones he wore in Nam, and because he fancied BMW motorcycles his pals called him “Beemer.” It was also in Florida that the Great Spirit led Durham to Teri Krukowski, a striking middle-age biker babe and self-described “dancer,” who in her spare time had taken up engraving the sort of items a biker babe-dancer would engrave: knives, guns, and motorcycles. Beemer joked that they ought to have T-shirts made with the slogan, “Among the Wretched Ones.”

    Big Jim, Teri, and Beemer not only worked together in the schoolhouse, engaged in the painstaking and meticulous work of sanding, engraving, and coloring the bones on makeshift desks of plywood on sawhorses; they also lived there together. Durham likened the close quarters to what he and Beemer had experienced in the military. Similarly, there was no mistaking the chain of command: Big Jim was the general, or rather the general-chaplin-shaman-cult-leader-in-chief. He made sure that every day they burned purifying sage and shared the chanunpa pipe. He encouraged them to stay spiritually focused and to refrain from cussing. He led house meetings. Smoking Marlboros and drinking shots of espresso, he preached and inspired. Durham had sketched out precisely what scenes he wanted on each bone, and when Teri was carving the “wiyakas” on the bison’s ribs Durham asked if she knew what they were. She did not. Big Jim explained: “They’re all about spirit. Each of them represents a person, 163 people. As I look at each one, I think about a different person I’ve known. The wiyakas each have individuality; they’re fat or thin, crooked, each is unique. Like people are.”

    Standing on the open South Dakota plains, surrounded by hundreds of Indians and tepees, Rick Rippberger watched Big Jim dance around a towering cottonwood tree. The summer sky was clear and the sun was strong. Yet Durham and other Indian men danced around the cottonwood for hours in the blistering heat, chanting what sounded like ancient prayers in ancient repetitive rhythms. Rippberger watched as Durham pierced hooks through his chest flesh; the hooks were attached to long ropes that dangled from the top of the cottonwood. After more time spent dancing and chanting, Big Jim gradually leaned back with hooks in his chest pulling taut the ropes. Farther and farther he leaned back, arms outstretched, the ropes pulling tighter, blood trickling from the pierced holes in his chest, until the massive man’s back was nearly parallel with the ground. The hooks snapped loose, flesh ripped, Big Jim stumbled backward, and the hooks were jerked all the way to the very top of the tree and stuck there.

    It was the summer of 1994, and with the Sacred Buffalo project under way, Durham had invited Rippberger out to the Pine Ridge Reservation to witness a Sun Dance, a sacred, communal ritual of Great Plains Indians. In the language of the Lakota, the dominant tribe on the Pine Ridge Reservation, the Sun Dance is “wiwanyag wachipi,” meaning, “dance looking at the sun.” Orchestrated by tribes annually in the summer, the Sun Dance is a days-long series of rituals that draws thousands of Indians, who camp, pray, dance, sacrifice, and celebrate together. The buffalo looms large over the Sun Dance as an important symbol, as the great tatanka had long been a source of tools, weapons, food, clothing, and therefore inspiration for the American Indians of the Plains. At the literal and ceremonial center of the Sun Dance is a large wooden pole or tree, which serves as something of an altar. Indian men and women dance around it until exhausted, as a form of sacrifice to the Creator, whom they hope will grant them visions and enlightenment. Some men tether themselves to the center pole, as Durham had done, to show a willingness to suffer for the Creator. For similar reasons, some men hook a buffalo skull to their chest and drag it with them as they chant prayers.

    Rippberger considered it an honor to have been invited. So that he could come bearing gifts, on the way from Boulder he had purchased dozens of colorful blankets and some 400 pounds of buffalo meat, hauled out in a freezer. He was overwhelmed by the sight of the Sun Dance camp on the massive, open fields. On the prehistoric-looking plains, he spotted hundreds of tepees, tents, campers, and people camped with only sleeping bags and cardboard. At the perimeter of the camp, Rippberger had been stopped by Indians who wanted to know why the White Man was here. As the jittery art dealer tried to explain, Beemer appeared and informed the Indians the guy was with Jim Durham. The Indian men stepped aside. Beemer, who was on foot, directed Rippberger to drive behind him and to positively not veer off course or else pale face might quickly find himself in hostile territory.

    Rippberger noticed there was a hierarchy to the camp: Those with the sleeping bags on the outer reaches were the poorest and least influential Indians. The trailers and tents got bigger as he approached the center; these were the Indians of means and power. And this is where Beemer set up Rippberger, among the chiefs and their families, close to the Sun Dance pole, the towering cottonwood. Rippberger noted that Durham indeed must have ranked high on the totem, and then watched Big Jim do his awesome Sun Dance.

    Durham writes plenty about himself in Sacred Buffalo, but doesn’t offer much autobiographical information. He describes himself as a mixed-blood American Indian, but beyond that it’s unclear what his heritage is. He wrote that one of his grandfathers was named George Poor Thunder and the other was called Fools Crow. He reveals that he has known “Dr. Bob,” meaning that he was a recovering alcoholic, and that he was not a classically trained artist. “[I] got kicked out of art class in seventh grade because I wouldn’t draw fruit.” He married a woman named Beth, who was in the Navy, and had two children, Nick, and a girl, Crystal. What autobiographical shreds Durham shares in Sacred Buffalo are wrapped in visions and profound religious experiences, like the Sun Dance.

    After his dance that day in the summer of 1994, Big Jim told Rippberger it was of great significance that his hooks flew to the top of the tree and stuck. It meant the Creator had accepted the Sacred Buffalo, that it was blessed. Shortly thereafter, however, Rippberger and Lund came to think the thing was cursed. Four months became six months, then eight months, and Big Jim and his crew still had not finished the Sacred Buffalo, and they kept asking the Boulder White Men for more and more money. It’s unclear how much Big Jim paid Beemer and Teri. Ostensibly the Boulder bankroll was to cover the salaries, food, and rent. But when it was close to a year in, and Rippberger and Lund had invested approximately $30,000 apiece, their financial benevolence began to waver. There were heated telephone exchanges over cash flow. One especially tense moment occurred when the bank called to inform Durham that a Buffalo LLC check supposed to cover the rent for the studio hadn’t arrived. Big Jim threw down the phone, and, almost directly quoting from the movie Top Gun, said to Beemer, “His mouth is writing checks his ass can’t cover.”

    In the summer of 1995, more than a year since the project had begun, Durham at last gazed upon the completed masterpiece. It was just as he had seen in one of his many visions: He sat on a chair in a room of wooden floors with a high ceiling, alone with his buffalo (alone, that is, except for his Sacred Buffalo book coauthor and a photographer). And Big Jim spoke. Moved by the mighty bison he had created, Durham proclaimed, “Power like this hasn’t been seen in a long time. It’ll flat-out walk tomorrow. It’ll walk around the world.”

    The Sacred Buffalo’s inaugural tour wasn’t quite the globetrot Durham and the LLC imagined. Lund had hired his ex-wife, Marsha Lund, to handle the tour and marketing. Marsha had met Lund one night in a Boulder bar, and they ended up married for 10 years. She collected silver and turquoise Native American-inspired jewelry, and considered herself an expert. She wrote a book on the subject for Paladin, which, Lund and his ex determined, gave her some frame of reference to spearhead the Sacred Buffalo run. Initially Marsha felt encouraged by the interest in the buffalo. She thought she had the prestigious Field Museum in Chicago on tap. But, as she recently told me, “Jim insisted on getting on the phone with them, and the next thing I know the lady there calls me back and says she’s changed her mind.” The tour that did come together began in the winter of 1995 with a one-month exhibit at CAM-PLEX Heritage Center Art Gallery in Gillette, Wyoming, with at least six stops thereafter at similarly modest venues, including a five-day stint at the South Dakota State Penitentiary.

    With the Sacred Buffalo roaming such sites, the tensions among the LLC partners intensified. Boxes of Sacred Buffalo books went out, as Lund and Rippberger recall, but the total sales revenue for them did not come back. And although Rippberger and Lund believed they were sending checks to cover Durham’s expenses to travel with the piece and appear at the venues, Big Jim would call them from the road and say he needed more. The Boulder financiers grew more frustrated, especially because, Ripp-berger and Lund say, they were covering expenses they hadn’t counted on. One day, Lund says, he got a call from Big Jim, who said he needed some money because he was behind in child-support payments; if Durham didn’t pay he was going to lose his driver’s license and possibly be arrested. “At that point,” Lund says, “we were well into the project, and if Durham couldn’t travel it would have been over. So I paid him a few thousand dollars for a buffalo-hide robe he’d made. Every time you talked to him, he needed money.”

    Meanwhile, Durham was growing exasperated himself, although with a different view of the LLC. Big Jim saw his Boulder partners as perpetuating the history of the White Man welching on deals made to Indians. Big Jim was of the opinion that his investors were shirking their end of the deal. As Durham would later say in the media and to attorneys, he’d call the guys in Boulder and tell them he was having to crash on couches and even sleep on the floor of a bar because Lund and Rippberger weren’t sending the checks they’d promised. Rippberger, for one, was tired of it all. “I know I was at a point where I didn’t care what happened to that buffalo,” he says. “I didn’t care if I ever saw it again. I just wanted to be done with Jim Durham.”

    Lund clearly still cared. In May of 1997, just before the final two stops on the Buffalo’s road trip—the University of Central Florida and the Fairbanks Museum in Vermont—he had the Sacred Buffalo appraised. He hired Bernard Ewell, at the time a Colorado Springs-based art appraiser, to provide the information the Buffalo LLC might need to make decisions about rental fees at museums, a possible sale price, and insurance. Ewell is a self-described Salvador Dalí expert, and he refers to himself as “the Dalí Detective.” Regardless of the assignment, however, he promises, “I’ll always be up-front and unflinching in my evaluations of the players and their actions.”

    In his Sacred Buffalo appraisal report, Ewell noted that the task of determining a value was difficult because there were no comparables for a buffalo skeleton scrimshawed with Native American religion and history. A senior member of the American Society of Appraisers, Ewell stated that his methodology “is not based on a formula of calculation. It is simply the value which was given to me spiritually while I meditated before the Sacred Buffalo on March 12.” So inspired, Ewell put the fair market value of the piece at $770,000. However, provided with touring and revenue information as articulated by Lund, Ewell upped that assessment considerably. Lund informed Ewell that the LLC had been paid $15,000 and $20,000 in rental fees by at least two of the venues that had rented it. Based on those numbers, the Dalí Detective theorized that at “5 venues a year @ $25,000,” multiplied by 10 years, the piece might be worth an additional $1.25 million.

    When James “Boomer the Beast” Boggs finished casing the Fairbanks and returned to the minivan, pregnant Tish was bellied up to wheel. Boomer directed her to cruise around back, behind the museum, as close as she could get to that back door he’d seen from inside. Tish couldn’t get that close. Between the van and the door were a good- size parking lot and then a hillside of trees. Boomer announced plain and simple he wasn’t going to do it. More like he couldn’t do it. Never mind the challenges inside, Boomer said, “What’s gonna happen is, I’m going to have to run 250 yards. There’s no way I can do it and not get caught and [not] have a heart attack.” This didn’t sit well with Kinney. “Well, I didn’t fuckin’ come all this way for nothing,” he told Boomer. “I’ll do it.” Just like that, Kinney shouldered open the van door and the blond mullet was out of sight.

    It was about 2 p.m. on that Tuesday, August 22, 2000, when Tish put the van in park. She and Boomer waited. Boomer anxiously pumped his leg. Truth of the matter is, Boomer’s an easily rattled guy. On at least one occasion, he described himself as “getting more nervous than a cat shitting razor blades.” Imagine how he’d have felt if he’d known the St. Johnsbury police department was only two tiny blocks from the museum. A few long minutes later, the museum back door swung open, and damned if that stickman Kinney didn’t come bounding out, running and stumbling through the trees, down the hill, and through the cars in the lot. He breathlessly yanked open the minivan door and jumped in. Tish and Boomer sat there, uncertain of what had happened or didn’t happen. They watched as Kinney slammed shut the door and immediately turned to puke out the open window, only the window wasn’t open. Dawg ended up vomiting all over the interior of Boomer’s Astro. Which, considering the circumstances, Boomer let slide.

    Tish and Boomer sat there all catatonic-like until Kinney looked up with one of those well-what-in-the-hell-are-you-waiting-for expressions, and between pants and gags, shouted, “Go! Go! Go!!!!!” Tish punched the gas and then slowed to a meander, driving out through the center of St. Johnsbury like she and the boys were on their way to the local Ben & Jerry’s for some Chunky Monkey. No one said anything for about an hour, until they realized that they weren’t being followed. Boomer then made the call to the contact, told him it was done. The voice on the other end of the phone, said, “Are you kidding me? Man, you’re fucking crazy. That’s great.” The gang drove straight through the night back to Ohio, now joking, “We killed the great white buffalo,” high on adrenaline and the promise of big money.

    Thus far, the contact had fronted Boggs only $500 for “traveling expenses”—most of that had gone to the dope and coke—and now they were expecting the agreed-upon payday of $25,000, which Boomer would split with Kinney. All the way home, Kinney kept nagging Boomer, “I want my cut right now.” And Boomer kept telling Kinney, “Look, dawg, I’m going to take care of you. We’re gonna get paid.” When the gang got home, as Boomer puts it, he went to meet with the contact to get paid and was more than a little disappointed: “He gave me four pounds of pot and $1,000. And I was like, ‘What the fuck is this? Where’s the rest of my money?’ And he was like, ‘Look Boomer, I just don’t have liquid cash that I can give you right now.’ He knew I’m a killer, that if you fuck with me you better bring your lunch, and so he’s like, ‘If you work with me—I mean this is a gift—just work with me and I’ll give you the twenty-five. But we gotta wait until insurance money comes through.'”

    Armed with the Dalí Detective’s appraisal, Lund obtained an insurance policy for the Sacred Buffalo, covering the piece for up to $1.25 million. In addition, each venue that hosted the Sacred Buffalo provided its own insurance coverage for the piece while it was on display in their care. And because the hit on Durham’s creation occurred under the watch of the Fairbanks, it was that museum’s policy alone that would be on the hook for the damage. The Fairbanks’ insurance on the Buffalo was handled by a company called Acadia Insurance, which, in the weeks following the August 2000 hit, promptly put a claims adjuster on the case. The Acadia investigator was a seasoned professional with more than 15 years’ experience, and was primarily responsible for handling cases in the million-dollar range. Although the investigator has since left Acadia for a new insurance firm, he remembers the case well. He remembers it so well that when we recently spoke about the Sacred Buffalo he asked that his name not be used because, he said, “I have a wife and kids, and you’re talking about some serious bad guys involved here.”

    So this “Mr. Acadia” was on the case, finding that the only information the police department could provide at the time, according to Police Chief Richard Leighton, was that a skinny guy covered in tattoos was seen running out of the museum. After all, the Fairbanks ain’t exactly the Louvre. And it turned out the intelligence Boomer had received from his evidently well-informed contact about the nonfunctional security cameras was dead-on. In the local press, Big Jim said his best guess as to who was responsible was zealous Christians who rejected American Indian spirituality. Durham didn’t have any more answers for the insurance investigator, but Mr. Acadia did receive a copy of Ewell’s appraisal report. In his talks with Mr. Acadia, Durham said that there was no point in discussing whether it was possible to repair the Sacred Buffalo because “its spirit had been broken.”

    Mr. Acadia was suspicious of the values the Dalí Detective had placed on the piece while he had “meditated before the Sacred Buffalo.” Likewise, he didn’t buy the Christian theory, or, for that matter that the random act of vandalism was random. Mr. Acadia hired his own expert to give an appraisal of the broken buffalo, and meanwhile contracted a private investigator to see what he could find. The PI was Ken Springer of New York-based Corporate Resolutions Inc., which specializes in high-value insurance fraud matters. Based on Corporate Resolutions’ legwork, according to Mr. Acadia and Springer, they believed the Sacred Buffalo caper was a scam, and that if any of the Buffalo LLC players was involved in busting up the bison and hoping to collect on an insurance-policy payout, it was most likely Durham. In addition to the alleged back child-support payment situation Lund had described, Springer determined that Big Jim was in financial straits, the details of which the PI would not disclose to me. Nevertheless, Springer told Mr. Acadia, he didn’t have proof of a connection.

    On November 12, 2000, the expert Acadia hired to examine the damaged bison skeleton and estimate what it would cost to repair the buffalo submitted her findings. Lisa Kronthal was no Dalí Detective, but she was a conservator at the American Museum of Natural History. She examined the Buffalo on October 27, two months after the crime, near Columbus, Ohio, where Beemer and Durham had retreated with the damaged piece. She determined that the buffalo had suffered “significant damage,” and that even if repaired it would “never be as strong as it was originally.” Kronthal wrote, “It was found after speaking in depth with the artist that although he believes the buffalo has lost all spiritual value, he recognizes that it retains significant historical value. Mr. Durham feels the buffalo should be brought back to an exhibitable state.” In the detailed report, which reads like a medical autopsy and breaks down the bone-by-bone cost for repairs, Kronthal came up with a cost of roughly $210,000.

    Provided with Kronthal’s findings, Mr. Acadia entered into a months-long series of settlement negotiations with the Buffalo LLC and with Durham personally, and, finally, sent the LLC a settlement check for $456,000. “As much as society likes to believe insurance companies like to get out of making payment,” Mr. Acadia says, “it’s actually a lot easier to make payments than it is to get out of them. That’s a fact. Unless you’ve got [concrete evidence of fraud] or you’re a really bad insurance company, you’re going to pay the claim and move on. That’s how it works. [Our investigator] was like, we know [Durham] did it, but we don’t have enough to give you to sink your teeth into. As soon as things started to develop that way, it was obvious that we felt that way. We let [Durham’s lawyer] know. Communications with Durham didn’t exist after the check was sent. The check was another issue.”

    Indeed, the check was another issue. From that $456,000 settlement, Lund and Rippberger each took $193,000; they sent Durham the remaining $70,000 and told him he could keep the once Sacred and now broken Buffalo.

    Fairborn, Ohio, detective Andy Kindred couldn’t believe what he’d just heard. It was March 2001, and a fat, freckled dude just busted with three pounds of pot was giving him some whack-a-doodle story about smashing up some buffalo bones in Vermont six months ago. “I was like, you’ve got to be shitting me,” Kindred told me recently. “So I picked up the phone and called the St. Johnsbury P.D., and got Chief Richard Leighton on the phone, and he goes, ‘No, that happened. You got the guy? I’ll be damned.'”

    Boomer had found himself across the table from Detective Kindred that day because, thanks to an informant’s tip, the Fairborn police had raided Boomer’s home, where he was now living with his girlfriend, Angie. Behind the house, police found a plastic bag in a tree with three pounds of marijuana. “It’s not hers,” Boomer had blurted. “She don’t know nothing about it. It’s mine.” Possession of three pounds legally implied intent to distribute, and considering Boomer’s record, such a conviction would be enough to put him inside for a long time. And faced with the possibility of going away (again) for a long stint, Boomer figured he could strike a deal by providing Sacred Buffalo information.

    See, Kinney was no longer Boomer’s dawg. First off, Kinney had insulted Boomer’s new girlfriend. “Angie had been with a colored man before me,” Boomer explained to me. “She had a mixed baby. And Roger was like a big-time racist. I mean, I don’t like colored kids either, but that baby didn’t have nothing to do with it. So me and him fell out about that.” What’s more, the contact for the buffalo job never did pay up. And so Boomer decided to tell Detective Kindred everything he knew about the buffalo and more in exchange for a lighter sentence. Boomer revealed the contact for the Sacred Buffalo hit: He swore up and down that it was a dude named Johnny Decker.

    In a tape-recorded statement to Kindred, Boomer described himself and Kinney as “the Apple Dumpling Gang,” and stated that when this Decker hired him for the job, “he told me that the artist [was his] brother. He told me a couple of times that he’d been to South Dakota. He never told me why.” Kindred asked Boomer if he’d ever heard the artist’s name. Boomer said, “He showed me a picture of him that was in a book. I don’t know if he said his name or not…. All I know is [he said] the artist was his brother and that’s the one that made the buffalo…. Evidently the buffalo was on its last leg. It wasn’t a major attraction anymore. It went through the circuit and was about to be retired. There wasn’t going to be any money made on it. And supposedly this artist had a deal…some type of insurance deal that if anything would ever happen to the buffalo, all proceeds would go to some Indian kids on a reservation. Now this is the story he told me.”

    Within a matter of weeks, Ohio police officers raided Kinney’s house. They found a bunch of gas grills that had been stolen and found the dawg hiding in a bedroom closet. Kinney confirmed Boomer’s version of events to law enforcement, to Acadia, and also to the court, as both men pleaded no contest to felony burglary for their roles in the Sacred Buffalo hit. Kinney served 12 months, with his four- to eight-year sentence suspended in exchange for his cooperation with the investigation. And because Boomer had agreed to provide information about the buffalo, along with other, unrelated criminal investigations, he did only 120 days in prison, with his sentence of four to eight years suspended. (According to Detective Kindred, information he received during the buffalo case helped solve a missing-person case.) When Boomer got out of the Vermont prison, with some assistance from Kindred, Boomer worked on getting straight. He and Angie had a baby of their own. But Boomer gave in to his drug addiction and got arrested trying to rob a gas station with a knife. When we spoke last fall, Boomer was on the front end of a three-year sentence in Ohio at the Warren Correctional Institution.

    Although Boomer agreed to testify against Johnny Decker in any future criminal proceedings related to the Sacred Buffalo caper, there weren’t any future criminal proceedings. According to Mr. Acadia, lawyers once involved in the case, law enforcement in Ohio, and Boomer, it just so happened that this Decker fellow was in business with the FBI. The way Boomer puts it, Decker was a “federal informant.” The way the now-retired Detective Andy Kindred puts it, Decker “did a lot of work for the FBI” knocking around Ohio and Indiana and associating with motorcycle gangs as a tipster, and the Feds determined that wherever Decker was or wasn’t, and regardless of whatever role he did or did not play in the Sacred Buffalo job, he was too valuable to get caught up in it. In other words, whoever planned the Sacred Buffalo caper and hired Decker to be the middleman was either dumb lucky or a master of the scam.

    Apparently unconcerned about Boomer and Kinney, in 2002 Big Jim filed suit against Lund and Rippberger, arguing that he should have received a third of the insurance settlement. He claimed that, according to the LLC agreement, any profit from the Sacred Buffalo was to be equally divided three ways. Lund and Ripp- berger countered successfully by claiming their agreement established that all profits would be split three ways, provided the two financiers first recouped their investment plus a 100 percent return on their investment, which was equal to the $193,000 each took out of the Acadia payment. In memos to a Buffalo LLC lawyer on the matter, Lund instructed the attorney to fight Big Jim’s suit because it was “ridiculous.” On principle, as Lund put it, he told his attorney not to settle. The case dragged on into March 2004, when Lund’s attorney deposed Durham. Well into the hours-long deposition, Durham took it upon himself to solicit a settlement.

    “I want two cows, 40 blankets,” he said. In the flow of the transcript, the opposing counsel is clearly stunned and attempting to collect his thoughts when he says, “Let me write this down.” Durham’s own lawyer then asks his client, “Are you serious about this?” To which Durham replies: “You’re damn right I’m serious…. Two cows, breeding cows. That means breeding stock, male, female. Two cows, 40 Pendleton blankets. Good ones…. Two chain saws for Sun Dance to cut our arbor down so we can dance, and half the money they took over what they had coming. Forty blankets, 65,000 bucks, two chain saws, and two cows. Any thief would take that. I ain’t paying your attorney’s fees. I will go to hell first…. I’ll walk away. You can make fun of us forever.” Lund and Rippberger’s attorney rejected the offer, and shortly thereafter the case withered away.

    Rick Rippberger no longer has anything to do with the Art Mart in Boulder. He’s divorced from his wife and thereby divorced from the business. After he got his piece of the Acadia payment, he deferred to Lund on the business of the lawsuit Durham had filed against them; nor did Rippberger closely follow the news of Boomer and Kinney. Until we spoke in a Denver coffee shop last fall, he says, he’d never even heard the name Johnny Decker. “I didn’t even know who he was,” Rippberger said. He had on aviator-style glasses with lenses tinted a rose color, which seemed uniquely suited for his worldview. Visibly frustrated, he took off the glasses. “You know what this did for me? I mean, I’m that type of guy that trusts everybody, all right? And with this whole thing, and as far as Native Americans, I have the worst taste of Native Americans in my mouth.”

    In the Buffalo book, Durham wrote “There’s another old saying. ‘It’s not for sale.’ I wish that were true of religion. People without any real spiritual knowledge try to run a sweat lodge—or a vision quest—for a fee. They learn to sing a couple of songs and to go through the motions and then they offer to run sweats for people who will pay the price. The people who pay have no idea how much preparation and prayer goes into running a real sweat lodge ceremony, or that the adviser for a vision quest must be spiritually responsible for them. At best, the people who pay to go to a sweat lodge just waste their time and money; at worst, they can be hurt bad. Unlike religion, true spirituality isn’t for sale.” But as far as Durham was concerned, the Sacred Buffalo was for sale.

    Big Jim restored the Sacred Buffalo, or, hell, who knows, maybe he had the Sacred Buffalo restored. In any case, the buffalo was put into exhibitable form. And in January 2002, while Boggs and Kinney were coming as clean as they could to authorities, and Rippberger and Lund were fending off Durham’s suit, Big Jim sold the Sacred Buffalo. An acquisitions director for an international museum chain, Edward Meyer, bought the piece. When I spoke with Meyer on the phone this fall, he wouldn’t disclose how much he’d paid for it, but he said it was the third most expensive purchase he’d ever made in the 30 years he’s been in the business. He would say that the priciest piece he’s ever bought, which was a matter of public record, was a makeup case once owned by Marilyn Monroe, which Meyer purchased for $265,000.

    Before we hung up, Meyer mentioned that the buffalo wasn’t the only thing he bought from Durham. He also purchased a human skeleton nailed to a crucifix. What makes the human skeleton piece even more interesting, and controversial, and therefore attractive to Meyer, is that on the bones, every inch of the bones, Durham had scrimshawed scenes from the Bible. “To this day,” Meyer says, “I would say it’s the most controversial piece in our collection. And we have some 25,000 items. His work is spectacular. The crucifix is beautifully woodworked, and the scrimshaw is incredible. He has told the New Testament and Acts of the Apostles, but from an Indian viewpoint based on his religious upbringing, I guess, in missionary schools. Visually, it is disturbing. People don’t see skeletons hanging on crosses. It’s a one-of-a-kind.” Meyer says the human skeleton exhibit is on display at his venue in London, England, and that as of just last year the Sacred Buffalo could be seen at his museum in San Antonio, Texas. Oh, of course, the name of the international exhibition and museum operation Meyer oversees: It is Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

  34. 34 Bigal Jun 25th, 2010 at 8:06 am

    Come on You Guy’s, an event like this would have a Bond to secure intrests. I thought all new that it was a “MICKEY”.. Cyrill you had to know, way back! I meant way back , in next 10 minutes after you heard of this Stunt! For all who are not from Florida, and are Believers, I ahve a very famous saying that was bestowed upon me many, many years ago and that is “WELCOME TO SOUTH FLORIDA”.

  35. 35 Al Jones Jun 25th, 2010 at 8:59 am

    Florida after all is a sunny place for shady people, the land of the scam.

  36. 36 Todd8080 Jun 25th, 2010 at 9:55 am

    Hey, a lot of people here are from South Florida! Some of us are even decent folk. Big Jim Durham and the Hoka Hey Challenge are headquartered in Hot Springs, South Dakota.

  37. 37 Lisa Ballard Jun 25th, 2010 at 10:41 am

    I spoke to Chris Callen last night. He has pulled out of the running for the grand prize but is completing the race. He stated that he has seen some shady things going on. Rob Keller and Big Ben are still going full speed ahead. I would like to wish all of the riders a safe journey! You can follow the Cycle Source team here, http://cyclesourcehokahey.blogspot.com

  38. 38 Brandon Jun 25th, 2010 at 11:01 am

    If Chris Callen saw shady things happening on the road, you can now all believe the allegations made and contained in Cyril’s original article.

  39. 39 09 Indian Rider Jun 25th, 2010 at 11:25 am

    I don’t know what others experienced but I can tell you what happened to me.
    Road signs gone.
    Directions that were not accurate. ( .8 miles is a little short of 8 miles but what the hell–close enough I guess).
    Folks using GPS (cell phone) to plan their route.
    Motorcycle riders hauling a** past their brethren in the wind when they should have been stopping to lend a hand.
    Support vehicles forced to take alternate routes.

    Bring back the old Gypsy Tours to encourage riders to enjoy their rides and get bonded like it was meant to be.

  40. 40 Shifter Jun 25th, 2010 at 11:41 am

    And now maps with direction errors. On purpose to eliminate everybody and not give the prize? Don’t trust an organizer stating “I lied to you to make you come here”.

  41. 41 hawghugger Jun 25th, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    Seems to me it would be a great way to cheat – make everyone think its a scam. Come on you guys. It is one tuff ride! They will need the mental belief as well as the physical endurance. Go riders! Wish I was tuff enough to be ahead of you! Theres a pot of gold at the end!

  42. 42 Johny Jun 25th, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    I think I know who is going to win the pot of gold. The (dis)organizer.

  43. 43 REEL TEAM / REEL RIDERS Jun 25th, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    It sounds like a magnificent idea…a dream of freedom ,of wild abandon, of adventure and a historic tie to trails and sufferings of the Native People. I would LOVE to have been part of it. That’s the stuff lifelong memories are made off. The $1000 admission fee is way to steep for my taste, I don’t know how desperate you have to be to sell your last belongings to come up with it to -maybe- win a large sum.
    At this point I think it is premature to give in to all these negative, destructive thoughts. It seems to be so easy to accuse others of malice. Something we should try to avoid- you attract what you think about. And double check BEFORE you pay.Don’t bitch AFTER.
    The ride itself is the adventure. And WHAT and adventure, what a challenge!
    Too bad the organization lacked and there are no camera crews following the riders.
    Contact me next time, TV production is what I do, and everything in that regard will be glitch-free and organized to a “T”.
    This is REALLY annoying to ME, that the documentation is lacking so fiercely.
    What a fabtastic opportunity missed.
    What a great cause.
    There’s always next year.
    Come on ,people, stop thinking about the money only and catch the fever,the rush, the adrenaline!
    best of luck to ALL participants- Be Safe!
    wishing you the best of luck and great, unforgetteable memories!

  44. 44 Scratch Jun 25th, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    There seem to be some discrepancies regarding exactly when and where the $500,000 will be paid out. The Hoka Hey official website refers to an award ceremony planned at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in August; and the organizers responded to a question on their site regarding withholding taxes by again referring to Sturgis as the location where the money would be handed over.

    However, in a news article published yesterday in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Beth Durham (wife of Jim Redcloud/Durham/whatever) is quoted as stating the $ would be awarded in Homer, AK at the conclusion of the race.

    Good luck to the riders participating, and good luck to the winner in collecting.

  45. 45 Todd8080 Jun 25th, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    “And double check BEFORE you pay.Don’t bitch AFTER.”

    I think that was part of the problem; people who asked questions got no answers or conflicting answers.

    Plus it’s harder to check on someone who goes by two different names and sometimes refuses to use a last name at all. I don’t see the name James Durham anywhere on the Hoka Hey site, do you?

    The contestants’ bikes were all supposed to be electronically monitored yet none were.

    Nobody recorded anyone’s mileage before the event. That’s suspicious as hell in an event of this type.

    Hoka Hey’s website FAQs page claims “there will be cameras crews everywhere.” Has anyone seen any of these camera crews?

    Why hasn’t anyone heard from all these charities the Hoka Hey Challenge supposedly supports? You’d think they’d step forward in light of all the controversy, if for no other reason than to dispel misconceptions.

    Will these charities each receive an equal percentage of the gross, a set amount or what? Is it a big secret?

    Originally contestants were led to believe that the winner would be paid in Homer, then the organizers said, no, the winner will be paid a month later in South Dakota, now I see a news article published today that quotes the organizer’s wife as saying the winner will be paid in Homer after all:


    Then there’s the whole thing about the polygraph. If I were the winner and had obeyed all the rules I’d be plenty pissed if the organizers decided that — in their opinion — I didn’t pass a polygraph. Whoever heard of using a polygraph to determine the winner of a contest?

  46. 46 Grey Beard Jun 25th, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    Damn…. Maybe it was miss spelled, could it have been the HOAX a HEY !!!!!

  47. 47 Lance Dickwood Jun 25th, 2010 at 8:07 pm
  48. 48 The Dog Man Jun 26th, 2010 at 7:28 am

    Lance – Funny link..
    Todd – they took photo’s of speedo’s in Key West for mileage.

    Nance – This needs to be organized, unless that was by design. I own a Ferrari and did the Cannon Ball a few years back. The son of race legend and Motor Trend Editor Brock Yates put it together. The event went without a hitch and there was no controversy.

    John White – Hoka Hey Motor Company links to Crazy Horse Motorcycles in WA. Division of Corporations has filing for Hoka Hey – can you comment?

    Jeri – Don’t know if you were there for the entire meeting on Sat from 5:00pm to about 7:00pm. That’s when Big Jim started crying in front of the audience and talked about bringing water to the reservation….

    I think Canada will be an issue, as stated previously the laws have been recently changed requiring a passport. When mentioned in the meeting, Big Jim said it would not be a problem. In fact, he pointed to a rough looking patcher and said, “See this guy? But a swastika on his forehead and he’d look like Charles Manson. This guy and I were able to ride straight through and you will have no problem.”

    I should go to Homer and hand out business cards – I’m an attorney

  49. 49 Johny Jun 26th, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    Lawyers are circling…

  50. 50 Bigfoot Jun 26th, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    I hope it is not a scam. Either way the riders will enjoy the ride. I have ridden to different parts of Alaska at least 20 times oner the last 41 years of rideing and I loved every second I was there. Best part is that the people I met each time I was there remembered me when they saw me again. It is a really beautiful palce witth a lot of things to do and see. Except for the parts the oil companys are destroying. I live in Rhode Island so it is not as far for me as it is from Florida but I can make it to Daytona in about 20 hours. I have ridden to every state except Hawaii and it is a great way to see the country. I hope they all arrive safely and have the time of their lives.

  51. 51 Bigfoot Jun 26th, 2010 at 8:30 pm

    I just read where they are going to go through Canada. I always go to California and take a right. They are taking a shortcut. I go the long way and see more of our country that way. My ride is a lot longer than theirs is.

  52. 52 Axel Jun 27th, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    Obviously, Cyril needs a character limit on these posts. I got carpal tunnel scrolling past that long one.

  53. 53 Max Frisson Jun 28th, 2010 at 8:25 am

    Wish I had known there wasn’t a TV deal, I would have put a crew together and followed this. Scam or not this would make a GREAT documentary. I know my business, I have had a couple of TV shows over the last few years and this would have been a saleable product.

  54. 54 Johny Jun 28th, 2010 at 8:35 am

    Maybe a camera crew was an unwanted witness of things going to happen. Like cheating..

  55. 55 Mr. Knuckles Jun 28th, 2010 at 9:52 am

    Why is biker culture so obsessed with Native American culture?

  56. 56 Lance Dickwood Jun 28th, 2010 at 11:18 am

    First two cross finish line in Homer in a mutually agreed upon tie!


  57. 57 Randy Full Throttle Magazine Jun 29th, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    I’m not passing judgment on the event or any of the alleged controversies surrounding this ride. I truly hope, in the end that it is all legit. Chris Carr, one of the riders is a friend, sponsored by friends who happen to be advertisers of our magazine. There are others on the ride that we know as well.

    I read the rules for the ride months ago and decided then it wasn’t for me. I’ve completed along with a group of great friends just about every Iron Butt ride. We rode from Savannah to San Diego in the 50CC, 50 hours coast-to-coast. We rode from Prudhoe Bay, AK to Key West, FL; actually it was the 500 miles from Fairbanks to Prudhoe and back, then to Key West. That was a 1000-mile motocross on an 800-pound motorcycle. The majority of us did it on Harley-Davidson motorcycles after we were told by AK DOT and AK HOG not to go there. Of the forty that started up the Dalton Hwy, the Haul Rd, thirteen came back on trailers. Three of those were totaled and two went to the hospital.

    My point is, this type of riding is exactly as this was billed, a challenge. It is a ball busting, back breaking, ass burning, spirit breaking challenge. My group of friends, The Iron Torch Riders, are the toughest bunch of men and women I’ve ever been proud to call my friends. We are bound together for life by our rides.

    This group of riders, the Hoka Hey challengers, will share that same bond in spite of any “controversies” that arose. You don’t do 8,000+ miles and come out as the same person. Your perspective of life, of people, of nature and of spirit will change. That snapshot you took, of the sunset in WY or the buffalo in the roadway in Canada or the bear cubs in AK, are not just an image in a frame. They are forever etched in your heart. You see them every day.

    Our group, The Iron Torch Riders, all paid ‘big’ bucks to participate in our rides as well. The AK to Key West trip probably cost most of us close to $10,000 each. We shipped bikes to Fairbanks, flew there, had two tire changes plus other maintenance and unlike these riders, we stayed in hotels. But it was a fund raiser for the Special Olympics with the only expected pot of gold at the end being the smiles of the Special Olympic athletes and the glow of what changed in our hearts. We raised a quarter-million dollars for those athletes that have to meet unbelievable challenges each time they take up their sport. Our challenge, our ride, was so that they may be able to enjoy life’s challenges.

    All you naysayers, don’t rain on these riders parade. Some in the beginning may have participated for the reward but most participated for the ride. In the end they will all realize that the reward was the ride.

  58. 58 Jim Jul 1st, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    Well said RFTM.

  59. 59 Poor Thunder's blood relative Jul 3rd, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    Why is this guy claiming to have my great grandfather as a grandparent? My grandmother is the daughter of George Poor Thunder. Aside from one adopted son, he is not known to have any other children. He would not have a family with someone else and abandon it. He was a traditional medicine man. Had he another family, they would be known to me as my family. No one in my family knows who this man is, and his story of his blood makes no sense. If someone knows him, let him know George Poor Thunder’s family is wanting to get in touch with him. I, for one, would like to know how he came about making this claim. If he is not in fact the grandson, he needs to stopping making these claims, because he is bringing shame to the name of my great grandfather. If he is our relation, he should know better than to go throwing around names of someone. He’s making an ass out of himself.

  60. 60 Waddy Peytona Jul 7th, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    I was the the start of the Hoka Hey and know a few of the participants. I have read the comments and it appears that some have no idea what the Hoka Hey was really about. It wasn’t a race, it was a “Challenge”. The men and women who ran and completed the race honorably are the winners. There are complaints that the route was confusing and that there were problems like people taking down directional signs. While I know at least one person riding in the top 100 followed the rules, I cannot say as much for the first few that came accross the line. Several of the persons being critical of the Challenge admitted to “hiding gas cans every 170miles along the route, another stated that “I knew where I was going so I skipped the last 4 checkpoints.” Others did sleep in hotels, others crossed the Mississippi on an Interstate Highway. All of which would automatically disqualify the rider as a violation of the rules. I can imagine that the Organizers had spotters on those interstates and disqualfied half of the official “finishers” for that alone.

    I know that some where honorable and did all they could to follow the official routes and all the rules. My one friend did have a SPOT ADVENTURES device which did not help him, but allowed us praying for him to know within a few feet where he was. This will be a valuable tool if he has to prove he followed the route. The same man helped a fellow rider who went down in loose gravel, mending the man’s leg and his bike enough to get him to the next check point where additional help was available.

    Among the 200 or so men and women who actually finished the Challenge by the 4th of July, I know statistically that there must be at least 100 that deserve recognition for an amazing test of physcial, emotional and Spritual metal and endurance, not to mention the fact that a Harley Davidson could make it 8500 miles without falling apart ( I known my BMW could do it, but a Harley?) LOL

  61. 61 Jay Jul 7th, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    Waddy Peytona. Your comments are out of topic. The issue is not those who participated but those who organized. Read one more time.

  62. 62 Howard Stern Jul 18th, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    From his website refering to hoka hey…

    “Meaning – It’s a Good Day to Die – “HOKA HEY” was the roar of every warrior that rode into battle with Crazy Horse. Join us as we ride into battle. As we put ourselves on the line to find out just who we are.”

    What a bunch of cheese…..
    If this guy was who he says he is, then he would know what that means. It’s not even close. This guy needs to be shut down

  63. 63 Samuel Jeppsen Jul 22nd, 2010 at 11:34 am

    Randy–Full Throttle Magizine, thank you very much for those great words, great insight and wisdom. I am a Hoka Hey Rider, and very proud to be one. There are a lot of people, arm-chair quarterbacks, who seem to have all the answers, but were never there. They make me ill.

    For those of us that rode it, the ride was a fantastic ride. A once in a lifetime adventure. Could some things have been better planned? Better worked out? Sure–hindsight is always 20-20. Who here is planned a ride longer than an hour long with more than 2 riders and had everything work out as planned, never any problems?

    For those of us that went, we had a fabulous time and the organizers litterally worked their butts off to try and make this a fantastic adventure for the rest of us. And it was.

    The ride was far greater and better planned than I expected or hoped for before I showed up. I live in Arizona and I did not know these people beforehand, but I did know who they were not. They were not professional organizers and this event was not being done by some professional event planning company. These people were just a bunch of riders and family members of riders who planned the biggest (number of riders for the miles) and longest Harley-Davidson ride in history. I had no false expectations of who they were after viewing their clip on their website. They were basically just three riders who were trying to live out a dream. To see 1000 Harleys ride across America, through Canada and into Alaska.

    When I got to Florida, I was totally impressed with what they had put together. The big fan-fare at the Marriott, the banners, the coins, the bandannas, the work they were putting into it, etc. Throughout the trip, they were at every checkpoint, meeting us, welcoming us, cheering us on, often feeding us. And at the finish line in Homer, they were there greeting us, congratulating us, cooking us hotdogs, and interviewing us. If they are frauds, they are the hardest working, best hearted, most gracious and funnest frauds I have ever been around.

    In my book, they are great people.

    As for the gold, those who rode just for the gold, are the losers. They missed everything that was important. They are also the ones who have started this mudslinging and they are the ones who are takibg the honor away, defaming the organizers, the event and the riders. I don’t know if the organizers raised all the cash they needed, to do all the things they planned to do. I suppose not. But I personsally think the gold–or whats left of it–should go to charity. It has runied the hearts of several of the riders and has become a focal point of all the arm-chair quarterbacks and it has become the destruction of the honor of the Hoka Hey.

    You are right in what you said Randy, it is an event we will all remember forever and we will be able to tell the great experiences we had to our kids and grandkids. I’m 59, have 18 grandkids, have ridden the Baja to Cabo and back, through Mexico to Guatemala, British Honduras, the Yukatan Peninsula, Gulf of Mexico, the PCH 4 times, several western interstate rides and I have never had a MC trip that was more memerable, more meaningful to me than this one.

    I don’t think the organizers are frauds, I think they are great people who did a great thing. They will always have a place in my heart and a welcome mat at my home.

    Samuel Jeppsen,
    Proud Hoka Hey Rider,

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Cyril Huze